Learn to roast with Australia’s first Q-Arabica coffee instructor – a position held by around only 50 people globally.
Craig Simon knows coffee – but not in the same way that your favourite barista does. Simon has had nearly 20 years’ experience in the coffee industry working every link in the chain, judging at the World Barista Championships and being crowned Australia’s champion barista three times. He’s also Australia’s first Q-Arabica instructor.
Q-instructors are to coffee what master sommeliers are to wine. There are only around 50 worldwide, and you have to study for years and pass a series of 22 tests to achieve the qualification. Simon’s experience and expertise as a Q-instructor both form the foundations for his latest venture, Criteria Coffee.
It’s Melbourne’s newest coffee co-roasting space, where you can come in and facilitate your own production, learn the ins and outs of roasting and produce your own blend. Simon says anyone who is genuinely committed to roasting can utilise the space, but it was designed with two primary user groups in mind.
“It’s for people who want to roast but can’t necessarily afford the infrastructure of a coffee roaster; and people such as cafe owners, who would roast, say, 25 to 100 kilos a week,” he says. “The reality is that the cost of a roasting space compared to the cost of coffee means that you’d need to sell around 1000 kilos a week to break even, so this gives more people an opportunity.”
The Port Melbourne warehouse space is both no-fuss and inviting, with timber workspaces, figs and monsteras warming the room up. Simon’s partner Andrea Simon used her background in interior design to envision the fit-out, and then the pair built it themselves.
“We marked the floor with tape and then just got on the tools and started building ourselves,” Andrea says. “The space is definitely a labour of love and was certainly DIY, but we really love it.”
Simon’s education covers both theoretical and practical aspects of coffee roasting, with an emphasis on understanding the importance of the crop to cup process. He says the first step people should take before visiting is to ensure they’re ready to commit to the roasting process.
“We’ll have a discussion about what you want your coffee to taste like, do a tasting so I can suggest raw materials to achieve those flavours within your price range,” he says. “Then we’ll learn how to roast the coffee. I’ve got a set of parameters and inputs that we provide as a guideline to get people started, which lets them immediately serve high quality coffee.”
If you already have some experience roasting, Simon will act as more of a consultant.
“For those with experience it’s mostly about helping them with quality control and consistency, as well as understanding the particular behaviour of the roasting system that I’ve got,” he says. “I’ll also help you understand the process of sourcing green coffee and locking it in for a period of time to maintain stability, and knowing the ins and outs of being a roasting manufacturer.”
Criteria Coffee also hosts masterclasses and training sessions for baristas and roasters of all levels, so the space acts as an education hub as well as a roastery.
There’s plenty going on in the Port Melbourne warehouse, but when Simon finds time for a coffee, he says filter is his preferred method.
“I tell everyone that the best way to have it is the way you like it. So there’s no need to feel like you’re missing out if you enjoy coffee a particular way,” he says. “Personally, I like filter. It really lets me taste coffee – which is obviously a massive part of my job – without feeling overwhelmed.”
Photography: Courtesy of Criteria Coffee