Thursday, December 9, 2010

Roasters: Detour Coffee

Detour Coffee Roasters                   
Address: 41B King St. West
              Dundas, Ontario
(website, @detourcoffee)

Toronto needs local roasting powers, and we're seeing this trend emerge as the likes of TeAro, Social, Merchants of Green Bean (and their Coffee Network), T.A.N and Rufino (Classic Gourmet) roast within the GTA. There is a step in the direction to go local, but it's the quality and consistency that creeps in the background. But it doesn't surprise me that some cafes are sticking to the well-known, such as Intelligentsia (Chicago), 49th Parallel (Vancouver), or Stumptown (Portland/Brooklyn), but they should really consider the local guys. They're quickly catching up with these power houses, and their learning as they go along.

The lovely guys at Detour, Kaelin (Owner) and Geoff (Lead Roaster), invited me to come and check out their Burlington Roastery and discuss the finer details of their craft. Once located in their Dundas, ON cafe, they've moved to a bigger site capable of keeping up with all the new orders they get and try to upgrade their roasting capacity. Since the move, they've also equipped the roaster with a custom-made wet scrubber to help reduce 60-70% of smoke emissions. That's accountability right there.
It wasn't too long ago that Kaelin hopped onto a plane, rented a truck and drove back from Seattle with an eBay acquired Deidrich IR-12 Roaster. With technology that is consistent, it's one of the best micro-roasting machines on the market, it's no wonder the boys at Detour have gotten so good at their craft. Roasting coffee is a mix between science and finesse. The internal gas burners heat ceramic tiles to control the radiate heat of the drum, this ensures less heat escaping compared to direct flame drum roasters. Through a gradual.gentle application of heat, they avoid scorching and uneven roasts. As air is pulled from outside the roaster through the drum, they can actually slow down a roast (which is a good thing at several benchmark moments). To compensate for the lack of immediate control over heat via the IR burners, they use airflow. Increased airflow has a momentary increase in heat application (and also helps take chaff and moisture out of the drum), but increased airflows eventually slows the roast down and we can control heat in that way. Kaelin says "Someone equated it to steering a big shipping liner, you have to make the turn way before the corner."
The IR needs to be pre-heated to 400-425F mark using infrared burners, another way to reduce emissions. At this point, they put in about 18lbs of coffee and the finesse begins. During the first 6-7 minutes  the temperature drops to 300F and the beans begin to dry making their way to the fun part - "roasting". As the temperature rises the beans go from green to a golden yellow. Once the moisture inside of the bean has reached the boiling point (392F) "first crack", we start to hear the pop and crack, which is a wave of moisture escaping - much like popcorn. The next part of the roasting process is all up to the roaster, but they usually dump the beans into the cooling bin 2:30 - 4 minutes later.
Roasting isn't all fun and games as the chaff, husk of the bean, and smoke are major byproducts. Kaelin already supplies an Organic farmer in the area with the chaff for free. As for the smoke, they had Boyd Guildner (builder of renegade roasters) install a wet scrubber/precipitator that creates a system to spray the smoke and decrease their impact on the earth. Kaelin first saw this being used by Barefoot Coffee Roasters in California on their 24 kilo diedrich located within a residential neighbourhood. They are the first in Canada to use this form of emissions control.
After the beans have rested in the cooling pan, they are packed in kraft paper bags and shipped off to retail locations, but remember they don't keep for very long, so the quicker to you use them, the better the beans keep to their coffee profiles. Try keeping up with that weekly rotation of freshly roasted beans, and you'll see a wonder in your coffee.

What about their Espresso Roast, Punch Buggy? 
Well that's a secret formula they've been working on, but it's current edition (as of this week) includes Brazil, Panama and Ethiopian. Past incarnation included Sumatra, and El Salvador. It's a lighter profile, similar to the 49th, and Intelligentsia. They've managed to keep the Northern Italian blend balanced with chocolate and smooth nutty tones (similar to cashew/hazelnut textures) and throw in some berry notes for extra points! 

Kudos to Detour!

Try some today at Dark Horse, Bisgono, Zoots, Cool hand of a Girl, or Harleem Espresso.


  1. Price is so high. I need to buy a low cost product. I can buy a new Coffee Roaster Machine from Kafgar.