Some mentors are personal, and we get to keep them all to ourselves. Some mentors only have the time or energy for one person. This is not the case for Karl Schmidt, President of Diedrich Coffee Roasters. Mr. Schmidt has been in the coffee industry for more than 40 years. Hundreds of coffee professionals consider him their mentor. Some of these people have never even met Karl directly but clammer to get into the room to catch one of his speeches.
“Everyone wants to hear what he has to say,” says Launtia Taylor, his long-time friend, and colleague. “He would have 300 people in the room and have people trying to listen in from the hallway. His knowledge of roasting in different types of environments and processing of coffee is incredible. Karl is always giving. He will stay and answer questions for an hour after the lecture is over.”
In 2013, Karl was recognized by the SCA as the recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to the Industry award. Coffee technology is the priority. Karl also shares this knowledge with consumers and businesses in the industry as needed. He has been a staunch supporter of the International Women in Coffee Organization since its inception.
Mrs. Taylor continues, “For three years Karl stopped his public speaking, and everyone kept asking when he’ll be back. Finally, he accepted the SCA invitation back to do a speech for their conference in Boston a couple of years ago. They had him scheduled for a Sunday morning which is normally the worst time. Everyone is exhausted from the show and all the parties on Saturday. Despite all this, the room was packed. People made the effort to attend the lecture to hear what Karl had to say.”
Karl has a master’s degree in Engineering and Business Administration and over the years has demonstrated leadership skills in significantly improving the bottom line of the companies he managed. Karl has an excellent understanding of the global business environment in the various disciplines related to Systems, Plant Design, Process Technology and Implementation. He is passionate about sharing his global business perspective and knowledge and accomplishes this by giving talks and giving presentations at the SCA and other organizations. He is well-versed in the coffee and confectionery industries in North America and is a well-known speaker at industry events such as the NCA, SCA, and RG. “Roasting Technology,” “Mitigating Environmental Emissions from Coffee Roasting Facilities,” and “The Effects of Thermal Dynamics during Roasting, including Heat Transfer in the process and Implementation of Various Roasting Technologies and Roaster Designs,” are just a few of his topics. Karl is very proactive in educating the coffee community about the constantly evolving landscape of environmental problems the industry faces.
Karl led the team responsible for putting together the equipment, plan, installation, and startup for the first Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Capitol Hill in Seattle. This was to become a mecca for the coffee industry and has undoubtedly become a ‘must visit’ for anyone traveling to Seattle. In 2016, after 27 years, Mr. Schmidt left Probat to run another roasting equipment manufacturer, Diedrich Coffee Roasters. Karl continues to oversee Diedrich and remains a mentor to many across the country.
Karl is renowned for his ability to really listen to his clients and help them succeed in their businesses. “He is brutally honest and sometimes tells you what you don’t want to hear but what you need to hear. Almost anyone you ask, ‘Who is Karl Schmidt,’ will tell you he helped provided service or simply advise to build their business. I often hear stories of roasters having a problem with their equipment and wanting a new one. Karl would frequently say, ‘before you make an investment in a new roaster we need to make sure you are utilizing your existing equipment to its fullest capacity and potential’,” shares Mrs. Taylor.
Karl Schmidt continues to work tirelessly to give advice and provide guidance to people throughout the industry. The latest industry collaboration effort is the Diedrich / Firedancer Coffee Roasting Forum scheduled for May 20th (more information at diedrichroasters.com) where he advocates the need for sustainable solutions in today’s conflicting environment of businesses and facilities within the coffee and cocoa engineering field of operations.