Tim Garn: Roastmaster

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013No Comments

Tim Garn

If you’ve ever been to the Cherry Hill Coffee roastery in Kelowna, British Columbia you may have seen a blur of energy by the roaster. If he was belting out rock anthems it was probably our roastmaster Tim Garn. We sat down with our roastmaster over a cup of coffee (what else) to find out exactly what he’s doing all day.

Tim Garn
Roastmaster, Cherry Hill Coffee
Age: 45
Roasting since: 1999

Q: How did you get into the coffee business?
A: I was a welder previously and kind of married into it. Papa Don Biglow was running things at the time and he was my (new) father-in-law, and they needed some help packaging coffee and doing deliveries and from there I just got more involved in the production and roasting side of the business.

Q: So where did you get your training then.
A: I learned the trade from some pretty old school guys, and they taught me everything I know. I learned the old fashioned way, roasting by sight, sound and smell. I work a lot with wood at home building furniture, and roasting coffee is like that, there’s a lot of craftsmanship involved.

Q: What’s involved with being roastmaster?
A: We do up to 25 roasts a day so I’m constantly loading beans into the hopper, checking beans in the roasting drum, mixing blends in the cooling drum or weighing out the next roast. I’m going a mile a minute and love it!. Specifically I’m responsible for inspecting the green beans before they make it into production, and I’m making sure the coffee meets the specific roast profile for each origin or blend, and I’m always adjusting to make sure things are just right (They are vintage roasters! And air humidity, bean moisture content and ambient temperature affects the roast). I’m in constant communication with QA to make sure the coffee is up to our quality standards. And with the added standard of being certified organic, there’s some additional protocols and paperwork to complete.

Q: Sounds busy! How much coffee can you roast at a time. What temperature do you roast up to?
A: Our big roaster can roast up to 30 kg at a time, or 64 lb. The smaller one we do anywhere from 15-24 lb based on the coffee. First crack is usually around the 400˚ mark for the lighter roasts like Ethiopia which is a pretty light, small bean, and something dark like the Peru we dump at 440˚ because the bean is a bit bigger and has a higher moisture content. There’s so many factors that go into the roast profile because every bean has different characteristics.

Q: With everything you’re concentrating on, how do you keep up quality control in a busy environment?
A: There’s so many checks and balances between the production staff and QA but the staff as a whole are a quality control army. We’re constantly cupping. Everyone is always involved at every part of the process so nothing is compromised. We take quality seriously here and I think it shows in the finished product.

Q:We hear you’ve got some beautiful gardens at home. What’s the secret?
A: It’s top secret! I guess I can tell you though. I’ve got a secret ingredient in my mulch.
I take home all the chaff from the roaster – the light, airy husks blown off the beans during roasting – and add it to my mulch. It adds a lot of nutrients like nitrogen, keeps away slugs and snails and does wonders with my tomato plants!

Q: If we put three different coffees in front of you and blindfolded you – could you tell them apart?
A: A lot of them taste the same to me but I can always pick out my favourite – Jivaro Dusk (Peru). And I can tell the difference between Ethioopia and a French Roast.

Q: Last question: any good fire stories?
A: No comment!

Haha – fair enough! Thanks for your time Tim!

Photography: DarrenHull.com

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