07 Nov Behind the Scenes at Lamill Coffee Roasters
Lamill Coffee, one of Los Angeles’ first hometown roasters, is a home-grown, family-owned business. Owner Craig Min grew up in the business, learning to roast coffee at twelve years of age. He took over the family business after college and started Lamill in 1997. You can find their coffee in restaurants and hotels in Southern California and beyond, as well as at their Silverlake location, opened in 2008. Recently, I got to go behind the scenes and tour their roasting facilities in Alhambra, just east of Downtown Los Angeles.
John Martin, Director of Coffee at Lamill, greeted us that morning. Responsible for obtaining the raw coffee from around the world and overseeing the roasting, I asked him how one achieves the title “Director of Coffee.” He explained that the coffee business in an old-school industry. There is no formal education and no certifications. Roasters start as apprentices and work their way up, learning as they go. That is what John did. He has been in the business for ten years and once he was bitten by the coffee bug, there was no turning back. He is fascinated with flavor and loves all the various tastes and is continually learning.
Behind the Scenes
John took us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the coffee roasting facility. The coffee beans come from around the world in raw form and Lamill roasts approximately 10,000 pounds of coffee per week.
It is during the roasting that the sugars develop. The beans are placed in the drum roaster. The drum roaster is like a clothes dryer that tumbles the beans.
The roasting is charted in live time and takes between 12-17 minutes.The art of roasting is to know when to add heat and how to add heat and the roaster can tell by the color, texture, and smell when the roast is complete. For a single origin bean, the roasting time may be on the shorter side so that the flavors shine. For espresso, the roast is extended and slowed down in order to have a roast that gives smooth chocolate and caramel notes with decreased acidity.
As the beans roast, a thin layer of the shell, called chaff, is removed. This by-product can be used in the soil in a garden.
As the beans come out of the roaster, they are cooled.
The cool beans then travel through a tube, or de-stoner. Here the heavy pebbles drop to the bottom and do not travel with the beans through the tubes to the packaging.
After the tour of the roasting, we went for a coffee tasting, also known as coffee cupping. It is the practice of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee for quality assurance. Here are the steps to proper coffee cupping:
1) Smell the ground coffee, looking for the fragrance
2) Add water and wait 4 minutes for a crust to form.
The rinds will sink to the bottom of the glass and are not filtered. When you smell the coffee at this point, you will smell the aromas.
3) Break the crust by skimming the top to remove it.
4) After approximately 13 minutes, put some coffee on a spoon and slurp into your mouth. Now you can describe the flavors.
The three coffees we tried were different in color, aromas and flavors. The Kenyan blend is bright with citrus aromas, the Brazilian blend is more herbacious and savory and the Blank Onyx blend is a darker roast with notes of caramel, chocolate and earth.