The People Behind Cameron’s Always Smooth Coffee – Our Roasters

This is the third installment in our series about the people who make “Always Smooth, Never Bitter” not just a slogan but a reality in every batch and package of Cameron’s coffee. Previously, we met Bill Kirkpatrick, who travels the world to locate the very best coffee beans, and Patrick Dinkins, our Roastmaster and certified Q-grader who certifies that all incoming coffee meets our rigorous requirements.

Today we meet some of our coffee roasters, who transform the high-quality green coffee we buy into the wonderful coffee people look forward to every morning. Paige Zarbo began roasting coffee at a local coffee shop seven years ago before joining Cameron’s. Jose Serrano Jr. has been with Cameron’s Coffee for 5 years. Cameron’s evidently runs in Jose’s blood, as his father, Jose Serrano Sr., has been with Cameron’s since we built our roastery here in Shakopee, Minnesota, back in 2008.

“I love the science and craft of roasting coffee,” Paige explains when describing why she’s here. “I love using my skills to create something that so many people love. It’s art.”

Jose adds, “I love the process of roasting coffee, and using my knowledge and skills to turn a coffee bean into something I know people are going to appreciate.”

“It’s a multi-sensory experience,” Paige says about roasting coffee. “You use all your senses: smelling, seeing, listening, even feeling.” Because every variety and batch of coffee behaves in a unique way during roasting, “you have to constantly monitor what the beans look and smell like, and constantly make adjustments to make sure it comes out the way we intend.”

Jose adds, “We begin with a roast profile for each blend and varietal. But we have to use our senses during the entire roasting process to make adjustments as we go.” So, our roasters scoop samples throughout the approximately 12-minute roasting period, look at them, smell them, and feel them to get a sense of their density and moisture content, and make regular adjustments.

They also listen for the “crack,” like the sound of popcorn popping, that signifies a critical check point. “You can even feel how the roast is going from the vibrations coming through the roaster,” Paige says. “Course correct,” she calls it. “We can tell how the batch is going, but we have to make adjustments as we go.”

Both Paige and Jose talk about “developing the bean” through the roasting process. All coffee caramelizes as it roasts, bringing out the sweetness and flavor nuances we desire. But it’s critical, Jose explains, that we “fully develop the bean to its potential without burning it, which would turn it bitter.” Because every batch and varietal of coffee has its own unique characteristics, the art comes in determining how we roast that specific batch and the adjustments we make during those critical 12 minutes. “We start with higher heat as the beans get up to the right temperature, but then we slow the heat to make sure the coffee never chars before it reaches its peak flavor.”

Every batch is different, and “you can’t mass-produce art,” Paige says. “Smooth coffee is no accident,” Jose adds. We couldn’t agree more!

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