A Journey Into the World of Coffee
Every morning, people around the world start their day with a comforting cup of coffee. But have you ever wondered how your coffee came to taste the way it does? The key lies in the roast profile. The art of roasting is like uncovering the soul of the coffee seed – or bean, as it’s more commonly known.
Today, we’ll talk about the dance of roasting, revealing how each turn and twist can influence the final flavor.
The Art of Coffee Roasting
Coffee roasting plays a central role in coffee production. It transforms the chemical and physical properties of coffee beans, defining its taste, aroma, and appearance. Simply put, without roasting, we wouldn't recognize coffee as we know it.
The equipment used for it – the roaster – can be as basic as a frying pan or very sophisticated, with automated operation, digital temperature probes and precise heat and airflow controls.
Roasting starts with introducing green coffee beans into a roasting machine. Contrary to popular belief, the temperature range for coffee roasting is similar to the temperatures we use for baking and roasting in our home ovens. As the beans are roasted, they lose moisture, expand, change color, and develop the complex flavors that define coffee.
Coffee roasting profiles refer to the specific time-temperature curves that roasters follow to achieve particular flavors and characteristics in the finished product. Historically, coffee was roasted over open flames, and the roasting was controlled mainly by sight, smell, and sound (like the crackling of the beans). However, as the coffee industry evolved in the 20th century, particularly in the latter half, there was a push towards consistency and replicability in roasting. This was driven by both the growth of specialty coffee and the development of more sophisticated roasting machines equipped with digital controls and sensors.
With the introduction of computer technology and specialized software, roasters could chart and replicate specific roasting curves with precision. As more people started loving specialty coffee and its unique flavors and origins, it became even clearer how important it was to have consistent and tailored roasting profiles.
Decoding Roast Profiles: The Spectrum of Flavor
It’s common to find an indication of the roast level in coffee bags. Usually referred to as “Light”, “Medium” or “Dark”. Here’s how these levels, in an oversimplification, impact the taste of coffee:
Light Roasts: Characterized by a light brown hue, these beans are roasted for a shorter period, preserving the unique flavors of the coffee's origin. Expect brighter acidity, pronounced fruitiness, and sometimes floral notes.
Medium Roasts: Offering a balance between origin flavors and the flavors developed in the roasting process, medium roasts are medium brown with a fuller body compared to light roasts. These provide a blend of origin flavors with the caramelized sweetness from roasting. Notes can range from fruity to nutty and even chocolaty.
Dark Roasts: Dark brown to almost black, dark roasts emphasize the flavors from the roasting process itself, often yielding a bold, smoky, and sometimes bittersweet taste.
When it comes to roast profiles, the complexity goes beyond just the roast levels above. A coffee roast profile is usually divided in three distinct phases, each contributing in a particular way to the final taste and characteristics of the beans. By understanding these phases and manipulating the variables within them, roasters can craft their signature roast profiles.
Drying Phase: This initial stage involves heating the beans to remove moisture. The charge temperature, or the temperature at which the green beans are introduced into the roaster, plays a significant role in this phase. A higher charge temperature may lead to a quicker drying process, while a lower temperature may extend the drying time. Extending the drying phase too much can lead to unpleasant rubbery notes, while shortening it too much may risk uneven development and a smoky, chalky taste.
Maillard Phase: This is where sugars and amino acids react, giving the beans a brown color and producing a range of flavor compounds. Adjusting the temperature and the duration of this phase can significantly affect the taste. Extending the Maillard reaction can enhance the body and sweetness, bringing out caramel, nutty, and chocolate notes. Shortening this phase may preserve the brightness and origin characteristics.
Development Phase: This phase, often guided by careful control of drop temperature (the temperature at which the roast is terminated), focuses on the development of the beans' inherent flavors. Lengthening this stage may emphasize the roast characteristics, while a shorter development phase will highlight the coffee's origin flavors, which is usually the preference at Hypergoat. With that said, for espresso blends, a longer development time is usually beneficial.
Different variables such as airflow, drum speed, and gas pressure can also be altered during the roast to fine-tune the profile. Experimentation with these variables allows for endless possibilities in flavor expression, and this knowledge is crucial in the roasting process to deliver the desired taste spectrum to coffee enthusiasts.
Here at Hypergoat, one of our goals is to highlight and share special, original, and unique origin flavors, which mean our roast profiles will always be on the lighter side of the spectrum.
20 Coffee Roasting Fun Facts
- The Popcorn Effect: When coffee beans are roasted, they make a distinctive popping noise, similar to popcorn.
- Coffee Shrinks: Coffee beans lose about 15-20% of their weight during roasting due to water loss.
- Roast Date: Specialty coffee enthusiasts often prefer beans within two weeks of roasting for peak flavor.
- Acidity vs. Altitude: Beans grown at higher altitudes tend to produce coffees with brighter acidity.
- Caramelization: This is a key chemical reaction during roasting that brings out the sweetness in coffee beans.
- Maillard Reaction: This reaction between amino acids and sugars in the bean is responsible for coffee's brown color and toasted flavor.
- Chaff: During roasting, beans shed a thin skin called chaff.
- Bean Expansion: Coffee beans can almost double in size during the roasting process.
- Decaf Roasting: Decaffeinated beans roast faster than regular beans due to structural changes during the decaffeination process.
- Tasting, Not Drinking: Roasters use "cupping" to taste and evaluate coffee by slurping it to aerate and spread it evenly over the palate.
- The Short Lifespan: Coffee beans begin to lose flavor just 30 minutes after grinding.
- Oxygen Enemy: Oxygen is coffee's enemy. Specialty beans are often packaged with one-way valves to let out carbon dioxide and prevent oxygen from entering.
- Coffee Belts: Specialty coffees are often grown between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, known as the "coffee belts."
- Ethiopia: Believed to be the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia boasts the most diverse coffee flavors in the world.
- Terroir in Coffee: Like wine, coffee beans take on flavors from their soil, climate, and elevation.
- Nordic Roasting: This style, popularized by Nordic countries, favors very light roasts to maximize origin flavors.
- Gas in the Beans: After roasting, beans release carbon dioxide, which is why fresh coffee can sometimes be bubbly.
- Peak Flavor: While many believe fresh off the roast is best, most coffees have peak flavor a few days post-roasting.
- Roast Masters: Like master sommeliers in wine, there are master roasters who have honed their skills to perfection.
- Continuous Learning: Even for seasoned roasters, each batch can be a learning experience, given coffee's complexity.
Discovering Your Perfect Brew
So, how do you pick your ideal roast level? Coffee, like art, is subjective. Your ideal roast might depend on:
Personal Taste: Do you prefer bright, fruity, acidic notes or a deep, smoky flavor?
Brewing Method: Espresso often benefits from a medium or slightly darker roast, while manual brew methods might shine with light to medium roasts.
Coffee Origin: Beans from different origins have distinct flavor profiles. Ethiopian beans might dazzle as a light roast, while a Sumatran bean might benefit from a more developed roast profile.
Don't be afraid to experiment! Buy sample sizes and play with brew methods. Your perfect cup is out there, waiting to be discovered.
Browse through our collections today and share your experiences in the comments below. Let's embark on this flavorful journey together!