We caught up with Agro Roasters’ new Head Roaster, Zachary Cox, to learn how he got into specialty and the surprising overlap between sound engineering and roasting.

- How did you first get into roasting?

I got into specialty coffee when I moved to London, England, as a student. I was working as a waiter while studying Sound Engineering at the London College of Music. I was always buzzing around the espresso machine instead of doing my actual job. I decided to transition into working in coffee rather than restaurants, and I moved into working in a little cafe. I got really into it, and everyone who worked there was really into coffee, and so it was a great little community where we were all growing and learning together.

After a few years, I wanted a change, so I moved to Canada. It was my goal to move one step up in coffee and get more into roasting and green buying. I got a barista job at Agro’s cafe, which closed at the start of the pandemic. I pretty quickly moved into production and learned how to roast. I was production roasting for a few years, and then last year, I moved into being head roaster.

- Is there any overlap between sound engineering and roasting?

Signal chain is quite a big thing in sound engineering, like following your microphone through the wall into the desk and when it is getting converted from analog to digital- just being aware of everything. You could say the way you look at air temperature in the roaster is pretty similar. I also think with a technical mindset, looking into the technicalities of how it all works.

- How has your roasting style evolved since you began roasting?

Definitely failing and making mistakes is the biggest way you’re going to learn. Going into a roast thinking, ‘this will be my temperature, this will be my curve, this is how it will turn out.’ When the roast is done, it can be pretty far away from what you wanted.

You need to remember that coffee is an organic product and not just focus on the curve on the screen. You have to consider the size of the bean, its density, and if it is consistent or not. There is a lot of variation, and understanding your green can really help you achieve what you want. You have to think of the raw product rather than just the end produc

June 02, 2023 — Zara Snitman

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