ERP FOR COFFEE: PRODUCTION CONSISTENCY

Your customer’s coffee habits are rigid, and many coffee consumers rely on a predictable cup of coffee to get their day started. Consistency is key for coffee roasters, and consumer purchasing habits show most customers value consistency above all else.

A coffee company’s efforts at consistency often begin with their green coffee purchasing decisions and extend through the activities of baristas in the café. The roaster sits at the center of this, and the decisions made by the roaster can maximize consistency in the cup even when different green coffee components are involved or as green coffee ages. The efforts of the roaster can make coffees more forgiving and consistent for consumers to brew and baristas to prepare. Here, we look at the techniques that roasting departments can use to ensure consistency.

Profiles

Roasters work hard to be sure their production batches match the roast profiles and recipes they have in place. They will want to compare all the key metrics of a roast to a reference, seeing at a glance if the production profile was consistent with the recipe.

The metrics of a good profile include consistency in batch size, between batch protocols, charge temperature, the bean time and temperature curve, the airtime and temperature curve, the bean temperature rate of rise (RoR), and the ending temperature and time.

Many roasters observe the development phases during the roast. An analysis and comparison of the time spent in the drying phase (from charge to color change to yellow), maillard phase (colloquially considered the time from yellow color change to the start of first crack), and the development phase (time from the start of first crack until the end of their roast) can show consistency batch by batch.

There are also physical and measurable attributes in a final batch of coffee, which roasters use to assess how close a production roast is to a reference recipe. These would include matching a consistent end roast color, matching the percentage of weight lost during the roasting process, and sometimes hitting a target density and moisture content for roasted coffee.

Roaster Controls

One challenge for a roaster is matching production profiles to reference curves when there are variations in the ambient conditions. The coffee will roast differently on a hot day than a cold one, while humidity and barometric pressure can affect heat transfer in the roastery.

The roaster needs to take this information and act on it using the controls of their roasting machine. Common roasting controls include gas pressure, airflow, and drum speed.

Batch Size, Aging Green Coffee, Ambient Conditions

A master roaster can take all of this information, their skills on their roasting machine, and knowledge of the coffee to execute roast after roast with a profile that is consistent not just in the shape of the roast curve, but in the final cup. This is an enormous challenge when batch sizes change, the environmental ambient conditions are highly variable, and/or as green coffee ages.

How a roaster adjusts their machine to account for these changes is highly variable, and this is one attribute that makes every roaster (and every roasting company) unique in the coffees they produce. One example of variance is the relationship between drum speed and batch size. Larger batch sizes can be run with a slightly slower drum speed than a smaller batch. When you change batch sizes, the relationship between conductive heat transfer (drum to bean and bean to bean) and convective heat transfer (heating the beans by the roaster’s airflow) changes. As you change the drum speed, this relationship between conduction and convection also changes. Skilled roasters will play with their drum speed in order to maintain consistency in the final cup. Another example is roasters who manipulate the airflow and airspeed in the roaster, managing the balance between conduction and convection.

Quality Assurance

Once the coffee is out of the roaster, there are several critical quality assurance steps – cupping production batches, comparing reports to analyze one roast against another, and using roast goals.

It is important that quality assurance extends beyond formal cuppings, and that one prepares representative samples of roasted coffee in a batch brewer, on an espresso machine, or as cold brew, etc. Ideally the quality of the final product is assessed in the same way that customers prepare their coffee.

Quality assurance doesn’t stop at the roastery either. Some roasters pull samples from grocery market shelves, others place dummy online orders and have the coffee shipped to them for testing.

Ideally, roasters test the coffee for consistency at every step. Directly out of the roaster in a production cupping, triangulating any batch that’s “questionable” when viewing roast goals or production processes, tasting the coffee prepared in a variety of different brew methods, and tasting the coffee to assess packaging integrity, shelf life, and other factors once the coffee leaves your immediate control.

 

How does ERP Help?

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions are essential for manufacturers, no matter their size, scope or the end-products that roll off their assembly line. An ERP system helps manufacturers automate multiple and often complex processes, from procuring raw materials until the finished product is delivered to the customer’s door. Simply put, it gives businesses a holistic view of their production facility, so they can run leaner, strengthen customer loyalty with consistency, and increase their bottom line.

When it comes to coffee roasting, ERP helps you to plan and manage your operational workflows while simultaneously automating multiple business processes, such as your financials, supply chain, business intelligence, commerce, human resources, sales and marketing, shipping and deliveries, and customer relationship management (CRM).

But the real power behind ERP for coffee roasters is its ability to give you full visibility of your product lines, improved response times, seamless workflow synchronization with real-time alerts at every stage, and that it simplifies all your complex production processes.

 

Your Next Steps

Producing consistent coffee is a key skill of a coffee roasting company. By measuring and monitoring data, knowing the coffee and roasting machines, and with frequent and intentional tastings, roasters move closer to providing the consistent product that their customers demand. While it might sound like a lot of data, steps, and procedures to track and manage, taking the time to improve your roasting and brewing consistency is an important part of running a modern roastery.

At ACC Software Solutions, coffee and tea are the fuel that keep our team running smoothly.  However, we’re not only expert consumers, we also provide a wide variety of ERP services for coffee and tea providers nationwide.

In our business, we’ve proudly served a number of both manufacturers and distributors in the coffee & tea industry.  Meaning, we’ve got a pretty good idea of how your company already works and common pain-points throughout the industry.  Our team of expert consultants can build upon that knowledge to provide the best solutions for your business.


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