Interview with Ray Johnson
Ray Johnson owner of Coffee City USA in Tyler Texas has worked over 29 years in the Specialty coffee industry. He has learned all aspects of buying green coffee, cupping coffee with industry leaders, roasting coffee finding the sweet spot of every bean. He also works daily with a 29 year veteran Roast master Victor Hernandez at Coffee City USA roasting all your coffee every day. It doesn't get any better than that! Our customers are assured that every bean is roasted to peak flavor. Every coffee growing region has its own characteristic or taste. Our responsibility to you is to understand each country. Acidity, body and balance and bring out the flavors while understanding New Crop, Old Crop, bean size, density to name a few things that create that great cup from each origin.
#1 How long have you trained before becoming a coffee roaster?
I trained for about 1 year under Victor Hernandez and another year when I fine tuned my skills. All coffee beans roast differently and you have to understand why to learn what to do for each.
#2 What drew you to this profession in the first place?
My best friend owned a coffee company and wanted me to come in and help him. I learned all aspects of this industry and helped him grow the company. I had some great mentors that took the time with me to help me get where I am today. Also I have a good palette and that really helped me differentiate the taste of each country.
#3 What is the most difficult part of your job?
I think the hardest part of my job is picking what coffee to brew each morning. Next would be finding the employees but we are so lucky to have great key employees that have been with us for 18, 17, 10 years and several that have even retired at 12-15 years. We are truly blessed. Thank you all.
#4 Where do the best beans in the world come from and why?
There are the tried and true great coffees consumed worldwide like Kenya, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Sumatra Mandheling, Kona, Jamaican Blue Mountain, Colombian, Costa Rica, Guatemalan but with some of these countries Micro Farms have been showing up over the past 10 years. The consensus worldwide was to give back and help the poor farmers with (FT) Fair Trade coffee prices that are fixed higher than c market prices. With extra income and coffee experts showing information to take care of the soil, stop using pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals. The farmers have learned how to grow organic coffees and take care of the water used in milling coffee. Within these small farms producing small lots have come some incredible tastes that are in high demand. With small lots come small amounts of coffee from each farm maybe only 50 to 150 bags (132 lbs. each) for the entire year. So you might like a farm but the coffee it grows sells out fast. This is what happens to roasters. We run out of some of these coffees. Fair Trade and Organic coffee has been on the move over the past 10 years or more. Although the growth in popularity, they still make up only a small percentage of all coffees. This is a small oversight of the Fair Trade and Organic sustainability movement. There are so many great coffees to be tasted so try them all. It is a great trip around the world.
#5 What is the secret to roasting beans perfectly every time?
There are so many factors in roasting coffee perfectly. The Roaster must know: new crop, old crop, hard bean, higher elevation, soft bean, all beans signs roast at different temperatures. At what temperature to drop green beans in roaster and as they develop when to turn gas down and when to turn gas off and let beans develop with just heat from roaster. What to do at first crack and second crack, what the center of the bean tells him and when he knows it is at its peak and to get it out of the roaster and into the cooler and cool the beans down so they stop roasting. This is a general outline of the roaster's view of things. In the 17-21 minutes the coffee is in the roaster he checks it 30 to 40 times and mostly in the last 2 minutes. From his 29 years experience Victor Hernandez finds the sweet spot on every roast. We are so happy to have him in our family. Thank you Victor for all the fabulous tasting coffees you have roasted.
#6 How do you know you (as a consumer) bought good quality roasted beans?
I would want to buy coffee from someone that has been involved in the specialty coffee industry for a long time. They have built relationships with the best green bean buyers in the country and have been mentored by some of the best coffee minds in the world and have a 29 year veteran Roast master in house. Experience and the love of coffee are quite a marriage. Remember when buying coffee, don't be afraid to try different coffees, roasts, and blends because your match in that is out there waiting for you to discover.
#7 What is the secret to making perfect coffee every time?
You will never know how good your coffee really is unless you know how to prepare it properly. Here's a guide to how to properly make coffee!
#1 Buy quality whole bean coffee.
# 2 A good coffee brewer is a must! Coffee should be brewed about 195 degrees. Cheap brewers fall short in temperature. $ 70 plus will solve that problem in most cases.
#3 If using a home machine - A cone filter is best to have because it extracts the coffee better because the water stays on the coffee longer.
#4 To grind coffee correctly you need a Burr grinder not a blade or spice grinder. Blade grinders will never grind to coffee the same each time so your coffee will be different every time you brew it. A Burr Grinder will grind your coffee the same every time because it has a dial to select your grind from fine to course. The correct grind for drip coffee will feel like sand that is a little coarse. The grind is very important because too coarse is weak and too fine is harsh for drip coffee. You can adjust your grinder to your taste.
#5 The amount of coffee is all over the place for a 12 cup brewer 64 oz. I would start with 2 oz. at a drip grind and then adjust amount if to weak. You can also adjust your grinder a little finer to make your coffee stronger. But too fine will make the coffee harsh or bitter. Coffee is to your taste so find your sweet spot on grind and amount coffee you use.
# 6 Water, coffee is 97% water, bad water, bad coffee. Use spring or filtered fresh cold water. Always grind your coffee just before brewing and you will really make a great cup of coffee every time.
#8 What is your favorite coffee?
My favorite coffee is from Central America, the country of Guatemala. There are 2 regions; Antigua and Huehuetenango. These coffees are well balanced in body and brightens or acidity. I drink them both on a light roast so I can taste the real flavor of each coffee. Darker roasts hide or dominate the taste and you only taste the dark roast.
#9 How do you take your coffee?
I drink my coffee hot and black and mostly light roasts. On a light roast you can taste the differences in each country, on a darker roast it starts to mute the subtle taste of the countries' and not the true characteristics of each region. But more than 50% drink dark roasts for the heavy taste. That is why there are so many ways to drink and roast coffee. It is all to your taste. You have to experiment and find the coffee and or region and you will know when you do because you will have a big smile on your face.