This week Matt Hassell, Global Buyer, QC & Sample Management for Collaborative Coffee Source, and former roaster for George Howell Coffee, will answer your roast questions. Here’s a question from @AR0101:

@collaborativeCS what do you need to consider when roasting naturals vs washed coffees? #ccsQandA

— Andres Rodriguez Ruiz (@AR0101) December 10, 2017

Matt's response:

I don’t have nearly the experience roasting naturally processed coffees that I do roasting washed processed. Being in my new position, I find myself with a lot more exposure to naturally processed coffees, so I’ve been re-evaluating my approach and understanding quite a bit. Luckily, I’ve found some fantastic resources to aid in the process.

Roasting a naturally processed coffee requires a longer, slower drying phase and a longer development time. The flavor profile of these coffees is enhanced much more with longer caramelization times. A roast that is too fast, or lighter on the development spectrum may present itself as being harsh and imbalanced. Of course, this is a bit of a generalization as a natural Brazilian coffee would definitely require a different roast profile than an Ethiopian counterpart. They would be unique because of other factors (density, concentration of acids and sugars, terroir, etc.) In general, though, longer times pair with the deeper sweetness and bigger body that is characteristic of natural process coffees. In my experience, I’ve always preferred roasting naturals on a Loring over a drum roaster.

With washed process coffees, you’re able to be much more aggressive with heat application. Shorter roast times with lower-end temperatures have always been my preferred method. This is effective in highlighting the higher acidity found in these coffees. Another point to consider is that washed processed coffees often go through more sorting than naturals. Batches of beans that are more refined in terms of sizing, density, and moisture will be easier to develop homogeneously. You run less of a risk of leaving some of the beans underdeveloped.

Counter to roasting naturals on the Loring, I’ve always preferred roasting washed coffee on a drum roaster. I don’t know why either, because it doesn’t necessarily correlate to coffees that I’ve tasted from other roasters.

Matt will be answering your Twitter roast questions until Dec 12, 2017. Post your questions on Twitter to @collaborativeCS and use the hashtag #ccsQandA.


This week Matt Hassell, Global Buyer, QC & Sample Management for Collaborative Coffee Source, and former roaster for George Howell Coffee, has been fielding your roast questions. Here’s a question from @jstnkndy:

@collaborativeCS You mentioned Loring in your last post, can you talk about your experience with Loring vs drum roasters? #ccsqanda

— Justin Kennedy (@jstnkndy) December 12, 2017

Matt's response:

As I briefly mentioned in the last post, I have worked on two different machines. The Loring Kestrel S35 and a 1950’s Probat UG-22. Looking back, it was kind of cool having the chance to learn to roast on two vastly different roasters. There is a difference between a person who is a “Coffee Roaster” in every sense of the title, and someone who just operates a coffee roasting machine. I attribute learning to use a second machine as a defining moment when I considered myself a Coffee Roaster. It forced me to understand why things were happening rather than just knowing how to follow a roast profile.

I first learned to roast on the Loring. Not only a Loring, one of the first ones ever made. It was difficult to find much help to improve my understanding because every resource seemed to be about drum roasters, and there are a few major differences with a Loring.

The Loring basically works like this: heat is pulled off the burner through a cyclone by a fan, then forced into the inlet of the drum. That heat is then forced through the bed of beans, and pulled out by a return fan (that returns the air back into the burner chamber) and the process repeats. Only, the drum is stationary, and the beans are churned by spinning paddles. So, there is no conductive heat, only convective.

Heat transfer rates differ drastically between the two methods. This ended up being the biggest difference between the two. The Loring requires a higher relative burner application to achieve similar levels of development. It took me a long time to figure out what the limits were. My better understanding of them, coupled with Loring’s recent upgrades, has given me a new appreciation for the roaster. I prefer the Loring over drum roasters for espresso roasts, and filter roasts for origins that are your ‘bigger body’ or ‘chocolate, caramel based sweetness’ coffees.

There is a lot of information available in print, both physical and digital, that details how a drum roaster works. They are by far the more commonly used roasters, and in my opinion, are much more intuitive. The one I learned on had some minor airflow and burner modifications, but was mostly as originally designed. Despite being twice as old as me, it was a remarkably consistent and produced a very good roast. The drum, being cast iron, stored a lot of heat. I suppose it depends who you ask, but to me, this was a major positive. I liked being able to back off the burner application heavily, and let the momentum of the stored drum heat carry me through some portions of the roast.

