Roasters Rock

Announcing the Winner

Survival Roaster copyThe first CoffeeTalk Virtual Roaster’s Challenge is over and there is a clear winner! The challenge was called the MacGyver Challenge, published in the August CoffeeTalk. Submissions were entered for building a sample roaster while behind enemy lines with just a set of random items.

Before we share the winning entry with you, an observation must be made about how a roaster’s brain works. It is a strange and wonderful place, a roasters brain. Unlike many brains, it operates in both the analytical and creative sides. (A working theory here is that the different sides are stimulated simultaneously with alcohol and caffeine… but it is just a theory!)

As roasters we have to think like a mechanical engineer and figure out how efficiently we can add heat to coffee while maximizing the potential of sugar, acids, carbonization, odors etc. We also deal in time temperature graphs, production efficiencies, inventory controls and maintenance schedules. All of this exercises our Left side of the brain.

We also have a romantic notion about the coffee and where it came from. We see potential in every bean that can be brought forth as something delicate or bold; pungent or floral; soft or harsh. We take time to find what the coffee is supposed to be when it is at its best and find a way to consistently get to that point. We use all of our senses to deduce the moment when the art of the coffee is complete. Very Right brain.

So it should be no surprise that when we issued this challenge we would get dual- hemisphere-brain answers! And that is what we got from our winning submission.

Quick challenge recap: Design and describe a sample roaster using a list of rudimentary tools and any of the following random items:

A pocket knife: (Think Swiss Army knife.), a stick of chewing gum with a foil wrapper, 20 feet of string, a fully charged 9 volt battery, hair dryer (assume you have access to electricity), a roll of tin foil, a can of Extra Chunky beef stew, a camp stove with fuel, 2 rolls of duct tape, 1 broken refrigerator (all parts are there, it just stopped cooling last week), a pile of ¾ inch diameter sticks in 3 foot lengths, a smart phone with no reception or Wi-Fi (you can never get a signal when you need it), a cast iron skillet, 1 – 5qt pot, A deck of playing cards, a 9 iron – right handed – Ping, 1 Large towel, an umbrella, 10 empty Coke bottles, and four coconuts.

Our winner:
BrewinBearLogo copyMark Thompson of Brewing Bears Roasters in Dundee Oregon.
He describes his business this way: We are a family run, farmer-centric, single origin specific, hand crafted coffee roaster in Dundee Oregon. We provide great Fairwagecoffee® that makes a difference. Our Roaster of choice is a 12lb US Roaster Corp Gas fired roaster.

Here is Mark’s both-sides-of-the-brain solution to our challenge. Thanks Mark! Great job!

In dangerous situations your best ally is caffeine. My first priority, roast and brew great coffee to get the juices going and if need be, win over the enemy. So… life, death or build a coffee roaster. I chose roaster. Swiss army knife opened can of beef stew, ate it then rinsed the can with coconut milk. Punctured several holes just shy of a coffee bean size in the bottom. A cast iron skillet was the base for my camp stove and placed an old refrigerator rack bent to make a elevated platform above the stove. Tin foil made a heat stove pipe, a special air induction tube to the side was held in place with string. A hair dryer attached with duct tape to the skillet forced heated air up through the bottom of the induction tube then up to the foil secured beef stew can. A foil chimney for chaff on top of the can a ¾ inch stick was used to stir the coffee for optimum color and roast consistency. A 1-5 quart pot to cool the beans and a hammer to pestle grind the beans before heating three milk of coconut, added grounds then using a Ping 9 iron frothed a coconut latte, settled grounds, towel potholder, then drank from foil cup, used a smart phone for a selfie, played cards shaded by an umbrella while awaiting rescuers. Packed 10 empty Coke bottles in my shirt to take home because, hey that’s $.50 in refunds.

Rocky Rhodes is an 18 year coffee veteran, roaster, and Q-Grader Instructor, and his mission now is to transform the coffee supply chain and make sweeping differences in the lives of those that produce the green coffee. Rocky can be reached at

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