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Coffee in Australia by Alan Frew
A day in the life - or, What I do for a living
Posted: April 24, 2002
Article rating: 7.4
feedback: (3) comments | read | write

6.15 a.m. Creak and crack my way out of bed, none of my joints are getting any younger, and all the ones I used to get stiff in have closed down.

Hell-l-l-o, Breakfatht!

7.00 a.m. Sit down to breakfast with coffee and the paper. The coffee is normally Alan’s Blend brewed in a Cona A, but if I’m auditioning coffees for the monthly special it might be one of them undergoing the most critical taste test of all. If it doesn’t pass the “Breakfast Test” the customers will never see it.

7.30 a.m. Sit down at computer and start downloading orders, answering questions etc. I get 20 or so questions a day from all over the world, most of which will be answered later in the day, plus the normal flow of queries from existing and prospective customers. The orders get printed out and replied to, so people know when they’re coming.

8.00 a.m. Gather up orders, mentally review stocks of roasted coffees, then head off to roasters. I use several roasters to toll roast the various beans I sell, as much for the different roast profiles possible as for prudence. My normal batch size is quite small, 10kg at a time, about 2-3 days worth of fast moving beans and a weeks worth of slow ones. This usually means roasting 3 out of 5 days, sometimes more.

10 to 11.00 a.m. Head back to the office with up to 60kg of warm coffee on board. Anyone who thinks fresh roasted coffee smells good should try sitting next to 60kg of it in a traffic jam. A LOT of nasty stuff comes out of coffee in the first few hours after roasting.

The grinder array
The grinder array ready for action.

Around 11.00 a.m. Unload the new roasts and  tin ‘em up (one of my roasters uses airtight 3kg pails, which I recycle extensively.) Finally get down to work. First I print out all the mailing/courier address labels to match the orders, then I get down to grinding, packing etc. I have 4 commercial grinders, each one set for a particular grind range. The Ditting does all of the espresso grinds, starting at Krups and going progressively finer until the Silvia grind. It also gets the odd “Turkish” grind every month or so.

ALL of my roasted coffees are vacuum packed in valved foil bags. My experience with this form of packaging is that the vacuum removes air (and oxygen) and the bags then subsequently inflate with carbon dioxide and other gasses produced by the coffee. This keeps the coffee as fresh as possible. I don’t doubt that a certain amount of “desirable” volatiles are removed by the initial vacuuming, but frankly I’ve never been able to taste much difference.

This isn’t to say that PROLONGED vacuuming won’t damage the coffees. I’ve shipped unvacuumed beans by air, in valved bags, that have arrived fully vac packed and “flat as a tack” flavour-wise. It seems that the holds in some cargo planes don’t bother with pressurization.

1.00 p.m. Nip back home (about 5 minutes away from the office) to check email and grab a quick bite to eat. Back to the office by 1.30 p.m. for more packing.

Cupping Table
Here's where the tasting and testing happens.

2.30 p.m. With the packing finished, I have about an hour and a half before the courier arrives.  Today I’m roasting half-a-dozen samples and cupping another group of coffees I roasted yesterday. Other days may see me setting up espresso machines and grinders, or picking up 300kg of green coffee, or slowly pecking out the newsletter.

4.00 p.m. Courier arrives and picks up local deliveries. I clean up (coffee is a MESSY business) and head off to the post office to stand in a queue for 20 minutes with a bubblewrapped Silvia and 15 kg of various coffees in satchels at my feet. The staff at the local P.O. are great, and much inhaling goes on as my parcels are unloaded on to the counter.

5.00 p.m. Arrive home, fire up the eftpos machine and start processing credit cards, answering emails, sending invoices etc.

6.00 p.m. Knock off and start cooking dinner. Nothing like a sharp knife and a bit of chopping to relieve the tensions of the day!

7.30 p.m. I’d like to get on to the computer, but with my 14 year old son using it for homework while simultaneously reading and posting to alt.skateboard and downloading skate videos and mp3s there’s not much hope. Give up and read a book until bedtime instead!

Article rating: 7.4
Posted: April 24, 2002
feedback: (3) comments | read | write
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