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Air Quality Management Recordkeeping via RoastLog

November 13, 2015

We’ve long promoted RoastLog as software designed for running your business.  So while RoastLog is probably best known as a tool for developing and logging roast profiles and managing green coffee inventory, did you know RoastLog is used by many roasters as part of their air quality management program?

UG-25

Roasting coffee is fundamentally a combustion reaction and combustion by-products are created in the process, e.g., NOx, CO, CO2, SOx, formaldehydes and acetaldehydes, in addition to particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and organic acids¹.  These emissions constitute air pollution.  In the end, it’s all part of the reality of being a coffee roaster.  Balancing the desire to help speciality coffee meet it’s full potential while still taking measures to minimize the carbon footprint of coffee roasting, is one of the many challenges we see our customers grappling with – especially in North America² and Europe³.

Afterburners are recognized as an effective means to reduce the particulate emissions of roasters.  Roasting equipment continues to evolve and while technologies do exist that produce a cleaner roast, we all know that there is a significant portion of our industry that prefers using vintage roasters.   Until newer technologies become more accessible/affordable – and more prevalent as a result – afterburners appear to be the state-of-the-art for those who want to reduce the emissions from their “tried and true” roasters.  (Incidentally, none of this even touches the ongoing debate about diacetyl levels from roasting4,5)

(Screenshot) Afterburner time/temp profile (green) logged simultaneously with roast profile.

Afterburner time/temp profile (green) logged simultaneously with roast profile.

Then, there is the matter of ensuring that afterburners are functioning to specification.  Moreover, many locales and municipalities mandate logging afterburner temperature as part of air quality management record keeping. For years, chart recorders have been the go-to for this purpose.  RoastLog replaces conventional chart recorders in a reliable and automated fashion.  Worrying about running out of chart recorder paper or discs – only to find out several roasts or even days later – are a thing of the past.  In RoastLog, afterburner temps are logged simultaneously with each roast, eliminating the need to manage chart recorder records separately from roast logs.

Chart recorders can be costly to maintain, finicky and consequently expensive if they malfunction.  It’s been reported that some air quality districts issue daily fines when there are no afterburner records.  If you use RoastLog, and operate in an area that requires proof that afterburners are operational during roasting, the ability to log afterburner temp is built-in and can be added by simply installing a thermocouple.

References:

  1. Lee, MKC. (2015, May 4). Permit Handbook, Bay Area Air Quality Management Engineering Division. Retrieved November 12, 2015, from http://baaqmd.gov/~/media/Files/Engineering/Permit%20Handbook/BAAQMD%20Permit%20Handbook.ashx?la=en
  2. Duggan J.  (2013, July/August). Smoke in the Air – An Update on Emissions and Air-Quality Regulations.  Roast Magazine, 22-32.
  3. Neill, J. (2015, April 1). How Roasters Stay Ahead of Air Quality Rules. STiR Tea & Coffee Industry International.  Retrieved November 12, 2015, from http://stir-tea-coffee.com/tea-coffee-news/how-roasters-stay-ahead-evolving-air-quality-rules/
  4. Rutledge, R. (2015, June 20). Coffee roasters’ health at risk from toxic compound, air samples suggest. Retrieved November 12, 2015, from http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/coffee-roasters-health-at-risk-from-chemical-compound-air-samples-suggest-b99505149z1-308183961.html
  5. Flavorings-Related Lung Disease – Coffee Processing Facilities (2015, September 29) Retrieved November 12, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/flavorings/processing.html  CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

RoastLog compatibility with Phidgets

November 2, 2015

It’s official!  RoastLog is now available for use with the Phidgets 4-input Temperature Sensor.

This is something we wanted to do for quite awhile.  Compatibility with the Phidgets device simplifies the transition to RoastLog from other software systems and opens up an affordable option for home roasters who may have already invested in a data bridge and thermocouple(s).

