I’ve been roasting coffee at home for over 5 years.  After roasting with a popcorn popper and then a Behmore 1600,  I decided to purchase a small commercial sample roaster.   With many different sample roasters on the market, I did some research comparing different coffee roasters.  After weighing my options I decided to purchase the Mill City 500 Gram gas coffee roaster.  Also known as the North TJ-066 coffee roaster, this little ferrari is fully featured and well built.

My 500 gram gas roaster has been ordered from Mill City Coffee Roasters.  These roasters are in such demand the wait can be a couple of months or longer.  While waiting for my roaster to arrive, I decided to attended the roasting school class held at the Mill City Roasters campus in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This class is designed to teach the basics about roasting coffee and operating a commercial coffee roasting machine.

There are two resources that have really helped me understand what roasting coffee is all about.  Both of them are provided by Mill City Roasters.  This isn’t an advertisement for these guys.  I did a simple google search for how to roast and found Mill City not only sells coffee roasters, accessories and green beans, but they also provide both free training resources as well as paid resources.

Mill City Youtube Page (free resource)

Joe (left) and Dave (right) Discussing “turning point” at Mill City Roasting School – photo credit – millcityroasters.com

First is the free resource.  Mill City Roasters has been posting youtube videos for the past couple of years.  They started posting videos that highlighted their “coffee of the month” and then roasted it.  I was able to watch the entire roast process from beginning to end.  Beginning with dropping the beans into the drum, they describe the process all the way till they were dropped out of the roaster into the cooling bin.  It’s pretty cool to not only hear about how the coffee tastes or the farm it came from, but also how they would roast that particular coffee.  Yep, it’s all there in all 20 or more videos!  Then about a year ago, Mill City started a new video series.  They streamed it live and called it “Roasting School”.  Lessons were segmented into the different roasting stages (turning point, drying phase, first crack, etc..).  There are two hosts, Joe and Dave.  Joe was a roaster and now is a representative from Cafe Imports.  Dave was an employee of Mill City.  Between the two of them, an organized outline and presentation was given discussing each of these roasting phases.  A mix of science, theory and personal experience were shared by these guys.  Most importantly, any layperson can watch these from beginning to end and understand them!  I highly recommend the Mill City Youtube Channel as a great coffee roasting resource which is free.

Mill City Roasting School (paid resource)

After watching all of the videos and then taking a test (which I passed), I decided to attend roasting school at the Mill City Coffee Roasters campus in Minneapolis Minnesota.  I turned it into a father & son trip and invited my two sons to share the experience with me.  This was a fun way of spending time together and learning how to roast.  We also used our spare time to visit a couple of recommended coffee shops and restaurants in the area.  I have nothing but good words to say about Minneapolis.  We had a great time and would gladly pay a return visit.

The class was very informative and fun.  We met people from all over the country who were home roasters and some were actual commercial roasters.  The owner of Mill City Roasters is Steve Green, who taught most of the class.  Joe Morocco from Cafe Imports came in the middle of the day to talk about green coffee selection.  We received a workbook with details about the coffee bean selection and roasting process, step by step.  Much of this info was covered on their youtube channel and I expected as much.  We also spent a couple of hours roasting on the machines.  This was a great opportunity to use all my senses and knowledge hands on through the entire roasting process.  Mill City Roasters has 6 or 8 roasters of all sizes ready to roast in their training center.  I spent most of my time on a 500 gram and 1 kilo machine.

Taking the class at Mill City really made a difference.  Watching the videos online was helpful but working with the actual roaster was a whole new experience.  It is amazing how much energy the 500 gram roaster can put out.  During training, Steve wanted to show us what happens when we roast with too much heat/energy applied.  Our roasts only lasted about 6 minutes.  Yes, the roast was too fast.  With too much heat, the drying process isn’t complete and you end up baking the bean from the outside inward which is not a good thing.   My last roast of the day was with a pound of coffee I brought with me to training.  Being careful to have my drop temperature correct, we dropped the coffee, made our adjustments along the roast process and after about 10 minutes we were dropping a wonderfully roasted pound of dried process Ethiopian from Sweet Maria’s.  One cool part of roasting school was to cup some of the coffee we roasted.  It was interesting to hear which tasting notes others in the class were able to sense.  Being able to meet and talk with other attendees was very nice.  There was also plenty of time to ask the Mill City staff questions about their coffee, the roasters and of course the roasting process.  Overall it was a wonderful experience.

The food experience while visiting Minneapolis was just as nice.  We went to Spyhouse Coffee and enjoyed some great brew.  The roast-master there won the 2016 Roasting championship and came in second in 2017.  These guys have really good coffee.  Better yet was their pastry selection.  I have a weakness for them when it comes to coffee pairings.  Spyhouse offers a pastry called Kouign Amann.  It is a delight.  See the pic.  We also drank at Dogwood coffee.  Their coffee was really good and we were never lacking good coffee during our visit to Minneapolis.

We also enjoyed two really interesting restaurants  Barasa Rotisserie is a Caribbean restaurant that offers a nice menu cooked in an authentic style.  I really enjoyed the Roasted Chicken with rice & beans.  The other restaurant was called Hola Arepa.  This Venezuelan restaurant reminded me of an upscale Mexican style restaurant.  The salsa and other sauces were delightful!  Go to yelp and look at Minneapolis restaurants with two dollar signs “$$” and then sort by highest rated.  You will be surprised how many really good restaurants there are in the “Mill City”  Yea, that is why the coffee place is named that.  Mill City Roasters is located in the “Mill City”

We spent some time walking around downtown and along the Mississippi river.  It is a clean and safe place with lots of people outside enjoying the warm weather (while it lasts)  We did notice the habitrail type connectors within the downtown district.  It get’s so cold in Minneapolis that people use these connecting bridges to walk through much of the downtown district!

I highly recommend the Mill City Roasters “roasting school” experience.  If you can’t make it to Minneapolis then take time to watch the Mill City Roasters Youtube videos.  They are a great resource to help you enjoy your roasting hobby.