If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a stale blog. We haven’t updated this blog in a while and it’s time to change that!
As always, we had a fantastic time at the SCAA conference and returned home with a very clear direction of what this year will look like in terms of innovation and updates for RoastLog. The conference is always a big recharge for us as the feedback we receive is always very very positive. Since coming back, we’ve worked on a couple of tasty treats in the form of a RoastLogger update.
RoastLogger 2.3.1 has some significant improvements to the way events are displayed as well as some new data to help you during your roasting.
Up until now, any event you would mark on the plot would be displayed in a table. Now, these events are marked on the curve just as they are on the website. What’s better, when you are roasting you will be prompted with details on the upcoming event 30 seconds before it occurs. In addition to this, hovering over the event “dots” will display the details for the specific event, making it easier than ever to know what you did previously.
Some time ago a user suggested displaying “Roast energy” in real-time. We loved this idea and made it happen.
In case you’ve never used or seen the “Roast energy” value it can be found on any roast detail page and is a measure of how much total heat energy you applied to a coffee during the roast. If a roast has a higher “Roast energy”, it was subject to more heat energy than a roast with a lower “Roast energy” number. We’re excited to hear how roasters use this new metric. If you prefer to not see this it’s easy to toggle if off via the “View” menu. With it on, this number will update in real-time during roasting.
Thanks to again to everyone who came out to talk with us in Boston! For all of our existing users, enjoy these new updates. Feedback is always welcomed.
I’m excited to be writing about some very cool new features in our latest version of RoastLogger, our client application which roasters use to log hundreds of roasts each day all over the world.
Roast Profile Translation / Zoom at Temperature
If you’ve followed @RoastLog on Twitter, you may have seen me mention ”Roast Profile Translation” more than a few times. We learned about this idea from @N3Roaster on his YouTube channel, where he explicitly mentioned that he hoped other profiling software would incorporate this idea. I recommend watching his video but, if you don’t, the synopsis is: Coffee roasted with the same profile *after* a certain time/temperature produces the same results regardless of what the roasting profile looked like *before* that point.
In RoastLogger 2.3, what you now can do is set a temperature at which you’d like your background profile and current profile translated (I’ll use “zooming-at-temperature” and “Temperature zoom” interchangeably with ”translation,” although our feature is implemented a bit differently than Typica‘s).
Here’s what will happen if you have this feature enabled, provided you have a profile in the background. Assume you have a set point of 250°F, and that you hit that temperature at 9:00 (nine minutes exactly).
- The plot will be zoomed in such that the starting point on the x-axis is 9:00. This will be the minimum value.
- The background profile will be shifted forward or backward (“translated”) such that its starting value is 250°F.
- The plot’s maximum value will simply accommodate the background profile.
- The current profile will continue to be drawn as the roast progresses past 9:00.
To translate the background profile, there are three scenarios:
- The background profile hit 250°F at 9:00 (exactly the same as the current plot…highly unlikely)
- The background profile hit 250°F before 9:00
- The background profile hit 250°F after 9:00
Translation forward or backward results in lining up the charts so that you can compare the actual shape of the profile regardless of the overall time at which these profiles took place. As I mentioned before, and as Neal mentions in his video, the idea is that, if the profiles look exactly the same in the final few minutes of the profile (after chemical change), it doesn’t matter if one roast took 15 minutes and the other 16 minutes. The final minutes have the biggest impact. I’m looking forward to hearing what our users do with this feature. It has been useful for Neal, so my guess is that it will be useful for other roasters. I’d also like to thank Neal for publishing this video and encouraging its adoption in other software system like ours.
Logging temperature buckets
Another significant feature in this release is what I’m calling temperature buckets. We’ve had a few requests for data concerning how long a roaster has been “on”:
- How long was my roaster roasting coffee between two dates?
- How long was my roaster running (“on”) between two dates?
- How many hours has the Jim Bob Roaster spent roasting coffee?
Now, when you have RoastLogger running, it will keep track of all this data and periodically radio the information to roastlog.com. Provided your roaster is at 122°F (50°C) or above, RoastLogger will keep track of how long your roaster was in a particular temperature range. All you need to do is to make sure that RoastLogger is running and that you’re logged in. RoastLogger will take care of the rest, behind the scenes. There is going to be some *really* useful data coming from this feature, and I suspect users will appreciate and benefit from seeing what their machines are doing as a function of time.
*Note, I still need to build the front-end component so users can run this report, but getting the data here is the first and most complicated step.
There are some other updates and bug fixes in this release which simply make RoastLogger better…minor changes, bug fixes, etc.
Users can download these in the usual locations:
When RoastLog launched at the SCAA show in Anaheim in April 2010, we had a cupping module. No doubt, recording data and keeping detailed records on how you roast is important for several reasons. One of the most important is that you can produce better tasting coffee.
