We were recently sent some great roasted beans from Michael Wright of Oil Slick Coffee Company. Have not tried all the different roasts yet and we really like what we have tasted so far.
Oil Slick Coffee website was very informative and we really liked their approach to coffee. So much that we reached out with these questions and Michael was kind enough to answer.
Q. How / When did you first start getting into coffee roasting? What was it that made you think I want to give this a try?
Wright: My first exposure to an actual roasting machine was in a Eurocafe in Sterling, Virginia. They have the roaster right in the shop where you can see and smell it and I thought that really underscored what freshly roasted coffee is — it is roasted right there, not in some far-away roasting plant by faceless, nameless people. This guy used this beautiful red machine to roast delicious coffee, for me. I've wanted to open a coffee shop for a long time, and long before that experience, but it was that experience that cemented the desire to roast the coffee myself.
Q. How did Oil Slick Coffee come to be? When did it start? How did you come up with the name? What are the goals and ambitions of Oil Slick Coffee?
Wright: Oil Slick officially started in February of this year. It's been a concept rattling around my head for years while I saved money to buy the roaster and got the roastery prepared, which included ripping up carpet and replacing it with tiles and having a gas line added for the roaster.
The name represents the oils that float on the surface of a good coffee. I kind of had to back into the name, giving it a meaning after finding a name that was unique. In a lot of ways, settling on the business name was harder than learning to roast coffee!
Q. In the world of specialty coffee there is a wide range of origins, roasts and flavors. What areas do you focus on or enjoy the most?
Wright: I prefer a coffee that is clean, well-balanced, interesting, and demonstrates characteristics unique to the coffee's origin. I love to travel and experience new places and cultures and focusing on a coffee's origin is an extension of that. It's fascinating to me that coffees from Ethiopia can explode with brightness and hints of berries while a coffee from El Salvador can be mellow, smooth and full of notes of caramel and chocolate. That's what I want to help others explore; the differences in coffees from around the world.
Q. What can you tell us about your roasting equipment? What are you roasting on now? What was your first roaster?
Wright: Right now I'm roasting on a Diedrich drum roaster. The Diedrich machines are unique in that they have a ceramic infrared burner that was originally intended to make the machine more gas efficient back in the days of the oil embargo of the late 70's. It's an extremely efficient and responsive design that is very fun to use.
My first roaster, however, was a HotTop home roaster that I bought from Sweet Maria's website. It's a small drum roaster with a one-pound capacity and it allowed me to start learning the concepts of drum roasters, how they work and what to expect from them. It wasn't long before I took it apart and added additional temperature probes so I could derive more useful data from my roasts and get a better idea of the chemical changes taking place during a roast. I still have that roaster and use it from time-to-time because of its smaller capacity (it's good for testing new roast profiles) but also because it's a fun roaster!
Q. What have you learned about coffee through all of your roasting and tasting experience? Any unexpected lessons or skills that you have discovered?
Wright: Wow, I would need a lot more time to list everything I've learned. One of the most important things I've learned is that I'll always be learning about roasting. There is just so much to learn and so much we don't know about what happens chemically to the beans during the roasting process. Coffee has over 1,000 known aroma compounds compared to a few hundred in wine. Learning how these compounds interact with each other and ultimately with our brains to create a sensory experience could easily consume a lifetime.
Q. If someone was interested in starting to roast their own beans, where would you suggest they start?
Wright: Sweet Maria's, without a doubt is an invaluable resource to the new and/or home roaster. There one can find information on roasting theories, roasting levels, equipment, and so on, everything needed to get started. Then I'd recommend looking around for a quality forum or two and just start talking with folks who are roasting now. I've found that it's a tremendously helpful, open, and welcoming community.
Q. What is the best way for people to purchase your roasted beans?
Wright: The best way to purchase our coffee is from our website; http://www.OilSlickCoffee.com.
Q. Anything else you would like to mention?
Wright: In addition to providing great coffee, we'd like to help people develop their passion for coffee but in an approachable way. Great coffee shouldn't be intimidating and we try to make sure it isn't.
Our blog (http://blog.oilslickcoffee.com) has useful information on how to improve your coffee brewing techniques easily and without spending a lot on expensive coffee gear. We're also on Twitter (@OilSlickCoffee) and Facebook (http://Facebook.com/OilSlickCoffee).
Thanks so much to Michael and Oil Slick Coffee. We are very excited to learn more about them and their take on coffee.
Be sure to show them some love by liking them on Facebook, following them on Twitter, etc....
Questions / Comments?
Have any questions for Michael? Post any questions or thoughts in the comments and we will do our best to get them answered.