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17th November
written by Chris

Software development is about process refinement.  Try something, see if it works, revise, adapt, reset, and try again.  If you’re doing the same thing the same way every time you’re not moving forward and, in this field, that means you’re falling behind.  Do that long enough and you start to apply it to other things in your life.  I switched from a QWERTY layout to Dvorak for more or less that reason (working out well, by the way) and I’ve taken up baking and gotten into coffee with much the same approach.  

Baking really lends itself to this process of iterative improvement – just change the recipe one thing at a time and see if you like the result better or worse.  It’s a simple problem, in that sense.  Coffee is more complex and feels a lot more like software engineering.  It’s fairly easy to improve the standard cup you probably drink at work.  Better beans is the easiest but you can easily swap that Mr Coffee for a better brewing system, start grinding your own, measure your grounds instead of eye-balling it… the list goes on and on.  More to the point, it seems like changing something major in the process throws everything off.  I switched from using an Aeropress to a French Press, for example, and had to learn an entirely different system of brewing.

So, because my life isn’t complicated enough, I’ve started messing around with roasting my own coffee.  I ordered some green coffee beans, appropriated an old popcorn air popper and set it up in the garage by the exhaust fan.  Then it’s off to the races.  I’m reasonably sure this isn’t the best popper I can use and there is certainly some work to be done on the process but it worked out better than I expected.

Here are my green coffee beans ready to roast:


Green coffee beans are smaller than roasted ones

So we load them into the popcorn popper:


Turns out this was too many beans and some of them burned.

And after a fair bit of crackling and popping:


Fresh roasted goodness

Four minutes worth of roasting:


Then we let them cool before storage

Now to see if I can work out why I can’t keep beans in the popper as they darken up and if that’s a feature or a bug.  Right now the downside of this process is waste beans.  Maybe if I can reduce the burn rate I can reuse the ones that get kicked out early.

In any case, something tells me I’ll be encouraging my team to hit its sprint goals with baked goods and coffee.


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