Coffee Roasting 101 – with James Davison

James Davison is not likely to be found idle.

The founder of Williamstown Roasters speaks at a rapid rate, with passion and enthusiasm…. it’s possible he is overly-caffeinated, but with his award-winning blend never far from reach, why wouldn’t he be? “It’s one good thing about working with coffee – you have all the coffee you could possibly drink!”

Driving into the heavily industrialised neighbourhood that Williamstown Roasters calls home, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d taken a wrong turn. The Mobil Refinery casts an imposing shadow, but once you see James at work, you soon discover that he is perfectly comfortable in this industry-driven environment.

A Chemical Engineer by trade, James discovered his love for coffee on a trip to Europe. Combined with his love of tinkering, James quickly found a way to merge his interests, “I didn’t know how to coffee roast, so I had to teach a machine to do it for me.”

There is evidence of tinkering all over the Roasters’ warehouse. Books for endless research. Wires running here and there. Computer screens filled with data – data that keeps James on track towards the ultimate roast.IMG_0807

Trial and error is the name of the game, but James seems to have it down to a fine art. With such tight control over his coffee-making robot, quality is easily achieved and maintained. His pursuit of excellence, leading from a weekend coffee experiment, to a thriving career.

Sharing warehouse space with his father (a mining engineer) and brother (a professional film developer), this technical trio often combine knowledge to support each other’s businesses. Appreciative of the support, James acknowledges that having the benefit of his family’s combined experience, has served him well, “you need to stand on the shoulders of those around you – and I have some pretty big shoulders to stand on.”

Continuously innovating, James refuses to rest on his laurels, “That’s why I’m redoing the programming right now – I can do that better, I can do this different.” Research. Experiment. Repeat.IMG_0799

Listening intently, I struggle to keep pace, as James bounces from method to madness. He rebukes the term genius – “It’s just coffee,” – but genius is exactly how it sounds. He speaks of his A.I. coffee roasting, as though it is not of his own design, but there’s no denying that James is onto a winner – literally.

At the 2018 Australian International Coffee Awards, Williamstown Roasters picked up Silver Medals for their Railway and Cannon Blend in the espresso category. Selected from 743 entries, including 47 international exhibitors, James gives credit away when discussing the awards “the robot won.”

The robot is magnificent – a patchwork quilt of technical ingenuity. A non-stop working progress, creating caffeinated magic. James is the man behind the robot – credit where credit’s due.IMG_0811

So, how’s the coffee?

Bloody brilliant.

By applying his knowledge of chemistry to the coffee making process, the results are clean and complex. Not a bitter note in sight.

If you are keen to gain insight into the process of coffee roasting, Eat Drink Westside has put together an event, in conjunction with the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Williamstown Roasters is proudly hosting ‘Coffee Roasting 101’ on Monday 18 March, 6-8pm, tickets $21p.p – discover the complexity of coffee.

Melissa Longo


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