February 2018 Featuring The Coffee Roasters

February 2018 Featuring The Coffee Roasters

This February 2018 we feature,  for JoeMerchant’s coffee subscribers The Coffee Roasters, based in Alexandria, Sydney.


February 2018 Featuring The Coffee Roasters


Tasting Notes


The Coffee Roaster


18% Colombia Tenza Valley
24% Guatemala Antigua
15% Ethiopia Limu
15% Kenyan AA
28% Brazil Cerrado

TASTING NOTES: “Well balanced. Upfront cocoa and bakers chocolate with a lingering orange zest.”


TASTING NOTES: “Lovely rich notes of dark, ripe plums, cherry, chocolate, pear, currants and a touch of citrus”

ORIGIN: High grown in the area Bogotá on the central branch of the Andean Mountains, Our Tenza Valley comes from two producer groups. Between them, they cultivate approximately 1,215 hectares of coffee. The groups have opposite growing cycles which allows good availability through the year. With an average temperature of 19 – 24ºC and 1500-2000ml rainfall, it’s an ideal coffee growing area. As well as coffee, the area produces maize, garden vegetables, oranges, pineapples, mangoes and avocadoes.

REGION: Lengupa and Tenza Valleys
VARIETALS: Typica, Caturra, Colombia
PROCESSING: Fully Washed
ALTITUDE: 1400 – 1800 MASL


History of the Coffee Roasters


In the mid-70s, Dan Fitzsimmons was working as a systems analyst for a small Seattle computer company. Out of the blue he received an interesting assignment; it was to write a small inventory application to quickly determine what items were moving most frequently and generating the most profit at the little known Starbucks Coffee Tea & Spices at Pike Street Markets.

It seems the company was changing direction and Starbucks was changing from a laid back enterprise to one more carefully managed. Many items were gathering dust on their shelves and proper management required turnover and profit visibility.

Dan’s analysis did the trick and, to their surprise, they discovered coffee moved rapidly and was a very significant profit contributor. And, as they say, the rest was history.

A post script to this anecdote is that Dan’s software expertise was to play a significant role in his future acquaintance with coffee. But more on that later.

Dan and his wife, JoAnne, chose to migrate to Australia with their daughter, Whitney, in 1983. They pursued their existing careers, in the computer industry and investment field respectively, for several years before boredom caused them to explore more interesting occupations.

Becoming frustrated in their inability to purchase good coffee on a consistent basis, they decided to start a coffee roasting business. The emerging movement to Specialty Coffee was well underway in the rest of the world. So they chose to quit their jobs and travel for a year exploring the world of coffee in all its manifestations preparing to craft their new business.

During the next Northern winter, Dan got a job in Bend Oregon driving Mount Bachelor Snowcat on the ski fields at night. This left him free all day to ski the back country … er, I mean continue exploring the coffee scene.

Air Coffee Roaster

Air Roaster at Alexandria

And explore he did, discovering Michael Sivetz, one of the world’s foremost coffee authorities, in Corvallis Oregon. Michael had published many coffee text books, worked in the coffee industry all his life, was inducted into the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Hall of Fame, and more.

He demonstrated his ‘Fluidized Bed Hot Air Coffee Roasting System’ which he patented in 1976. It was immediately obvious to Dan that this elegantly simple method for roasting coffee would give him much more control over the roasting process than traditional drum roasters. Unfortunately Michael Sivetz passed away in March of 2012.


When we roast coffee we are really roasting each coffee bean. Most roasting methods apply heat simultaneously by three different methods … Conduction, convection and radiation.

These methods make it impossible for all beans to be treated the same. The beans on top are receiving heat from drum (radiation) & exhaust heat (convection). The beans in the middle are receiving a different amount of heat from the adjacent roasting beans (conduction). Finally, the beans trapped next to the drum are receiving the highest heat from the drum (conduction).

The operator tries to overcome this limitation by rotating the drum which contains the beans at a varying RPM and applying heat in a way that will treat them all differently in the same way. The skill required to do this is somewhat different for each drum roaster and even different models of the same roaster.

Air Roasting

Hot Air Passing over the Individual Beans

This is why roasting operators can justly wax lyrical about their ability to achieve a good outcome with their equipment. And if you are that good at doing something, it is not unexpected that you would want to be called a Roastmaster rather than a roasting operator.

The Fluidized Bed Hot Air Coffee Roasting System levitates each coffee bean on a cushion of heated air. In this way the process applies the same heat to the total surface area of each coffee bean, allowing the operator to easily control the heat applied to the coffee and to achieve the exact degree and type of roast for each coffee bean being roasted.

One of the biggest problems for coffee roasting operators is to compensate during the roasting process for the change in moisture content over weeks and months of a given coffee while it is being used. This complex juggling of the radiation, convection and conduction heat is eliminated with Air Roasting.

