The Coffee Roasters Companion By Scott Rao

I’m late to the game with this review. I bought the book several years ago and wrote a blog post specifically about the flick and crash events and how to avoid them. I worked with his concepts for quite a while and continue to work to ensure that my roasts have a compliant development time ratio and that I have enough power early in the roast, but the steadily-declining rate of rise (RoR) has always been elusive and more of an afterthought, or at least something I didn’t focus on with any rigor.

See Also: How To: Avoid The Flick and Crash

However, I have recently come back to the book and Rao’s concepts and thought now would be a good time to do a review of the book.

The book has 17 chapters in only 78 pages with a relatively large font. Some chapters get more attention than others, as is expected but in general, I’d say this is a good first shot across the bow, so to speak, but I am left wanting more after reading it (mostly in a good way). There are a couple of places in the book where I’d like to read more about the statistics he’s generated from the reams of roast data he mentions. I think that would help me to understand his concepts better.

If you are looking for “tactical” solutions in the book (as I did initially), you’ll be disapointed. Now, years after the book has been published, there is more supplemental information available; interviews he’s done about the book, forums where he’s joined discussions about how to implement his system, articles he’s written to further clarify concepts, etc. Having gone through a lot of that extra info, I have a better appreciation for the book and what he’s hoping to accomplish, which is to advance the discussion about roasting—intentionally at the cost of the craft aspect of roasting and in favor of the science aspect.

Setting a goal for your reading

If you start the book with a realistic goal in mind you’ll get more value out of it. For me, that goal would be to learn about bean development, which to Rao means a achieving a good, consistent cook from the outer portion of the bean to the inner portion. The theme he returns to throughout the book is that a good roast is one that allows for the development of both the inner and outer bean temps, eventually getting the two to the same point or very near it and doing so gradually and consistently throughout the process of a roast. This is achieved through his three commandments:

  1. Thou shalt apply adequate energy at the beginning of a roast
  2. The bean temperature progression shalt always decelerate
  3. First crack shalt begin at 75% to 80% of total roast time

Most operators (myself included) will want to head straight for the money chapters that give “the answer.” Those chapters don’t exist in this book and that’s because no one has “the answer.” However, I have found in my roasting experience, that since reading this book and incorporating large chunks of Rao’s roasting philosophy into my own, my roasts have improved. At a minimum, in trying to learn how to overcome the flick and crash, which is likely the most difficult part of his system/philosophy, I have become much more effective at controlling my machine.

@book{rao2014,
  Author = {Scott Rao},
  Title = {The Coffee Roaster's Companion by Scott Rao (2014-05-04)},
  Publisher = {Scott Rao},
  Year = {2014},
  ISBN = {1495118193}
}

Michael C. Wright

Michael is an American expat living in Singapore where he writes about many things coffee-related. A roaster by trade, Michael is also a licensed Q Grader and an Authorized SCA Trainer (AST).

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