Is there a connection between music and coffee roasting?

Karmen Yoong
March 4, 2022
music and coffee roasting

Coffee and music both have the power to bring complete satisfaction to the senses.

Music is a combination of harmony, melody, and rhythm that forms a beautiful collection of sound.

By the same token, a coffee roaster mirrors the role of a composer: they must fine-tune their techniques to bring out the coffee’s best qualities during the roasting process.

Furthermore, they must consider how flavour notes work together to create a delicious masterpiece. 

To explore how coffee roasting and music connect, I spoke with Café Belleville’s head roaster, Mihaela Iordache.

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coffee roasting

How do coffee roasting & musical performance crossover?

Multiple parallels can be drawn between the worlds of coffee and music.

Coffee flavour profiles are often described as “tones” and “notes”, terms which are often used in music. Additionally, a dedicated roaster pours their soul into their craft, much like a musician.

Mihaela was training to be a classical musician before entering the coffee industry, and has played the classical guitar for over 15 years.

One similarity she sees between coffee roasting and a musical performance is the influence of external factors on the end result.

For specialty coffee roasters, factors such as the condition of green beans and the ambient temperature in a roastery can influence the final qualities in a cup of coffee.

Likewise, variables such as theatre acoustics and weather conditions can affect a musician’s performance.

Mihaela explains classical guitars are made from wood, which reacts to the environment and changes the sound it creates. Therefore, you must adapt your playing technique to recreate the musical piece.

“Roasting is similar in that the entire set-up will change depending on the outside weather 

and the temperature of green coffee,” says Mihaela, who is also the quality control manager at Café Belleville.

Indeed, specialty coffee roasters must consistently monitor and adjust roasting parameters to achieve the desired outcome.

“I have to make small decisions and alterations with every batch,” Mihaela says. “This can include everything from batch size, drop temperature, gas and heats settings, and airflow.”

She further points out that coffee roasters create new tastes and blends, not unlike musicians when they produce harmonious sounds for their audience.

In one way or another, there are elements of creativity in both professions.

classical music

What can music teach us about coffee roasting?

As a coffee roaster, Mihaela draws inspiration from her experience in music. She often integrates it into her roasting routine – particularly when creating coffee blends.

“One of our blends, Château Belleville, was built like a chord,” says Mihaela, who is also the 2019 Roast Master Champion. “ I needed a coffee that could function as a base – something that was stable and had classical notes to it.”

Next, she added a “high-pitched coffee” with bright acidity that was supported by sweetness. “That would be the melody of the blend,” she explains.

Finally, the third coffee, a natural Ethiopian, was used to fill up the space between the base and the melody. “It’s a bit of messy coffee that makes everything work together, similar to many voices creating harmony between the melody and baseline.”

Furthermore, when tasting or selecting coffee, Mihaela focuses on the emotions it conjures up and builds stories around it.

For instance, a coffee that reminds her of a rainy Sunday morning, or a Saturday night out with friends.

“I think coffee is about feelings, and I don’t think we speak about coffee enough in those terms,” Mihaela says. “I want to create a coffee that stirs emotion, just like how music has the same effect.”

Music is a mood booster and can invoke positive feelings in its listeners. Mihaela views coffee roasting in the same light.

“I’ve learned the purpose of coffee is to make someone happy or to give them a beautiful experience. I want to create coffees that offer you comfort, or can pick you up after a bad day.”

coffee roasting

What else can specialty coffee roasters learn from music?

While training as a classical guitarist, Mihaela would practise her music for up to eight hours a day. This taught her to be disciplined, focused, detail oriented, and patient.

Notably, these are all important qualities of a specialty coffee roaster, as many of the tasks involved can become repetitive and meticulous, such as packing roasted coffee into bags.

“One thing I’ve learnt from music that has been most helpful in my career as a coffee roaster is that I can get to where I am going, even if I don’t know how long it’s going to take,” Mihaela says.

Essentially, music has shown her that no matter how difficult a goal appears to be, success will come through hard work and resilience.

“I believe this mindset has been very helpful with coffee,” she says. “When I feel stuck, I know I am going to figure it out. I’ve also developed more respect for the time needed to achieve certain goals – that comes from music and has followed me into coffee.”

Additionally, musicians often have to be in tune with their instrument and environment to give their best performance.

Coffee roasting also requires an awareness of what is happening to the green beans while inside the roaster.

sustainable coffee bag

In a way, music teaches the importance of patience and being present, which is essential in coffee roasting and, particularly, cupping. During the cupping process, being present enhances the sensory experience of the coffee.

At MTPak Coffee, we understand the dedication and hard work that specialty coffee roasters put into perfecting their craft. Just like sound guides musicians, coffee roasters are led by taste to provide the best drinking experience for their consumers.

Investing in sustainable, high-barrier coffee packaging is essential to preserve the freshness and distinct qualities of your coffee. Our Go Green packaging line offers a range of recyclable, compostable and biodegradable options, made from eco-friendly kraft or rice paper.

For more information on our recyclable coffee packaging, contact the team.

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