On the Job

Roastmaster finds grounds for better coffee

Tim Shipp emptied a batch of coffee beans from a roaster at Fazenda Coffee Roasters.
Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff
Tim Shipp emptied a batch of coffee beans from a roaster at Fazenda Coffee Roasters.

For Fazenda Coffee roastmaster Tim Shipp, a perfect cup of coffee has sweetness and delicate flavors behind it. As he roasts specialty coffee in a tidy facility housed in a Dedham warehouse, he sets rigorous standards to bring out the taste characteristics of a bean.

“Even the most subtle changes in bean moisture, heating time, and roasting temperature can have profound effects on cup flavor and quality,” said Shipp, 28.

You received a master’s degree in global development policy. How did you end up in the specialty coffee industry?

I spent a lot of time studying how to improve the quality of life in the developing world. All through college I also worked as a barista and really got into coffee. I realized that being a roastmaster was an avenue to effect positive economic change. We are creating a micro-lot program, which pays the grower directly to encourage them to continue creating quality coffee in small lots from a single farm.

Why do you work mostly with only single-origin coffee?


Single origin is a premier coffee that comes from one place, whether it’s one farmer or a group of farms. You can really see the story of the coffee in the cup; the unique flavor of the country’s soil and the farmer’s work. In the past, blending was often a way to mask imperfections.

What does it mean to create a roast profile?

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A good roastmaster will keep meticulous records of sample roasting, when he smells, tastes, and examines the beans and sees how they perform in different conditions while roasting. I might have one coffee and try it 20 different times.

Roasting machines come in several varieties. What kind do you use?

It’s a Probat P25, a drum roaster. The drum roaster is like a barrel that’s spinning, the notion being that heat is applied more consistently to every part of the bean. I’ll pick out a sample of the coffee while it’s roasting to examine what’s happening. It’s estimated that there are 5,000 chemical reactions during roasting.

What’s a best-kept secret for people brewing their own coffee at home?

The best way to brew a really good cup of coffee is not to use an auto-drip machine because this just pulses water through the coffee grounds and doesn’t allow the coffee grounds to flower, [or] release their gases. Some gases are soluble in hot water, and it affects the flavor. The best way to brew is to put hot water on the coffee grounds, just enough to get them wet, let it sit, and then brew the coffee.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at