Reblog: Office Essentials St. Louis Technology Spotlight: Kaldi’s Coffee

I do some writing for my company’s (Office Essentials) blog on occasion and this is my most recent piece. You can find the original HERE and feel free to browse, share or comment on past articles, by me or any of the other excellent folk there. 

As part of my ongoing look at how St. Louis companies use technology, I recently had the opportunity to talk with Frank McGinty, Director of Sales and Marketing for Kaldi’s Coffee in St. Louis, Missouri. Kaldi’s is just one well-known, local partner for Office Essentials and I thought it would be interesting to know a bit about how they utilize technology in their business to bring about the product that is known so well.

Kaldi’s is known for their hand-roasted coffees, but make no mistake, they’re a modern company who understands how to integrate their time-tested, manual procedures with the benefits of today’s technological advances.

I asked Frank to describe the different ways Kaldi’s brings tech into their world of hand-crafted products.

“The first one that comes to mind is with roasting specifically. Everything is still- I call it hand-roasted because the guys are still altering dials that control the open flame, right? But they have a piece of technology that kind of tracks, due to two temperature probes and timers, it’ll essentially track the trajectory of the roast.”

You can picture the massive, old bean roasters, with their rotating blades and huge hoppers, adapted and attached by a few wires to these probes which are then attached to a computer screen or a laptop computer that is tracking the rise and fall of the temperature of the beans in this particular roast over time.

“They’ll pre-warm the barrel, add coffee, then the temperature drops, plateaus and then recovers, then starts increasing as the roast progresses, being able to throw that data on a chart they’re able to save for every roast. Then afterward, as they go back and taste the coffee they can say, “Hey, the recipe you did last Tuesday for this house blend is the best I’ve ever tasted, let’s save that as a new trajectory.” We use that equipment quite a bit.”

Kaldi’s uses these recipes as roadmaps to replicate certain roasts, but it’s nothing that you can simply plug into the computer then set on the roaster and walk away.

“We will kind of copy and paste these trajectories making sure we’re all on the same page with how heat and time are applied to the same product across our brands- We’ve got two other brands. One is Honolulu Coffee Company in Hawaii and the other one is called Frothy Monkey Roasting Company- but the roasters are always there manually manipulating the temperature on the beans, following along with the tracking data we’ve been able to log.”

As you might imagine, they didn’t always have these probes and monitors attached to computers that can log everything and store it for quick retrieval. Technology plays a much larger role in Kaldi’s products today than ever before.

“Yeah, literally only maybe five, six years ago, the guys had a clipboard and pencil and they had waypoints when they would check the time and make notes. As I mentioned, the temperature dips then recovers, and they’d have to log it, things like, “after 1:26 recovery happened- four minutes until the first crack,” throughout the entire roast. The first crack is like the audible sound of popcorn, it’s actually the cell structure of the coffee bean rupturing. They would manually write this down for every single roast we did, and we would just have charts and charts and charts”

So, from the days of their roasters carrying a stopwatch, a pad of paper and a pencil, to today when computers log temperature changes and times for their roasts, Kaldi’s compiles their data and stores it in the Cloud making it easier than ever to share data with their entire company and their partners. This includes all the information they use to run their business.

“We have a guy on our team who built a data analytics program through Power BI (a Microsoft application) and he’s essentially able to pull all of our inventory, sales, and customer information. It’s kind of a combination between a CRM and a data analytics tool. That’s helped us a lot from a customer support, customer service standpoint: What does their product mix look like? How often do they order? And everything in between. And again, before, it was just a bunch of Excel spreadsheets with information.”

The last aspect of technology that Kaldi’s utilizes, and very well I might add, is social media. It’s almost a necessity in today’s business world, to stay in front of customers and investors and I asked Frank if Kaldi’s had someone dedicated to that mission.

“Yeah, for sure. She oversees all of that and all of our community events, charities, donations, event activations, that kind of stuff. She’s managing and she and I work together quite a bit. We’re always trying to figure out through like, Instagram Insights, for example, and all the data we get from that is like, what’s working? What’s not to like? Like lately we’ve been doing giveaways. So, you know, Mother’s Day, give away a free coffee class, or a Cardinals ticket giveaway, and it’s been interesting to see the engagement and how the use of hashtags and all other things that are somewhat algorithm driven, affect what we do. Sometimes it’s just luck of the draw if it works or not.”

I appreciate the fact Kaldi’s relies on someone in-house to accomplish this. Frank mentioned it’s easier now to find someone you can hire from outside, but they prefer to handle it themselves.

“You can pay people to come in, a consultant, to tell us what might work or what all the data means, but you know, we’re trying to figure it out internally, it’s kind of almost beta testing, like, hey, if we do this, then this happens. Then if we do it next week, and it didn’t have the same effect- it’s a learning curve all the time.”

