The Roast – Anna McGregor

Anna McGregor has been an important part of the formation and journey of the NZSCA. She sat on the committee of it’s former incarnation the NZCRA for many years until her retirement from office at our last AGM in March. Find out more about Anna, also a member of the NZ Roaster Guild, right here:
What is your earliest coffee related experience?
Apart from hand grinding my parents coffee on a wall mounted Dutch mill as a young un my first barista lesson was from Jeff Kennedy in 1992 on a 2 group Wega which was very cool at the time!!…
When  and why did you first get working in coffee?
Started working as a Barista in 1992 to supplement our income and I loved the whole café buzz and people interaction.
What led you to becoming a roaster?
We decided to start roasting to supply our cafes and have more input into the quality of our coffee. We commissioned the building of a prototype hot air roaster after being inspired by the amazing Brazil Coffee on K Rd which was hot air roasted and basically taught ourselves, we tasted every roast which was done by single origin. Back then it was Columbian, Kenyan, Sulawesi and the odd other single origin that we roasted. Very different today.
What do you roast on, anything unique about your set up?
After a 4kg Hot Air and then to a 12kg Dietrich, my current pride & joy is our Probat UG 22 which is a 60’s drum roaster that Rob found in Germany and has been totally modified with added motors, temp probes, air speed controls, drum speed controls and anything else that I can come up with to roast better coffee. Every roasting machine has it’s own characteristics that’s for sure!
What’s your favourite “tool” you use in your role?
Apart from all of the above mods to the roaster that would be my log book, I’m a self confessed recording geekess. I measure so many variables from air pressure to various temps in the drum, but without records it doesn’t give you means to compare from one roast to another. If I had a spectrophotometer, that would definitely be my favorite tool….one day I will get one….
What do you find most rewarding about roasting?
Experimenting with single origin specialty coffees and finding the best profile to unlock the flavours. There’s always something new each year and coffee that is different each harvest which keeps the whole process of roasting interesting. I love trying new methods of roasting, tweaking here and there to see what difference it makes and then the fun of cupping and tasting and comparing coffees which is always rewarding when you strike something stunning.
Talk us through a typical work day
There is no typical, if I’m not roasting I’m getting creative or hands on with building our businesses.
What are your roles outside of roasting?
Everything from sourcing green beans, tasting coffee, developing blends, working on IT, advertising, as an SME it’s hands on but that’s how I like it.
Have you visited Origin? Any interesting harvest trip experiences or story? or which origin would you most like to visit and why?
I have taken some specialty green beans seeds to a farmer in the Philippines as it would be great to see them growing better coffee than the bush coffee that is so prevalent there. Rob has been to Sumatra, Brasil various times and we are excited about a trip to Costa Rica La Minita in Jan 2013. Of course I would like to visit farms the world over but I’m sure the La Minita trip will be incredible because of what they have accomplished as one of the oldest most respected specialty coffee farms in the world.
Any fire stories?
There was a power cut when I was roasting on the hot air roaster 9 years ago….the beans dropped and started to smoke and combust and a good water dousing was in order. Totally freaked me out at the time even though we got it under control fairly smartly. It was not a fire truck call out and was a great sobering moment and reminder to always have a plan for such emergency’s which could happen at any time really. We now have a water tap that feeds into the husk cyclone as well just in case…..