Old drum roasters have a way of becoming the dominant character of a room. With their round faces, eye-like windows, and trier handles that, through a squint, could double as noses, they’re well built to be dressed in personalities. One roaster became a locomotive conductor to me in a split second, and I think of trains when its home café is mentioned. During a meeting at Heart Roasters, the Probat UG15 slowly transmogrified into a rotund, black-robed professor reading a lecture through a monocle.
The character is more than my imagination scampering away from me. The seating space at Heart’s southeast Portland café bulges and bends around the roaster, which while not in the middle of the café is the gravitational center. Then there’s the elegant crescent table that curves around the roaster’s cooling tray. The customers sitting along it on hard-backed school chairs, busy at their notebooks and MacBooks, resemble attentive students in a tiny auditorium.
The result is one of the most intimate and performance-like roasting experiences out there. Rebekah Yli-Luoma, who owns Heart with her
husband, Wille, says the roaster was placed out on the floor to maintain the open build of the café and lend the roasting more transparency. With transparency, though, comes accessibility. The table, while a gorgeous piece of furniture, was meant to double as a barrier. While it kept handsy customers from burning themselves, it didn’t stop inquisitive chatterboxes from distracting the roasters. A year ago, a “don’t disturb” sign had to go up.
Even still, the space allows a phenomenal amount of learning. Customer education, as is said over and over, is a vital part of specialty coffee, and those who sit at Heart’s C-shaped table are front row to an iron professor.
—Cory Eldridge is Fresh Cup’s editor.