June 2022 - The race for a green coffee roasting solution. Secret Label sees a return to rich caramels and toffees

Date Posted:6 June 2022 


Time may change me.......but I can't trace time." - David Bowie


June 2022

Welcome to our subscriber newsletter.

Change. It's all around us whether we want it or not.

Like all businesses, we deal with change every day and while sometimes it might be small like switching a single bean in a 4-bean coffee blend, it could also be a bigger decision to discontinue a popular coffee in our line-up when it's clearly become impossible to secure adequate future supply.

But whatever the reason, we are living in a dynamic environment where conditions are forever shifting and moving around in what seems like increasingly shorter cycles, so we just do what everyone else must also do whether it's a business or an individual - you find the best way to adapt and optimize.

Often it's a change that is forced upon us unexpectedly or we have to make difficult choices in the best interests of our customers and company like switching off a shipping provider when the incident rates are intolerable.

In April and early May we experienced a particularly painful period of chronic freight issues resulting in abnormal levels of parcel transit delays and in some cases inevitable complaints - we sort of expected some level of pain due to the calendar of stacked holidays.

The parcel network problems in late April and early May were the reason we decided not to publish a May Newsletter - however, we did manage to release a sensational May Secret Label that has since sold out.

Hopefully that's all well and truly behind us now as we have seen some great improvements over the last month and it certainly provides an interesting insight into how upcoming public holiday periods might perform - speaking of which we have one coming up in a few days so please consider planning ahead as these events are rarely incident free.

We are changing.

There was a reason we picked those famous Bowie lines.

After 15 years of selling high quality, fresh roasted coffees online as the original pioneer of premium coffees delivered to your door, we are embarking on a new journey to transform how we do things. It's pretty epic and we are excited, but it is also a huge mountain of work and there will no doubt be some bumps along the journey.

Over the coming months mycuppa will change and look different. We are not sure how long it will take and as always do the best we can to give our beloved customers plenty of notice.

Our offerings may be packaged and presented a little differently, but what won't change is our fundamental core values of exceptional quality, freshness, speed and unbeatable value.

Secret stuff.

This month's Secret Label is all about moving back into the realm of acids. But lovers of black coffee should not fear, it's always going to be engineered thoughtfully so we don't leave you with puckered cheeks and squinty eyes.

Energy shift.

Our article this month shares a few brief insights into the escalating race for viable alternatives to gas powered furnaces to roast coffee and how commercial users of gas in Australia are fighting a losing battle of survival.


June 2022 Secret Label

May's Secret Label was another masterpiece and with no Newsletter we still managed to sell almost 1,000 packs in the month.

June's Secret Label is a return to the glory days of celebrating acids.

Before you think acids are like caustic toilet cleaners please take a moment to understand that food or beverage acids are indeed the pathways of flavor. Removing all acids may render an element sour, tasteless and unappetizing.

So for this month we have upped the acid ratio a bit compared to the last few months.

Why ? because we need to keep mixing it up, moving the goal posts and changing the beat.

For those lovers of black coffees, it will still be drinkable without the side effect of sucking on a grapefruit or lemon.

Unlike the recent election where conservatives were dumped, this blend is indeed displaying some conservative attributes that comfortably sit in the middle with it's appeal in the safe harbors of caramels and toffees. There's no searing fruit or complex dark chocolate cocoa pops.

But don't despair, we have slipped in a little fruit twist that hides under the surface, carefully playing to break up the toffee/caramel monotony.

Sometimes we tasted dark chocolate, other times it was milk chocolate......is there ever a descriptor that comfortably sits in the middle of those limits ?

Please do tell.

**** SOLD OUT ****


The race for alternative energy to roast coffee.

Manufacturers of coffee roasting platforms have been promising for a long time - or doing their best to pretend they are genuinely committed to sustainability and the environment.

Plenty of green initiatives on presentation slides to help tick the responsibility boxes, but nothing tangible in terms of solutions customers can deploy.

About the only real breakthrough in the last 10 years has been a recent ability to use heat re-circulation as a method of potential energy savings but the promoted benefits are always grossly overstated and exaggerated - roasting coffee produces contaminants such as smoke, odour and husks that must be "burnt off" and even closed loop systems also run at high temperatures to achieve this objective.

Then there is still that loud cultural war raging inside the coffee industry about how re-circulation generates a "dirty tasting cup" as contaminates and taints are re-directed back into the roasting air-stream and allegedly absorbed by porous coffee beans instead of being released into the atmosphere.

Purists love academic debates.

Just like our recent change of government here in Australia, it was becoming more and more difficult to hear these hollow promises from roasting equipment vendors of "caring about being green" uttered in the same sentences as bragging rights of their 14 month order backlogs. All for solutions using the same types of roasting systems they have been building since they started.

You see, not much has changed in 150 years of coffee roasting technology. There's still the same big lumps of metal, a few motors with rotating parts and of course the fuel-based heat source which has predominantly been one of the readily available residential or commercial gases (Natural or propane).