I’d say they’re learning a lot and putting their knowledge to good use. Their list of accolades is available on their website https://kaldiscoffee.com and while there you can also see other ways they’ve integrated technology into their business. You can also sign up for coffee classes, get tips for home brewing and a lot more on their site, including what’s next to come from this innovatively traditional St. Louis roaster.

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Will A Blog By Any Other Name Still Be Thorny?

Who gave it that title, gangsta rap? It’s reality rap. It’s about what’s really going on.” ~Eazy-E

For Day 2 of Blogging 101, we were to address the first thing readers see when visiting the blog, the Title. The Tagline is also important as it’s intended to give a general idea what the blog is about. That’s tough when the blog is really about everything, or nothing, at least not in particular. I’ve struggled with the title for as long as I’ve been writing my blog.

Cautious Realism stems from considering myself to be a Realist where others might call me a Pessimist. I’m not a doom and gloom kind of guy, but I’m not going to pull punches. I’ll tell it like it is as I see it. Maybe I should change the title to be more of a warning to potential readers? “Caution, Snark Imminent!” or something like that?

SNARK

Leave me a comment with any suggestions on a new name and thanks for reading.

Why I’m Here

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.

~Henry Ford

Years ago I decided that I would start a blog and it served primarily as a way to engage in self-therapy. I figured that if I could just start talking, even to myself, I might be able to work through some issues I was having.

I’ve always been a writer at heart and I still feel that way though I seldom make the time to be one in practice. This blog became a means to that end when I told myself I’d make a post every day, or when I started publishing bits and pieces of my writing (fiction) here via various prompts and/or activities, like the Blogging 101 class, for instance.

When I started blogging I never cared much who might read it or if anyone would read it, it was mostly for me. As time has gone on I’ve found I really enjoy engaging with readers and other bloggers with regards to the opinions or thoughts I share on my blog. Getting a huge audience has never been a priority, but I definitely enjoy the fact other people read my words and I’m probably a bit more careful with the presentation as a result. I’m not going to censor myself because others are reading, but I’ll probably proofread a second time or be more mindful of my composition. I’m vain and I wouldn’t want people reading my blog thinking, “This guy sounds like an uneducated imbecile.”

Readers may think that because they don’t agree with my opinions, but that’s fine. I’m not asking anyone to agree with everything I say.

Onward & Upward

Having my own blog led me to start writing about the St. Louis Blues on other websites. You can currently find my hockey posts at The Hockey Writers. I’m definitely still looking for opportunities to write more and I would love to be writing for a living. That chance hasn’t presented itself yet, but I’ll continue looking for it.

Whether you follow my blog or just come every once in a while to check out what’s new, you’ll find me occasionally voicing my opinion on current events, sharing recipes, restaurant experiences, baseball insights, or samples of my favorite music and books. Since I’ve taken my specialty writing (about hockey) off-site, my blog remains a sort jack-of-all-trades kind of entity. That’s not to say it couldn’t become something more focused in the future, but I enjoy a lot of different things in life and for now I’m content with them all being a part of my blog

Thanks again for taking time to read, I hope you’ll leave comments during your stay.

Commenting with Confidence

Thanks again to Blogging 101 via The Daily Post & WordPress U. This course has been fun and I look forward to more each day.

Today’s assignment: read six posts written in response to yesterday’s prompt, and leave comments on at least two of them.

Going to list the six blogs I read for yesterday’s prompt response, just to give a little linky love:

Brainwashed Beautiful Mind

Rock, Paper, Scissors (Lizard, Spock)

Serena.

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

The Sunny Narrative.

Reflections

I chose to comment on more than 2, because the posts jarred some bit of memory loose from the clutter in my brain. Interacting with readers and other bloggers is part of what I enjoy about the entire experience, especially when you come across those of like mind or interests.

 

 

Building a Better Blogroll with Blogging 101

Readers and (especially!) commenters help to enrich my blogging experience. I’d write without them, though perhaps in a different voice, but over time I’ve come to derive more enjoyment because of the opportunity to interact with other writers and bloggers. Blogging 101 continues to be a fun exercise in tightening up my blog, dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s.

Today’s assignment: share a few links you love.

Below are three links to blogs you should be reading if you’re reading mine. Which you are. In the past you’d be able to see my entire blogroll in my sidebar, but I don’t want to beleaguered the point I’ve changed things up. I’m happy with the new look despite my penchant for reminiscing about my now hidden widgets.

I wanted to highlight a few that don’t usually get linked but that I enjoy and appreciate. Start clicking!

Only Here, Only Now. Thomas Ross provides much-needed affirmation, relaxation, and stress relieving posts here. I hope they have the same calming, introspective effect on you that I get from reading there.

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog. This is one you’ll find me linked to from time to time because of Lance Burson’s feature there: The 100 Word Song. I thought I’d share a portal to his world of fatherhood, music, and leftist snark because it’s (sadly) been a while since I made time to join in the 100 Word fun. 

