Hiring for Lead Coffee Roaster position.

Fratello Coffee Roasters is looking for an experienced lead roaster to join our team.  We have been roasting coffee since 1985 but we continue to seek the opportunity to learn and improve our roasting techniques.

We are continuing to expand our direct trade coffees in new regions each year.  The goal is to have coffees that are unique in cup profile to better showcase what a growing region is capable of producing.  This means we will need a broader selection of coffee producers in any given region we are working in.

We want an enthusiastic person with knowledge of roasting many different varieties of specialty coffees & micro-lots, green bean knowledge and roaster mechanical knowledge.

Ideally we are able to find someone with cupping experience who might be looking for opportunities to travel and assist with green bean sourcing/buying.  Being fluent in Spanish is also ideal when doing sourcing trips.

Duties will include:

Desired Experience, Skills, and Traits: minimum 3 years working in specialty coffee industry, minimum 1 year coffee roasting experience. Compensation is TBD based on experience, plus benefits which include health package.

Please send a cover letter along with a copy of your resume embedded in the email. Send resumes to Russ Prefontaine at russ @ fratellocoffee.com

Central America, Direct Trade coffee sourcing trip – An overview

Following this post will be a detailed write up on the new relationships we are forming as well as updates on our current relationships.  What I first wanted to communicate was the overall reaction of what we saw in Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica last month.

This is going to be a VERY challenging year for coffee producers.  Across all of Central America the average harvest is down 30-50% per farm, in total pounds being produced.  This is due primarily to the record-breaking rains falls, which wreaked havoc during the flowering season.  When a flower is damaged, a coffee cherry will not grow.   On top of this, global demand for top quality coffees is WAY up!!  To add fuel to this fire, the fund companies who seem to be in control of the New York Commodity market are pushing the NYC Price of coffee way down putting price pressure on low quality lots reducing the income for farmers even more.   This goes to show further evidence that TRUE Direct Trade relationships between coffee producers and roasters is vital for the future sustainability of our businesses. Roasters like Fratello will continue to reward our coffee producing partners for quality coffees, and pay the high prices for green coffee regardless of how low the NYC market is going.

Guatemala coffee producer harvester direct trade fratello


The main reason for going to Guatemala was to visit Diego De La Cerda who owns the multi award winning Finca El Socorro & Finca Guabaya who took 1st place in the Cup of Excellence (COE) last year (as well as 2007) and finished in the top ten of the COE in the last 6 years now.  These neighboring farms are in the Palencia region of Guatemala.  This coming year we are going to be introducing a few new micro-lot options from Guatemala.

We also visited coffee producers in Antigua as well as Florencia.   It was nice to visit some smaller coffee producers as typically in Guatemala we have been working with larger producers who are able to produce and separate smaller lots like our Montecristo. Fratello’s desire is to work with smaller producers, focusing on micro-lots and micro-regions.

Guatemala coffee red cherries direct trade fratello

The goal is to have coffees that are unique in cup profile to better showcase what a growing region is capable of doing.  This means we will need a broader selection of coffee producers in any given region we are working in.


We then went to El Salvador.  This was our first trip to El Salvador and it was truly an eye opening experience.   El Salvador might be a new favorite coffee region.  The expertise, tradition and focus on quality & experimentation just blew my mind.  I tasted plum, pumpkin pie, thick syrupy cup profiles which were new to my palate.

We first traveled to the Tecapa region to visit Gilberto Baraona, the owner of Finca Los Pirineos.   At the elevation of 1500 meters, situated between two volcano’s is some of the nicest farm land I have been to.  Gilberto is growing over 40 different varieties of coffee in the search of the next Geisha.  He knows he has some special terroir in his farm, and now needs to find the best varietal of coffee to grow.   I guarantee he is going to find it.   Gilberto had us taste a few experiments he did with the highest end liquid fertilization he could find.  WOW!!!  We are going to be taking this Pacamara and it is going to blow your mind!

