Sweet Maria's Weblog

Day after Day Job

Part 4 Being an Engaged Roaster (without Marrying Your Job)  


Knowing that what coffees and roasts perform best in a press pot or drip brewer with a blade grinder, and asking your whole bean customers what they’re using at home, will go a long, long way in winning your customers’ confidence. As a roaster, you definitely want to be selling whole bean coffee for home brewing in addition to brewing and selling by the cup. This is where your best margins are. As I said earlier, there are roasters popping up left and right and there are fewer opportunities for wholesale out there .


In terms of further education, there are a number of quality classes, books, and articles out there. I firmly believe that talking with other roasters, sharing experiences, and learning from others has tremendous value. But if you were to do one thing on your own, there is an exercise that will make an incredible difference in your roasting, and teach you how to taste what’s going on in the roast. It’s as easy as this: 

  • Step one:  Do two roasts of the same coffee, and make  a simple but dramatic enough adjustment in one of the roasts 
  • Step two: Taste the difference. Note what difference that particular adjustment made in the profile. 


This is not meant to be a “right and wrong” test, but rather a test that gives you two markers by which to make some judgment and direction towards preference. It might be that you prefer neither of the two markers, but somewhere in between or even beyond the markers. But now you have a reference, and reference is knowledge, and knowledge helps you get better. The other side of this exercise is that you’ve now made 2 distinct products with the same raw material. Not only does this exercise give you a better understanding of roasting, but also it gives you a new way to engage with your customers.


Here’s the thing. Roasting commercially does not have to take the joy out of roasting, but it so easily can. Do you want to start your business because you think you’re good enough to be pro, or is it because you see a real opportunity for a business in your area doing something that captivates you?  There are so many pressures on a business to be some other than what your idea of...

Calling all Franken-Roasters

Oct. 30, 2015

If you read our recent post about the home roaster design contest we are sponsoring, you may have seen that we are looking for photos of your home-grown coffee roasting creations. If it's in the works or something that you have been using for years, we want to see it. Once we get a few cool design submissions, we'll showcase them all right here in a week or so.

Please send us photos and a short description to info@sweetmarias.com

This Week's Fresh Roasted Coffee

Oct. 30, 2015

One pound bags...roasted on 10/28

  • Roasted - Guatemala Antigua Pulcal Inteligente - from the "Inteligente" block of the Pulcal Coffee Estate in Antigua, Guatemala. Roasted to City+. Inteligente is a complex coffee. There are notes of ripe plum, pineapple, blackberry, asian pear and pleasant acidity. It also has a fair amount of sweetness, like light honey and caramelized sugar.


  • Roasted - Ethiopia Agaro Nano Challa - from the Nano Challa Cooperative in the Agaro area of Ethiopia. Roasted to a City roast level. Nano Challa has an intense floral aroma and refined honey sweetness. There are mild fruit notes and a ginger snap cookie flavor.



Hello Neighbor

Oct. 27, 2015

If you have been by our warehouse to pick up your coffee order, you have seen how there's not much going on near us. Our building is sandwiched between a residential block and Oakland's municipal maintenance facility which is why we were happy to see our new neighbors, Urban Warehouse, moving in next door. Urban Warehouse is an expansion of Urban Furniture, a second-hand furniture/thrift store located a few minutes away in Oakland's Grand Lake neighborhood. Both locations work under the umbrella of Urban University, a Oakland non-profit that delivers social change and job training.

Their hours contrast with ours as they are open on the weekends and we are open on the weekdays so we don't see the good folks at Urban Warehouse all that often but word on the street is that their hours will be expanding to Thursdays and Fridays. If you are in West Oakland over the weekend, we encourage you to drop by and check out some amazing deals on really nice furniture.


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.