Wednesday, April 09, 2008

post-it to self: you love coffee

i'm not a caffeine addict. i drink and sell coffee for the love of it--for its taste and for its ability to floor me with beauty.

so it has been a difficult several days here with (what has come to be known as) the phoenix project and the attempt to maintain operations at their normal pace.

and in the frenzy i realized . . . i haven't had a cup of coffee in over three days. now seriously, i know what you may be thinking when i announce i'm not caffeine-enslaved: "DE-nial." but three days and no adverse effects and no, "gee, i'd like a cup of coffee"? proof positive, at least, that i was one distracted fellow.

and so this morning as i dusted off my chemex and went through my ritual steps for a morning coffee i began to realize my hiatus.

and the coffee . . . maybe it had been too long; but my cup was the sweetest, most insanely clear fruit i can recall having in, well, a long time. a great reminder of the sunshine coffee brings to the lives of so many. for the taste of it, not the drug of it. a great reminder of what it's really all about, what i got into this business for in the first place.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

"FIRE IN THE HOLE!", or, skyrocketing roasting profile comes to an abrupt and powdery end

they say it happens to everyone, that there are only two kinds of roasters--those who have had a fire, and those who will.

last night at approximately 1900 hours we joined the ranks of the former group in what was a minor but still disappointing episode of pyrotechnics.

as the regular seven or eight readers of this blog know, we have been building a 20-25 lb capacity roaster for some months. said roaster has been in the roasterie for the last couple months getting some of her final tweaks and touch ups put in place. i have also been consuming the 300+ lbs of "practice greens" i had purchased some time ago in order to help break in the machine and to learn its mechanics at differing volumes of coffee, as well as to continue to troubleshoot certain areas during simulated live batch runs. (this practice coffee is not getting sold, or even tasted really. it's simply fodder for learning.) last night i was in the roasterie for a quiet night of more work on the machine when the meltdown occurred.

i won't bore you with all the gory details of what went wrong when and where. suffice it to say that our technical design, while a very good one, will continue to need some tightening and adjusting as the machine continues to "break in." i am thankful, though, that my nigh unto religious equipment cleaning and maintenance schedule--in that, "take care of the goose that lays the golden eggs" kind of way--has meant no crazy fires in odd nether regions of ducting, and i hope this is the worst it ever gets.

naturally, this all happens a week after my engineer has left for the summer.

meantime, last night was a mixture of disappointment, frustration and, in a strange sense, excitement at experiencing something i've never yet experienced. unlike many roaster fires i've heard of that happen very quickly and leave the roast-person in a state of flux as events unfold fast and furious, i was well aware of the potential for the fire from an early stage and was even able to observe it for a couple minutes before finally deciding to snuff it out when it became obvious it wouldn't simply expend itself. i was lucid, to wit, even wide-eyed at "my first fire" until i realized the fire probably was going to go on for a bit if i didn't intervene. enter...the fire extinguisher. (i hate that white powder. it seems like such a failure, even though, as in our case, a couple tiny bursts on the trigger really, really get the job done.) i have heard from other roasters that it isn't so much the fire--which in this case was completely contained in the burn chamber space below the drum and in no danger of spreading--as the ancillary damage the fire's excess heat begins to cause. this was true in our case as well and this morning's task is to disassemble the parts of the roaster that were affected by the heat last night and to observe firsthand what damage the heat did and, hopefully, repair and improve them.

roaster fire. check. done it. hopefully i can tick that off the list now for good as i now go in today to work on eliminating by design that flaw i knew was there but didn't know was there in that quantitative way.

blah, blah, blah. we had a fire at HQ last night. we're all safe and sound, but now we've got cleanup and fixin' to do.

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