The Roaster

Part two.

So, this was the point of the whole trip: to pick up our little coffee roaster.

Steven had been telling me about this Artisan 6M fluid bed roaster from a company called Coffee Crafters in Liberty Lake, Washington for some time. I had imagined it like one of those big, gas monsters that look more like nineteenth century steam locomotives than appliances. “You mean it’ll fit in the back of la Bestia?” I asked. “It will,” Steven replied. We decided to break even on the shipping and pick it up in person, meet the owners of the company, and receive a little hands-on training. Glad we did. It’s a touchy little thing. And watching Kerri capably roast six pounds of coffee in under twelve minutes answered a thousand questions. They have some really good videos on their website, but when you can look over someone’s shoulder while they’re working, and they can explain things to you,  you can’t beat that. Before the batch was finished, Steven was on the dials.

This is where things became entertaining for me. Back in February I posted a meme on Instagram about how a seasoned practitioner with a lifetime of knowledge should be able to step up to a new tool and make beautiful things. Let me put this into perspective. The loft control is so sensitive that if you grip it too tight and breath wrong, you’ll send those hot little beans straight up through the exhaust. It’s a little like balancing a pencil vertically on the tip of your index finger.  Yeah. Like that.

Now, let me say, the 6M is a mighty little wonder. Capable of doing small batches for testing and profiling and once you get the hang of the manual controls, you can do things on it you can’t do by any other means. The level of control is so granular. Pair this puppy with a bluetooth thermometer and a program like this and you can make any kind of profile graph you can imagine. A little more loft at six minutes, hold for four then let them fall a bit and lower the heat. It’s insane. So simple it takes less than ten minutes to learn how to use it, yet a lifetime to master. So our hats are off to Ken Lathrop who invented this thing and to his major credit, used as many off-the-shelf parts as he could for all us DIY’ers and hackers. It was a pleasure to meet him in person. Thanks, also to the fabulous Kerri and the delightfully helpful, Anick. You guys and your little company rock.

It starts to snow. But, good, another coffee shack.

Who would buy a coffee shack sticker for $5 USD?

One more before we go.

Love these things.

We’re on our way home now. The snow starts to get heavier as we climb in elevation up and into the mountains and then back into Canada. By now it’s dark and the snow is coming down, wet and heavy, but the wiper blades are doing their job, and we brave companions of the road are keeping it under 60km and all is good. There’s a couple of cars ahead of us and a semi ahead of them. Then, about thirty outside of Fernie, we all come to an abrupt stop. Red tail lights for as far as we can see. We sit. We wait. Ten. Fifteen minutes. Then Steven gets out to see what’s happened. He comes back a few minutes later, climbs back into the truck. I wait for the story. There is none. I interrupt the rhythm of the wipers. “Bad?” I ask. Steven turns to me and nods. “Yes. It’s bad.”  I look in the side mirror. A young French-Canadian couple from the car behind us pass the time by building a 3-foot snowman. “Bonhomme de neige,” they say. We won’t ever know what happened that night, but it involved two people and it’s nearly two hours before we start moving again.

I add this detail because I think it’s important to always remember that while some are having moments of triumph, or success, or peace, or have just received good news, there are also some who are not. To be sensitive to and aware of how life, and in fact circumstances themselves, can at any time, turn on a dime, is to be fully alive in that moment.

Steven puts on some music.

We drive to Pincher Creek, buy some snacks, use the washroom and switch seats. Steven and I are the same height, so I don’t have to adjust anything. I bought one of those tall ice cold coffee energy drinks which tastes pretty good but it’s way too creamy and I’m going to be thirsty as soon as it’s done. I start telling stories. I have a lot of time so I get intricate with the details. The snow lightens up around Calgary. We refuel, use the washroom again, buy more snacks and a couple of hot coffee beverages from one of those fancy new machines in a Shell convenience store and try to make conversation with the clerk, who is about as responsive as an old diesel with burned out glow plugs in the middle of January in Winnipeg. Enough of that. We’re on our way. The trip from Calgary to Edmonton is both familiar and comforting. The snow has stopped. The highway is bare and dry. Steven grabs some zees. I ponder Battle Grounds as deep into the future as I can. And try to remember everything I have seen and learned this weekend.

We have our roaster.

Battle Grounds Coffee Co & Roastery
2017.03.25
~Dan