The most useful feature of the machine though, was the airflow damper. This damper, located behind the impeller fan (that pulls the air through the drum) could raise or lower the airflow depending on position, thus changing the ratio of convection:conduction. Proper adjustments can really help minimize some of the variables that we face every day in New England (temperature and humidity variance). These two differences, conductive heat and adjustable airflow, really made me feel like I could hit a small sweet-spot on a coffee. It is for this reason that I preferred the Probat over the Loring for brighter fruit, and higher acidity coffees.


Two things struck me when I met Maria Bercelia Martinez on her farm in Acevedo, Huila. Firstly, that she and her family approach coffee cultivation a little differently. Secondly, her family are especially close, even by Colombian standards. Curious to know more, I asked her to give me some background. So she wrote CCS this letter, which explains her unique perspective on coffee, and the joy her family exude just being together. It also tells a very sad story.   

This letter is not easy to read, certainly not for anyone who knows this woman’s generosity, warmth and determination. Unfortunately, it is a common story in Colombia and you will hear versions of it from almost everyone who lives in the countryside. That doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking, or any less important to read. 

I have translated this letter from Spanish, edited for brevity, and I have added some notes in brackets to give context where needed, but as much as possible, I have tried to keep Maria’s story in her own words. We are so honored she agreed to let us share it with you. 


Dear CCS, 

Thank you for this opportunity to tell you a little of my life and my beginnings with coffee.

In 1982 my parents separated, and I had to take care of my mother and my two younger siblings. In 1984 I married Jose Vianey Erazo, and together we brought into the world our three children, Andrea, Diego and Daniel. 

My husband and I began our own business with the few resources we had at the time. We began with a small hardware business in the town of El Tigre, in the department of Putomayo, and, thanks to God, we were able to buy a piece of land and build a house. With that home, our business and our children, we were so happy. We had realized our dreams, and we thought we would live there forever. 

Sadly, it was not to be. Suddenly, there was a great rush to grow illicit crops in our region (such as coca, the raw material for cocaine), those that have done such damage to my country. With those crops came the guerrillas and they took control of our area with the help of “milicianos” (guerrilla collaborators). It was a terrible time, people were killed daily, and for unjust reasons. There was no help from the government or military. They viewed anyone who lived in a guerrilla controlled area as guerrillas, even though most of us were merely hard working people living our lives, running businesses, raising families.

We lived as peacefully as we could, we didn’t put ourselves in trouble’s way and we dedicated ourselves to caring for our children and running our business. That was, until 1999. That was the year the paramilitaries arrived. These are mercenary armies created to combat the guerrillas, sometimes financed by narco-traffickers, sometimes financed by the government. One night they arrived in the early hours of the morning and took control of the town. That night they murdered 32 people in cold blood and without discrimination. In the following months many more people disappeared, families were left destroyed, mothers became widows, children were orphaned. 

We thank God nothing happened to us, or that at least we suffered no physical loss. But our hearts were broken and our sense of security was destroyed. We lost so many friends. It was a an era of such great sadness, one that marked our lives. 

We didn’t know what to do or where to go. We didn’t want to abandon everything we had achieved, our hard work, our life, but the paramilitaries threatened to return to kill all those who remained in the village, so we left. We stayed with my brother in the nieghboring village called La Hormiga, but it was not a safe place for our children. So, we gathered all our resources and bought a small plot of land in Pitalito, Huila and built a house. There was no mention of violence in that region. Our children could study in good schools. We we were happy to be safe.

However my husband and I couldn’t find jobs. We never received a good education which made it difficult, and the cost of living in that city was so high. We had an opportunity to open another hardware store in a town called Llorente, in the department of Nariño. It was a town caught between guerrillas, paramilitaries and narco-traffickers. We did not want to return to that violence, but running a hardware store was all we knew how to do. We made the difficult decision to leave our children alone in Pitalito, where they would be safe and could finish high school, and Jose and I moved to Llorente. 

Our business was successful. We had been very responsible towards our suppliers in the hardware business in Putomayo, and all of them opened their doors when we decided to start again. In a short period of time we were making a profit and our economic situation was once again stable.  

We were unhappy that our children lived alone. We only saw them once every six months when they could take a vacation. However it was worth the sacrifice. With the help of God, Andrea and Daniel finished high school. Andrea began studying a degree in accounting at the local university, and Daniel soon followed to study dentistry. 

Sadly the security situation in Llorente deteriorated. Armed groups imposed a nighttime curfew, and to ignore the curfew was to be killed. We lived like hostages in our own home. We opened the hardware store at 6am, and closed at 6pm, then we locked ourselves inside. Violence took over the town and the war for power between different armed groups gave no respite. We had no option but to stay, it was the only way we could afford to keep our children at university. That was, until the day the paramilitaries killed my cousin. 

