Ikawa is a coffee company, based in London, set on revolutionising the coffee sector, both for coffee drinkers and producers. Whilst having already launched the “world’s first digital micro coffee roaster”, the team is now working on the launch of their Home Roaster, and continue to spread their vision for a fairer coffee supply chain. We spoke to the team about the company, how it started up and their innovative roasters.
1. How did the idea for Ikawa’s Digital Micro Coffee Roaster come about and what inspired the idea?
The ultimate concept behind the roaster is to enable an alternative supply chain where coffee producers get a larger slice of the value, and supply coffee drinkers with green, unroasted coffee beans. The beans can then be roasted exactly to the taste off the coffee drinker.
Ikawa’s vision is to improve coffee quality for coffee growers and for coffee drinker around the world.
The idea for this innovative micro coffee roaster was conceived by founder Andrew Stordy while he was studying product design at the Royal College of Art in London six years ago.
Andrew grew up in various coffee growing countries such as Burundi and Papua New Guinea and his father worked as an agronomist with coffee farmers. He had an insight into how growers of some of the finest coffee would not see the full value of their crops – as over 80% of the value chain is added after export, and often the roasters’ brand is more associated with the end product than the people who grew the coffee in the first place.
2. Explain how the machine works and how it differs from other coffee roasters.
The Ikawa Pro Sample Roaster is the first product to be launched by Ikawa. It hit the market in 2014 and is used by hundreds of coffee professional all around the world.
The roaster is used by coffee traders, speciality roasters and multinational coffee companies as a business tool for sample roasting. Priced at £2,200 it is a considerable investment, but compares favourably to alternatives on the market and offers many unique features.
The roast profile of the Ikawa Pro Sample Roaster is controlled by an iPad App which allows the user to control the way the temperature changes over time – setting the temperature to the degree per second. Being able to control sample roasts to this level of precision is unique. It allows coffee professionals to do consistent sample roasts every time which is really important when evaluating the quality of coffee samples.
The roast profile can be saved and shared – so for example an exporter in Brazil could email a roast profile to a customer in the UK to accompany a sample of coffee they send – enabling a the customer to achieve exactly the same flavours from the sample.
Furthermore, the roaster is compact and portable. You can take the roaster in hand luggage, plug in and roast anywhere in the world, and it can be installed anywhere with no need for external venting which traditional sample roasters require.
3. How long did the roaster take to develop? Did you have any difficulties?
It’s taken many years of dedication and hundreds of prototypes to take the roaster from concept to reality.
The biggest challenge was to build a machine that could reproduce a roast accurately, regardless of the environment. During the roast process a papery skin comes off the coffee – called chaff. Over time this would block a normal filter, so a major breakthrough came when Ikawa developed a unique patented roasting technology that includes a cyclone that will never get blocked. Ikawa received support from the James Dyson Foundation to patent this.
Ikawa founder Andrew Stordy
4. You’re about to launch the Ikawa Home Roaster, how will this change the home coffee experience?
We’re really excited about the Ikawa Home Roaster that will be launched in 2016 following our Kickstarter campaign that raised over £150,000 in May this year. It demonstrated a healthy appetite for our Home Roaster.
Home coffee roasting is quite a niche thing at the moment because it is complex and you have to be a real expert to get good results. Our Home Roaster is designed to make roasting coffee from home straight forward and rewarding for people who have never roasted before, and will allow experienced home roasters the opportunity to take their expertise to the next level.
We see the Ikawa Home Roaster and the next major advancement in coffee connoisseurship: However you like your coffee whether it’s a dark or light roast, or brewed by AeroPress or cafetière, it comes from “green” unroasted coffee beans. To get the perfect coffee you need the best green beans and the ideal roast recipe tailored to those beans.
Ikawa will offer a range of top quality green coffee beans from iconic locations, and provide specially developed roast recipes to bring the best flavours out of the beans.
Then if you’re feeling adventurous, adjust recipe to create your own perfect roast: change roast duration, temperature and even the air flow with your smartphone or tablet to open up a world of flavours.
Ikawa is building a community of coffee lovers who can share their roast recipes through Twitter, by email, or on our website and it will be fascinating to see all the great roast recipes that are created – and the connections people make around the world through their shared experiences.
5. Your aim is “to encourage and enable an alternative supply chain for speciality coffee, traded outside the commodity system” – how do you plan to achieve this?
The Ikawa Home Roaster enables consumers to roast coffee at home, and a core part of our vision is to improve coffee producers’ share in the value chain.
The ultimate aim of Ikawa is that one day coffee producers will be able to sell their green coffee direct to consumers, along with their own recommended roast recipes. This is a new dimension to Direct Trade; where the producers are the experts and the provenance and unique characteristics of their coffee can shine through.
We realise that is still a few years away, so in the meantime, we are working to achieve our goals through the following steps:
6. In one sentence, tell us why the Ikawa coffee roaster is innovative.
The Ikawa coffee roasters use innovative technology to allow Home and Pro users to create, share and repeat precise roast profiles, leading to a better experience for coffee professionals, traders, producers and drinkers – allowing them to get the best from their coffee.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2021
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