The Roast – Josh Olsen

What is your earliest coffee related experience?
As a young lad, one of my jobs at home was to make my mother coffee whenever asked. This was usually five or six a day. I was fascinated by this strange liquid not to mention my mother’s total dependency on it.
When / why did you first get working in coffee?
At 21 I discovered I was going to be a father. My current job at the time, musician and doll bludger, was not really going to cut it so I began working in a busy café learning the ways of espresso.
What led you to becoming a roaster?
After 15 years in the café business I started working for Atomic Coffee Roasters. Their passionate approach to coffee had me hooked and I devoted as much of my time as I could to learning the business end of coffee. After much harassment, enthusiasm and a bit of luck I was offered the opportunity to become assistant roaster. After a few years working with great roasters like Ewan Cameron, Aaron Wood and Jarred Baigent the head roasters job came up. This was my dream job! All I had to do was convince the boss that I was his new head roaster. Job done! Funny though, the more I learn about coffee, the more I realize I don’t know. I guess that’s why I love this job so much, I’m always learning.
What do you roast on, anything unique about your set up?
I roast on a 22 kilo Probat and an 11 kilo Probat for organic. Plus my little sample roaster I call bumble bee. The 22 kilo was built in 1956 and is all sand cast iron. It is a beautiful machine and I love maintenance day when we get to pull it apart. We don’t use any computer profiling and while they can be very useful, there is something very romantic about the way we roast.
Apart from your roasting machine (in its factory floor form), what’s your favourite “tool” you use in your role?
I love all my tools but my favourite tools are the ones I make myself. Like my de stoner duster.
What do you find most rewarding about roasting?
That’s a big question as I love all aspects of my job. I guess I love talking to people about coffee, I do a lot of staff training and speaking to the public and it’s really cool when you get a bunch of people who are really into it. I also love it when we get new coffee samples, it’s like opening Christmas presents.
Talk us through a typical work day
My day starts around seven am. Coffee x 2. Roaster on to warm up, then go and have a look in dispatch at our coffee levels and make a plan for the day. I normally do multiple blends on an average day so I need to roast a wide range of coffee and stay very organized. It’s amazing how easily things can get out of hand if I don’t keep on top of things. Meson plus. I usually roast something interesting for the brew bar, we run three single origins at all times and there is always lots of admin to do plus writing things like this. Day will usually finish around four.
What are your roles outside of roasting?
We do very large volumes of coffee on a small roaster so there is not much time for anything once cupping, training, forecasting admin, cleaning, sample roasting and drinking coffee
Have you visited Origin? Any interesting harvest trip experiences or story, which origin would you most like to visit and why?
No origin trips yet but got one in the pipeline for next year. Would most like to visit Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. Something about Africa, it’s so raw and soulful and I just think there is something truly beautiful about it. I love the Ethiopian people and how their culture embraces coffee so deeply.
Any fire stories?
No majors but recently I was showing a new sales rep around the roaster, pointing out the various equipment. As I opened the door on the after burner a huge puff of smoke bellowed up into the smoke alarm. Next minute a bunch of fire engines show up and the new sales rep says “guess we won’t do that again eh? Funny guy.