Thursday, October 15, 2009

Basic Training Part 2: Differences in Roasts

The roasting process allows for the controlling of the inherent flavor of each coffee bean through roasting away negative qualities, while enhancing the pleasant ones. In the darkest roast varieties, the coffee is actually given a smoky taste. There are five roast levels commonly identified: Light, Medium, Medium-Dark, Dark, and Very Dark. Specific roasting styles are included as sub-groups of these levels.

Light roast styles include the “Cinnamon” and “Half City” roasts. These roasts are the lightest and require the least time in the roaster. After a few minutes in the roaster, the beans will “crack”. This “first crack” is accompanied by a visual increase in the beans’ size and is usually the first indicator for lighter roasts’ completion. Most mass coffee producers use roasts like this for its cheaper production costs. The surface of the bean is still dry with a light brown color. The end product has very high acidity and virtually no indications of having been roasted.

Medium roast styles include “Full City” and “American” roasts. Medium-Dark roast styles include “High”, “Viennese”, and sometimes “French” roasts. Medium and Medium-Dark roasts begin the process of truly roasting the coffee. Medium roasts highlight the coffee’s naturally flowery and spicy notes while Medium-Dark matures these developments. Medium-Dark roasts begin the oily development of the coffee bean. At the Medium-Dark stage, the coffee beans will have their “second crack”. This cracking is the indicator that the coffee has reached this Medium-Dark level. Premium coffee roasters from the American northwest often prepare their coffees at this level. Medium roasts will have a more balanced acidity than that of Light roasts. Medium roasts will have nicely developed aroma and body with moderate complexity. Medium-Dark roasts will result with a somewhat spicy, heavier bodied feel, lacking in the acidic bite. The roasting aromas and flavors and very evident and enjoyable, but some caffeine content is lost in the process.

Very Dark roasts offer exclusive tastes such as rich smoothness, bittersweet caramels, chocolates, and low acidity. Roasts such as “French” and “Italian” arrive in this category. The smoky-sweetness of Very Dark roasts offer coffees that are light-bodied, but still quite intense. At this stage the bean’s sugars begin to carbonize; if roasting continues too much longer, the bean will develop distinct “burnt” tastes (Starbucks is known for this quality, giving them the nickname Charbucks). If properly roasted, Very Dark roasts can be very enjoyable due to their notable roast characteristics.

Lord, Thank you for the great coffee and the ability to choose for ourselves which roast we prefer- free will is a great gift. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

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