When you order a steak, you are asked “How would you like that cooked?” Why? Because the meat will taste different due to the effects of heat on the meat as time elapses. Rare, you will taste the meat, blood, and natural juices; medium, you will taste less of the juices, the meat will be less tender and begin to have a charred taste on the outside; well done and there’s very little of the meat’s flavor, no juices, and mostly a char taste from the grill. What does this have to do with coffee roasting profiles? As you will read, they are nearly one in the same.
As we discussed last week about what happens when we roast your coffee, we begin with the coffee in its state after being processed and imported as green coffee. Before it’s roasted green coffee is a raw un consumable product containing all the elements of a coffee bean, for lack of one, same as a steak – heat. Heat and time are what affect coffee roasting profiles from start to finish. It is these different stages of roasting (cooking) that give the beans a different color, taste, and acidity. Coffee Roasting as defined by the National Coffee Association is”Roasting brings out the aroma and flavor that is locked inside the green coffee beans. A green bean has none of the characteristics of a roasted bean. It is soft and spongy to the bite and smells green, almost ‘grassy.’ Roasting causes numerous chemical changes to take place as the beans are rapidly brought to very high temperatures. When they reach the peak of perfection, they are quickly cooled to stop the process. Roasted beans smell like coffee, and weigh less because the moisture has been roasted out. They are crunchy to the bite, ready to be ground and brewed”. We will discuss the different coffee roasting profiles from light to dark and what different terms are used to describe them.
Light roasts are the first of all the roast profiles as it is reached a few degrees beyond the first crack about 400-407 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the preferred roast profile for quality high mountain grown Arabica Coffees such as Jamaica Blue Mountain, Kona, and Kopi Luwak. This will allow the bean’s true flavor come through in the cup. This is the point in the profile that most coffee cuppers will use to cup most coffees in order to experience the bean’s true flavor. Light roasts are often refer to a “Blonde, Light City, Half City, Cinnamon, or New England”. Though these terms are not used in any set defining category industry wide, they can give you a guideline as you choose among coffee roasting profiles.
These are the stages of coffee roasting from Green To very Dark
The next roast profile after light would be medium, which takes place about 10-14 degrees Fahrenheit after the light roast is reached. There will be a noticeable darker color and a more pronounced flavor and no oily residue on the outside of the bean. This roast will generally be at the first sign of the second crack of the roasting process and is referred to as “American Roast, City, or a breakfast roast. There will be a more pronounced acidity which is the sensation of crispness you get from your cup.
Shortly after this roast is the medium/dark roast which is only a few degrees further than a medium roast, and you may see some oils begin to appear on the surface. Coffees roasted at medium dark will have a bittersweet aftertaste and less pronounced acidity.
The next up in the line of coffee roasting profiles is a dark roast. This roast profile originated mostly in Europe and was brought to the U.S. in the mid 90’s by Starbucks Coffee. Starbucks introduced the US to a new coffee phenomenon we had never experienced, dark, full bodied coffee. Dark roast coffees tend to have little to no acidity in that the elements that compose a cup’s acidity have been roasted out. This is referred to as ” High, Continental, European, Espresso, Italian, and French”, as you will note the European descension. There will be a lot of oils that have been released from the bean since this roast is after the second crack which allows the oils to escape. Having a coffee such as Jamaica Blue Mountain Roasted Dark would be a waste of coffee as you will not experience the slow grown, sweetness and flavor of the bean. You will want to lean toward an Ethiopian, Kenya, Colombian or Brazil to hold up and offer more flavor on a dark roast so be sure to ask your Barista when you order.
Here is another guide to visualizing different coffee roast profile