Former Barista Now Roaster at First Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room

Sometimes a simple holiday gift can change a life in unexpected ways.

One Christmas morning, a dozen years ago, Mikey Graham gave his dad a small at-home coffee roaster. Although his father only tried it once or twice, he and his brother kept bringing it out – tasting and tinkering. He began to learn how to balance time, heat and temperature to unlock the potential of each coffee.

He was hooked.

Graham spent his day handcrafting beverages as a Starbucks barista at the Lakewood, Washington store and later the Gig Harbor location by day and honed his roasting skills at home by night. He experimented with different roasters, blends and techniques.

By 2005, he began working in packaging at Starbucks roasting plant in nearby Kent, Washington. He carpooled into work each day with some of Starbucks® roasters, bringing them lunch sacks filled with his own roasted coffees to sample. After about a year in the coffee packaging department, he began working as a roasting technician, and has been a roaster since 2011.

Now, Graham will be one of the first roasters at the new Starbucks® Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room. For the first time, customers can see the artisan roasters at work behind premium Starbucks Reserve® coffees just blocks from Starbucks original location at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

“I’m excited to be able to share my passion for roasting with customers,” Graham said. “They can finally experience the alchemy of coffee roasting first-hand – seeing the coffee spiral in, hearing the crackle of the coffee roasting, and taking in the aroma of fresh beans as they come down into the cooling tray.”

Graham and the team of roasters at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room will roast the entire portfolio of Starbucks Reserve coffees sold to customers around the world. The consolidation of small-batch roasting will allow Starbucks to expand the Starbucks Reserve coffee line to 1,500 stores around the world.

“The Roastery is a very different environment than a traditional closed manufacturing facility,” Graham said. “Here, my role is like being on a barista on a busy day, trying to focus on a line of drinks while connecting with customers at the same time. It’s a dream job, even better than I would have imagined.”

About the Craft of Roasting

With more than 40 years of roasting expertise, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room offers an intimate look at the craft behind the Starbucks® Roast.

The transformation begins when green (unroasted) beans are heated. After five to seven minutes of intense heat, the “first pop” occurs – the beans double in size, crackling as they expand. Between 11 and 15 minutes (depending on the coffee), the beans start to develop their full flavor potential. The “second pop” signals the moment is at hand. The beans are then released into a cooling tray, and then later travel through tubing to silos behind the bar or to an in-house pack line to be packaged.

The Roastery will roast Starbucks Reserve small-lot premium coffee on one of two roasters: the Probat™ G-120 Roaster, which roasts up to 260 pounds of green Starbucks Reserve coffees around the world and the Probat™ P25 Roaster, which roasts up to 25 pounds of green coffee for use in the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room café.

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Workforce Diversity at Starbucks