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Balancing Act Of Sweetness – My Most Viewed Post, Updated


Please see linked post if you want to know what I am talking about.

This ended up being a much more complicated blog post so I have split this up into two parts. I hope you enjoy.

I am going to discuss my approach to roasting coffee. This is what I’d call my “default” roast. But to set the stage, let’s take a step back in my life to talk about the best roasting course that I’ve attended.


I am talking about the Karl Staub course that he gives, if you don’t know who he is, you should look him up, he is the inventor of the Agtron after all.


First some science: Within his course he talks about developing complex carbohydrate chains, in particular he focused on Polysaccharides. It seems that early on in the roast is where Polysaccharides are broken down to Monosaccharides and it is these that we want to make sure we have a foundation of.


Why? Because this is the foundation of sweetness in coffee. (That’s why I remember this so many years later.)


Monosaccharides, in this case are helping us build a foundation of fructose sweetness. From experience this is done from the moment we see the chlorophyll start to break down or disappear from the bean. It is at this point that you want to slow your rate of temperature rise. The marker that I use 300F/ 148C at 5 mins (this is my “default” roast remember?)


If you have set up your charge temperature correctly and the amount of energy you are applying to the roast, this slow down should just happen as the beans lose moisture and become less conductive to heat (Think about grabbing a hot pan handle with a wet towel instead of a dry one. Ouch. The moisture in the towel transmits the heat straight to your hand. This same effect impacts how coffee roasts, because it starts out with more moisture and loses it as time passes.)


This is a very important moment in the roast. From 5 mins to 7.30mins in the roast you see your coffee turn yellow then orange. When you hit around 355F/ 179C caramelisation or as I like to call it cannibalization (Why? Think of eating a raw apple and its intense acidity and sweetness, now compare that to a baked apple that has gone through a caramelisation, the acidity has lessened as well as the inherent sweetness. It’s as though the heat is eating up some of the sugars and acid as it develops other flavors.)


When you hit this point moisture in the bean is starting to get forcefully driven out and a cooling of the drum can happen by expelling gasses and a change in bean mass.


It is important to race through the next stage as quick as you can because, this cannibalization of monosaccharides and fructose is rampant, think of this guy eating all the hard work you have put into the roast thus far. (insert pacman eating fructose)


Now this is where I have to pause with my explanation of my default roast. In recent times there has been a big push in roasting in a manner that actually ignores this important development of monosaccharides.


A popular profile says to charge your coffee at a temp and with enough energy that you have a high turn time and temp and for the whole roast you are actually backing off on the gas for the entire roast for the sake of this post I will call it profile “S”.


I have seen this in action and it baffled me when I watched the colors of the bean change from green, skipping the yellow colour that I was so used to seeing and heading straight to the colour orange or the cannibalization phase.


What happened out there that had people trying this style of roast? I had no idea.


Enter Ryan Wanslow, you will most likely know of him now as the East Coast La Marzocco tech guy. Or you may know him from his Ritual days in SF. I know him as the guy who came into my world for the sole purpose to challenge everything I knew about coffee, beer, wine and popular culture.


We would have so many heated discussions about roasting and coffee on a daily basis that our working relationship almost did not work. Then, one day, for whatever reason that I don’t even remember, we clicked. We ended up setting up coffee programs together that rivaled any other company out there.


I regress.


With Ryan on the tools and with a passion for exploration, together we started down a path to understand what was on trend and what was trad.


We chose a particularly sweet coffee that we could do multiple roasts on if memory serves me correctly I think it was a Yirgacheffe. Ryan roasted my default roast and the more modern roast profile which you are always backing of in gas to slow the roast down.


I’ll discuss what we found in Part 2.




With cupping as our only measure, we did two types of cuppings. A traditional cupping, using the current Q Grader cupping protocols and we also did a side by side  minute  to minute  cupping.  A minute  to minute  cupping is taking a sample every roast minute from the tryer as the coffee develops.


Draw a Line In The Sand


The internet and blogging played a huge role in pushing coffee into the modern era.


