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June 2020 - what have we been up to?

In common with businesses across Walsall, the country, and throughout the world, it has been a frustrating couple of months. In a break from the experience of most businesses, the economic impact upon us has been reasonably light. We’re still paying our rent and our utilities, but because our overheads are so small and we have zero employees besides ourselves we have been able to ride this out reasonably smoothly. We count ourselves as very fortunate.

On the downside, there has been a huge surge in home coffee consumption, and a real preference for The Good Stuff has emerged. We haven’t been able to benefit from that, but we can only hope that it’s a trend that is set to become permanent.

With that said, what have we been up to?

Our roastery 

We signed our lease on 27th February 2020 and we now have a great little roasting space in Bloxwich, just outside Walsall town centre. We have all the space that we need right now, and some left over so that we can expand if things go in the direction we hope.

A day or two before lockdown I met with a tradesman who was going to sort out our ventilation and make some adjustments to the electrics. Then the world changed and we haven’t been able to get things sorted. Now that things are easing up I’m hoping we can start moving again.

The roaster

 We love our little 1kg roaster, but I’ve been trying to do some upgrades to it that has caused me no end of trouble.

Coffee roasting requires a good amount of precision in measurement of temperature. If the roaster is telling you it’s roasting at 195 degrees when it isn’t then you’re likely to end up with a flat and under-roasted coffee. Our roaster comes with internal temperature probes, but they’re far from accurate.

 So, we set about obtaining custom-made probes that we could use to hook up to our laptop through some other hardware, and therefore get some readable temperature data that would allow us to develop roasting profiles (like recipes in cookery) which could be replicated.

 We’ve had the following problems:

  • Probes arrived, but the fittings were too big and wouldn’t screw into the roaster.
  • New fittings were ordered, but those were too big as well.
  • A third set of fittings were ordered from China (the only ones available), but weren’t adequately rated for the temperature we’re using them at.
  • The probes may not be long enough to sit amongst the beans to take their temperature.
  • The existing hole for the probe puts it too far away from the beans, so it’s measuring the air and not the beans.
  • I melted the seal on one of the two probes we bought.
  • The software we’ve used doesn’t recognise our hardware.
  • The hardware we used (Phidgets) was faulty when purchased from the manufacturer, but worked fine when purchased from a UK reseller.
  • The software still didn’t recognise our hardware.

 

FINALLY on Sunday I managed to get software, hardware, and one of the pre-existing probes re-positioned in the machine to get some sensible data for three test roasts. Hurray! 

Then the software promptly gave up again and we’re back to square one.

 We’re going to get a new probe and some better software and go from there. Hopefully this will be mastered by the time we can actually get the roaster into the roastery.

 New coffee machine

 This is the part of the journey that has worked perfectly so far. If only it was actually the key part of our business…

 I’ve taken delivery of an espresso machine from Decent Espresso. I’m going to write a whole blogpost on the machine in due course, but I can give you the gist now.

 You know those massive espresso machines you see in coffee shops? It’s like one of those but a) using 22nd century technology (probably), b) about a third of the size, and c) about a third of the cost. And it makes outstanding coffee.

 Because of the way the machine can be set up in order to get the best out of any coffee, we’ll be using it to sample our roasts in order to assist in telling our customers how to get the best out of it when making espresso. It will also be our machine of choice if and when we run a coffee shop in the future. You’ll see it if you pop down to our roastery in the future, and – hopefully – at Birmingham Coffee Festival this year.

 Opening Soon (?)

And that’s about it. We’re still very much on hold until we can get our ventilation set up in the roastery and shift our machine over there. We will be up and running as quickly as we can.

Thank you to everybody who has shown us encouragement and kindness, and especially to those who have shown an interest in buying some coffee from us when we go live. We hope that it won’t be too long before we can actually start this new chapter of our wonderful journey in coffee.

We’ll write again soon. Until then, look after yourself and your loved ones.

Keep it Casual!
Gareth