At the time, we thought we had a design which was pretty slick. Go to a page for a particular roast and see all of the cupping notes for that individual roast, define custom cupping forms, compare different roasts and their cupping scores, etc. Neato! However, what we found was that nobody used it. A few folks poked at it, but nobody was really using it in a serious way. When the time came for us to do a UI and database overhaul to support our inventory system, we ripped out the cupping component. It was clear that what we built wasn’t quite right. Our intent was to put it back in eventually, once we had a clearer idea of what the feature should look like and do.
Over time, more and more users were asking, “What about cupping?” They were saying, “I need cupping notes!!!”
A few weeks ago Linsey went out of town for week, so Ryan and I sat down together and did a Cupping Hackathon over the course of three days. In only three days of focused effort, we cranked out a usable cupping module. I’m excited to say that as of yesterday, we’ve pushed this to our live site and cupping is back!
What does our cupping module consist of?
- Define custom cupping forms (SCAA, COE, Jim Bob’s Awesome Cupping Form, etc.)
- Use between zero and 10 fields per form
- Each form comes with a field for descriptors, general notes and a final score, by default
- Cup one or more roasts at a time
- You can cup roasts multiple times
- Different users can attach their own unique cupping forms to a roast, regardless of the form used
- Search through cupping notes and scores, by
- Final score
- Field name/value (ie, “Acidity”, 7.5+)
- Descriptor (ie, “sweet, cherries”)
Since we are constantly coming up with additional ideas for enhancing this module, we’ve built the original to be easily and quickly iterated and improved. The cupping module we offer now is designed much better than before. We look forward to seeing how it is used and to hearing our users’ feedback and suggestions.
If you are in the planning stages of your business, you are in luck. We get the challenges that new startups face. We want to help you get your roastery off the ground.
This is why we’re excited to introduce a new program that allows qualified startups to use RoastLog for up to *one year for free! This is a way for us to “pay-it-forward” and to acknowledge the help we have received on our journey.
When we set out to start our own company, we needed tools to help us manage our day-to-day operations. Although tremendously useful, most of these tools were expensive — at least for a few guys bootstrapping a startup. It was the proverbial chicken-and-the-egg predicament.
Sign up for RoastLog and get access to our most popular features: roast profile logging and automated inventory management. Incorporating RoastLog early on will allow you to establish a rich repository of roast-related information from the start. Use RoastLog to:
- dial in your roast profiles
- ensure quality & consistency
- experiment with new coffees
- manage your green coffee inventory
Other bonuses includes keeping track of contracted coffees, online maintenance logs for roasting equipment, green coffee delivery planning/check-in, online cupping notes, and the ability to track what you have paid for your coffees.
Using our 4-input Data Logger even let’s you track additional time/temp profiles per roast, e.g., environment air, exhaust air temps and afterburner performance. (Contact us for more information about using RoastLog for air quality management record keeping requirements.)
- Monthly subscription waived for up to one year (this is the free part!)
- Full product support
- Access worldwide-community of RoastLog users
- Key Small Plan features:
- Roast profile logging
- automated inventory management
- Cupping note logs
- Roasting equipment maintenance logs
We love good coffee and selfishly we want to see it spread far and wide. This is our way of doing our small part to make it happen. Sign up or contact us (support (at) roastlog (dot) com) to get registered.
We look forward to joining you on your journey!
- The RoastLog Team
Wait, we’ve been operating for 3 months… What about us!?
You’re building momentum. We get that.
You want to streamline part of your business. We’re with you.
You want to focus on your product, customers & profitability. Check, check and ditto.
If you’ve been in operation for less than 12 months, we haven’t forgotten about you. Here’s what we’d like to do to help you continue on your path:
Waiting on the delivery of your new roaster?
Perfect! Put us directly in touch with your roaster manufacturer and we can ensure that your roaster arrives RoastLog-ready. There is a good chance that we have worked with them before.
*The fine print:
- Start-up status of business subject to verification. Basically, please be honest.
- Program includes free subscription to any RoastLog Small Plan (1-input or 4-input) for one year
- Medium/Large plan upgrades available for nominal fee.
- Hardware such as thermocouples, fittings & connectors may be supplied by the user, or available for purchase from us
- Users are responsible for the cost of the RoastLog Data Bridge and shipping charges
From day one, RoastLogger, our client application used for recording roast profiles, has had a “Roast Queue”. The idea behind it is pretty simple. When you start your roasting day, you know what you’re going to be roasting and, roughly, in what order. The Roast Queue provides a visual record and reminder of what you’ve done, what you’re doing and what you still need to do.
