Commissioning a new coffee roaster

What does it take to commission a new coffee roaster? Merlo Coffee’s John Palmer takes you through the process.

As you will likely be aware, we recently opened our first interstate Torrefazione (Italian for roasting house) in what is widely accepted as Australia’s coffee capital – Melbourne!

Needless to say, as a roaster, I didn’t think twice about the opportunity to head south to experience the coffee culture and the life here in the south.

One of the major reasons for Merlo setting up a Torrefazione here is to better service our expanding wholesale customer network in Victoria.

So we have installed a brand new Brambati roaster capable of supplying both our valued wholesale customers as well as the on-site café here at Queen Victoria Market.

One of my first tasks was to liaise with the Brambati electricians, engineers and software technicians. This involved making sure that the roaster was set up correctly and working as expected. Think lots of valves, sensors and probes etc. which all have to operate in the correct way at the correct time.

Once that stage was completed, certification was obtained from ‘Energy Safe Victoria’ to confirm that everything was compliant. Due to Brambati’s exacting standards (one of the reasons we’ve selected their coffee roasters) we passed all these tests without a hitch.

So, then onto the fun bit… roasting. Well, actually, not just yet.


Photo : John and the Melbourne Torrefazione roaster

First the drum has to be seasoned. Before it leaves the Brambati factory in Codevilla, northern Italy, the metal drum is coated with a food grade oil to protect it. So we have to put a few roasts through the drum to remove this fine layer (before you ask, yes these beans are thrown away!).

Once we are satisfied that the drum is properly seasoned, we get down to the serious business of setting the profiles for the various blends and origins.

Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as translating the settings from our 120kg Brambati roaster in our main roasting house at Bowen Hills, as different capacity roasters require their own individual settings.

Sometimes an educated ‘guess’ pays off and we can be pretty close to the desired result very early on. Sometimes however, we get curve-ball and many tweaks and resetting of parameters can follow.

To give you an idea of its complexity, we have seven bean temperature probe settings and six settings each for the burner temperature, drum speed and air-flow.

Once we are satisfied that the profiles we have set appear correct we check the roasted beans visually and we also use a digital colour tester. Next we taste them all – that’s over a dozen blends and origins to sample – to ensure that what you receive from our roaster here in Melbourne tastes as awesome as you’ve become accustomed to anywhere else in Australia.

As you can appreciate, this all takes some time but it is essential that we maintain the excellent flavour profile that everyone has come to expect from Merlo. So there you have it! That’s the full process we’ve been through to get our roaster up and running in Melbourne.

I hope you’ll come to visit us at the top of F Shed in Queen Victoria Market soon to see the roaster in action!

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