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Zocalo Coffee Blog

March 10, 2022
Coffee with Cathy: Part Two
Zocalo Coffee. March 2022. Coffee with Cathy: Part Two. An interview between Zocalo's Coffee Roaster, Cathy Davies, and Administrative Manager, Alex Aimee Kist. So let's jump back in. Alex: So you told us last time about how you made your way to Zocalo. But what have you learned here? Can you walk me through the process of roasting? Cathy: Sure, I roast coffee on our 25 lbs San Franciscan coffee roaster, who we’ve affectionately named Betty. Alex: Betty! I actually didn't know that. That is delightful. Sorry, please continue. Cathy:   Betty was manufactured in 1996 and is number 54 in the world. She’s also original to 645 Bancroft, moving to our Roastery facility in 2014, when Sara purchased Zocalo Coffee.   Each batch of green beans is loaded into Betty’s hopper above a cast-iron drum, released into the drum where it spins over a gas burner. The temperature is controlled via gas and air flow and as the beans rotate they will turn color from green to roasted brown. Coffee goes through 3 stages in the roaster: drying, browning, and development. (Images on this page include photos of Cathy and Alex)
Alex: So what is happening to the beans throughout those stages? Cathy: The beans start out as light green and dense with a moisture content of about 8-12%. In the drying stage, as the beans heat up, that moisture starts to cook off. Temperature is key at this point because ideally the beans will heat up quickly enough to maintain some internal moisture into the next stages but not so fast that their outsides' scorch.   After about 4-5 minutes the green beans will begin to transform from green, to a pale yellow, then golden, tawny tan, and into browns. This is the browning stage, where the Maillerd reaction begins. The amino acids and reducing sugars within the beans react with one another to cause the color-changes but also (delicious) caramelization flavors.   Finally at the end of the browning process the beans enter the development stage and audibly crack. This is called First Crack. The cracking indicates the beans have become exothermic and have built up enough heat and energy that the energy is released with an audible popping sound, like popcorn. This stage is about 15-25% of the duration of the roast and is where the aroma compounds of the roast are developed and the roast level (light/medium/dark) is determined. This portion of the roast occurs around 360-390°F and can change fast. Constant observation of color and smell is necessary to determine which point to complete the roast. (Images on this page include multiple stages of coffee bean coloration)
Alex: The First Crack, I like that. That sounds tricky, though. So many things to focus on. How do you make sure they are finished the way you want them? Cathy: Roast completeness is determined when the beans have met a series of benchmarks for temperature, time, smell, and visual variables, depending on the intention with the coffee. Alex: That makes sense. So what comes next? Cathy: At completion, the beans are dropped into Betty’s cooling tray and she will take over turning the beans until they are cool to touch. In general, a lighter roast will have more nuanced aromas and flavors (floral and fruit flavors really shine here) but consequently can have more acidity. Darker roasts will have a more gentle acidity and fuller body but those more delicate flavors/smells can turn into roasty and toasty flavors. For my tastes, I am more of a medium roast gal, aiming for those bodied caramelized sugar notes while preserving the higher fruit and flavor notes for a balanced cup. Alex: I must admit, I'm very glad to have a cup of coffee in hand while you talk about this! That is all the time we have today, Cathy. But as always, thank you for your time.   To learn more about Cathy, make sure to check out part one of Coffee with Cathy and stay tuned for part three! We hope you keep up with us on social media and our email newsletters! (On the side of the page, the following quote is emphasized: "In general, a lighter roast will have more nuanced aromas and flavors (floral and fruit flavors really shine here) but consequently can have more acidity. Darker roasts will have a more gentle acidity and fuller body but those more delicate flavors/smells can turn into roasty and toasty flavors.")
February 25, 2022
Coffee with Cathy: Part One
Zocalo Coffee. February 2022. Coffee with Cathy: Part One. An Interview between Zocalo's Administrative Manager, Alex Aimee Kist, and Zocalo's Roaster, Cathy Davies. Alex: Okay Cathy, let's talk about our mutual obsession: coffee. First of all, can you tell me a bit about your journey to get here? How did you find Zocalo? Cathy: Yeah, so the week I graduated from UCSC, I applied for a job at the coffeehouse down the street from my grandmother’s house in San Leandro. While I had never worked in coffee before, I had worked in customer service most of my life. Growing up I helped my folks manage a ski lodge in Tahoe, so it seemed like it could be a good fit. Photos of Cathy and Alex included.
Cathy: Within a month, I was enmeshed within an immersive community filled with friendship, art, and support. For going on 11 years, I have been fortunate to build lasting relationships with this amazing Zocalo community. Alex: Oh, so you learned the basics here? That's lovely. What was it that switched you over to roasting? Cathy: I fell in love with coffee as a bebe barista working here at Zocalo. Before I started, I preferred my coffee with cream and sugar, thinking coffee on its own was bitter and sour. Alex: How did you get over that? Cathy: My manager inspired a love for espresso shots. We were taught we had to pull the perfect espresso shot every time and to learn how to do that we learned to taste the difference between a good shot and a bad one. So I drank a lot of espresso in the early days. I learned to recognize visually what a perfect shot would be, and how that rich syrupy liquid would translate to a sweet, chocolate malt with acidity that complements, rather than detracts. Finding the balance between the grind, the temperature, humidity, age of coffee beans was immensely gratifying, because it just tastes so good. Our shifts always started with a ritual. Splitting a shot of espresso and celebrating how well we had dialed in the espresso before we opened the doors. Alex: I love that! Having rituals like that can really bring a team together. But wait, how did you go from pulling shots to roasting? Photos of Zocalo's logo included, as well as orange flowers blossoming out of an icon of California.
 Cathy: Working as a barista, I was able to try coffee from all over the world and learn how coffee tastes different between countries, growing and processing practices. Even how the same coffee will taste different depending on how it is brewed or how dark or light it was roasted. I was fascinated with how much diversity could come from the same product. Alex: Ah you fell in love with the product! Cathy: Exactly. 2 years later, I lucked into asking our Roaster Sara, who had just purchased Zocalo Coffee, if she would ever want or need a second roaster. The right place, the right time. Then the fascination began all over again. Learning to roast brought a whole slew of new variables that could make a seemingly static product translate differently depending on how I manipulated the temperature, air, or blended two coffees together. I love being able to work an artisan trade, it is such a unique role that I fell into by chance.  It is so funny how life happens like that. A small question and next thing you know you're on a new career path. Alex: Well, Cathy, we will have to catch up again sometime soon!   To all those following along, keep your eyes peeled for more interviews by following us on social media or signing up for our newsletter at www.zocalocoffee.com On the side of the page, the following quote is emphasized: " Then the fascination began all over again. Learning to roast brought a whole slew of new variables that could make a seemingly static product translate differently depending on how I manipulated the temperature, air, or blended two coffees together. I love being able to work an artisan trade, it is such a unique role that I fell into by chance."