Since RoastLog is a profiling system *and* an inventory management system, this works great. Enter the coffees and the size of each roast, and let the software do the rest. Each time a roast is saved the “Start Mass” amount is deducted from your current inventory (works with pre-roast blends too: A 50/50 Moka Java blend will deduct 50% of the start mass from your Moka, and 50% from your Java).
But what happens when someone *doesn’t* want to record one or more roasts but *still* wants their inventory to be kept up to date? The “+/- Existing Inventory” page could be used for this, but since that page was really designed for inventory reconciliation, it didn’t work very well for entering individual batches.
Enter the “Online Roast Queue”:
If you don’t feel like recording some roasts but want to keep your inventory records up-to-date, that’s no problem:
- Enter each coffee or pre-roast blend into the online roast queue
- Enter the total amount roasted for each coffee
- Enter the total number of batches for each coffee
- Click save
That’s it. In the example above, in the first row, El Manzano was roasted three times for a total quantity of 88 lbs. After hitting save, RoastLog will create three unique roasts, each with a batch size of 88 lbs ÷ 3 = 29.3 lbs. Those three roasts will show up as three unique items throughout the system. The only difference between these manually entered roasts and a roast from RoastLogger is the lack of a roast profile.
There are some big advantages to adding this feature. Mainly, we put the control in your hands. If you don’t want to record every roast but still want to track the details about your coffee inventory, you’re able to do so with very little work. If someone forgets to log a roast from RoastLogger, it’s now easy to fix that.
Things have been heating up over here at RoastLog. Working with customers is always one of the best parts of our jobs, and we’ve been cranking out some great new features based on user feedback. Today, I wanted to highlight one of those.
You know you roast coffee, and you have a sense of how much coffee you’re roasting…but just how long is that seven bags going to last you? Now, users of our inventory system can leave that math to RoastLog.
The two columns highlighted relate to the amount of coffee your’re burning down and consist of:
- The amount of coffee roasted in the last week (weekly burn)
- The day at which you’ll run out of that coffee based on your weekly usage
In the first row, there’s also a “Total”…in our example, we roasted 358.0 lbs last week across all coffees (hey…we’re a new roastery just starting up…the order will eventually start rolling in! ). What’s a bit more interesting is when you begin to look at the individual rows for the coffees you’re currently roasting. As you roast, you should be telling RoastLog how much green coffee you’re roasting in each batch. With that information, we can start to build trends and do some aggregation. For our Santa Elena Estate coffee above, we roasted 24 lbs in the last week. Given that we stay on this trajectory, our 2.6 bags will last until Jan 9th.
Getting coffee into your roastery is a big deal. Getting coffee into your roastery when you’re running out is an even bigger deal. With this enhancement, you can now get a snapshot of what’s going on with your business and what needs your attention. It shouldn’t be a surprise when you get down to that last bag since you’ll have been warned long before.
Of course, this is all calculated dynamically, so throughout the day you can even watch as this changes. Have a big order or get a big rush on a particular coffee? The projected zero date will update every hour so you have near real-time insight into your roasting operation.
Like I said, there are a bunch of other things we’ve pushed out recently, and I hope to do a better job of talking about them here. In the meantime, keep an eye on those zero dates!
Who can guess where this screen shot is taken from?
If you guess RoastLogger version 0.3 circa 2009, you’re right!
Notice there is a little field in there called “Heating Rate”. That thing made it into the earliest versions of RoastLogger, but I took it out since I never had the time to really calculate an accurate value. Around here, we will often not tackle a problem until we have a solution that we’re mostly happy with. It’s taken some time, but I’m happy to report that as of RoastLogger 2.2.3 which was released a couple of weeks ago, the heating rate (or, ROR [rate of rise] as some call it) is back in.
What we’ve learned since releasing this is that most roasters have already been using the heating rate, even before we had it on the display. How is that possible? Many roasters have been calculating this in their heads, taking mental snapshots periodically and calculating a degrees per minute rate in their heads.
Heating rate is a critical metric to watch, mostly after first crack when the roast temperatures rise at a much slower rate. In this phase, it’s crucial to not stall the roast by hitting a zero or negative slope. Now, with this number clearly visible, it’s much easier to see if you’re getting close to the danger zone. While the heating rate provides a very clear picture of what’s going on *right now*, there are still other metrics which are insanely useful, notably the environment/drum temperature.
As Shark from De La Paz Coffee pointed out in a guest blog post, the drum temperature give you a prediction of *what’s going to happen*. When you pump heat energy into any system, it takes some time for that system to react. With the environment temperature and the heating rate combined, you get the best of both worlds….a head’s up of what’s going to happen based on the heat entering the system, and an indication of the subtle changes when it matters most.
If you’re a RoastLog user and haven’t downloaded the latest RoastLogger, head over to our downloads section and download it now!