The People Behind Cameron’s Always Smooth Coffee – Protecting the Beans

This is the fourth 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. In previous posts, we met Bill Kirkpatrick, who travels the world to select the very best coffee beans; Patrick Dinkins, our Roastmaster and certified Q-grader who certifies that all incoming coffee meets our rigorous requirements; and two of our roasters, Paige Zarbo and Jose Serrano Jr., who “develop the beans” by lovingly roasting each unique batch to bring out all the nuanced flavors.

Today we meet Tom Becklund. Officially, Tom heads our coffee roaster training program, as he’s been roasting coffee for nearly 20 years, starting with his own coffee roastery in 2001. But he wears a lot of hats and he knows a lot about the steps Cameron’s takes to protect the beans and make sure our coffee retains its smooth flavor all the way to your favorite coffee mug.

“It starts with the roasters themselves, which are pretty special,” Tom says. With other types of coffee roasters, the flames directly heat the roaster drum and can scorch the beans resulting in bitter coffee. “Our roasters use only indirect heat, where the flames heat air which then roasts the coffee that is being constantly rotated for an even roast that’s never scorched or bitter.”

When the coffee reaches its peak of flavor, the roasting process needs to stop, “as in right now,” Tom says. That’s done by quenching the beans with a quick spray of water, which immediately stops the beans from further caramelization. “Kind of like a cold-water bath when your pasta reaches that perfect texture,” Tom adds. Then the coffee goes into a cooling tray with cooler air drawn through the coffee while it’s being rotated so that the coffee is fully cooled.

Then the coffee is ready for packaging as whole bean coffee, or grinding if it’s ground coffee. “We want to roast the coffee within just a few hours of when it’s going to be packaged for maximum freshness,” Tom explains. “Sometimes, it’s just a matter of minutes.”

Every batch is tested to make sure it achieved the right roast level, using a spectrometer that precisely measures the color of the freshly roasted beans. And representative samples are cupped, or tasted, to make sure it delivers the desired flavor profile.

Ground coffee receives yet another loving caress by the grinders, which are specifically designed to maintain the intended flavor profile we’ve worked so hard to achieve. “Grinding coffee creates a lot of friction and heat,” Tom says. “If you’re not careful, you can actually continue to roast the coffee and scorch it.” To avoid this the rollers that grind the coffee are continuously cooled from the inside to transfer that heat away from the coffee.

“There are a lot of ways to destroy great coffee,” Tom says. “It takes great care to roast each batch to the peak of flavor. And it takes great care afterward so you don’t lose what you worked so hard to achieve.” We think Tom knows a thing or two about roasting great coffee, coffee that’s always smooth, never bitter!

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