“The craftsman loves and respects the raw material treated, enhancing all its natural qualities. The craftsman is an artist shaping with mastery, knowledge and experience every single bean. The craftsman imprints his signature in every single cup of coffee, given by his personality and his vision. Each of his coffees is therefore unique and unforgettable.”
All of us, or almost all of us, are habitual consumers of coffee. We appreciate it for its energy charge and for its moments of conviviality.
But how many of us really know coffee? And above all: how many of us know the differences between an artisan coffee and an industrial one?
Let’s start by saying that when we speak of “artisanal” and “industrial” we are referring to the actual roasting process,i.e. the most delicate phase of the coffee supply chain, which involves chemical-physical mutations of the green bean, to lead it to develop its aromatic profile to its best and allow the same to get in the cup.
I’m also sure that any of you have happened to enter a bar to order an espresso, drink it and realize that it is simply very bitter, with hints of stale, acrid and burnt.
There are three main reasons why this happens:
- Poor quality raw material
- Incorrect toasting
- Wrong grind
Choose the raw material
Starting from point one, the coffee goes through various stages before reaching the roaster: cultivation, processing of green beans, drying of the same and the transport.
To have a good extracted product, as it is easy to imagine, you need a good starting product, as in everything in life!
As to coffee this means beans without physical defects, as homogeneous as possible in terms of density and size, with a wide range of fine aromatics and without any negative notes to the nose or taste, such as hints of rubber, mould, tar, ash, etc.
If the beans pass all these tests and show no defects, as well as an excellent taste profile, then the raw material is of quality.
The choice of green beans varies greatly depending on whether it is a large multinational or a small local roaster.
The small craftsman, as already mentioned at the beginning, has love, passion and knowledge for his work. His main objective is to be able to do his best to offer a cup that surprises his own clients.
The priority therefore is not the quantity of coffee sold, but its constant and very high quality. As a result, it tends to purchase micro-lots of fine and/or certified Specialty Coffees.
Instead, the industry has as its priority not quality, but quantity, rightly having to support an imposing organizational structure. Profit is therefore the only thing sought.
And if you think about it, this is not the case only for coffee, but the rule applies to any product, good or service on a market.
So if you’re looking for quality, you shouldn’t look for mass-produced products.
All this attention to the raw material also translates into a closer relationship with the plantation, and therefore greater control over the quality also in the processing and transport phases of the beans.
Industries on the contrary need large quantities of raw material and their ownworry is therefore to ensure the required variety, by mixing beans from all over the world,resetting inevitably the traceability and valorisation of a given plantation.
In short, quality is not only gustatory, but includes every aspect of each phase.
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I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new here either: faster processes are preferred in the industry to satisfy the needs of massive production.
This does not allow the beans to properly and optimally develop.
While in the Artisan Roasters, as at Caffè Ernani, there is no hurry, because things have to be done well and to do them well you need patience.
It is obvious that even the craftsman must think about profit, otherwise he would close shop on the following day, but it is not his only goal, as already explained above.
Furthermore, the beauty of artisan roasting is that the coffee is not roasted by machines, but by the roaster though machines.
Let me explain: in the industrial process the roaster presses a single button and the whole chain starts: the machines fish out the raw coffee, load it onto the transport rollers which take it inside the roaster. Once the set minutes have passed, the beans come out of the roaster, are cooled with water and entered in the degassing silos.
The roaster here cannot act on anything, he cannot modify the roasting time, the roasting curve, the speed and heat of the air flow, etc.
On the contrary, the Artisan Coffee Roaster uses the machine only as a tool for him: he regulates the temperature, the roasting curve, the air flow, the speed of the drum and so on, everything in progress, continuing to take small samples to examine them to understand if everything is going well or if this specific batch of coffee needs some changes to develop optimally.
In fact, let’s remember that coffee is natural, so not everything is the same. A batch may have beans that are more or less dense than the previous one or with slight differences in conformation. The roaster must therefore always adapt to all its changes in order to always be able to offer the best cup possible.
The grind is too often taken for granted when instead it is one of the main elements of a good coffee.
Industries, to be able to satisfy all the demand for packs of ground coffee, very big quantities of roasted coffees are ground all together and packaged, ready to be distributed in the various points of sale, but with a high probability of losing freshness before being consumed by us consumers.
While the artisan roaster can afford to roast a little product at a time and grind it only when the customer orders it.
A bit like what also happens at the Ernani cafè in Milan: the beans are not ground until they need to be packaged at the counter, at the explicit request of the customer.
The freshness here is obviously very high!
We’re done, I close with two small suggestions:
All of this, i.e. the quality of craftsmanship, is only possible if the roaster and consequently the entire company continuously invest time and resources in research. You cannot improve and refine any technique without practice combined with a deep theoretical study.
Secondly, we must be aware that most of us only know industrial coffee, buying it in supermarkets and consuming it in bars not really prepared. And we are now so used to this coffee that we don’t even think it can have a different or even better taste.
But until we try it we will never know!