When an explosion of coffee and roasting information started showing up on our computers from around the world, we all started to question everything and everyone around us. It was an exciting and divisive time to be in caffeine.


I specifically remember when “Direct Trade” first came into my life. Matt Riddle was the man that introduced the term to me, by way of Barista competitions that he competed in was actually quite good at for Intelligentsia (for history buffs, he was US Barista Champ in 2006).


I was in Ireland at the time from late 04 to 07, but the US was now squarely in my career flight line. So much so, I took it upon myself to book a vacation to Chicago with the sole purpose of introducing myself to Intelligentsia’s founder Doug Zell. Hell, maybe I’d even ask him for work and magic would happen.


Incredibly, this plan worked out almost exactly as I had sketched out. Soon enough, I landed in LA, among a bunch of talented implants from all over the country in ‘07.


I bring this small bit of history up because at the time that we started roasting coffee in LA we immediately began to question the company’s techniques. With Zell’s blessing we were allowed to explore and ultimately came up with this one simple question: “How do we make our production roasts taste the same as our sample roasts and get all those same flavor notes matching up.”


So we started down the bumpy path of exploration. This also happened to be the same time that The Coffee Collective and Tim Wendelboe opened up their doors and started what I call (rightly or wrongly) the Scandinavian Roast style.


I have to tell you, for the most part everyone was failing at first. Tim’s, The Coffee Collective were the same and, although Square Mile is not from the same area, I can lump them into the same group as well. From the samples that we were receiving from them and buying from them it seemed consistency was hard to hit and there was so much under-developed coffee flowing out  from this area.


Yeah. I know. That’s cold. I’m just trying to tell our history. So, sorry guys you know I love you (we are great friends), but it’s the truth.  Please don’t send hate mail just yet let me explain.


This was needed and an open banter occurred with shots being fired all the time. Either Tim W or Tim V wrote on Twitter once that “America should not be allowed to buy Kenya coffees” because Americans roast too dark! In turn when we cupped under-developed coffees (we would say “self cleaning”) we would call them a Wendelboe roast. (Try as I may to find this tweet I could not, I could only find my response which you can see here


These roasters were such a loud voice in the specialty coffee world, it made everyone else sit up, listen and try to emulate. Over the years, their roasting and sourcing has been fine tuned and of course they have more-than-earned every bit of the accolades they get.


As Intelli/ Stumptown/ Counter Culture were to Direct Trade globally, the Coffee Collective, Tim Wendelboe and Square Mile were to light roasting techniques globally as well. All equally important players in Specialty Coffee in their own right.


A few years after all this turmoil in the roasting world and all the debate (in my mind the debate is over), I realized I had hit my roof at Intelli LA, and it was quite timely that Toby Smith from Toby’s Estate, wanted to do something in New York and asked me to join the company.


With Toby’s personal guarantee that the company would not just “rubber stamp” the Australian business model in Brooklyn, but they would get behind me and adopt a style that was neither Australian but was something more local to Brooklyn. Tip of the hat to Toby for that.


I finally would get the chance to draw a line in the sand, well, for the most part…I will explain in more detail about this in my next post titled.


“Balancing Act Of Sweetness – My Most Viewed Post, Updated”



