It's a Tough Gig

Doing product development and quality work at a coffee roaster is pretty much as you'd expect. 

"Do you just ... drink coffee all day?"

"Yup."

Thankfully, it's more challenging and less flaky than that might initially sound.  I check each blend to make sure it tastes not just like the last batch of the same, but our goal for that specific product as well.  I also run batches of samples to check potential new beans for the plant, or test new blends against existing. 

The hardest part isn't drinking them, or even living with the jitters afterwards ... It's remembering that I'm not supposed to just enjoy each one.

At least, when I'm working as a critic, it's much more important that I find the faults in every brew I make than that I enjoy them.  Which takes concentration, to be honest.  I got here because I really love coffee, in all its forms; and it's honestly hard for me to not find something worth appreciating in even the absolute worst cup I've had.  With each and every bean we sample, the temptation exists to just try and fix it, to brew it just a little different next time - because I found something that I liked and want to explore. 

But just as testing needs to be meaningful, it needs to be realistic.  If what I'm finding is some strange flavour combination, I need to evaluate not whether I enjoy it, but whether that specific profile has a place in what we want to be making.  If a coffee is exceptional under very tightly constrained conditions, it's not fair to our customers to expect that they have the same high-stakes setup and dedication to craft that we do, simply to extract a decent cup of coffee.

So consumer QA testing takes the form of introducing intentionally variable brewing parameters as consistently as possible.  I use the Curtis Gold Cup brewer for this portion of my testing, using automation allows me to largely eliminate user error on my part from the equation - and by fine tuning way that it brews for me, I can exploit its innate margin of error to create realistic variance in test brews. 


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