The long and winding road of Ikawa profiling led me to pen previous articles on challenges and some new ‘from-scratch” sample roast profiles I have been employing regularly for Crown Jewels and other coffees.

Yet, I’ve long been seeking a low-airflow alternative to the high fan speeds I tend to prefer for most high-density coffees. Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and sheltering in place, I found myself with the perfect opportunity to R&D some new profiles, to examine the best-case general use of my older ones, take a gander at the updated iPhone app, and to implement an exciting new project partnering with Ikawa for a remote learning experience.

Here’s a look at my porch setup, just for fun:

The New App Interface

Just as we transitioned to working from home during shelter in place orders, I received a message from Alex Georgiou, Ikawa’s head of marketing, asking if I wanted to try out the pre-release version of the new app interface. Of course I was interested.

“This update has been over a year in the making,” Ikawa’s customer service told me in their onboarding email, “we’ve rewritten both the Android and iOS apps from the ground up.”

Functionally, most of the essential tasks of the app itself are relatively similar. There is a significant aesthetic difference, and many of the elements such as programing profiles and marking first crack have been streamlined. The final version (3.0) is now live, having been released to the public around the end of April. Among the core new features is a horizontal option for viewing and editing profiles (FINALLY!).

Logging first crack is easier, working with the same login credentials and two different Ikawas tied to the same Cropster account is now possible as well. It’s also just a little easier on the eyes, and the app prompts you with an occasional reminder to “Send Profile to Machine” which is convenient if you are viewing a profile that you may have forgotten to select for roasting.

Low Airflow

A constant threat to the success of my high airflow profiles has been irregular green coffee specs. While specialty coffees are normally high density and moderate-to-low moisture regardless of their processing style, there are numerous exceptions. Royal’s long history of exceptional sourcing in Yemen and Indonesia, for example, challenges many of my old preconceptions about what quality can mean. These types of coffees have massive specialty potential but may under-perform when roasted to “traditional” third wave specs. I needed another option.

A swath of interesting Sumatras and Brazils dropped in our coffers in April and presented the perfect opportunity for some extra Ikawa work. Having learned quite a bit from the previous, months-long round of profiling I quickly set about picking apart the interaction of time, temperature, and fan speed.

Brazil Samples & Version 1.0

My first attempt was basically a cut & paste of my Sample Roast profile. The temperature curves are identical, only the airflow is altered, flattening at color change instead of gradually rising through first crack. I tried this on an Organic Brazil from Fazenda Klem in Eastern Minas Gerais, and it was bland and toasty compared to the 6 minute sample roast and the +30 Maillard profiles. I immediately discarded it… or so I thought.

Nearly two months later, I mistakenly selected it and roasted it, ironically on a different Organic Brazil from Fazenda Santa Cristina in the Cerrado region of Minas, and it was actually really good. It reduced this coffees’ perceptible acidity to just a whisper, muting the fruit notes a bit but really driving home the sweetness and viscosity in a lush, full cup with overtures of chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch, and brown sugar.

This profile, Crown Low Airflow SR 1.0 , is a darker roast for sure. The coffee, regardless of origin or processing, will reach first crack earlier and spend a bit of time in a low airflow environment at relatively high temperature. In most cases it will not produce a favorable “sample” roast, per se, but it might produce a drinkable one. You could also consider employing it for coffees that seem to be slow to develop, like wet hulled or very low density naturals, for example.

Sumatras and a 7-minute Sample Roast

When I roast manually on The Crown’s twin-barrel Proaster sample roaster, I almost always hit first crack around 6 or 6:30 and finish my roast in 7 or 8 minutes total. The drums are perforated and I’d rather not risk easily scorching the beans by being too aggressive with the flame.

Yet the Ikawa’s miniscule batch size and noteable lack of fire make shorter roasts a breeze. When we first started using them, Jen Apodaca was pumping roasts out in five minutes or less! My preferred sample roast these days is a six-minute trip from start to end temp.

But some coffees just need a little longer in the pocket for best results. A power trio of Sumatras from the Kerinci region came knocking on our doors in April and I just couldn’t quite squeeze out a perfect roast of the Honey Process. The prep was great, its companion lots were delicious… I could tell it was me (and my roast) and not the coffee.

Taking a cue from earlier attempts (pre-calibration October 2019) to smooth out Sumatran offerings, I decided to get drastic. I knew there were a few things I had to do, based on my Low Airflow 1.0.

First, based on the overall darker roast of 1.0, for a sample roast style to work I needed to lower the exhaust temperature basically anywhere I decided to lower the fan speed. This would keep the final result in a lighter shade more appropriate for evaluation.

Second, a lower charge temperature necessitated a lower delta into color change. Rather than try and artificially accelerate, a lower fan speed and temperature and a later first crack would more effectively allow the coffee time to properly develop.

Third, combined with the likelihood of lower density coffee, these lower temperatures meant I needed to add 15-30 seconds of development after first crack to allow color to develop more slowly.

I took a couple of educated guesses, made one or two small revisions (after a roast or two I could tell visually wasn’t hitting the mark) and voila! I’d stumbled into a seven-minute, low airflow profile perfect for gently browning basically any coffee, but especially useful for low density or high moisture coffees.

I abbreviated the title (SR=Sample Roast, AF=Airflow), it can be found under Crown 7m SR Low AF.

You can see that the airflow still peaks high right at the turnaround, a technique I’ve really liked for a few reasons. Practically, it blows any dust off the beans. Secondly, the coffee is at its heaviest when first charged into the roaster, and the high fan speed keeps the green coffee from touching the hot metal in the roasting chamber for any great length of time.

Instead of a complete drop in airflow, the second peak occurs, like in my other successful high fan speed profiles, at the beginning of first crack, abating smoke and blowing chaff away. It gradually drops as the beans rapidly expand and lighten, allowing for even development with a very slow but steady rate of change after first crack.

Here’s the Cropster version of the two (fan speed added manually):

How We Ikawa Now

I’d be remiss not to offer credit where it’s due here.

I wouldn’t be able to present the data you’ve read here without the help of the team of barista/lab assistants at the Crown, who have learned not one but three different data systems (Ikawa, Cropster, and our infographic engine Infogram) to help me make sense of the data visually. They’re also frequently the operators of the machine, including a recent initiative they’ve undertaken to Ikawa roast and taste almost EVERY COFFEE on Royal’s Website. Their names are Bolor Erdenebat, Doris Garrido, Elise Becker, and Nate Lumpkin, and they are unequivocally the best.

On Ikawa’s end, I’m grateful for O.M. Miles, Ikawa’s West Coast-based Business Development Specialist and Sales Rep, who is always kind and responsive when I bug her with questions about the machines and want to bounce ideas back and forth from time to time.

Miles reached out to me recently with a cool proposal, and reconnected me with Alex Georgiou and Geoff Woodley. Royal Coffee is partnering with Ikawa to send out samples of a couple of mystery coffees with a few different profiles to organize an exciting remote roasting and tasting experience on August 13, 2020.

I’m very excited to hear about what people think of the profiles and coffees, and I’m looking forward to getting some valuable feedback from users like you. You can find relevant details and sign up here.