The Roast – John Helle Nielsen

John says he was bullied, by a certain Imperial Lady (EMW), to do his autobiography… John Helle Nielsen is originally from Denmark but now resides in Sunny Nelson, roasting at Pomeroy’s.
What is your earliest coffee related experience?
My first coffee related experience is going back to my early childhood, where I remember going in to the “Big Smoke” with my Nanna and especially in the winter when it was Cold As…!
I remember the coffee shop Nanna used to take me to with the big coffee mills and the fantastic smell of coffee – a memory of care free living and a very special time for me.
Thank you, Nanna!
When/why did you first get working in coffee?
My adult life has been one big love affair with coffee, which was taken to the next level at home first with a Gaggia, then later a Rocket. Over those years my fascination with the coffee industry grew and I started ‘chasing’ Hayden for a job as a Roaster.
What led you to becoming a roaster?
I was on Hayden’s case for a good year, before he decided to offer me the job as roaster for Pomeroy’s and this gave me a chance to prove myself. I now have 20 months under my belt and I learn everyday I go to work.
Please don’t tell anyone, but most days it doesn’t even feel like working…!
What do you roast on, anything unique about your set up?
I work my magic on a 60kg Petroncini for the everyday roast and a 900gm Belarome for small batch and sample roasts.
The Petroncini, or Big Bertha, has got personality and most days we do get on pretty well, but on the odd occasion she has got a bit of an attitude, as I swear she is just trying to make my day difficult…
Apart from your roasting machine (in its factory floor form), what’s your favourite ‘tool’ you use in your role?
My favourite tool will have to be my personality, or as some would put it; lack of….
All kidding a side, I don’t have any favourite ‘tools’, as they all have their time and place.
What do you find most rewarding about roasting?
Well probably striving for that consistent quality and getting the positive feedback from our costumers. Also showing mums & dads the process from green bean to finished roast and putting the facts straight. No, coffee is not brown from the start and just heated up! No, the the taste is NOT added after…!
Talk us through a typical work day
When I turn up in the morning I will turn on the Roaster, as I would imagine most Roasters would do, for obvious reasons! Then I’ll go trough my origins and quantities to roast while the big girl is getting hot. When the time comes, I’ll start roasting smaller quantities building to the bigger roasts as day progresses.
What are your roles outside of roasting?
Besides cupping I’ve just recently taken on the role doing in-house servicing for commercial and domestic machines and have by now earned the nickname “The Tool”.
Have you visited Origin?
I have not yet been to any Origin, but I would love to, Hayden…!
When I get my first opportunity, I would like it to be either South or Central America, as those places have always intrigued me.
Any fire stories?
I have been told that if you haven’t had a fire you are not a real Roaster, so I can proudly say I am now a real roaster… A small roast does not give you a lot of time to blink and one day I did a bit more than just blink. This resulted in a fire in the exhaust, the chimney and the husk collector and a visit from the Fire Department, Thanks Guy’s. Aftermath, white powder everywhere, 15kg in the bin as now one was after that much Italian that day… On the positive; an entertained cafe, smirks from colleagues, finally initiated and the building is still standing.