Gas is used for a simple reason - a roaster needs to go from 0 to 100% and then back to 0% in the space of a few seconds if required - I'm not exaggerating.

On the outer fringes of coffee roasting platforms there have been a few experiments with induction, wood fired, diesel, coal and electric, but all have resulted in relative failure to gain broader acceptance and adoption.

So why then has it been so hard to shift the global coffee roasting community off it's monster appetite for gas ?

The answer lies in understanding that roasting coffee is a precise science requiring incredible accuracy of the heat application. Unlike cooking in an oven, BBQ or open fire, the process of roasting coffee has almost zero tolerance of failure and it's never, ever a "set and forget" methodology despite all the computer wizardry.

Every single second of a typical 12 - 18 minute roasting batch is critical and when you factor into the equation that each coffee can behave differently and depending upon the design of the platform, these differences can still exist from batch to batch of exactly the same coffee roasting in the same session (day), then you begin to appreciate this roasting gig is never easy, in fact it's damn hard to keep everything under control.

Environment factors like temperature and humidity also play a big role in trying to throw the roasting operator off their game. Melbourne has a reputation as a roasting capital, it also has crazy weather !

When it's not under control, the result is certainly noticeable - the coffee will take on undesirable attributes that may involve lacking flavor, body, aroma, sweetness, etc. At it's worst, it may be rendered undrinkable.

Even just a small variance at the wrong moment can wreak havoc on the roasted coffee and nobody wants to sell inferior products to consumers. Well, let me re-phrase that statement, most companies should take pride in their product.

Electric roasters have only been used in very small applications, like sample roasting or micro-roasting. Just like an electric cooktop, there's so much lag in controlling the heat transfer. Efforts to extend the capacities of electric platforms have been unsuccessful, but the effort continues to push the capabilities and you can never say never.

Bio-fuels are interesting, but we are yet to see a broader adoption and hence the demand remains low. When a roasting manufacturer designs a new roasting platform, they want it to last at least 20 years and they need to sell dozens or hundreds, not just a handful.

In the last 6 months the focus and attention to invent the world's first "green" coffee roaster has intensified.

Perhaps it's the roaster manufacturers watching the critical inflection point underway right now in the global motor vehicle industry as internal combustion engines are rapidly discarded in favor of electrification. If they don't shift, the market will leave them behind.

Hydrogen roasting plants are emerging as the new "buzz" word in coffee roasting. You can't buy one today and there are no designs released to the internet, but talk is certainly gaining momentum. Nobody knows how the quality and consistency will stack up against a gas-powered equivalent and like all new technologies we should be prepared for those evangelical debates of the pros and cons, mostly by blow-hard know-it-alls without direct experience or knowledge.

One of the largest and oldest manufacturers (Probat) sneaked out a snippet weeks ago when releasing their new Neptune 1000kg per hour roasting system (which is gas powered). Probat mentioned around October they hope to release plans for a revolutionary new "green" coffee roaster powered by hydrogen but it's likely to be just a small platform - probably a 5kg batch size and that makes it not commercially viable for coffee roasting companies - at least it's a promising starting point.

As a large coffee roaster we are a significant consumer of commercial natural gas in Victoria (perhaps at times up to the equivalent of a small suburb). This leaves us and our coffee roasting colleagues heavily exposed to the wild fluctuations of tariff volatility that seem intent on protecting the far larger numbers of residential consumers and penalize the smaller groups of business and commercial users that use higher volumes.

The Ukraine invasion has changed the game with energy supply as Russia's majority control of gas resources in parts of Europe, particularly Germany, is now considered a significant risk. Ironically, Probat is based in Germany so you can see why the scramble is underway.

Business and commercial users are paying huge premiums for natural gas to subsidize the residential market. You see if residents were paying the same rates as us for natural gas there would be outrage, major revolt and scandal.

At eye-watering 300% increases for natural gas compared to only 4 years ago with forecasts set to rise to 400% in the coming months, it's hard to reconcile our residential gas rates being a staggering 170% cheaper than commercial.

High volume commercial users also pay upfront for all the gas infrastructure such as meters and cages, etc. to then have the privilege of being charged almost double the rate of residential consumers for the same natural gas - hardly fair ?.

In any other industry or market it would be the other way around. You only need to see the media with plenty of cases of businesses shutting down due to the high costs of gas supply over the last 4 years.

Hard to see how this has gone horribly wrong - large gas users with no bargaining power and with both federal and state governments turning a blind eye to the crippling impact - probably because it doesn't affect voters. The governments will pretend to help businesses but they won't implement the regulations to help lower the cost of manufacturing, it's all about creating more temporary jobs and rubbery accounting.

Today it's tough to be a green coffee roaster. Some of our competitors enjoy "stretching the truth" in marketing claims of their environmentally friendly platforms - inevitably they are roasting with gas just the same as we do and they also need a similar relative volume of energy to covert the raw coffee into roasted - basic theory of heat exchange doesn't change.

When the new generation of green roasting platforms becomes available and we are confident that quality and consistency won't be compromised, you can be sure we will be standing at the front of the queue.