Roastress Coops, also known as Anne Cooper of Equilibrium Master Roasters, talks about pivoting her consulting sessions and coffee roasting classes, thriving in an online space, and fostering a supportive roasting community.
When cafés closed their doors to dine-in customers at the beginning of the pandemic due to state-wide lockdowns, so too did coffee training centres, which not only affected baristas but those behind the scenes: the roasters.
Training is something Anne Cooper has always been passionate about throughout her 27 years of experience in the coffee industry. Initially honing her skills training baristas, for the past six years Anne has been coaching roasters of all levels through her Melbourne-based business Equilibrium Master Roasters (EQMR).
EQMR offers roasting education in the form of a two-day comprehensive roasting course, private online consulting sessions, and a combination of private roasting consultation and training at client venues.
“My focus is to give my clients a clear idea of what’s involved in roasting and explain a lot of the ‘whys’ behind the process, from novices who have never had formal training to advanced roasters who want to ensure they are on the right track,” says Anne.
Having roasted with a range of both commercial and specialty companies across Brisbane, Melbourne, and New York, alongside regularly travelling to Brazil to provide consulting and training, Anne’s wealth of experience and consistent, proven results from her pupils are what differentiates her training programs.
“My two-day comprehensive roasting course covers all areas from green bean evaluation to how to operate and manage roasting machinery to understanding roast profiles, production cupping and more. We do strategic roasting exercises like using the same coffee bean and roasting it to three different roast profiles,” says Anne.
Initially designed for groups of six each month, Anne’s roasting course has evolved, now running every week with a maximum of two people per class. Anne says these smaller classes allows her pupils maximum, practical hands-on time on the roasting equipment, a greater ability to ask more questions, and the opportunity to get the best possible overall experience in the craft and skill of roasting coffee.
While these sessions had to be paused during Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdowns, Anne was able to pivot her consultation and training sessions online. Previously, these sessions would see Anne and her clients working together in person, walking through their roasting process, examining the final coffee product, troubleshooting, and defining solutions.
“Due to COVID, I had to learn more about digital platforms and communicating effectively online,” says Anne. “I based my sessions around what would create the greatest engagement and value.”
To achieve this, Anne would ask clients to send her samples of their coffee before the session where she would then taste and calibrate to the roaster’s prescribed flavours and, where needed, would troubleshoot any unwanted characteristics.
“This information framed the sessions, so when we engaged online, we could be targeted and strategic with our conversation, and start talking about the important things right away,” says Anne.
Through the use of shared screens, Anne says it was like she was still roasting with her clients in-person.
“Because roasting is a loud process, my online consulting sessions definitely had more yelling than an in-person class,” says Anne laughing. “Regardless though, I found that these virtual sessions had the same, positive responses as an in-person session would. When roasters saw the immediate results, they really loved the online process.”
These virtual sessions have also allowed Anne to discover a world of international roasters who, without COVID-19, wouldn’t have known about her services.
“Now I’ve got all these great roasting buddies across the globe that I’m excited to visit once we’re allowed to travel again,” she says.
Anne says virtual consulting has not only saved her travel time and expenses, but the time of her roasting clients who are often time-poor themselves.
“I definitely plan to continue offering these online sessions post-COVID as it’s shown us that there’s another way to do consulting. Previously, roasters would reach out to me and I’d be booked out for a period travelling to them, but now with these digital platforms roasters can easily just jump online and get solutions super-fast,” says Anne.
“Sometimes all a roaster wants to know is if they’re on the right track and having someone neutral, like myself, to give good, solid advice that is practical and industry-relevant is really helpful.”
Anne’s drive to best support the industry also extends to creating a community, having formed an EQMR Networking Group available to all EQMR clients across Australia and internationally.
“Every Sunday during COVID I started holding a session called Sunday Roast where we could all jump online and ask questions and share articles or anything new with other members,” says Anne. “This created an opportunity for people to stay engaged with each other and maintain some routine.”
This goal was also carried across to EQMR’s annual roasting event, Thrive, which ran virtually for the first time this year on the 16 and 17 October.
“I’ve done it every year since 2017, and even though we were in lockdown, I still wanted to provide producers, roasters, and everyone in between an opportunity to network, attend discussions, and get involved in workshops,” says Anne.
Discussions ranged from sourcing and buying green coffee in a pandemic to examining new roaster-trader buying platforms, business costs, and recent roasting innovations.
“This year, in particular, I wanted to only focus on our Australian industry and how we’re looking to the future. With all the challenges in the world at the moment a lot of roasters still seemed to have an ‘it’ll be alright’ attitude so I thought we needed to come together to discuss how things have changed, share our experiences and provide solutions,” Anne says.
Having been instrumental in coffee events and training courses within the Specialty Coffee Association’s Roasters Guild, Anne is no newcomer to running events.
“I loved holding the panel discussion with the producers and green bean traders, and especially loved talking to Howe Farming and Crater Mountain Coffee which grows Australia’s highest altitude coffee,” says Anne.
Howe Farming and Crater Mountain Coffee also generously sent out samples for Thrive attendees to taste and give feedback on.
“Attendees also cupped and discussed a set of strategically roasted samples each representing a particular roast profile,” says Anne.
“I thought it was important to include this profiling and sensory aspect, even remotely, as roasters often struggle with tasting, assessing, and communicating their roast profiles, so it provided another level of unique engagement.”
For Anne, the goal of Thrive has remained the same despite this year’s online format.
“Roasters can sometimes get stuck in their own bubble, and don’t always have the opportunity to reach out and consult or network with other roasters and ask questions,” Anne says. “For me, the annual EQMR event and my consulting and training services have always been about providing a platform that supports the roasting community by expanding roasting knowledge and providing solutions through networking and practical interaction.”
Already, post lockdown, Anne’s two-day comprehensive roasting course has begun filling up, with the master roastress ready and rearing to get back into hands-on roasting, supporting the roasting community, and thriving together out of COVID.
For a 20 per cent discount on EQMR’s two-day roasting course use the promo code BSCENE20 or for more information, visit www.eqmr.com.au.
This article appears in the December 2021 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.