Phidgets sensor with acrylic enclosure from http://phidgets.com

Phidgets sensor with acrylic enclosure from http://phidgets.com

RoastLog was originally designed as a closed system utilizing our own hardware (initially, the 1st generation 1- & 4-input Data Bridges; and now, the 4-input Bluetooth device).  After thoroughly testing the Phidgets, we feel confident in its performance.  Moreover, the integration with RoastLog creates the same quality experience and reliability our users have come to rely on.

We’re pleased to be able to provide another option to our users.  For more details on connectivity with existing Phidgets temperature sensors, contact us.

Exploring Roast Development Time

October 12, 2015

Practical applications of RoastLog’s Roast Development Timer

There are a lot of folks out there espousing various ‘Truths’ when it comes to coffee roasting, roast profiling and ‘the right way to roast’.  As a mere part-time roaster, I’m not only unqualified to weigh in on this debate, but like most things coffee… I say, whatever floats your boat.

That said, I have enjoyed and benefited from Scott Rao’s* perspectives on roasting.  Awhile back I stumbled on his comments in an article over at dailycoffeenews.com and thought I’d share as it relates directly to a feature in our new RoastLogger app for iPads, the Roast Development Timer.

When roasters manipulate development time without considering it in the context of the total roast time, they often create baked flavors and destroy sweetness.  – Scott Rao

Roast development time is not necessarily a new idea per se, but what I appreciated about Scott’s take was the notion of looking beyond the traditional view of roast development time.  Simply considering the total time spent in the roast development phase alone seems to paint an incomplete picture.  His idea takes into account the amount of time spent in roast development as a fraction of overall roast time.

This makes sense to me, at least intuitively.  Perhaps this is for the same reason that we thought our users would like to have a way to quantify the amount of energy introduced during their roast.  The concept we coined as roast energy seems to follow the same logic.   But is it reasonable to generalize an ideal amount of time (20-25%) as Scott suggests?

RoastLog's Roast Development Timer

The Roast Development Timer found in the RoastLogger iPad app.

It goes without saying, a lot goes into pulling off a good roast.  How important is the roast development phase in your roasting?  As a RoastLog user, would displaying the percentage be helpful?  We try our best to be conscientious about complicating our user interface.  Would we be muddying our UI by adding this or would it be insightful?


*Scott Rao is author of multiple books about coffee roasting, brewing/preparation and offers consulting services.  His most recently published book, “The Coffee Roaster’s Companion” includes a compilation of his observations, ideas and experiences roasting coffee.

Roast Profiling Has Never Been Easier

October 2, 2015

The first wireless Bluetooth data logger dedicated to coffee roasting

Manually recording time/temperature on graph paper was rendered obsolete when RoastLog was introduced a few years back.  Now, in that same vein, tracking the progress of a roast has gotten a lot easier and doesn’t require being tethered to a laptop or computer.   As any large-scale roaster will tell you, attending to a laptop isn’t always practical in a production environment – yet we know that keeping you connected with your roasting is always a priority.  We took this as a challenge to develop a better system for making sensory observations and data recording.

Our solution:  A brand new iPad version of RoastLogger that uses Bluetooth LE (low energy), also known as Bluetooth 4.0, technology to communicate with the RoastLog Data Bridge.

iPad RoastLogger and wireless Data Bridge

Roasting coffee with the wireless Data Bridge. Note there are no wires connected to the iPad.

From a software perspective, developing a brand new iPad application gave us a chance to revisit over four years of lessons from our existing RoastLogger application. The new RoastLogger iPad app is our tool designed to make it easy and intuitive to explore and develop roast profiles. Doing away with a mouse and keyboard really helps productivity in an environment like roasting coffee.  Users won’t need to make the clumsy context switch between a computer and roaster… logging actions are easy and a few simple taps away.

The biggest challenge for us was cramming all this new functionality into the product while maintaining a simple interface. In the end, it took a little longer than we anticipated, but I think we’ve succeeded on improving our popular RoastLogger program.

New Sensors
Developing a brand new circuit board to support wireless connectivity gave us a chance to add even more enhancements. This new platform adds barometric pressure and humidity sensors, giving roasters the chance to automatically record two completely new data points.

iPad RoastLogger saved roast

iPad RoastLogger screenshot at the end of a roast. Note the humidity and barometric pressure readings in the lower right corner.

