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Why a Roasting Champion Switched from Cropster and Artisan to Firescope

Jason Jin
February 22, 2024
min read
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Please introduce yourself and your work at 180 Coffee Roasters.

Hello, I'm Joo Sung-hyun from 180 Coffee Roasters, founded by my boss, Lee Seung-jin. Our roastery, symbolizing a 180-degree shift in thought, specializes in specialty coffee.

I believe roasting is about fully expressing the inherent flavors of coffee, not creating new ones. Excessive heat can damage coffee, preventing its true flavors from emerging. Thus, our philosophy is to roast without causing any harm, allowing every flavor to be fully expressed.

I've been roasting since 2006 and my boss is the only roasting master I acknowledge. Our boss supports us immensely in roasting and coffee studies, understanding that experimentation requires significant coffee usage. He has generously supported the costs of coffee, equipment or software purchases, creating an optimal environment for growth as a coffee roaster. Our "no damage" and "ETeRR" roasting philosophies have developed from the studies on the role of moisture in coffee that our boss shared with me.

The view of 180 Coffee Roasters located in Bundang, Seongnam, South Korea.
The view of 180 Coffee Roasters located in Bundang, Seongnam, South Korea.

Tell us more about your roasting techniques and the impact of roasting competitions.

Many people say that participating in competitions leads to growth, and indeed, my experience with roasting competitions was a life-changing event. Winning a domestic competition naturally led to increased sales and supply volumes.

Before the 2017 WCRC competition, I knew nothing about roasting log programs. However, when I participated in the world competition, I saw others using roasting log programs. Seeing them trying to extract roasting information from the shapes in the roasting log program made me wonder why we were unaware of this. After the world competition, I became curious about what data might be in the roasting temperature profiles and began to study it step by step.

Learning about roasting log programs at the world competition changed many things compared to when I roasted without knowing about them.

Before, we didn't know whether there was a problem with our roasting or not, and after hearing customer feedback, I used to wonder, "I roasted as usual, so what changed?" and couldn't provide a precise answer. However, now, by using roasting log programs, we have reduced the number of complaints and can respond to them more easily. We can easily determine if the coffee is problem-free by examining the roasting records in the roasting log program. If there's a problem, it's usually with the espresso extraction, so we can offer extraction-related consulting and handle it easily. This has reduced labor costs and significantly contributed to our business growth.

Roaster Joo Sung-hyun, who participated in 2017 WCRC

Do you have any advice for roasters?

The period of practicing coffee roasting, compared to coffee extraction, is quite lengthy. The process of roasting, waiting to taste, then adjusting and applying changes to the profile doesn't end within an hour or two; it can take days or even months. Therefore, it seems that those who continuously invest their time and perseverance become good roasters.

As I often mention in my classes, I believe that the roaster with the most data wins. Whether the data is good or bad, accumulating various results into data will help in improving your roasting.

However, I recognize that it's not easy to digitize data when roasting manually or relying solely on sensory memory. Therefore, I believe it's best to use tools or programs that can precisely document all processes during roasting, which can last from 8 to about 12-13 minutes.

Having a lot of data is also the most effective way to produce consistent coffee. In an environment where many roasters work together, regardless of who does the roasting, it will be possible to produce the same results.

You have used all three of log programs. Could you explain your experience with each of them?

After attending the WCRC, I recognized the necessity of a roasting log program and began using Cropster, which was also utilized at the WCRC.

Our roastery owns many roasting machines for research and education. One downside of Cropster I encountered was the need to pay individually for each machine, and machines not covered by the payment were unusable. This was particularly burdensome considering some machines were used less than ten times a month.

Consequently, I also used Artisan, a free program. While using both Cropster and Artisan, I desired to merge data from both sources. However, Cropster's fees unexpectedly surged. Initially, I paid annually, but as fees increased with the capacity used, the costs became substantial.

That's when I discovered Firescope, a program developed in Korea. As it came highly recommended by a few users around me, I began using it. Artisan had its shortcomings, such as slower responsiveness and difficulty sharing data due to its file-based storage system compared to Cropster.

Yet, Firescope offered usability on par with Cropster. It was evident that Firescope was developed with considerable input from roasters, resulting in a more user-friendly UI and overall experience. This led me to switch entirely to Firescope.

From my perspective, having used Cropster, Artisan, and Firescope, Firescope isn't just comparable to Artisan; it matches Cropster in terms of specifications.

Before canceling Cropster, the monthly fee had escalated to nearly 2 million KRW (about USD 1,600), which was shocking. For a business like ours, with a high batch volume, the cost difference between Cropster and Firescope was about a hundredfold.

Firescope's advantage lies in its performance, meeting all the functionalities a roaster could want. Its UI is also designed with roasting in mind, offering excellent usability.

Furthermore, being domestically produced, like all machinery or vehicles, it benefits from quick maintenance and responsive support, allowing for timely updates and fixes. This has made using Firescope entirely hassle-free.

My tip for using Firescope is to set the graph to display roast profiles as sensitively as possible. Although some may regard the noise on the RoR graph as an inconvenience, I see it as crucial for observing the coffee's response during roasting, ensuring nothing is missed.

In my view, a log program isn't just an option for roasting; it's essential. It represents the best method to predict unseen aspects inside the roaster that cannot be observed with the naked eye. Having used Cropster, Artisan, and Firescope, I think Artisan's main advantage is that it is free, though it falls short in detail. Cropster's main drawback is its high cost; thus, Firescope is the preferable choice if it offers similar functionalities. Given the significant feature differences with Artisan, I recommend Firescope to all coffee roasters to enhance their roasting process.

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Jason Jin
Firescope Co-founder

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