Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been asking readers to put their questions to 2019 Romanian Coffee Roasting Champion and MABO Coffee founder, Bogdan Georgescu.
As an MTPak Brand Ambassador, Bogdan provides regular insight for our Education Centre on everything from cupping and roasting, to branding and marketing.
Here, he answers all your questions, including how to prepare for championships and why barista experience can help you become a better roaster.
Who am I?
I’m Bogdan, I run MABÓ Coffee in Romania.
I used to work in IT for a number of years, before I started to fall in love with coffee. I was spending money on equipment, grinders, espresso machines, that kind of thing.
After a while, I realised that the coffee I was drinking wasn’t that good, and that maybe I should try my hand at roasting.
I bought a machine and the coffee I produced was awful because I didn’t know how to roast. So I booked some courses, studied, and started working in a roastery.
I’m very competitive and like to challenge myself in lots of things, not just coffee. I started competing in roasting championships here in Romania and was unsuccessful for three years.
Then, in 2019, I won the national championship and came second place in the World Coffee Roasting Championship in Taiwan.
Last year, I opened a roastery called MABÓ Coffee with a friend and now we have our own business, roasting coffee as well as we can.
How did you train for the World Coffee Roasting Championship?
There’s not much training you can do, you just need to roast coffee. The more you roast the more you understand how both the coffee and the machine work.
By doing so, you learn how to achieve certain characteristics, such as increasing or decreasing acidity, body, and balance. It’s important to learn how to operate the roaster itself and work out whether the coffee you’re using is more suited to filter or espresso.
You also need to know how to manipulate the curves you see on the software to achieve what you want. So I’d say that for the practical part of the competition, you just need to roast a lot of coffee.
For the technical sheets, you need to prepare for the green grading, similar to how you would prepare for a Q grader course. You need to know the coffee defects, while recognising the coffee and how to roast it.
During the competition you have to roast manually, which means no software. So going into it, you should know things like when to charge the coffee and when to drop it.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to open their own roastery?
I would advise, like in poker, to go all in. You need to make small steps, but if you want to do it be sure you want to.
First of all, you should work in a roastery for three to six months, just so you know if that’s your thing or not. From outside the coffee shop or roastery is very cool, but when you start to do it you might think it’s too much, maybe you don’t like it.
For example, at the coffee shop you see the barista smiling, making a nice cappuccino and you think that’s it. But no, there are a lot of things that go on behind the bar that customers don’t see, they just see the nice cappuccino. There is a lot of work that needs to be done in the background.
So my advice is make sure you know the business and you like the business before starting it.
What are the biggest challenges of going from barista to roaster?
I think it’s more of an advantage than a challenge. That’s because if you become a roaster without having been a barista, you won’t be able to assess the coffee in the same way.
But if you’re a barista and you learn how to roast, you know how best to extract it. In other words, if you make a mistake with the roasting you will be able to tell.
On the other hand, if you’re just roasting and you don’t know how to properly extract a filter or espresso, then maybe you will say the coffee is bad because you roasted badly – but it could just be that you extracted it badly.
So I would say if you are a barista then it’s a good step to go towards roasting. If you roast directly it’s not a great idea, but having said that I know people who have done it and are doing fine. But it’s better to start as a barista.
What part of the coffee industry do you enjoy the most?
I don’t like the green coffee at all. It’s super complicated. If someone is trying to sell me coffee, I think I’m very tough to work with.
For example, if someone is presenting me ten coffees and they’re all above 90, they’re super fruity, super sweet, and then when I test them I decide two are mediocre and the rest are no good, I have to tell the guy why I don’t like the coffee. It’s a horrible process.
I like the coffee shop a lot with its atmosphere and, of course, production and roasting.
What are your golden rules for roasting?
Our golden rule in the roastery is to respect the roast profile when we have it. If we have a good profile for a Kenyan or an Ethiopian or a Guatemala, we have to stick to that profile no matter what. Our tolerance is +/- 2°C and +/- 5 seconds.
So this means our roast cannot end less or more than 5 seconds away from the roast length and the temperature cannot be above or below 2°C. Sticking with the profile is one of the most important things.
It’s small margins, but if you’re a coffee shop and you order an Ethiopian coffee from me because you liked it last time, you need to know you’re buying the same coffee.
Did you enjoy this edition of Ask the Expert? Discover the full archive of interviews with all our ambassadors on the MTPak Coffee Education Centre.