Sweet Maria's Weblog

FirstBuild's Roaster Design Contest

Oct. 23, 2015

We are sponsoring a coffee roaster design contest. Well, it's a contest, and also a community of engineers/product developers that are passionate about creating a new appliance that roasts coffee in a new way. We are excited because the rules state contestants must submit designs that will work inside a convection oven. Traditionally ovens have been a very tricky tool to roast coffee with so it's wonderful that there are great minds out there thinking about how to make oven roasting easier.

So far, most contestants are teams of young folks that we hope continue creating appliances with coffee roasting in mind.

Thank you to Justin at FirstBuild for putting together this awesome brain-powered collaboration. We look forward to helping out with the judging process next month.

Learn more about this contest by clicking here.


Does this get your creative juices flowing? We are always very interested in your homegrown roaster designs. Want to share? Send us photos plus a short description of that crazy machine you roast with or that Franken-roaster you are working on and we'll compile a blog post with everyone's DIY roasters. Email your photos to us at info@sweetmarias.com with "my roaster" as the subject line.

Day after Day Job

Day after Day Job: Our Weekly Series on Home Roasters Turning Pro


Part 3 The Heat is On


Roasting is important. I’ve said it in every single other place and I will continue to say it again and again. Don’t tell me, or anyone, that you roasted the coffee so that you wouldn’t show too much influence over it, that you’re letting the coffee shine on its own. That’s ridiculous and misplaced humility. Roasting is not that incredibly difficult but it does require attention and care, just like cooking anything well does. You do need to have equipment that gives you some control over the energy input and the airflow, allows you to take accurate (or at least consistent) measurements, and has a trier that you can use to observe what is happening to the coffee during the roast. Can you achieve amazing roasts on your air-popper, Behmor, or other home roasting machine? Emphatically yes, but working at a commercial scale with any kind of efficiency, while at the same time being able to have control over shaping the roast, requires these utilities.


I don’t care about your logging software. I don’t. Is logging and keeping records of your roasts important? Absolutely, but it is not nearly as important as a sample trier that allows you to get a decent sample so that you can see and smell what’s happening to the coffee. You also need to be able to hear the first and second cracks. Coffee is not ones and zeros, and if you’re roasting to numbers instead of what is...

New Guatemalan and Colombian Arrivals

Oct. 22, 2015


  • Colombia Urrao -La Esperanza Microlot - is thick in both weight and sweetness, with raw sugar, sweetened fruit syrup, a honey, blackberry maple syrup and elderberry tea notes. There's a cocoa note in the long aftertaste, that's edged out by hints of baked apple and black tea. A nice espresso too.


  • Colombia Valle de Pavón -Señor Gómez - is sweet, fruited and has flavors of black cherry juice. It's not overly bright but has enough acidity to provide a mouth-cleansing finish. There's citrus and fruit syrup notes at most roast levels and darker roasts have the bittersweetness of high % dark cacao bar with plum and grape notes. Recommended to those who enjoy Kenyan espresso.


  • Guatemala Xinabajul -FC Mendez Lote 2 - great body with sugar, fruit, raw cane juice, green apple, cinnamon and roasted almond notes. The acidity is like apple juice. Dark roasts will have cocoa tones, thick body, and chocolate syrup in the aftertaste. It will make a chocolatey espresso.


  • Guatemala Xinabajul -Santa Barbara - has an impressive brown sugar sweetness and roasted almond. There is impressive acidity and a refreshing burst of brightness with fruit character. Dark roasts make an intensely sweet espresso, with dark chocolate and an orange 'tang'.


Thinking About the Big Move

Oct. 21, 2015

A few months ago we mentioned that we were moving to a new warehouse. It's still under construction and we plan on settling into our new spot sometime next spring. In the meantime, it's business as usual here and we haven't even started packing for the big move yet.

Our new warehouse will be only a few blocks away from where we are now and will provide more room for more coffee, safer/more efficient packing areas, an employee break area and an actual retail space. We are also looking forward to being able to turn our forklift around instead of backing it in and out of our narrow driveway a few times each day. There will also be space for a demonstration area where we hope to hold classes and other coffee events.


Day after Day Job

Our Weekly Series on Homeroasters Turning Pro

 Part 2: Go For The Green

 Coffee is wonderfully appealing for a number of reasons; that is, there is no one thing that makes a coffee great. There are several characteristics by which specialty coffee is judged: fragrance, flavor, sweetness, body, acidity, etc. Even commercial-grade coffee, which is a step below specialty-grade, is evaluated for sweetness and cleanliness, as well as taints and defects which are noted as either present or not.


While I don’t agree that evaluating those characteristics should simply be pass or fail, it does speak to an important point; good coffee has sweetness, is a relatively clean cup, and is free of defects. In fact, learning to identify defects could be the number one best thing you do in starting a roasting operation.  There are obvious defects such as mold, and off- or over-fermentation, but then there are also the more subtle defects such as age.