Direct trade natural processed red bourbon fratello

At Finca Malacara B, who placed #3 and #4 in the Cup of Excellence in 2011, showed me the best example of the original old way of tree pruning called Agobio Para, which translates to “tree bending”.  Typically producers will “stump” a tree, cutting at the base, to allow for a new coffee tree to sprout.  I’ve been told that a lot of the health, nutrition and character of the coffee tree is in the trunk.  Agobio Para treats the trunk like a “spine”.    The art of Agobio Para is bending the trunk and tying it to the ground.  This will allow for many new sprouting coffee trees to grow from a single root system with out damaging the original trunk of the coffee tree.  What you end up with are MANY coffee trees, all of different ages, growing from one root.   This root will require MUCH more fertilization than a typical root, however, over all you use less per farm.  Each tree takes up WAY more space than a normal tree, however, it will produce much more coffee compared to a regular tree.   The goal is a more stable harvest, year over year.   Its hard to describe, but was truly mind blowing.  Why is no other region doing this?

El Salvador Agobio Para Pruning direct trade fratello

We are trying to secure 3 very unique lots of El Salvador for this coming year.  These are extraordinary, award winning coffees….potentially some of the best lots we have ever offered.


As always, Costa Rican impresses my with their Micro-Mill revolution which continues to expand and improve.  I am seeing better organization, at farm level as well as more dedication to improve quality.  These producers have been getting premiums for their coffee for a few years now and are typically re-investing into their mills for efficiency’s and consistency.

Sun dried fully washed coffee direct trade fratello

This year we are going to continue with our relationship with La Cabana and Miguel Rojas and introducing a new producer and micro-mill La Lia.  The La Lia coffee is glorious.  Its delicate, floral and elegant…..a true stand out coffee on the cupping table.  We will potentially have 2 lots from them as well as 2 lots from Miguel Rojas.  Miguel has harvested a special micro-lot for us, which is in a very protected micro-region at his farm.  The consistency of red cherries on the trees was like something I’ve never seen.  This was a new experiment Miguel was doing with higher quality fertilization.  Proof will be in the cup, but I have no doubt that this 15 bag lot will be impressive.

Costa Rica West Valley Miguel Rojas Direct Trade Fratello

In general we are seeing quality way up, however, quantity way down.  This is going to be a big year for Central American coffees out of Fratello.  We are going to be really raising the bar on quality and selection in the hopes of continually introducing new/fresh coffee offerings.  We know you and your clients are going to appreciate the work that goes into sourcing coffee the way we do.

Hario V60 pour over Coffee, a brewing guide

The Hario V60 O2 pour over dripper is our preferred method of brewing coffee at Fratello's Analog Cafe.

The manual brewing process allows our barista to have complete control over the brew speed and ensure proper ground saturation. The slower extraction time lends to a much sweeter and complex flavour in the cup than a traditional brewer.

It is very easy to use, so we put together this brewing guide to show you how you can use this in your cafe, home or work place. They are also VERY affordable.  You can find them on our store HERE.

Watch this short video that takes you through the steps to do this yourself.

An Education - Cupping 19 unique micro-lots

I recently had the please of meeting Ted Buracas of NewContent.  Ted Buracas is a writer, photographer, and film maker in Calgary, where he counts coffee as one of his many passions. You can find this article cross posted on the blog, NewContent.ca.  Ted got in touch with me as he knew I was going to be in the process of cupping 19 micro-lots from Nicaragua and wanted to join me.  Ted had never cupped coffee before but had a good back ground in wine tasting.  Needless to say, we had a very fun day talking about many different things relating to coffee and coffee cupping.

Primarily Ted wanted to know why we cup, the purpose of cupping and to educate himself if it really makes a difference in what we do.   The below information is taken directly from Ted's blog post:

coffee cupping tasting bowls

I’d like to try to address a gnawing question about coffee. If it were only for myself, that would be fine, but if it would also salve your conscience, and help you feel a little bit less guilty for the occasional extravagance, then so much the better, and my job would be done.

The question is this: why would anyone in their right mind spend five bucks for a cup of coffee?

The answer is at once simple but also complicated by a myriad of factors. There is an answer for those who would take some time to consider nuance. And for those who would invest a little effort to understand (or, at the very least, appreciate), I might even be able to to convince.

My own investment comes courtesy of Russ Prefontaine (@FratelloCoffee2) of Fratello Coffee Roasters. We spent four hours today cupping fresh Nicaraguan beans, and deciding which three or four Fratello would offer up for sale this year.

coffee cupping trays fratello micro lots

The simple answer is that some simply would not (spend the five bucks, that is). But then again, a four buck flank steak or a ten dollar bottle of red wine does quite well, thank you. And The Olive Garden is good Italian!)

