Welcome to the first in our series of articles aimed at getting you closer to the roasters that craft the coffee we ship to you each month.

Meet Ste.  Ste is the founder of Django Coffee Co. and roaster of the fascinating Chinese Fuyan coffee found in the February subscription.

When did you first start roasting coffee?

My very first roast was an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe on a fluid bed roaster in November 2015.

Do you remember your very first order? Who was it for?

The very first sale I made was at an Artisan Market in Chesterfield.

Do you remember the first feedback you received?  Was it nerve-wracking?

I don’t remember the first bit of feedback I ever received, but waiting on any feedback is still very nerve-wracking. You want your product to be enjoyed and you always hope that it is.

How much coffee do you roast per week?

Between 50-80 KG

Do you roast for commercial customers as well as consumers? If so, is there a difference?

I roast for both retail and wholesale.

How did you learn to roast coffee?

I learnt to roast by reading books on roasting, watching YouTube videos, talking to fellow roasters and just getting hands on with the machine. There are many resources online to help people learn how to roast but I think every coffee roaster is still discovering new ways to improve their roasting abilities and that’s the great thing about roasting, every day is a school day.

Did you start by DIY roasting at home?  If so, do you have any tips for aspiring home roasters out there?

I did start off with a small 500g fluid bed roaster. It was great to learn the basics of roasting and to begin to understand roast profiles etc. It soon became clear though that in order to roast commercially I would need to upgrade to a larger drum roaster. My tip would be to taste everything. For every change in profile you make, taste the coffee. You will soon learn how these changes are effecting the flavour of the beans.

When did you get your first ‘proper’ roaster?  What was it?

It came about 6 months after the first one when I realised I really wanted to pursue roasting as a business. It was a drum roaster made by Toper that I bought second hand from Ebay.

What is your new roaster and (spec and size)?  What’s his/her name? What was it like waiting for its arrival (excitement, nervousness, etc)?

The new roaster is a Giesen W6A called Amelie after the techno DJ Amelie Lens. It was a very exciting time waiting for it to arrive as I felt like this was the next stage in growing as a business. There was no turning back at this point as it was such a massive investment.

How is a new Roaster installed – did you do this yourself? What does it take?

The roaster was installed by myself although I did need to borrow a man and a forklift to lift it off the crate and place it in position. It was then just a case of connecting the exhaust flue and wiring up the control panel.

How much ancillary equipment do you need for a roaster (fans, vents, fire-extinguishers etc)

Just a flue pipe that takes the smoke through the wall and a propane tank. A fire extinguisher is also handy.

How do you bed-in a new roaster?

I seasoned the drum by using old coffee that I had accumulated over the last few months. It was just a case of roasting two or three batches the get all the oils out of the coffee and into the drum. It also gave me a chance to get used to the new control panel and the new way of controlling a roast. This coffee was then given away to friends or composted as it was not suitable for sale.

What was the first coffee you roasted on the new machine… and why did you choose it?

I think it was the Guatemalan La Esperanza that I had towards the end of last year. It was a great coffee to roast and was just the first bag in the line.

How do you keep track of all your roast profiles?

With the old roaster is was using pen and paper. It did have the ability to link roast profiling software but it was very unpredictable. Roasting manually like this I feel enabled me the learn a lot about the roasting process on senses alone. With the new Giesen its all now stored on a computer and makes life a lot easier.

Have you set fire to your new roaster yet? ;-)

Not yet

Biggest mistake as a coffee roaster

Underestimating how complicated the process is. It’s a craft.

How long does each roast take?

Usually between 10-12 minutes

Do you have a coffee roasting music playlist you like to work to?

There is no particular playlist but music is always a part of roasting for me. The music can range from The Smiths, Joy Division, Talking Heads and then some Techno for the long production days.

How much time each week to you spend cupping new coffees?

All the coffee that I roast is cupped once a week to ensure that quality is maintained whilst drinking my coffee everyday using various methods.

How do you choose your beans?

I choose my beans depending on their cupping score, origin and whether they are directly traded. I only roast coffee that has cupped 82 or higher as this is within in the “speciality coffee” bracket and shows quality. I also want to know as much information as possible about each farm as this is very important in understanding how time and work goes into making each cup of coffee we drink. The producers are at the very beginning of the chain and are just as important as the barista making your flat white at the end. This is also why direct trade is also very important to me as it ensures that the farmers are being paid correctly and not being exploited and under paid.

How do you select your suppliers?

If they are a social and environmental conscious company with direct trade links who supply excellent coffee I want to work with them.

Have you got any plans for origin visits / direct trade?

I am hoping to do many origin visits in the future and setting up my own direct trade links, this was one of the main reasons I set up this business to be able to travel and meet people and create working relationships.

Coffee from China??? What's that all about then?

Its very exciting and an origin I wasn't too familiar with beforehand. Christian from Indochina Coffee spoke to me at Cup North and we had a great conversation about Yunnan and other South East Asia origins he is potentially importing. There may be other origins to look forward to in the future.

What are your goals for Django?  What can we expect to see from Django in the future?

Just to keep roasting and enjoying myself, discovering new coffees and meeting new people. I hope to be able to exhibit at a couple more coffee festivals this year and eventually be able to move the roaster from my garage.

Proudest Coffee/Worst Coffee?

Rwandan Gitega Hills, it was this coffee when I realised I was picking up what I had been learning and everything was starting to click. Worst was the first Yirgacheffe, over roasted, charcoal in colour and bitter.

How friendly is the roaster community?  Do you meet up with any other roasters?  Do you all get competitive?

I feel the community around roasting is very friendly and they are always willing to answer your questions and give you some advice. I try to do the same as I feel rather than being in competition with each other we are all in the same game and trying to find the perfect roasted coffee.

Susanna Morgan