Huge news; we’re upgrading our roastery with a new, bigger roaster!
We’ve been nudging the edge of our production capacity for a little while now, so last year, Tom (our Head Roaster) and Anette (our Co-Founder) started searching for a roaster to replace our much loved 30kg G.W. Barth.
We’re incredibly excited by the upgrade, but of course, we’re also sad to see the G.W. Barth (which some of us affectionately call George) move on to pastures new.
George was, in fact, the first roasting machine Square Mile ever bought (found on eBay, no less), though he was actually way too big for our needs back in those early days. It was very rare to see an old machine like that on the market, however, so we knew we needed to snap it up while we had the chance.
The G.W. Barth arrived in pieces on the back of a truck, sporting a colour scheme that was part blue, part green but mostly rust, and all we could do with it during our first four years of operation was store him in the corner of the roastery, waiting for the day we actually needed that roasting capacity.
When that day finally arrived, we embarked on the huge task of getting the roaster up to spec with the help of the legendary Malcolm Quarleri. The work took months as every element of the roaster needed completely stripping, and everything from electrics, belts, bearings and motors needed to be cleaned, repaired or replaced.
It was worth the hard work, however, as for the last six years, the G.W. Barth has roasted pretty much all our Red Brick and Decaf. As you can imagine, replacing him has been no small task.
On their hunt, Anette and Tom were specifically looking for a second-hand, vintage drum roaster to match the G.W. Barth and our other machine (a 15kg Probat), which were both built in the 50’s. We have a real passion for this style of drum roaster, and it was important to us to find a machine from a similar era, to ensure we preserved our particular style of roasting and flavour profile.
Happily, after a few months, we found something that looked like it fitted the bill in Belgium where a small roastery was closing down and selling its vintage 75kg Probat, which was built in the 60’s. Tom & Anette took a trip over to see the roaster up close and found it to be remarkably clean and in good condition, given its age. After running a few tests roasts through it to see how it performed, the team declared themselves satisfied that we’d found our roaster.
Behold, our new 75kg Probat, as it was when we went to view it in Belgium.
At this point though, all we’d done is bought a roaster – there was still a long way to go before it’d be our roaster, worthy of replacing George.
For that, we’ve sent the new roaster to a company called Sanco, just outside of Mansfield in the Midlands. There, it’s been stripped down, cleaned and modified, just like Malcolm did with the G.W. Barth six years ago.
We’ll be detailing that process in a second blog post soon, which will also give us space to tell you about the custom, cutting-edge technology we’ve been able to add to the new Probat in conjunction with Sanco. Modifying a new roaster, after all, isn’t an opportunity that comes along often, so we’re making sure that when it’s installed, the Probat, and the new afterburner that it’ll require, will be one of the most advanced roasting setups in the world.
As you can imagine though, replacing a major piece (maybe the most major piece) of machinery in our small roastery isn’t a simple or quick task. We need new power inputs, an upgraded gas line, and to physically move the old roaster out and the new roaster in. Even once the new roaster is in, we’ll need some time to run tests, get it up to speed and learn it’s ins and outs before we’ll be happy calling the coffee we’re roasting on it Square Mile coffee.
It’s therefore, going to be necessary for us to roast some of our Red Brick coffee off-site while parts of this work are going on. We’ll be doing this at Union Hand-Roasted Coffee, who have very generously agreed to allow us to roast batches at their site when we need it.
In fact, our roasting team has spent the last couple of weekends over at Union, getting used to the whopping 120kg Probat they use there and profiling our Red Brick components on it to make sure they taste and brew exactly the same as those roasted on George.
Rest assured it’ll still be our roasting team behind all the batches roasted offsite, and this is only a temporary measure. All our other coffees (including Sweetshop and Decaf) will continue to be roasted here, at our roastery on our 15kg Probat, which won’t be affected by the works.
We’re incredibly excited about the next few weeks and finally getting the new roaster in place. Be sure to watch our social feeds to keep track of our progress. And look out for a future blog post about the roaster itself!