And to be truthful, I am always looking for a drinkable $10 bottle of plonk.

But – and not to be snobbish here – there is a difference between good coffee and bad. And life is simply too short and too precious for coffee (or wine or food) that sucks.

It starts, of course, with the bean. Today we are sampling (cupping, to be precise) 19 different beans. They come from a single estate grower in Nicaragua, who grows several different  varietals of Coffea arabica spread out over two different growing regions. They (the beans) are all different, each unique. And it’s our job to pick just a few that will be presented to Fratello commercial clients this year.

fratello cupping table tasting micro lots

The first factor, then lays with the choice of the three or four beans that will represent an entire country. Three or four lots out of 19 on the table, from a single grower, a single producer among perhaps thousands. If you don’t care about sustainable farming practices, fair trade, pesticides, or shady business dealings (let alone harvesting practices, washing, processing, and drying) then it’s easy enough to choose a supplier from a catalog, and purchase from the cozy confines of Calgary in the wintertime.

And we haven’t even looked at the roasting process (which for these 19, has been kept controlled and is the same for all).

But garbage in, garbage out, as they say. And as I’ve said elsewhere, life’s too short…

None of these offerings are garbage. Not even close. All of them score 80 or higher, which in the considered opinion of an expert (like Russ) qualify as premium beans. Some are in the high 80s $30 to $40 dollars per retail kilo. 89 was the best score on a Java bean.

To choose from among today’s selection will take three or four hours. It’s an involved ritual akin to wine tasting. There’s lots of sniffing, swirling, stirring, and more sniffing. And then there’s the slurp. There is nothing sexy about the process; your nose is deep into the cup, and there is something undignified to the inward slurp.

The sounds involved are… interesting, and slightly off-putting. Not to be done in mixed company, for the self conscious.

But in performing the ritual, you begin to learn, and to appreciate differences. I am led to put words to the nuance I can smell – citrus, dark chocolate, strawberries, paper, among many. And there are  others still that I haven’t the vocabulary to describe.

But they’re there. I smell them, and later, I taste them.

cupping bowl ground tasting

There are some for whom taste and quality does matter, and I am one. This isn’t to say that a five dollar cuppa is a daily occurrence for me; I might spring for one a couple times a month. This is an indulgance, but a modest one; there is worse in the coffee world (let’s not even consider Kopi Luwak, for instance).

Is [the process] worth it? Russ says so: “It’s the people with the biggest mouths that can tell the difference.”

But when it comes down to final choices, it is about personal preference. There is no garbage here, remember; just preferences based on a qualitative score. It’s for the expertise (among other things), borne of 20 years of experience, that you are paying.

Would the average coffee consumer be able to tell the difference between Fratello coffee and, say, a Co-op house brand bean? I honestly don’t know, but it’s an interesting experiment that I shall try with both sets of my own parents when they come to call.

They say they like coffee.

notes cupping score sheet

But even if most would not appreciate the love and dedication that goes into this premium coffee, is it still worth the effort that folks like Russ put into the choice? He says it is: “It’s the people with the biggest mouths that can tell the difference.”

So just why would you spend five bucks for a cup? One simple reason; it just tastes good.

If you want to try something singularly amazing, drop into the Fratello Analog Cafe at the Calgary Farmer’s market. Order a premium drip coffee. It will take some time – nothing is rushed here – but it may well be the best cup of brewed coffee you’ve ever tasted. It was for me.


Fratello Coffee Roasters is located at 4021-9th St. S.E., Calgary, where they will sell you fresh beans or brewing paraphernalia, and offer up advice. You might even get a free bevvie. Tell them Teddy sent you.

Chemex coffee maker, a brewing guide

Using a Chemex is my personal favourite way to brew filtered coffee.  The slower extraction time lends to a much sweeter and complex flavour in the cup.  I find a more syrupy mouthfeel.  It is very easy to use, so we put together this brewing guide to show you how you can use this in your cafe, home or work place.

These are available to purchase on our store.

Watch this short video that takes you through the steps to do this yourself.

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