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Artisanal control with Loring Smart Roast

From the January 2014 issue.

Loring Smart Roast’s closed loop equipment has helped improve consistency by limiting atmospheric factors and putting the roastmaster in the driver’s seat.

Loring Smart RoastWhen it comes to the art of roasting, Mark Loring Ludwig, Founder of Loring Smart Roast, admits that all the technology in the world cannot make up for the skills of a roaster.

“There is nothing more important than the roastmaster’s palate and his or her ability to judge the effects of the small changes [in the green coffee] he or she must make an attempt to maintain the status quo,” he says. “If consistency is truly important to you, and to a given product, then you must cup religiously, and with great attention, on a regular basis.”

Ludwig is familiar with the practices of the world’s top artisan roasters. Although he’s worked with some customers who are more concerned with efficiency and maintenance than consistency and quality, he says Loring’s equipment tends to win greater favour among the more “fanatical” customers, those with a passion for coffee quality. He says that it’s not a coincidence that Loring customers are winning a disproportionally greater number of awards for their coffee.

The link, he says, between top roastmasters and Loring is the equipment’s ability to cater to the list of roaster-oriented factors that affect consistency of the colour and flavour profile of the coffee products produced on it.

The first such item is the need to weigh the batch accurately. Ludwig notes that the Loring roaster does this for the operator, with a scale built into the green bean cart.

The second factor he points to is the need to drop the coffee into the roaster at the exact same temperature every time, for each specific product and batch size. While the operator has the option to either warm up the roaster for half an hour, or drop the first batch of the day at a higher temperature, he says Loring equipment can take the guess work out of the process by dropping the roast automatically at an exact chosen drop temperature.

The third factor is the need to control the roast temperature as accurately as an operator can, to a specific profile.

“Once you have worked out the profile for a given coffee product, the goal will be to reproduce it now, and in the future, as faithfully as possible,” says Ludwig.

Loring equipment offers two options in this regard. The first is a fully automatic roast mode for roasters who are confident they have dialled in their exact profile. “Kind of like you write the novel and we print it,” says Ludwig.

It’s in this “writing” phase – determining the roast profile through the manual roasting phase – that Ludwig points to some of the greatest benefits of Loring equipment in giving roasters the tools to accomplish their goal.

LoringOne such feature is a digital burner control with 1 per cent output burner adjustments steps. Although the operator can make burner adjustments in 5, 10, or even 20 per cent jumps, Ludwig says that in watching roastmasters work, he’s noticed they are often grateful for the opportunity to make 1 or 2 per cent adjustments.

Another major feature of Loring equipment is that it allows the controller the ability to know where they are in the roast at any given moment. A Loring machine features a plot screen that allows the roaster to follow the process.

“You can see the whole roast from drop to finish on the screen at one time, and magically your current roast is plotting over that baseline,” says Ludwig. “You don’t have to calculate where you should be at a given time, you can see how far your current roast is above or below your baseline.”

Ludwig adds the equipment can even calculate the difference between the baseline and roast value for the operator, for instance +3 in red means 3 degrees over, while -1 in blue means 1 degree under.

As the roast comes to its endpoint, Ludwig says he understands the importance of providing roasters the tools to judge this moment accurately.

“A roastmaster really comes alive towards the end of the roast, when he is listening, watching, and sniffing for the exact end of the roast,” he says. While Loring equipment shows the operator the endpoint on the screen, it also enables the operator to judge the roast by sight via a calibrated true white LED lamp. If a roaster is comfortable that their coffee is dialled into the roaster, then the Loring can also work via a fixed endpoint temperature.

One factor that is out of even the most experienced operator’s control is the need to roast in a consistent atmosphere, with the same high ratio of water vapour and little or no oxygen to degrade coffee at high temperatures. In this regard, Ludwig says that Loring equipment is unique in offering this capability.

“We make the only roasters that I know of that recirculate 100 per cent for the entire roast, adding nothing else into the roast environment except the flame,” he says. “By doing this we completely control the roaster atmosphere.

Ludwig explains that this is the product of a 100 per cent premix burner. Air and gas is always mixed in exactly the right amounts, so there is nothing of either left over. This means that the external room temperature, atmosphere, weather and time of year will not affect the roast.

Mel Gurney is a Roastmaster at Loring, and confirms that the company’s equipment allows the operator better control of the roasting process, while limiting the effects of these external factors.

“Factors such as barometric pressure, humidity, and temperature of the roastery, have been impossible to account for in any way to attempt to produce consistency,” says Gurney. “The beauty of the Loring is that all of these problems have been solved elegantly.” 

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