The most common source of fuel used to supply a coffee roaster with heat is gas. The Wood Roaster, however, roast their coffee beans the traditional way, exclusively over a fire fuelled by IronBark wood. The differences in the outcome are not what one might initially expect, so Café Culture caught up with Kim Loupis, owner and roaster for The Wood Roaster (TWR) to find out more about this unique way of roasting coffee.
How long have you been a coffee roaster, and how did you get involved in the industry?
I have been roasting coffee since 2008 for two of my own Sydney cafés. This is how I got involved in the industry. I had a passion for coffee and made the blends primarily for my own stores. The feedback was great, so I expanded from there.
Wood roasting – what does that mean, and why have you chosen wood roasting in particular?
The most common source of fuel used to supply a coffee roaster with heat is gas. We are, however, quite unique and roast coffee beans the traditional way, exclusively over a fire. However, unlike cooking with a wood oven or grill, where the smoke from the wood imparts a flavour to the final product, the main difference between wood and conventional roasting lies in the quality of the heat delivered to the beans. Heat derived from wood has higher moisture content and is better suited for slow roasting.
The more oil preserved within the bean, the more exquisite the final flavour will be. The natural humidity within the wood seems to encase the beans during the roasting process, hence preserving more of the oils within. Meanwhile, the slow roasting aspect ensures the coffee is lower in acidity and higher in body. The result is most apparent in our espresso, yielding more crema, fuller flavour, and a smoother finish.
I have chosen this method of roasting as it is unique and different to many other roasters in Australia. It uses the traditional methods of roasting and allows a lot more flavour in the coffee to that of gas roasting. I prefer the flavours and the full body that this type of coffee offers.
Are there many wood roasters around the world?
There are a handful of wood roasters around the world, more so in Italy than anywhere else.
You have recently installed your new roaster. Where did it come from, and what are the intricacies of installation that may differ to other roasting machines?
We have recently purchased a custom built 60 kg wood roaster specially built for us in Italy. It was difficult to find a manufacturer who was able to build a machine to our specifications, as not many manufacturers build wood roasting machines anymore.
The difference between our machine and other machines is that we have a big furnace which weighs 2 tonnes lined with volcanic rock to keep the heat in. There is an extra flue installed for safety, which means the machine contains 4 flues in total. These are all made out of stainless steel.
What is your position on the pre blend/post blend debate?
Pre blending is good if the beans are the same size. I, myself, prefer post blending, as I feel this is much more consistent and ensures the beans are evenly roasted.
More and more roasters are venturing into coffee growing regions to explore new origins and to buy direct. Is this important to you?
I think it is important to know and understand where your green beans come from. However, I am focusing more on the roasting side of my product to ensure consistency and full flavour. My specialty is in roasting and not sourcing/ importing beans. There is a lot to understand in this area, and I feel my focus is best kept on my product for now. I prefer to leave this up to the experts. I have a great contact in the importation of green beans, and they have not let me down.
We want to expand our business, but we don’t want to grow too big. We would love to have enough customers that we can handle efficiently and effectively but still see often.
Is web/e-business a strong direction for you?
I think e-business is important in these modern times; however, it is not a huge focus just yet. I want to build on my wholesale business predominantly but incorporate online selling into my plans moving forward.
With more and more roasters in Australia competition is quite fierce. How do you retain customers and win new ones?
We want to expand our business, but we don’t want to grow too big. We would love to have enough customers that we can handle efficiently and effectively but still see often. We want them to feel that they are looked after. Our product has a point of difference, so we can offer a lot of existing and new customers a product that is like no other.
Have you won any awards for your blends?
We recently entered the 2013 Golden Bean awards with our organic blend and won Bronze. This was a great achievement for us.
Where do you see the industry heading? Do you see Australian roasters branching further into overseas markets?
Definitely! I think Australians know coffee as well as the Italians do. There is a lot of opportunity in the overseas markets for quality coffee, and you can see a lot of Australian roasters already expanding into the Asian and US markets.
Do you have a favourite bean or blend you are drinking at the moment?
Panama, Honduras, Peru (our organic blend) and my signature blend, Plantation, all shine for me at the moment. They have great nutty flavours and a nice creamy, full bodied finish.
What are your plans for the next 12 months and beyond?
TWR (The Wood Roaster) is focused on growing our strong customer base and ensuring our current customers are happy by supplying the best equipment, service and support we can offer. We are planning on creating a couple more blends for 2014 and hope to expand into the Melbourne and Brisbane markets.
Thanks for your time, Kim – exciting times ahead!
The Wood Roaster
Café: il espresso
Shop 3/150 Liverpool St East
Sydney 2010 NSW Australia
9-11 Shepherd Street,
Marrickville NSW 2204 Australia