A brief piece on coffee roasts

We’ve received several inquiries recently about the coffee roasting process. And a few questions about the different coffee roasts that you can purchase. Here’s a short piece that will hopefully inform our readers with some insights into the roasting process and what the different roasting profiles are like.

Most people have seen the finished product from the roasting process. Those dark brown beans that when ground for brewing give off that wonderful aromatic coffee aroma. But before the roasting begins, coffee beans are referred to as green. In this pre-roasted state, they are nothing like the roasted bean. The green beans have none of the characteristics of a roasted bean – they are soft and a little spongy, if you were to bite into one. It’s the roasting process that brings out the aroma and flavor that is locked inside the green coffee beans.

Green coffee beans

As the green beans are roasted (at very high temperatures) chemical changes begin to take place. When they reach the roasting temperature desired by the roaster, they are quickly cooled to stop the roasting process. What you now have is roasted beans that smell like coffee and weigh less than the green beans because the moisture has been roasted out. They are now ready to be ground and brewed.

Note - Once roasted, however, they should be used as quickly as possible before the fresh roast flavor begins to diminish. Try to buy smaller batches of freshly roasted coffee more frequently - enough for one or two weeks

Roasting is not just science

We often give a lot of credit for a good cup of coffee to the baristas in the café or the equipment we use at home to brew our coffee. I’m not diminishing the baristas skills or the quality of coffee making gear…but.  Without properly roasted coffee, nothing can be done to make a bad roast into a good cup. To become an expert roaster with the ability to artfully monitor and adjust the roasting beans takes years of experience. The roasters ability to use both eyes and ears can be the difference between perfectly roasted coffee and a batch that can be ruined in a matter of seconds.  Roasters rule!

Know your roasts

With all of the specialized names assigned by coffee roasters to their favored roasts, this can cause some confusion when you are trying to choose a coffee. While there is a lack in standardization, roasts fall generally into one of four color categories — light, medium, medium-dark and dark.  

Here is a frequent question, and misconception, we hear from consumers. “How much more caffeine does dark roast coffee have? Or “I love the taste of a dark roast coffee, but the higher caffeine is a concern.”  The assumption is that the darker the roast, the higher the concentration of caffeine.  In fact, light roasted coffee actually has a higher concentration of caffeine.  Dark roasts have less caffeine because more caffeine is burned off during the roasting process.

What roast is the best

At the end of the day, the perfect roast is a personal choice. Sometimes the roast you prefer is influenced by where you live or the coffee you grew up with. It’s best to read the descriptions of the coffees you buy as you should find additional information about the flavor notes that also affect how you feel about the taste you prefer.  At any rate, within the four color categories mentioned above, you are likely to find common roasts as listed below.

Light roasts

Light brown in color, this roast is generally preferred for milder coffee varieties. There will be no oil on the surface of these beans because they are not roasted long enough for the oils to break through to the surface.

  • Light City
  • Half City
  • Cinnamon

Medium roasts

This roast is medium brown in color with a stronger flavor and a non-oily surface. It’s often referred to as the American roast because it is generally preferred in the United States.

  • City
  • American
  • Breakfast

Medium dark roasts

Rich, dark color, this roast has some oil on the surface and with a slight bittersweet aftertaste.

  • Full City

Dark roasts

This roast produces shiny black beans with an oily surface and a pronounced bitterness. The darker the roast, the less acidity will be found in the coffee beverage.  Dark roast coffees run from slightly dark to charred, and the names are often used interchangeably — be sure to check your beans before you buy them!

  • High
  • Continental
  • New Orleans
  • European
  • Espresso
  • Viennese
  • Italian
  • French

There you have it.  If you have questions about coffee in general or specifically about Arnold’s Coffee products, you can reach me at ron@arnoldscoffee.com.

Brew and enjoy!

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