Reintroducing Myself



I’ve let this blog sit for a bit with nary a word. But now that I’m launching a coffee company, I figured it was time to fire it up again.
Many of you probably remember who I am. Maybe? It’s me. Deaton. No? Well, either way, here’s a very quick break down of my caffeinated past:
Café Barista from age 15 – Australia
Café and bar manager from 21 – Australia
Barista trainer from age 25 – Australia
Coffee roaster from age 27 – Ireland
Roaster and Quality Control Specialist age 30 – Intelligentsia LA – USA
Operations Manager Green & Coffee Buyer age 33 – Toby’s Estate Coffee Brooklyn
Now, here I am. A small business owner, age 38 and back on the west coast in Los Angeles!
It’s been a long road for sure and I have really lived a lifetime within those years.  I’m really excited/ scared shitless to be taking this next step on my own.
Over the years my biggest learning curves have come from when I have left one job
and started another. This is no exception, there is something about that feeling when you throw yourself into the deep end and try to learn to swim.
My father/ my mentor uses the expression, “bite of more then you can chew, then
chew like crazy!”. (Pardon me for talking with my mouth full for the next few years.)
So you’re probably saying, “So what, Deaton. Why is your coffee company so special?”
Well, I’m here to celebrate the journey. And coffee is a journey we’ve all been on these last few years.
Trends come and go. Things that we have all felt excited about have fallen off. Oddball ideas have surged to prominence.
Over time though I have ended up figuring out what I liked. And that led me to pick out which coffees I bought and which roasting techniques I used. From this foundation, we’ll be starting a new journey here at Take Flight Coffee. I hope you’ll join me.
Over the coming weeks I’ll share my adventure with you,
Next Post:
Draw a Line in the Sand – Owning My Style

Minneapolis – Off On The Wrong Foot


It’s great to be back in the Twin Cities, last time I was here it was 2008, which feels like a life time ago, in coffee years anyway.

It makes me realize how busy we are in our industry, so many events and business trips to cram into just one year. From travelling abroad to find coffee, go to the WBC or the SCAA, then throw in there the regional barista competitions and you still have not got it all covered.

I hold Minneapolis in a very special place in my heart, as it was the start of something special for me and my coffee career.

Today upon arriving at my hotel and answering emails, staring out an adjacent building I sent out a tweet that read. Something like this;

” Ah Minneapolis, not much has changed since 2008…”

Now at face value, and that is the only way it can be taken, it reads like I either think that the place is a shit hole and or I am not happy to be here. Which could not be further from the truth. In my head I was thinking about the hotel room and the ride here from the airport, I was just not thoughtful enough to convey that in my tweet.

So I apologize.

Getting back to what I stated above, this city was really, the start of a huge turn in my coffee career. I had started working for Intelligentsia only months before coming here with the Barista team and Kyle Glanville. Helping the team get Kyle through to the WBC was huge for us, the enthusiastic bunch.

So, I will say that I am truly excited to be here again and I can’t wait to explore the food and coffee scene, over the next two days. Last time I was here we celebrated Kyle’s win at possibly one of the best steak houses I have ever been too! For the life of me I just can’t remember the name of it though.

Now for this.


Anything But Coffee – Tumblr


Just realized I have had my Tumblr, Anything But Coffee up and running now for two years this month.

Archive is here but be carful some of the content is NSFW. 

I have the least amount of followers on Tumblr but it gives me the most amount of enjoyment.




It occurred to me on my recent trip to Nicaragua that I had finally achieved a goal that I had set myself 6 years ago. Whilst working for Bewleys Coffee and Tea, I was sent to Ramacafe in Nicaragua 06. It was at this event that I got to go to my first coffee farm and see first hand what it was like at origin. Needless to say the experience stuck with me, the stunning landscape, the people and the journey. I set a goal that I would become a coffee buyer within 5 years.

I wonder if everyone holds as much value in goal setting as I do. Without them I would not have traveled, started a band, become a Barista, Barista Trainer and a coffee Roaster. I have always set short and long term goals for myself, yes sometimes I don’t achieve them (I am not a famous musician) but for the most part I do, eventually.

So upon returning to Nicaragua, after the gruelling days leading up to the trip trying to organise Toby’s Estate Coffee and after the flight. I was sitting in the back of a taxi headed to Granada when it hit me. I am finally back here doing what I have wanted to be doing for so long! I had been working on this goal for so many years that I almost forgot about it. Sure I took one or two wrong turns that delayed me (6 years instead of 5) along the way but I had made it.

I had returned to Nicaragua as a green coffee buyer, a moment I hope I don’t forget for a long time.



A beer to celebrate my return to Nicaragua as a coffee buyer.
Finca San Jose
Nicaragua 2012

Now to set another long term goal.


James Hoffmann – Reinventing Espresso


Yet another great video to grab, worth a watch over a cup of coffee.