Reserve Roaster Operator July 27, 2016

Reserve Roaster Operator

Shadow: Brandon Cohen
Job: Reserve Roaster Operator

Starbucks is more than your average cup of Joe. It is a lifestyle. People have found the only way they can wake up to the buzz of their alarm clock is to replace it with a buzz from Starbucks coffee. The aroma of freshly ground beans, the hustle of the morning rush, and the barista that knows you and your order by heart has become a daily routine for many. In fact, Starbucks' name is no longer on its cups because the logo is so well recognized by people all over the world. What makes Starbucks so popular? What makes its brand stand out against other coffee companies?

I was able to find the answer for myself as I ventured down to the Starbucks Reserve and Tasting Room just nine blocks from the original Starbucks Pike Place Market store in Seattle. I had the opportunity to shadow Brandon Cohen, the Reserve Roaster Operator for Starbucks. He is one of the expert roasters behind unlocking the secret flavors of Starbucks’ beloved coffee.

“I get to wakeup excited to come to work everyday – and that’s without first having a cup of coffee.” ~ Brandon Cohen

Brandon’s story of how he got into roasting first sprouted from his manufacturing background working for a mint where he made bullion strike coins. Brandon found out about the Starbucks owned Carson Valley Roasting Plant and applied directly for a job as a roaster. Since he was skilled with automations and systems, keeping track of production lines, and knowing how to read motors, Starbucks selected him out of the hundreds of applicants. Brandon has now roasted at 3 different plants for Starbucks and he shows no signs of being burned out.

He finds his job extremely satisfying as he explained it as being a mix of a chef and a technician. The coffee beans each roast differently so every harvest is approached with an entirely fresh perspective. This provides a dynamic curve when roasting, rather than a static one. He has learned how to read the transformation the coffee goes through based on its color, bean size, and surface texture. He then adjusts the machine in correspondence to the factors to make a perfect coffee roast. It’s a little more organic than being a machine operator and a little more technical than being a chef.

Brandon attributes much of his success to the ingredients he gets to work with. These are the best quality coffee beans which are picked manually. There are only a couple places in the world that use machines to harvest the cherries which doesn’t do as good of a job as when it is handpicked. The quality of the coffee comes down to the farmer knowing how to process the cherry in an orderly amount of time and use a technique to get the cherry off of the bean so it doesn’t spoil or rot. It’s crazy to think about the amount of work put into a little beverage being consumed by millions of people.

Brandon’s wealth of information and knowledge of Starbucks helped me gain a greater understanding of the richness of coffee culture. A lot was brewing in my brain as I discovered the art, science and craft that goes into each inspired cup of coffee. He not only taught me about first crack, the understanding of what happens to a coffee bean when it changes color and what temperatures allow that to happen but Brandon also taught me about patience. How mastery takes extreme discipline and love for practice and improvement. It gave me a whole new appreciation for freshly roasted coffee.

Learned Lessons:

  1. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
  1. Don’t just focus on the job descriptions, or the brand name of the organization you’re going to join – also focus on who you’ll be working for, and with.
  1. Be patient and embrace the process of your goal.
  1. When you pour out our heart and serve others, you find the ingredients of real joy and wholeness.

Tips of the Trade:

“You just have to be patient, you’ve got to put your time in, and you have to be committed like anything else. If you want it fight for it and you’ll get there.” ~ Brandon Cohen

“Make sure your actions are committed and purposeful in all that you do.” ~ Brandon Cohen