Hi Paolo, you are head roaster at Caffè Ernani, the right person to ask how Caffè Ernani wants to differentiate from other roasters by focusing on quality.
Indeed we are going down an usual road as we do not want to replicate the classic Italian method.
Why? What would be wrong with that?
Absolutely nothing wrong. 2016 has been the most successful year in history for Italian roasters but we feel like we do not fully belong to this tradition which is not always made of quality and attention to details. We have our own story and experience and we want to build on these elements of our past to go forward.
Okay, but how?
As a starter we have an artisanal workshop and not a factory where everything is automated: we need to be focused on how the coffee develops because there is nothing here to do it in our place.
We maybe wrong but even in those few cases were we might leverage on automation we rely on our senses only.
Each batch is recorded in order to check the roasting curve and be able to compare the same with those giving unexpected results but everything remains under the direct control of our senses. We choose how each batch shall develop in our Petroncini. We’re too interested in the qualitative result to let automation decide in our place.
When it comes to blends, do you roast various coffees together or do you blend roasted coffees?
We roast the individual origins and then blend the same together. It’s not possible thinking that entirely different coffees can be properly roasted in the same way or that a single coffee can pass on to others the qualities that they do not have while roasting.
Do you roast only for blends or do you roast single origins as well?
We are focused mainly on espresso blends, our true love, but we also roast single origins mainly for our cafè in Corso Buenos Aires in Milan, where in addition to eight espresso blends, we offer two seasonal single origins which are from time to time selected to have opposed results and satisfy our customers’ taste and especially their curiosity.
Where do you source you beans?
We normally use coffees from Ethiopia, Mexico, Colombia, India but also Brazil and Congo. We are also open to the hints comping from the market. A blend cannot always be equal to itself. Its characteristics and its quality must be constant and we work on that goal every day.
Your favorite espresso coffee?
I do not have a favorite one, let’s say it depends on my mood or on the needs of the moment. Sometimes I prefer a sweeter and fruity coffee and sometimes one that is more full-bodied. Espresso has too many souls to be love but a few.
What does roasting means for you?
It is much more than simply getting to a roasted bean, is more like being part of a complex series of steps taken by the beans to get extracted in a cup. Sourcing and roasting is not the most important of these steps but I know that through my sourcing and roasting I can add something to the cup: I might say that roasting to me is constantly searching for a specific result.
Respecting the Italian tradition but without being too limited by the compromises of this tradition.
Where did you learn roasting?
I am learning, constantly. In addition to all the people working here, I have to thank Marco Cremonese. Not only he is a great teacher but he also made me realize that in order to get to the right blend, you have to love details first, deeply know the characteristics of the green coffee, do cuppings every day to get to understand all the positive and negative sides of the coffee. Once you are there you can start thinking about how to roast each single origin to bring out all the relevant complexity. That is the right time to try and combine the various coffees to create an espresso blend. This part of the process is nothing but surprises, sometimes what you expect does not come then you have to start over. I told you that I am learning.
What are the next steps?
Evolve our blends through deep knowledge of green coffees is our primary focus so as to get to an always better espresso and to offer the right seasonal single origins coffees, perhaps in capsules.
I did not expect this statement from one who spent the last hour taking about coffee quality!
Once we realized that the capsules do not replace the espresso but are just one of the many ways available to extract the coffee, we also realized that is the extraction method that we can have more under our direct control and therefore that is quite suitable for quality coffees. I will not spoil too much, we’ll talk when the time comes.
It’s time to say goodbye!
I hope that this interview has stimulated some curiosity for coffee. I also hope that your you are going to have your next espresso away from the usual everyday life pressure. That espresso could become an opportunity to leave for a moment everything behind and to pay attention to the extraction, to the cream that forms revealing her hazelnut color and preserving aromas. At that moment, when you will feel of all the features of your coffee, you will truly be ready to go back to you everyday life, but after having realized the difference between a coffee and a very good coffee. A good Caffè Ernani to you all!