Identifying Roaster Type with Felipe Pinzón of Libertario Coffee Roasters

Hey there! Dustin here. When I was in Cartagena in Colombia in May 2022, I met Felipe Pinzón at Libertario Coffee Roasters. He had heard of Leaderboard before (his eyes lit up once I mentioned it), and was super excited to nerd out about coffees and game strategy. What resulted from our conversation was Felipe sharing his take on identifying roaster type for Leaderboard, and I was convinced he would be a great coach on this topic. 

In 2015, Felipe Pinzón 
started working with La Palma & El Tucán in Colombia as the Director of Experience. At La Palma & El Tucán, he developed various programs alongside the team. The first was called Origin & Craft, where communication and exchange with baristas helped close the gap between the baristas and the origin of coffee. He also helped develop their Hotel program to host visitors who were interested in learning more about specialty coffee. 

Felipe has been working as Director of Experience at Libertario Coffee Roasters since 2018, and supported Libertario's opening of their first shop in Bogotá. He currently manages wholesale and supports all the stores in both Bogotá and Cartagena, and also trains baristas at their cafes with his developed recipes.

Since Leaderboard is moving towards more written educational content here on our website, here is a Q&A with coach Felipe Pinzón, with some tips on how to tackle this question: 

D: First off, thank you so much for helping coach our players! When playing Leaderboard, how would you approach this question?

Any time I have a roasted coffee bean, I do three things:

  1. Chew on one coffee bean
  2. Break one to see the difference between the inside and the outside
  3. Break another with my teeth with the method farmers taught me how to read humidity on parchment (un-milled) coffee. 

D: Can you tell us more about this? I hear that players look at the fissure, the wrinkles, and the surface; what do you think about this?

For me, the outside surface regarding wrinkles and fissure has been a theory for a couple of years now, where if it's a washed process coffee it would have more wrinkles if you compare it to a natural or an experimental. But to be honest, I have seen a lot of coffees ranging from washed, to one that has been fermented for 300 hours, and for me there is sometimes no difference in appearance between them. What helped me understand more was knowing more about the processing and how it was roasted.

D: I see. You mentioned you look at the evenness of the roasted coffee, can you share more about this? 

I first thought to look at the evenness of the roast when I first started doing some roasting. I noticed that when our shop got samples roasted on an Ikawa (air/hybrid) roaster versus on our San Franciscan (traditional drum) roaster, they looked different. What I saw was that most traditional drum roasted coffees had some sign of a "blister", for the lack of a better word. I saw that some beans had a lighter spot that was more bulbous, which is theorized to be a result of the beans’ first contact with a very hot drum. 

Because roasting with a traditional drum roaster involves room temperature green beans being dropped into a very hot drum, the surface of the coffee bean may show a colour change or discolouration on the final roasted coffee beans. 

On the other hand, in an air roaster, the heat application is convective rather than conductive, meaning the heat enters the internal bean more from the hot air temperature rather than contact with the hot drum. In most air roasters, this thermal shock happens less, which means that even if the beans touch the hot air roaster drum, the blisters would likely not appear on the coffee. 

D: I have seen some green coffee that was dried unevenly; would this potentially lead to these spots? 

What I got to see on the farms is that any inconsistent drying is not likely a problem when you dry green coffee to the standard coffee moisture percentage allowed for exportation: between 10 to 12%. Whether you are at 12% or 10%, the bean is actually touching the drum surface which is closer to 180ºC, making the first impact the reason for this blister generation. 

D: You also talked about looking at the inner vs. outer colour of roasted coffee. How does the roaster type affect this?

This idea came from my wife who is a chef. We have always talked about roasting, comparing it with the way she cooks. When she first saw an Ikawa (air/hybrid roaster), we got to talking about it, and that was the moment when she told me it's like an oven!

So, we sat down and I explained how roasting curves worked, and she ended up telling me something that changed my mind on controlling the inner colour of a bean. She told me that when cooking, it is easier to control the inner temperature of anything you're cooking on a stovetop, as opposed to an oven. On a stovetop, you have the ability to seal the inner juices in from searing the outside, and you can then take the temperature down to cook the inner part. But in an oven, it is a little bit different due to the environmental air temperature, where the inside of what you’re cooking begins to cook faster than if you were to use a stovetop heat source.

What we realized in that moment is that roasters have a huge advantage when it comes to having control over air temperature, because it would likely get a more consistent inner and outer colour. It's very difficult to say what roaster type it came from just by inner and outer colour, but in a sense sometimes traditional drum roasters have darker outsides than insides, and air/hybrid roasters are more even, perhaps. 

D: It's definitely complicated and there are a lot of variables for roasters to control! What about chewing on beans? What information can you get from doing this?

This idea comes from a traditional way farmers knew before we had the technology to test for coffee moisture. I saw it for the first time in 2014 while visiting a Neighbors and Crops program of La Palma y El Tucán, and I was amazed at how accurate the farmer was in knowing the coffee reached 10-12% humidity. 

Information you get from chewing the bean also depends on how consistent the roasting is. 

I have tried with the ones with the Ikawa (air roaster) and then when is roasted on the San Franciscan (traditional drum roaster), and the difference is really clear when it comes to the outer and inner part. Ikawa-roasted coffees are typically harder and have more dryness in your mouth, whereas from a traditional drum you get more clarity in the flavours and it’s not as dry, relatively speaking.  

If it is also chewier on the inside than the outside, it may be more likely to be a drum roasted coffee. If it is about the same or has an even chew, it may be roasted on an air roaster due to the heat application difference. 

D: These are some great tips! Do you have any final thoughts to share with our players?

What I love about Leaderboard is seeing what roasters like to highlight in their coffee. It becomes not only about the bean or the coffee itself, but is also about seeing and evaluating how other countries are approaching roasting and the profiles they are selling. For me it is a nerdy game, but also a huge advantage to see how the markets are developing and the roasting they prefer in other countries. Sorry these answers were so long, but I think I summarized the answers how I wanted to! Could have definitely talked for hours. Thank you and good luck to all players! 

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