Understanding the new SCA Roastery Diploma

Esther Gibbs
October 23, 2023
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As part of the redevelopment of its education system, the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) has released an exciting new set of diplomas. Along with diplomas for Cafe, Coffee Trade and Sustainable Coffee, the latest SCA Roastery Diploma is now the highest level of education a coffee professional can achieve with regard to roasting.

To learn more about the new diploma, and how it can help specialty coffee roasters, I spoke with Ben Helt, the director of the SCA Authorised Trainer Programme.

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Breaking down the traditional SCA roasting courses

For years, the SCA has offered foundation, intermediate, and professional roasting courses. “The current SCA Coffee Diploma has always recognised a learner’s investment in skills training across several disciplines within coffee, but did easily communicate the learner’s area of focus,” says Ben, who has worked with the SCA for over five years.

“By expanding the program to include four, easily identifiable diplomas, learners can better communicate how they have prepared to be successful in specific roles within a coffee company,” he explains.

The foundation roasting course is the perfect introduction for anyone who wants to understand what coffee roasting entails. The course covers the basics of heat transfer, safety white roasting, and understanding the impact of final colour on coffee flavour. It is a 1-day course with no exams required.

The course on intermediate roasting offers a more in-depth understanding alongside practical experience. It tends to cover more of the science behind heat transfer and digs deeper into what happens in the roaster during drying. Furthermore, it will dive into the Maillard reaction, caramelisation, and the impact on the end of the cup. 

Sensory skills are tested in a practical exam through the triangulation of different roast profiles, as well as a theory exam online to ensure students have a good understanding of the science of roasting.

Of course, it also touches on health and safety, and the day-to-day running of a coffee roastery. The focus of this course is to give students the confidence to experiment with roast profiles and ensure they’re getting the most out of the coffee.

The professional roasting course is the final stage of coffee roasting education. The new set of diplomas provides students with in-depth knowledge and practical experience that can be applied immediately in an industry setting. 

The 5-day course covers the chemistry of coffee roasting, the chemical reactions that take place in coffee beans, and how roasters can manipulate these factors to unlock the best flavours. Additionally, the course dives into extraction and solubility in relation to coffee roasting.

Alongside tons of practical experiments, there is also the development and understanding of a business plan, financial planning, logistics, and green coffee sourcing. Notably, the course dives into the configuration of roast profile software. More so, it delves into roasting defects, and how to identify them, and has extremely challenging sensory tests on how to pick out differences in roast profiles through triangulation.

The professional roasting course was the final accolade a coffee roaster could achieve to demonstrate their knowledge, experience, and commitment to their career path. It is important to note that it can be a costly course, both in finances and in time. This is because of the amount of green coffee and resources required to run the course.

Beyond this, it can be a challenging course to commit to. However, a coffee roaster with a professional roasting certificate is an incredibly valuable asset to any roasting company.

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Understanding the new SCA roastery diploma

The SCA has recently acknowledged that working within a roastery is a much more complicated and multi-faceted job role. Hence, it has developed a new diploma which requires certificates from different disciplines within coffee.

“Coffee roasters often find themselves in the centre of communication activities,” Ben says. “Having broad knowledge of the coffee industry outside of the roaster itself better prepares them to engage with everyone around them, from baristas to green coffee suppliers to coffee producers.”

For example, a head coffee roaster will often be in charge of not only the daily roasting systems but also the sourcing of coffees, developing profiles, quality control, and recipes for brewing. These tasks require experience in green coffee, sensory analysis, brewing, and sustainability. Therefore, each diploma will require a combination of advanced-level learning and foundation coursework.

The SCA describes the roastery diploma as a ‘collection of courses designed to prepare the learner for leadership in the development, production and quality assurance of roasted coffee; while communicating with customers and colleagues about the roaster’s role in promoting a more sustainable coffee industry.’

In order to achieve the roastery diploma, students are required to pass the following:

●       Coffee Skills Programme

●       Brewing: Foundation

●       Green Coffee: Foundation

●       Roasting: Foundation, intermediate, and professional

●       Sensory Skills: Foundation, intermediate, and professional

●       Coffee Sustainability Programme: Foundation

●       Coffee Technicians Programme

●       Water and Preventive Maintenance: Foundation

The introduction of the coffee sustainability programme brings hope to the future of the coffee industry. By focusing entirely on issues related to the coffee industry, the curriculum can help the next generation of coffee professionals gain a thorough understanding of the mistakes made within the industry and how to correct them.

The sustainability foundation course covers power structures, global warming, finances, and the history of coffee. More so, it offers practical case studies of how change is being implemented across the coffee supply chain. Students can expect to take away the skills and knowledge they need to begin to make meaningful changes within their own company.

This essential component of the roastery diploma highlights the importance of sustainability within the coffee industry. Beyond this, it shows how change is not only essential for large-scale roasters but also for small businesses and individual employees. Each must play their part in creating a positive impact.

Introducing the Water and Preventative Maintenance Foundation course provides coffee professionals with competence in addressing issues with water, which is particularly important when it comes to brewing and quality control in coffee.

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What to consider before taking on the course

It is important to remember that the new roastery diploma certification will be a challenge to achieve. Coffee roasters will have to work towards this over time and build up a base of knowledge across all disciplines, as well as a thorough understanding of the coffee industry.

“The motivation to invest in skills training varies from learner to learner or company to company, and so does the value proposition,” Ben explains. “In addition to advanced training in roasting and sensory analysis, a holder of a roastery diploma will have demonstrated that they have competencies in broad aspects of the coffee value chain, including its sustainability.”

However, a roastery diploma holds high value for coffee roasters applying for new positions. Additionally, it can boost career development within a business. For instance, submitting staff for these diplomas can help them grow new skills and a deeper appreciation for their craft.

Ben explains what someone might expect from achieving a roastery diploma: “A holder of a SCA Roastery Diploma has successfully passed a series of courses designed to prepare them to be a coffee leader focused on roasting operations,” he says.

“An employee should be able to fast track the on boarding of a diploma holder and start maximising the relationship quicker and to greater ends.”

The future of specialty coffee relies on investing in people: from developing the roasters within our companies to ensuring we are supporting the coffee growers across the world.

Beyond this, there is no point in training yourself or your staff to a high standard and then falling at the last hurdle: packaging. At MTPak Coffee, we work closely with specialty coffee brands and other businesses to create bespoke packaging that reflects the hard work that goes into roasting coffee. We can provide you with fully customisable, sustainable packaging options that are environmentally friendly and will keep your perfectly profiled coffee fresh.

For more information on bespoke coffee packaging, contact our team

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