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«Sweetness is a must for me.»

Fabian Gass, Head of the ViCAFE Roastery and Q-Grader, brings extensive coffee knowledge to the company. We met at our roastery to find out from him what is important when it comes to roasting.

«Sweetness is a must for me.»

Fabian Gass, Head of the ViCAFE Roastery and Q-Grader, brings extensive coffee knowledge to the company. We met at our roastery to find out from him what is important when it comes to roasting.

As head of the roastery, you have a broad range of responsibilities. What does a regular workday look like at ViCAFE?

My duties include sourcing our green coffees, managing the relationships with our partner farmers and checking the quality of our green and roasted coffee. In addition, in collaboration with our roasters, Ruben and Christoph, and our Head of Logistics, Benjamin, I develop the roasting profiles for our coffees. Last but not least, part of my job also entails sharing my knowledge with our 86 baristas.

Since April, we have been roasting on a Loring S35 Kestrel roasting machine. How does this machine work and what makes it special?

Ruben and Christoph are the ones who work with the roasting machine the most. I step in when there are bottlenecks. There are various aspects that made us decide to purchase the Loring: Among other things, we were impressed by the incredible consistency of the roasts, the low maintenance requirements and low emissions.

Do you follow a specific roasting philosophy? What makes a good roast for you?

Aside from any economic and practical considerations, it is a good roast if the roast master has succeeded in seeing the quality potential of the green coffee and then manages to deliberately highlight the characteristics through the roasting process. These characteristics can of course be weighted differently: some prefer a slightly more dominant acidity in combination with sweetness, others prefer a stronger body with light bittersweet chocolate notes and a subtler acidity. However, sweetness is a must for me.

For me there is both a “wrong” and a “meaningless” roasting philosophy. It is wrong to roast the coffee that you sell exclusively because it “just feels right”. That sounds mystical and romantic, but it has more to do with laziness and is not fair to the consumer. On the other hand, it is wrong to simply blindly follow predefined roasting principles.

It is pointless to buy a top-quality Kenyan coffee, which is characterized by its subtle acidity and abundance of sweetness, and then roasted to the point of being unrecognisable – oily and burnt, or “gently for 25 minutes”. You could have had these flavour profile with a cheaper, less complex coffee.

What should the perfect espresso taste like?

This is subjective, but I like espresso to have an intense sweetness that’s in perfect balance with fruity notes, as well as espresso that is robust with a low acidity. It depends on what kind of day I’m having. It is important to me that the roaster and the barista do justice to the green coffee. That’s why, at ViCAFE we invest a great deal in the development and training of our baristas.

What role plays the green coffee or the roasting profile?

The high quality of green coffee is always a basic requirement. After that, the roasters or baristas can “only” live up to the intrinsic quality of the green coffee.

Which ViCAFE Coffee are you enjoying the most at the moment?

I am currently roasting Finca San Jeronimo Miramar from Guatemala. It is part of our Hausmischung, but is not yet available as a single estate. We visited the farm in June 2019 and were thrilled. Otherwise, I follow the arrival times of freshly harvested coffees. If we or another coffee shop has a new coffee on offer, I need to pay them a visit. I am very much in love with diversity in coffee.

How would you prepare this coffee at home? Do you have a recipe for us?

I don’t drink coffee at home. With the current roast profile, I would like to enjoy the San Jeronimo as an espresso or prepared with the Bialetti.

 

We have been in our new roastery in Zurich Altstetten for six months. What will change in the next three years?

Since we recently moved in, we are still testing, analysing and optimising many things. We’ve just completed a replica of a ViCAFE Espresso Bar, so that our new baristas can be optimally prepared for the Espresso Bar reality. A small filter coffee laboratory, events and workshops for the public would also be great.

What is a Q grader? Learn more.