Part I: The Basics of Coffee Roasting

When we receive the coffee, it’s green.

Roasting is cooking the beans from green to brown.

And that’s all the time we have for today. Thanks for tuning into CREMA Action News, where we bring the news--and your morning coffee--right to you.

*unclips lapel mic*

*is handed piece of paper*

*puts on lapel mic*

I’ve just been handed a late-breaking news bulletin. “TELL VIEWERS MORE ABOUT COFFEE ROASTING!” it says. And so, without further ado, here is Part One of of our series on coffee roasting.

Coffee, as you know, is the seed of a fruit. Roasting is the process by which that pasty-green seed matures into a complex, ready-to-brew coffee bean.

In just a few minutes, the green bean develops sugars and acids which, by myriad mystical ways, form the balanced, sweet taste you’re looking for. The formerly pale, green-ish yellow bean receives a matte milk chocolate finish after a quick jaunt in the roaster.

Like what you see? Available in a 12x18 photo print, click to shop.

Like what you see? Available in a 12x18 photo print, click to shop.

Because of coffee’s humble fruit beginnings, we like to keep it that way. So you won’t hear us using words like “dark,” “light,” or “medium” when it comes to roasting.

We prefer the term “profile roasting.” Profile roasting is a precise, measured roasting style that “customizes” each batch of coffee.

Each individual coffee has a “profile” we’re shooting for, a certain set of characteristics, a precise interplay of acids and sugars, a cocktail of compounds and chemical reactions.

To properly play with the coffee’s inherent acids and sugars, we start with what we know about the coffee already (say, that Kenyan coffees are generally fruity and bright), and with an idea of which tasting qualities we want to highlight in the coffee. We will dive into more specifics in part two, but, say we roasted a Kenyan coffee, and found the product to be too tart and bright, lacking a balancing sweetness. In our next batch, we would build those balancing sugars a little more (don’t worry--we’ll explain all this in part two), complementing the already-present fruity acidity.

In profile roasting, everything is charted, measured, and customized. Though technically our coffee is sort of “light-to-medium” roasted (in color, it’s what a Milky Way bar might look like after emerging from a blender), you won’t hear us describe it that way.

Roasting, for us and for many others, signifies a move to honor the individual coffees, farmers, and farms. Coffee is much too nuanced for just two categories--“light” and “dark.”

We just find “light” and “dark” to be unhelpful (if we were a Star Wars-themed coffee roaster, though, things would be a lot different). Often, light roasting can mean “underdeveloped coffee.” And usually, dark roasting means “way overdeveloped, pan-seared coffee.”  

So don’t go to the dark side. But don’t go to the light side either. 

More reading: Part II: The Basics of Coffee Roasting.