What I'm Doing at Roasters Guild Retreat

From Wednesday, August 17, 2016 through Monday, August 22, 2016 I will be less responsive to attempts to communicate with me than usual as I will be at the 16th annual Roasters Guild Retreat. This year it is returning to Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, Wisconsin. It's a short drive from my home in Racine to what is always one of my favorite events of the year. This year I will not be competing on a team (my name is already on the trophy), but I will be a station instructor for four classes and I've been asked to participate in a new kind of session that nobody is really sure how it will go but I'm excited to see how it turns out. More on that later.

Roasters at Roasters Guild Retreat, 2014

I've always been able to leave this event with some new insight or an idea of something to try when I get back to my own roaster and it's great to be able to use the different roasters that are set up at this event. If you're a coffee roaster it also reliably has the best hallway track of any coffee industry event. You'll find a lot of people who are doing interesting work, who have solved the problems you're grappling with, and are open to talking about that. This year there is also an amazing line up of lead and station instructors for the classes, and I'm not just saying that because I'm in it.

I like to show up a day before I'm expected to do anything to refamiliarize myself with the venue, see if anybody needs help setting anything up (such help is almost never needed but sometimes I run into someone who could use help carrying stuff), and talking to people who have also showed up early. There's an Instructor Development Program session on Wednesday that I'm not involved with but someone who is taking that wanted to talk with me about the possibility of teaching some roasting classes at their lab after that.

The 2015 roasting tent

Thursday has receptions, opening ceremmonies, and such. Before these events there are classes that aren't included with the event that people can take for credit toward their Roaster Pathways certificates. I'll be a station instructor for GE103 Orientation to SCAA Cupping and RP120 Profile Roasting Practices.

Orientation to SCAA Cupping is the first cupping class in the SCAA curriculum. It's a good opportunity for reviewing cupping protocol, etiquette, and cup some coffees with people you haven't cupped coffee with before.

Profile Roasting Practices is a class that I have some personal fondness for. Several years ago I was asked if I'd be willing to help with updating the class. It turned out that meant take the lead on rewriting it, and that's what ended up getting me into teaching these classes and volunteering on the committee that works on figuring out what the roasting curriculum is. That rewrite has held up remarkably well. I believe this is also one of the first classes to be updated in anticipation of the recently approved unification of SCAA and SCAE. The change amounts to one more slide in the presentation to further elaborate on a concept that was in my original rewrite but tends to be glossed over where it's perhaps excessively stressed in the SCAE curriculum.

Much better venting at retreat than at some events

Since I decided not to compete on a team this year, I guess I get dinner twice on Thursday, but after that is a session that's marked "Passing the Flame—Mentor Roasting". This is a new thing that Jim Brady has been working on where people who have been in the business for a long time and have a lot of experience are available in sort of a semi-structured way to spend time with roasters answering their questions and offering advice on the problems they bring. It's not a panel discussion like Stump the Roaster and it's not quite as informal as just grabbing someone's attention in the hallway. We haven't done something like this at retreat before, but I'm hoping that it works out well enough that it becomes a regular event.

Friday there is a session on a roast evaluation form that has been working its way through the committees and another session on food safety.

Saturday I'm back to teaching. I'll be a station instructor in both RP112 Introduction to Roasting Concepts and RP218 Heat and the Roasting Machine.

Cupping bowls

RP112 is the first class in the roasting curriculum that involves getting some hands on experience at a coffee roaster and lays a foundation for all of the other roasting classes. RP218 has recently been updated by Rob Hoos and is now more obviously relevant. For a long time people would take this class, sit through the lecture, and then tell me afterwards (I wasn't teaching it) that it was interesting but they weren't sure how relevant it was. Of course it was relevant, but you needed a lot of experience and a fair amount of academic physics and chemistry background to fill in the gaps and understand how it's relevant. Now the lecture is better organized and there's a bunch of coffee roasting with different groups trying different things at different roasters and seeing for themselves how different roasting decisions affect the transfer of heat to the coffee.

Sunday is a short day with breakfast and closing ceremonies. After that I'll be driving back to Racine.

I always run into a lot of people who use Typica at their workplace at this event. If you have any questions that you just never got around to asking me, by all means track me down and ask (just don't try to derail a class with software specific stuff, there's plenty of time outside of the classes for that).