The photo for this article was provided by the interviewee.
Photo taken by @gav_smart.
Luckie Beans was one of the first coffee roasters I discovered. The company sources beans from all over the world and roasts them at their Love Lane roastery. Today, Luckie Beans roasts coffee for home consumers and for their wholesale customers. Luckie Beans also operates coffee carts from which they sell beans, such as their cart at Edinburgh Airport.
Curious to learn a bit more about their work, I reached out to their team. The owner of Luckie Beans, Jamie McLuckie, took some time to answer the questions I had about their coffee carts and how they roast coffee.
Could you tell me a bit about yourself and your role at Luckie Beans?
My name is Jamie McLuckie. I’m the founder of Luckie Beans. My role at Luckie Beans is an all-consuming one. I roast all of the coffee, manage our Edinburgh Haymarket coffee cart, attend farmers markets with our mobile coffee cart, and currently turned builder whilst trying to get our new roastery premises into shape.
How do you decide which coffees to offer your customers? How regularly do you rotate your coffees?
Before choosing new coffees we receive samples, cup them and decide from there. When we started, we wanted a coffee in our range that was a great all-rounder that we could get hold of the green beans 12 months of the year. This was so that we can provide a consistent coffee to our wholesale customers. This became our Love Lane House Blend. I visited a number of green bean brokers in London at the beginning who put on cupping sessions for me to pick a number of coffees for our initial range and to discuss availability, information about the coffee farmers, and so on.
On top of this we have a range of single origin coffees, our Queen Street blend named after our Queen Street coffee cart location (no longer there) and a Swiss Water Decaf (no chemicals involved in decaffeinating the beans). We change our single origins from time to time depending on availability. The coffees in our range we can usually get hold of most years now, and have won seven Guild Of Fine Food Great Taste Awards for our roasts with them.
How is it possible for you to secure green beans all year around when coffee is seasonal?
You can purchase green coffee beans on spot (the merchant has the coffee sitting in their warehouse) or forward (which secures coffee you require at an agreed price which you will receive say 3-12 months in the future). With forward buying, you can work out how many bags of X coffee you will require and hold them. With good stock management you should have access to the Beans you require all year round.
What is the first thing you do when you arrive at the roastery in the morning?
When arriving at the roastery, first thing is to get the roaster on. Its important that the roaster is fully warmed up, including the flue liner so that from roast one you can roast consistently.
I’ll have a pot of coffee on the go, made from our Cona Standard Kitchen Model syphon. This is what I’ve used to drink coffee with all my life. They don’t make them new anymore so I have to find replacements when the glass breaks from second hand shops/ebay etc
Then a plan will be made, how many kilograms of what beans are needed for wholesale and online orders. By this time the roaster will be fully warmed up and ready to go.
How long does it typically take to roast a batch of beans (and then, subsequently, prepare them)?
Luckie Beans roasts will typically vary from just under 10 minutes to 12 minutes & 45 seconds depending on the origin/batch size. When the batch is dropped out of the roaster into the cooling the bin the beans will typically be cool within a couple of minutes.
What tasks, aside from operating the roaster itself, do you need to do on a roast day?
On a roast day, other tasks would involve labelling and stamping coffee bags, processing orders with courier companies, and cupping our roasts.
How do you assure the quality of your roasts?
We have data logging software hooked up to 4 thermocouples on the coffee roaster. This allows us to track the temperature changes in real time within the roaster, and helps us to roast consistently. Roasting coffee is all about consistency, and it is easier said than done to achieve this. When the beans are in the roaster and heat is applied, the beans give off steam. Typically the beans will have around 12% moisture content before roasted.
Then you have stages known as first crack, and even 2nd crack if you want to roast very dark. At these stages the beans explode like popcorn shedding their skin which affects the temperature within the coffee roaster. It’s all about having a declining rate of increase of temperature and the temperature not crashing and not flicking. There are a number of principles that I have built up over the years that help achieve this, and we feel that we are roasting better than ever.
What advice would you have for someone who is interested in starting a career in coffee?
It depends on what the person was looking to do within the industry. You could go into being a green bean coffee trader, a sales rep for a larger coffee roasting business, a barista at your local coffee shop and so on. There are a number of avenues to go down. I’d say you need to be passionate about coffee, work hard, persevere and have goals.
What would you say to someone who is interested in becoming a coffee roaster, specifically, who is just starting their career in coffee?
Tricky question. When I decided to start Luckie Beans and roast coffee I purchased a Diedrich with savings and went from there. Prior to this I had only roasted coffee in my oven! So that’s one way to do it. I suppose more traditional ways would be to get a job with a larger coffee roasting business as a roasters assistant or similar and work your way up. Having a good palate is essential along with a genuine passion for coffee. Coffee roasting is all about marginal gains and being meticulous.
Luckie operates coffee carts in Edinburgh and Glasgow. It seems coffee carts are quite popular in Scotland. Why did Luckie open coffee carts instead of a whole store?
Coffee carts are great! They allow you to concentrate on coffee. They are all about the coffee. Whereas in a store, coffee is often diluted by the food offering, brunch and so on. Also, when you have a coffee cart within a train station, airport, market you have a wider customer base. You learn a lot more about your product serving the wider population than a store ever will.
What coffee(s) are you drinking at the moment?
Love Lane House Blend.
What roaster(s) do you use at Luckie?
A Diedrich IR2.5
Where did the name Luckie Beans come from?
Luckie is part of my surname.
You can find out more about Luckie Beans on their website at www.luckiebeans.co.uk or on their Instagram @luckie_beans. The photo used in this article was provided by Jamie from Luckie Beans.