Images for a Social World: Coffee Roasting


Specialty Coffee Roasters source quality green coffee beans from many estates around the world. Among the options

open to them are buying through an Australian importer or directly trading with estates. These days, options to buy organic, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance and Ethically Traded coffee beans are readily available. While there are coffee growing regions within Australia, most of our coffee beans are imported.

This series of photographs documents the process of roasting coffee, from the green beans in a hessian sack to the roasted coffee beans in a sealed package.

1:  Sack of Green Coffee Beans

This photograph shows an open top of a hessian sack of green coffee beans. Many  of the sacks have colourful designs printed on the front to represent the area of origin.

Specialty grade green coffee beans arrive in Australia in sacks of up to 70kg.

2. Weighing Green Coffee Beans

This photograph was taken as the (human) coffee roaster was weighing beans for a roast. The coffee roasting machine can take up to 12kg of coffee beans at a time. Coffee sacks can have anything from 30kg to 70kg of green coffee beans, depending on the origin and the availability.

Measuring green coffee beans into a container for weighing.

3: The Coffee Roaster

A halogen light is attached to the front of the coffee roaster to enable the operator to see the colour of the coffee beans as they are roasting and was not set up specifically for the photo-shoot. This adds a warm glow to the wooden handle reflected in the stainless steel, and also illuminates the red hinges on the front of the coffee roaster, as well as the yellow curly cord reaching from the temperature probe reading the internal temperature of the barrel, to the digital readout monitor attached to the hopper at the top of the coffee roaster. A yellow “Caution: this machine can maim” is attached to the front of the cooling tray.

A 12lg coffee roaster heating up ready to begin roasting.

4: Setting The Roast

Once the coffee roaster has reached the desired temperature, the weighed green coffee beans are poured into the hopper, and then released into the barrel to commence the roasting process.

Pouring green coffee beans into the hopper of the coffee roaster.

5: Checking the Roast

The bean probe reaches into the barrel of the coffee roaster as the barrel rotates, capturing some of the coffee beans as they fall. By pulling out the bean probe, the coffee roaster can check the colour of the coffee beans as they roast. A light roast will produce lighter brown coffee beans than a medium roast or a dark roast.

Using the bean probe it is possible to check the colour of coffee beans in the middle of the roast

6: Two Roasters

The human coffee roaster and the coffee roasting machine are a team. In this photograph, the coffee roaster is listening for the sound of the parchment (which coats the coffee beans) cracking. This sound, which is very much like the sound of pop-corn cracking, indicates that the coffee beans are almost roasted. A further crack, referred to as ‘second crack’ is the point at which the lever is pulled, opening the barrel to allow the coffee beans to spill into the cooling tray.

The coffee roaster listens for ‘first crack’ when the parchment covering the green coffee beans first splits. It sounds similar to pop-corn popping.

7: Smoking Beans

This is an action shot capturing the freshly roasted coffee beans falling from the barrel into the cooling tray. The vapour in this photograph is smoke, not steam. Coffee beans are roasted at a high temperature. They must be instantly cooled or they will burst into flame.

On ‘second crack’ the coffee beans are ready to release into the cooling tray.

8: The Cooling Tray

Inside the cooling tray are moving brushes and arms to keep the coffee beans moving so heat doesn’t build up. Room temperature air is sucked down through the beans, through the mesh base of the cooling tray and out through a flue. The mesh base of the cooling tray also allows the separated parchment to fall through. This leaves clean, cooled coffee beans ready for storage.

Cool air is sucked through the hot roasted coffee beans to bring them to room temperature, while brushes sweep the beans around in the cooling tray..

9: Levers

A side view of the roaster shows straight lines and angles more than curves. The top lever, controlling the opening between the hopper and the barrel, followed by the bean probe, and lowest, the lever which operates the flow of gas into the burners. Each of the levers is made from a different material, and the surface of each one responds differently in the filtered natural light.

Levers operating the various sections of the coffee roaster create interesting angles.

10: Bagged and Labelled

Fluorescent light reflects off the gold surface of the coffee bags, each fitted with a one-way valve to allow air out of the bag, but not into it.

Coffee bagged and labelled ready for sale.

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