All air roasting actions are determined by the actual temperature of the coffee bean which is measured 10 times per second during the roasting process. Hence, the control system automatically compensates for any variation of the green coffee moisture content.

Production air roasting operators do not derive pride from operating our appliances. We do experience two emotions … Firstly, happiness for the extra free time we have because we are not shackled next to a hot roaster telling it what to do with varying degrees of success. Secondly, satisfaction in the results we achieve when we use this free time to develop new coffee blends and single origin roasting methods on our Piccolo Chinook sample roaster.

After all, this is what humans are good at, using our analogue senses to try different things until we achieve our goal. Repeating this process should utilise equipment that requires as little input from the related human as possible. Humans are not good at using our analogue senses to achieve repeat processes with difficult-to-control equipment.

Back in Sydney in 1991 a 4kg Sivetz roaster was put to work in the front room of a terrace house at 113 Arundel Street

Glebe. Complemented by a three group espresso machine freshly roasted coffee and other beverages were soon on sale.

Close proximity to Sydney Uni meant that, before long, the foot path was covered with upturned milk crates supporting students enjoying coffee. When Theo, the blind man who lived next door, walked to the corner shop1 the milk crates would part like the Red Sea then quickly resume their position as Theo passed.

Retail and wholesale popularity quickly exceeded the capacity of the little Sivetz roaster. So a much more sophisticated 15kg Sivetz roaster was commissioned and the roaster moved to Union Square, 100 metres from where Star City Casino would later be located.

The most sophisticated coffee roaster, formerly manufactured by Sivetz, still required much input from the operator. Coming from the computer industry Dan realised that a properly configured computer control system would improve the process and the roasting results, while reducing the repetitive work of the operator.

As luck would have it, the need to install a roaster in Queensland caused Dan to begin scribbling his own design on a serviette. Soon after, a 15kg Chinook Air Flow Coffee Roaster was installed at The Coffee Roaster QLD. Word got out and, six months later a second Chinook was installed at Zarraffa’s Coffee in a new Harbourtown Shopping Centre location on the Gold Coast.

Meanwhile, back in Sydney, expanded wholesale and retail sales necessitated an upgrade to a 25kg roaster. So Dan set about designing a larger version of the previous two Queensland Chinooks. In 2000, this 25kg roaster was installed at their current Sydney location, 380 Botany Road, A1exandria1 NSW.

It was felt that the control system still demanded too much from the operator. Luckily recent emerging advances in computer technology supported the design of the current Chinook Control System. This control system allows the operator to enter the batch size, roasting recipe1 and start roasting with six clicks of the computer mouse.

No need to watch the roaster after that. Operators are free to express their Artisan Craftsmanship by developing new blends and roasting recipes in the Piccolo Chinook sample roaster while the production Roaster does all the repetitive work.

A coffee roasting company from Adelaide was waiting for the previous 25kg Chinook to be decommissioned while the new computer controlled Chinook was being installed.

Today that Adelaide Company is still using the original 25kg Chinook to roast their coffee. Since then, three more 25kg computer-controlled Chinooks have been installed in various parts of Australia.

Most recently, Chinook Coffee Roasting Systems has adopted a modular approach to fabricating the Chinook System. Each system is built, shipped and commissioned in its own modular unit. The unit is positioned at the installing location, and then gas, water and electricity are simply connected. Operation begins once the exhaust ducting is extended through the roof.

25kg and 50kg Chinook systems have been deployed in Australia and New Zealand using this novel approach. Expeditious transport, easy installation and rapid commissioning are some of the benefits. Moreover, each unit can be easily moved to a new location simply by disconnecting, securing the doors and calling the transport provider. Recommissioning could be accomplished in less than a week.

February 2018 Featuring The Coffee Roasters


The 50kg Chinook system consists of four modules containing eight one tonne green coffee silos, automatic weighing system, Chinook roaster, 4 one Tonne roasted coffee silos and transport to a form fill & seal packaging machine through an electronic destoner.

The theme of elegant simplicity extends to the Chinook’s ancillary components. Most commonly used coffee transport systems like cable drag systems, bucket elevators and screw conveyors have their Genesis in the agricultural industry. Instead we use vacuum air to move green & roasted coffee through stainless steel pipes at the command of the control computer. These subsystems have very few moving parts, very low maintenance requirements and keep the environment (vacuum) clean during operation.

Dan said, “All of our efforts have been directed to the purpose of roasting coffee well and consistently. We are overjoyed that it works. And we are gratified that this approach frees us from the roaster allowing us to pursue the more enjoyable aspects of coffee selection, blend development and roasting recipe creation.

“Please come and join us for a coffee while we watch the Chinook Air Flow coffee roaster do all the work.”

You can find the coffee roaster at https://coffee.com.au and 380 Botany Road, Alexandria, NSW 2015