Chris DiGiacobbe didn’t like coffee before he got a job at Starbucks.
Part of the training involved tasting different brews and he started detecting nuances between them, finding distinctions in the same way people speak of wines.
“When I could deconstruct the flavor notes, it became something different to me,” DiGiacobbe said.
The 2006 Brookfield High School graduate has taken to java so strongly that he has founded a coffee roasting business, D.G. Roasting.
DiGiacobbe started roasting his own coffee beans at home in a popcorn popper, but now uses a $7,500, 2-kilogram roasting machine.
With seed money from his parents, John and Patty, he built a 10-by-14 room inside his parents’ garage on Seaburn Street to house his roaster, which has a chimney to vent the propane-generated heat and another to collect chaff, the coffee bean covering that comes off during roasting.
The roasting process boils water out of the beans and releases carbon dioxide, producing a chemical change in the beans similar to what happens when you make toast, DiGiacobbe said.
Success in roasting coffee depends on many factors, including the humidity of the room, the length of time you roast the beans and the roasting temperature.
“The best way to be a bad roaster is to never taste your coffee,” he said. “There are so many variables to coffee that can change the taste.”
Understanding how the roasting process affects those variables takes trial and error.
“It’s like a steel mill operation here,” DiGiacobbe, 29, who works at Harbor Perk in Ashtabula, said of his roaster. “There’s so much to figure out.”
Coffee roasting not only unlocks flavors, but aromas – wet hay, baking bread and blueberry pop tarts are among those DiGiacobbe has detected.
“The super dark roasts tend to smell like cigar smoke,” he said.
The aroma can stay in your nostrils for hours after you’ve left the roasting room.
When you start roasting your own beans, it’s best to start with coffee that you like, he said.
“Good coffee is something you can have whenever you want and hit that ‘Oh, mommy,’ note. I put a lot of energy into making sure my coffee tastes good before I put it out.”
He’s currently roasting two kinds of beans, Mexican, which has “creamy flavors of caramel and orange,” and Sumatra, which is like “chocolate and has a bright acidity to it that is uncommon for dark roast.”
He is not making blends, yet, noting the expense.
Selling mostly to “people my mom works with” at Eastern Gateway College, he sold at the Brookfield United Methodist Church craft show Nov. 11, and wants to start making the rounds of farmers markets and sniffing out local businesses.
“I want my clients to be offices in the area,” DiGiacobbe said.
DiGiacobbe can be contacted on Facebook at the page @dgroasting