We never learned why he was killed, because our family never got involved in the war or violence, but we were not surprised. The paramilitary contacted my husband and told him to come and pick up the truck my cousin had been driving, which belonged to us. When my husband arrived, a paramilitary soldier told him not to inform anyone of the place where they murdered and dismembered my cousin, because they did not plan to deliver the body to the family. But my cousin’s wife, and children did their own investigation and found the place where he was buried. They exhumed him, and gave him a burial according to his beliefs. 

Unfortunately this created problems for us. The paramilitaries thought we had told my cousin’s family about his murder, and they threatened to kill us. We had to leave Llorente immediately, so we walked away from our business. 

The only thing we wanted was to be close to our children and to live a peaceful life. This was how we came to be coffee producers. We liked the idea of working in the fields, cultivating the signature product of our country. So we bought the farm, Los Angeles and began cultivating coffee. 


In the beginning we didn’t know anything about coffee farming, we didn’t know how to grow coffee, how to pick it, ferment or wash it, we didn’t even know how to sell it. We didn’t understand Yield Factors and how they affect the price of coffee. We didn’t understand why sometimes we were paid less. Fortunately we are business people and hard workers. We hired a local coffee grower to teach us, and we learned about cup quality and how it affects the price we are paid. That’s when we decided to try and grow high quality coffee. We were able to support our family, and thanks to God and coffee, my daughter finished her degree, fulfilling my dreams for her to become an educated professional. 

However my heart still aches for Daniel. When he was in the fourth year of his degree (of five years), there was a crisis in coffee prices in Colombia. We had to borrow money to cover the wages of our pickers, or face letting the coffee cherries rot on the trees. We managed to hold on to our farm, but we couldn’t afford the university fees, and Daniel had to quit his studies. I dreamed he would become an educated professional, and I did everything I could to make this a reality, but I failed. To this day we are still paying off the loans we took to keep the farm running.  

This is the frustration of producing coffee. Prices for specialty coffee are linked to unstable commodities price, even though the product is different. Producing specialty coffee requires more money, more time, more attention and more determination. These days everything we earn goes to paying off our debts, and we don’t have the money to invest in the farm itself. We are seeing how detrimental this is, production is dropping and our beans have poorer density than they used to. 

I wish Jose and I could have continued our lives in Putomayo, raising our children and running our hardware business. We were doing well financially, and we had the means to educate our children, but we were surrounded by violence and I could not keep my family safe.

But, as the Colombian saying goes “there is no bad that doesn’t produce some good.”  Despite our difficulties we learned the value of life and of family. And, we discovered the world of coffee. It was so frustrating to see our children abandon their university studies, and change their books for scythes and collection buckets, but I feel lucky because we live far from violence.

I have fallen in love with coffee, and I am so happy to be with my children. It brings me such joy to work together with them to build a better life for ourselves. 

We have decided to sell half of our farm so we can pay our debts and begin reinvesting. We are looking for a partner who knows the world of coffee and who shares our dream to produce the best quality. I know my farm has great potential and without the pressure to meet our repayments, we could live a more relaxed life. 

But there are other things that motivate me, like working with you. With your support and experience and the way you value my work, I feel I can achieve my dreams. The experience of having you here in my house was one of the nicest moments of my life, and I eagerly await your return, so I can host you with happiness, love, a good piece of smoked steak and a beer. We can have a chat between friends, and I can show you all the effort we’ve invested in improving and producing great coffee.

This is a brief description of my family’s story, where I come from, the situations I’ve endured with my husband, that have shaped my character and my will to go forwards. I shed some tears writing this letter, but I did it with a lot of love for the team at Collaborative Coffee Source.

I want to thank you for your interest in my origins and my dreams. I hope you can visit us again soon.

With love

Maria with her husband Jose Erazo, and sons Diego and Daniel.

Maria with her husband Jose Erazo, and sons Diego and Daniel.

Astrid Medina, in her own words

From left: Eduardo Urquina and Alejandro Renjifo from Fairfield Trading, Astrid Medina, and Robert from CCS. Astrid was visiting Acevedo during the CCS Acevedo Cup 2018 to support and learn from her coffee producing peers in Huila.

From left: Eduardo Urquina and Alejandro Renjifo from Fairfield Trading, Astrid Medina, and Robert from CCS. Astrid was visiting Acevedo during the CCS Acevedo Cup 2018 to support and learn from her coffee producing peers in Huila.

Within 30 seconds of meeting Astrid Medina, she invited me to her finca. She invites everyone, and her invitation is genuine, she would really love to show you her home and her coffee. She is a rockstar of specialty coffee with fans across the globe, but Astrid is a caring and humble person, grateful to coffee for what it has given to her family. 

