Haupz Blog

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Tabletop Coffee Roasting

2021-05-01 — Michael Haupt

Board game time!

I'm enough of a coffee nerd to do my own roasting at home. Consequently, when I learned about the solo board game Coffee Roaster, it was entirely predictable and obvious what would happen. I've now finally played it for the first time. I cannot spare you a bit of unboxing discovery. Sponsored by a cup of delicious (home roasted) Maragogype from Guatemala.

The box is full of goodness, the materials are designed with great attention to detail and love to attention. An info sheet about coffee and the instructions are included in both German and English. So do the two small cardboard envelopes with coffee cards - these are the ones that you pick for roasting. The box has a nice fitting inlay that has all the compartments pre-marked with what cardboard chips should go in on the bottom of the box. Lovely. There are chips for beans at different stages of roasting - green hard bean to grade 4 to burnt bean -, for faulty beans, smoke, humidity, aroma development, and taste optimisation.

One round of the game consists of two parts: roasting and cupping. The black sachet plays an important role in both. The coffee card (I picked a Brazilian variety) says what chips go into the sachet at the beginning of the roasting process (typically, humidity, hard green beans, some grade-0 beans, and aroma development).

The round marker (the red round marker at the top) depicts how many chips I pull from the sachet - the very first move brought me some grade-0 beans and one aroma developer. The latter I can apply to do some spontaneous fixing operations (such as getting rid of burnt or faulty beans), or to acquire bonus taste developers for the cupping. The former are, well, roasted - this happens by replacing them with beans of a higher roasting grade. These go back into the sachet for the next roasting round.

As soon as the round marker hits the red area, smoke is added to the sachet (accurate: the more you roast, the more smoke there is), and care should be taken to not let that make it to the cup. The taste really isn't that good then.

It is the player's decision when the roasting should stop. The little red cube right above the main roasting table is used to track the overall roasting grade in the sachet - depending on what coffee you're roasting, it's good to stop the process sooner or later. Given the Brazilian beans I had picked for roasting, I decided to stop just before the round marker hit the second red field, which would have added more smoke.

On to cupping.

Cupping takes place by placing chips in the cup and then evaluating the outcome. You can see I acquired two taste bonuses (the square chips in the cup). Again, chips are pulled from the sachet and placed in the cup - or discarded by placing them in the "trash area" on the roasting table. There is a limited number of places both in the cup and in the trash, so the choices are important. If the trash is filled too early and a smoke chip lands in the cup, that's a minus point.

I scored 8 points in total here - mostly because I made some bad decisions. Purposefully, I didn't look at the rules too closely to learn from failure.

The score card shows I got 4 points for the roasting itself. The sum of roasting grades is 18, which is just barely acceptable. 14 would have been ideal - I'd have scored 10 points. I made the mistake of placing too many beans with higher roast grade in the cup. That makes sense - this kind of Brazilian bean doesn't like to be roasted too much, it's better for light roasts. I also got one point for taste development because I added the sweetness bonus. Finally, there's 3 points because I have a very balanced number of beans from each roast grade (1, 2, and 3). That adds up to 8. Not bad, but there's room for more!

The game is, all in all, a rather apt analogy of the roasting process as a board game. I was surprised by how accurately the process is modelled in the gameplay, and very pleased with how much fun it was to play it. Highest recommendation.

Tags: games