Developing the Fine Art of Roasting Coffee Beans
Wake up and smell the coffee!
Why on earth do I have to learn how to roast coffee beans? Well, for one, so you can wake up and smell the coffee! Of course, this means one thing to lovers of freshly brewed coffee but something else to grammatically correct folks. The former swear that nothing compares to waking up in the morning and inhaling that delicious scent, following the ‘trail’ to the kitchen and finally being rewarded with a fresh, rich and satisfyingly smooth coffee brew. As rewarding as this experience is, many people still don’t understand why they should prepare their own coffee rather preferring the relatively less rewarding experience of shop-bought coffee. No offense to thriving businesses built around this preference but none can really replicate the richness and perfection that arrives with your cup of home-brewed coffee once you learn how to roast.
There’s a Coffee Shop around the Corner, why Bother to Roast Coffee at Home?
Look at it this way, it saves two very important resources; Time and Money. Even factoring in the loss of 15%-20% loss of weight as moisture evaporates during roasting, green coffee beans still retain a 10% -30% savings over the shop-bought coffee on a price per pound basis. Convinced yet? Okay, I’ll just throw in a few more points;
- No Wastage: Green beans store well, staying for long unlike fresh, roasted coffee which has a 7-10 day shelf life. So, you simply roast what you need and when you need it.
- Preferences: You get to prepare your coffee just the way you desire with any flavor of your choice, no questions asked.
- Time: All you need to prepare that scintillating cup of delightful coffee is 6 minutes. No queues, no frowns and complaints, just a cup to excite your palate.
Okay, what more do I Need to Know about Coffee Roasting?
There are three elements you must be familiar with in learning how to roast and these are; Smell, Sound and Color. Not sure what this means? No worries, let’s take them one after the other…
- Smell: The smell of the coffee is one of its most critical elements and as aficionados of home brewed coffee will maintain, its taste lies in the smell. When heat is applied to raw coffee beans, the color changes to light yellow/gold while the aroma turns ‘grassy’. Keep an eye on those beans because once it starts steaming, you know the roasting has begun.
- Sound: Chemical changes take place in the process of roasting the beans and as the process continues, moisture within the green coffee beans evaporate thus drying the beans and producing a crackling sound. Actually, this cracking sound occurs twice and the latter stage is typically an indication of the beans being almost of fully roasted.
- Color: The original color of beans is green and as it progresses along the roasting process, the color changes and so does the taste. Actually, the various coffee variants are determined by the stage at which the roasting is terminated.
How do I Recognize the Roasting Stages?
You will discover as you learn how to roast that its taste lies in the stage at which the roasting stops and you get to determine this depending on your preferred taste. We’ll look at six (6) stages;
- Cinnamon Roast: Actually, the color, not its taste earned this roast its name. At this stage, the color changes to light brown or cinnamon and is yet to get to the first crack. The beans emit the aroma of toasted grains and possesses low acidity levels.
- Light Roast: The color of this roast is light to medium brown and is an American favorite, having a sweeter and richer flavor than some other roasts.
- City Roast: This roast possesses a medium brown color with a touch of oily texture and it has some of the original taste of the coffee.
- Vienna Roast: Possessing a shiny dark brown color with an oily texture, it has imbibed the roasting flavor, making it suitable for espresso coffee.
- French Roast: Maintaining low acidity levels, this roast is dark brown in color and has a flavor which may be described as smoky and burnt.
- Italian Roast: The color is close to black and at this stage, has surpassed most characteristics of the original coffee bean.
Okay, How Exactly do I got about it?
You can relax, it isn’t rocket science so prepare to experiment and possibly make some mistakes on your way to creating your own special brew. Here are the steps;
- Choose a Coffee Roaster: You have a choice of roasting in your oven by simply spreading the beans on your baking tray and allowing to ‘bake’ for 15-20 minutes. Alternatively, you can purchase a home coffee roaster and this ought to give you better results.
- Choose your Coffee Beans: There is variety to choose from and this depends on your preferences. Some of the parameters for selection include country of origin and post-harvest processing techniques.
- Roast your Coffee Beans: You know about this stage already. Determine your preferred roast then start and make sure you terminate the roasting when you have the right combination of smell, sound and color but ensure that you don’t wait too late as it will take a little while to cool. You don’t want the process continuing beyond your desired roast.
- Store your Roasted Coffee Beans: After roasting, you need to transfer the beans to a flat metal plate and blow to remove any chaff clinging to the beans. The roasted coffee requires a cool, dry storage environment and you should store in an airtight container after allowing it to vent overnight for the carbon dioxide to escape.
So, having learned roasting, why queue up at any coffee shop? Put your new skills to palatable use right away. Bon appetit!