Astrid is from Planadas, Tolima, an area of Colombia that suffered the some of the worst of the Colombian internal conflict, caught between the FARC guerrillas, the government, the narco-traffickers and the paramilitary groups. People of this region tend not to talk of this violence. Everyone has a story. Everyone suffered. As Colombia begins its journey to peace, these people are looking forward, not backwards. 

I asked Astrid to answer a few questions for me, and what she provided was this heartfelt essay. Rather than edit it into our usual style of blog post, I decided to post it as is. It has been translated from Spanish, and modified slightly for flow, but it remains Astrid's story, in her own words. 

By Astrid Medina

My farm, Buena Vista, is located in the municipality of Planadas in Gaitania, Tolima at an altitude of 1780 to 2000 metres above sea level. The varieties I grow are Caturra, Colombia and Castillo. The total area of my farm is 15 hectares of which 13.5 a dedicated to coffee production.

My coffee is cultivated, picked, processed and dried with upmost care to maintain the quality. Quality is our primary objective when working with coffee.

Coffee has always been part of my life

My paternal grandfather was a coffee producer, my father was a coffee producer, and the family of my husband were all coffee producers.

When I was 29 years old my father, Aureliano Medina, was killed. My three younger siblings and I inherited the farm. Two of my siblings sold their share, so now Buena Vista is owned by my husband, my younger sister and me.

It hasn’t been easy, it is a constant struggle to be a coffee producer, the price, the climate, the varieties, the work that must be done by hand. But it is a passion and an art, and we never stop learning.

Entering the specialty market

I began producing specialty coffee in 2014 when the National Federation of Coffee Growers and Nespresso launched a program called LH TIME, or Late Harvest, which was just for the Castillo variety and consisted of collecting the mature cherries. In our case we picked the cherries over four weeks to obtain the best state of ripeness of this variety. We managed to sell 5000 kg of coffee in parchment at a premium of 300,000 pesos (approximately an additional $100 USD per 125kg). This additional money really helped us to make investments in our farm to implement more processes to achieve better quality and improve salaries of our workers.

In 2015 they held the Cup of Excellence in Colombia and we decided to enter, it was held on the 13th of March, and our coffee won first place! This competition changed our lives. It not only proved that quality coffee is worth the effort, it also proved that hard work and dedication bring good things.

This competition lifted us from anonymity and introduced us to the world of specialty coffee. Many people were suddenly interested in visiting our region, tasting and buying coffee from Planadas. This really helped our region which was hit hard by the internal conflict in Colombia. The coffee producers improved their conditions, could invest in their farms and improve salaries for their workers.

Specialty coffee changed my life and that of my family for the better. It allowed us to improve infrastructure, improve the salaries of our workers, and gave us the opportunity to travel abroad, encounter new cultures, to meet with the people who had come to visit us on our farm. Coffee really unites people.

Specialty coffee allows us to educate our children and support my daughter who is studying at a university in Bogota. It has returned my sense of security, my will to work, to listen, to travel, to learn, to dream.

Family and the role of women in coffee

My husband is Raúl Antonio Duran, my daughter is Dayhana Alejandra Duran, she is 19 and is in the sixth semester of an environmental science degree at Universidad El Bosque, and my son Raúl Alejandro is 9 and finishing 4th grade.

My husband is a medical veterinarian, and I am an agricultural production technician. We have always worked in coffee. Before we inherited the farm, we worked for a coffee cooperative, and my husband continues to work as a buyer. In my free time I help with physical analysis, and this has really helped us to learn more about coffee.

My husband has a good head for finances and is an excellent administrator. This has given me the opportunity to participate, to learn, to contribute, and it has really helped us to grow and work towards the same goal. We work as a team.

To be a woman in the Colombian coffee sector is a crucial role that requires great commitment, work, dedication and above all, great passion for what we do. Gender equality is so important. In coffee there is always work for every member of the family, and it is very important to empower those who want to work. Men and women always complement each other and both are important. Both are in charge of what they do, both develop a role very important in their family.

Plans for the future

My plans for the future are very ambitious. I want my farm to be a place that does not harm the environment, where many varieties of coffee exist, where there are many ornamental and fruit trees, where we never want for vegetables. I want to have the highest standard of water treatment, to offer my workers training, and above all we want to learn more ourselves. We want to have some means of air transport to bring the picked coffee from the highest lots to the washing station.

I dream that my children will speak English, finish their university studies, and be in love with coffee.

I am very proud of my farm, it is the legacy of my father, but I am prouder of the coffee that we produce. It is wonderful and privileged position to offer specialty coffee, it gives me great satisfaction and fills me with gratitude. I am proud to know that we have placed one grain of sand in building the country of our dreams.

Special regards
Astrid Medina Pereira