iaro × Arno Auer - how Specialty Coffee connects in Karlsruhe

Let’s talk about specialty coffee & great curiosity.

Staying curious - that's the philosophy of Arno Auer, owner of Wood Grouse Coffee Roasters in Hanover. The Micro Roastery stands for the maximum in quality in the roasting trade. The focus is on light-roasted specialty coffees from Central America and Africa, always from first-class green coffee. As a studied artist and Buddhist, Arno brings a special blend of creativity and mindfulness to his craft. Funky - and above all: incredibly inspiring.

Arno, share your story with us. Where are you from?
Sure, I'd love to. I was born in Munich and grew up in Stuttgart. I moved away when I was 25 and lived first in Hamburg and then in Berlin. I was born in '77, so I'm 45 years old.

We'll get straight to the question of the great love. How did your passion for coffee develop?
It all started about 15 years ago. I wanted to drink my coffee at home in a quality that I had previously only known from cafés. So I bought a single-group gastro espresso machine for my kitchen, connected it to the fixed water supply and practiced until I was satisfied with the result. Later, I started repairing defective espresso machines as a hobby.

So the fascination for coffee was one of the precursors for the roasting craft. But there's certainly more to it than that: How exactly did you go from artist to roaster?

As a trained photographer and artist, you're naturally always on the lookout for a second leg to stand on, because depending on the order situation, there's sometimes more and sometimes less going on. This makes you open to many things - and it was exactly this mindset that gave me the idea to contact my good friend Ricus Aschemann. Ricus has been running a coffee roasting company in Hanover for over 20 years. I asked him if I could roast my own coffee at his roaster to build my brand with it and try out how it goes. In the meantime, I'm roasting about 6 tons of coffee a year - and so my second mainstay became my first!

Flashback: Can you remember the very first coffee you roasted? What was its taste like?
The first coffee I roasted was a washed Ethiopian variety from the Guji region, from the Kelloo Washing Station in Gedeb. I still remember the taste exactly: wonderful and light, like white grapes and tropical fruit - very floral and tea-like.

Cross your heart: Which coffee was the best you ever roasted - and why?

One coffee that has remained very much in my memory was a natural from Costa Rica. The big thing there is that even small farms operate their own washing stations. So they not only have the quality of the coffee completely in their own hands, but also the space to experiment. The coffee came from the Don Sabino farm and tasted of dark berries, cherries and chocolate.

Back to your work as a roaster. How would you describe your own creations at Wood Grouse and what makes your coffee so special?
Having known light roasted coffees and Third Wave Coffee myself for years, it was clear that I wanted to work in a similar way: roasting without roast flavors, using single origins of the highest quality. At the same time, I wanted to work sustainably and transparently, and improve the situation of farmers in the countries of origin - where exploitative labor has been very common for decades.

At Wood Grouse, we only buy quality coffees that provide a fair income for the farmers. We roast these coffees lightly so as not to mask the coffee's flavors with roasted aromas. At the same time, we pay attention to seasonality so that we can always offer our customers fine and fresh coffees.

For iaro, you primarily roast Espresso #2. What makes this coffee so special in your opinion?
Espresso #2 was born from the idea of introducing people who are more used to a strong Italian-style espresso to lighter roasts. That means we chose a chocolatey Brasil Natural and blended it with a berry, Ethiopian Natural.

Your job as a roaster is not exactly comparable to a nine-to-five job. What does your typical roasting day look like?
We currently roast twice a week - Tuesdays and Fridays. I start in the morning by cleaning and preheating the roaster. This takes about 1/2 hour. During this time, I sift through all the orders and put together how many kilos of which type of coffee are needed. The orders are then roasted piece by piece in 6- or 9-kilo batches, depending on the variety. They are then freshly packed and usually shipped directly the following day.

Let's talk about favorite cafés! Where do you prefer to drink your coffee when you have time?
In Hanover, I love going to our friends at Fairbase Coffee or 24grad. But my favorite place to drink coffee is in Berlin - at Populus or Isla Café.

The most beautiful café is undeniably Linus Köster's törnqvist in Hamburg, which is unfortunately no longer on site. The best coffee of my life I had at 4850 in Amsterdam - roasted by April Coffee Roasters. An incredibly good Kenya Natural as an espresso.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to discover the world of coffee?
It's simple: be curious. And try absolutely everything that fascinates you!

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