SCAA Roaster’s Guild Retreat – August 2016

By: Brooke McNeill & Drew Billups

Oct 19, 2016

The 16th Annual Roaster’s Guild Retreat was held at Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, WI August 18th – 21st.  Brooke McNeill from our sales team made the trip from Milwaukee along with our lab manager Drew Billups.  We had a great time connecting with new and old friends in the roasting industry.

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Credit: SCAA

The roasting challenge for this year was to match a blend. The blend was served during the opening ceremonies and we were given descriptions of the six possible components.  Teams were given the option of using these six different coffees to attempt to replicate the blend.  Teams were able to taste each of coffees on their own brewed through a filter and had to come up with their blend from there. The roasting tent was packed as always with equipment from many roasting manufactures. And as usual, people were working at all hours to roast, cup, and make decisions in an attempt to come up with the perfect blend match.

One of the lectures this year was a presentation by Mike Ebert on FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act).  The presentation covered topics that affect roasters large and small. It was a really good move on the part of the guild to offer a lecture like this at Retreat, as these regulations have a direct impact on most roasters and many small to mid-sized companies are not aware of the requirements. The presentation stressed that roasters of all sizes should be thinking about food safety and that it takes time and resources to put plans in place.  More information about the FSMA can be found here.

Another session at the retreat was an exploration of the Roast Evaluation Form.  This session was a two-part cupping broken up by discussions about how we interacted with the form.


Credit: SCAA

The idea behind the revised form is for roasters to be able to evaluation their roast apart from the quality of the green coffee itself.  Roasters were able to give their feedback to see if it’s something they might find useful in their day to day production.  The proposed form has an appearance that is familiar to those who use the SCAA Cupping form, but the scoring is quite different. There is a greater weight placed on attributes that are most affected by the roasting process, particularly acidity and body. The cupping was followed by a discussion in which the SCAA solicited feedback for review of the form. Many roaster’s feedback centered around suggestions to simplify the scoring system. Some people felt that the form was too complicated for QC applications and better suited to R&D and competitions.

As always, SCAA Pathways classes were also offered for those interested in continuing their professional development in coffee. Our own Drew Billups was lead instructor for a class dealing with the aroma of coffee by engaging with the Le Nez du Café kit. Emma Sage and Todd Mackey led a very informative class on the new SCAA flavor wheel.

New SCAA Flavor Wheel

Credit: SCAA

Of course, the very best part of any Roaster’s Guild Retreat is not the planned events, but the camaraderie between roasters of all stripes: newbies and old hands, those from companies large and small. There’s nothing like talking coffee while sharing a beer by the light of a campfire.

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Credit: SCAA