Thin Spiral Notebook. I like Tara R.’s blog because it’s full of photographs and still contains her writing. I’d like to take a cue from This Spiral and put more of my own images on my blog.

I wanted to throw this last one in there because not only did I used to write for BleedinBlue.com but I remain a huge Blues hockey fan. They have great articles about the team, the NHL, and all things hockey. Give them a follow!

The Missing Sidebar & Making it Count

During the course of Blogging 101 I’ve completely revamped the look of my blog. In doing so, I’ve done away with the Sidebar feature in the spirit of drawing focus on the content of my posts. That makes this a little difficult:

Today’s assignment: add and/or customize two widgets, one text-based and one image-based.

I have a long list of widgets already set on my Sidebar, but my current Theme doesn’t show them. That could change moving forward if I decide on another make-over, but for now I’m sticking with my look. Please enjoy the following post as I completely ignore today’s task 😉

Photo Challenge: NIGHTTIME

I enjoy taking photos of the sky, be it daytime, nighttime, cloudy, sunny, or any combination of those conditions. I tried capturing a shot of the last Super Moon of 2014 recently with my iPhone camera. I’d love to have a DSLR, but until I get a job as a professional photographer I can’t justify the cost! 

Super Moon, Saint Louis, MO Sept. 23, 2014

Choices

I’ve been participating in Blogging 101 from WordPress U, and yesterday we were asked to make comments where we hadn’t previously. The new task is to “Be Inspired By the Community:”

Today’s assignment: write a post that builds on one of the comments you left yesterday. Don’t forget to link to the other blog!

I found Live & Learn, where David Kanigan will often share inspirational quote, poems, and some fantastic photography. I enjoyed his post and it prompted me to think about how I feel we’re shaped by the choices we make in our daily lives.

Whether good or bad, past choices make us who we are in the present. You can certainly choose not to think about or dwell on the unpleasant ones, but unless you’ve reflected on them enough to learn not to make those same mistakes again, shutting them out and denying them as an integral component of your current makeup isn’t healthy. Just as we enjoy remembering the positives, we must embrace the negatives as growth opportunities. They’re all part of us.

I made choices over 10 years ago to get married and have a child. My marriage didn’t last, and ended in divorce, but had I not taken that path I might not today have my wonderful daughter. I might also have pursued a direction that wouldn’t have led to the amazing woman I’m with now. Those choices play a role in how I look at the world and challenges presented on my present road.

What kinds of choices do you think about? Does one stand out in your memory? Regret isn’t a productive emotion, but sometimes we can’t help feeling it. The key is to try to focus on how we can use the choices we’ve made to make new ones we feel better about now.

Blogging 101: Be a Good Neighbor

I love to interact with my readers and with other bloggers through the comment section, so Blogging 101 has tossed up another easy one for me.

Today’s assignment: leave comments on at least four blogs that you’ve never commented on before.

I had one down before I even read this, commenting over at Blue Chicken Ninja about a poll question. Great way to prompt a conversation with readers, using polls.

Live & Learn is a new blog I’ve found since starting this course, and its creator gives us meaty food for thought today.

101 Books shares something from an author you probably know but aren’t immediately aware of.

Searching for the Happiness gives us some advice I know I’ll heed in my continued quest to figure out just exactly what in the world do I want to do for a living!

I plan to continue blogging well beyond the completion of this course, and I will always welcome comments from my readers as well as commenting on their posts too. The interaction often provides inspiration.

Blogging 101: Start Personalizing

This Blogging 101 task is somewhat easier for me because I’ve had this blog for a while now. Most of the personalization is done already, but there’s always room for improvement.

Today’s assignment: create and upload a simple header, background, or both. Already done? Try a custom widget.

I did add a new custom widget, since I’d already had my header completed. I’m not so sure about the “mission statement” part of it though. It feels too vague, but then again I’m not sure who I am these days or what I ultimately want to do. Pretty scary for 41 with a family. That’s a post for another day.

I really like the theme I chose last week, but it doesn’t show the Sidebar where all the widgets, including my new one, are usually visible. I’m wrestling with the idea of finding another new one that will show the bar, but probably not today. What do you think? Do you like the uncluttered look or would you prefer to see the bar right away, with things like Twitter, badges, blogroll, etc?

Blogging 101: Make Your “About” Page Irresistible

Today’s assignment: create and publish your About page, and adapt it for a widget on your home page.

The “what” of my blog has always been a bit hard to pin down, as I’ve not been ready to commit to any one genre or topic. It’s been a potluck- just whatever I decided to bring on any given day, often based on prompts found on other blogs and websites.

Who I am, on the other hand, is fairly simple to present, and I’ve had my About Me page published for as long as I can remember. Thanks to this assignment from Blogging 101 through The Daily Post I’ve made changes to my page that more accurately reflect current conditions. It was sorely out-dated.

Thanks again for reading.