As with any controlled process, roasters need to consider the impact of as many variables as possible.  Environmental factors can and do affect the roast.  In some parts of the world this includes seasonal climate changes and local weather conditions.  RoastLog now tracks these conditions at the time of the roast for comparison with historical and future roasts.

Heating Rate
In addition to the displayed value for heating rate (sometimes referred to as rate-of-rise), we’ve added this into our charts in the form of a plot.  This metric is commonly used to get insight into a roast in progress.  Super valuable for avoiding stalled roasts and insightful for making comparisons between different roasted batches.

Roast Energy

A unique way from RoastLog of representing the amount of energy inputted into a given roast.  It’s also handy for understanding milestone events by adding a dimension beyond time & temperature, e.g, the roast energy from drop until first crack or between the beginning/end of first crack.

Roast Development Timer

This timer was developed to give users the ability to monitor the amount of time spent in arguably the most import phase of the roast, the roast development phase.

Access over the Internet

As a cloud-based solution, RoastLog continues to provide access to all of your roasting data anywhere you can connect to the internet.

Growing interest in roast profiling fueled the adoption of RoastLog when it launched in 2011. We’re excited to continue to provide innovative solutions to meet the requests of our users.  The roasting community has spoken – and the consensus seems to be that roast profiling is helping to improve the quality and consistency of roasted coffee available today.

The iPad app can be found in the App Store.  Feel free to contact us for more details on how to get the new wireless data bridge.  Thanks for your continued support!

What are You Drinking?

September 29, 2015

If you’ve been considering RoastLog for awhile and needed a little nudge, here’s your chance.

In recognition of all the efforts to bring amazing sustainable coffee to the masses, and to celebrate International Coffee Day, we’re offering two free months of RoastLog** to all new subscribers.  Tweet us a photo of what coffee you are enjoying today #NationalCoffeeDay and mention us (@RoastLog) on Twitter. It’s that easy.

Here’s what I’m drinking!

Honduras Finca Zulema, Norma Zulema Azucena from Sightglass

Honduras Finca Zulema, Norma Zulema Azucena from Sightglass, San Francisco

Thanks for all the support.

Read more…

We Love Coffee

September 29, 2015

Today is International Coffee Day.  We’ll take every excuse, ahem, opportunity to celebrate the beverage we love.  You can bet there is going to be a lot of free or discounted cups of coffee served today, but beyond taking a moment to enjoy this beloved drink, please join us in raising awareness around the social and environmental issues related to coffee.

Check out a few of our favorites:

  • Cafe Feminino – helping deliver health and education services to the women & their families in coffee growing communities
  • Coffee Kids – promoting health, education, food security, and economic diversification in coffee-farming communities in Latin America
  • Grounds for Health – providing cervical cancer screening & prevention services in low & middle income countries

Here are just a few examples of our coffee industry friends using coffee to do good!  Love it!

Upgrading Your Roaster

September 17, 2015
We hear a lot from our users about optimizing the performance of their coffee roasters, so I thought I’d share this from the good folks over at Boot Coffee.  If you missed this video, check out these recommendations for roasting equipment modifications.

https://bootcampcoffee.com/coffee-roaster-upgrades/

Courtesy of Boot Coffee


Video highlights:
  1. Burners:  Optimizing flame control with variable gas flow control
  2. Fan motors: Upgrade with potentiometer for better control of fan speed and addition of air pressure gauge
  3. Cyclone: Add for secondary chaff collection
  4. Roast Profiling:  Replacing analogue temp gauges with thermocouples and RoastLog for batch consistency
  5. Heat mass: Creating indirect heating of drum to improve uniformity of roasted coffee
Willem elaborates on these points and also covers selecting an appropriate thermocouple probe locations for enviro bean temp as well as other tidbits. The Boot Coffee video library is a treasure trove of tips and tricks.  Check them out at https://bootcampcoffee.com/.  Happy roasting!
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