How Much Do You Know about Coffee Roasting? Part 3

coffee roasting, light coffee roasting, caravan coffee roasting

Into the Light

This is part 3 of a 4-part series from our Roastmaster, Paul Allen.  Parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here.

Last month, in Part 2 of our series, we looked at some definitions and delved into the light roasting profile, its flavor and what some of the chemicals were doing during the process. Now, we move attention to the medium and dark roasts and think about their profiles. Again we are not so concerned about whether we like a given profile but with recognizing what it tastes and looks like.

Michael McIntyre, a coffee professional and fellow Q Grader, says, “Coffee’s dynamic history is a small testament to its full spectrum of enjoyment. That dynamic is experienced in a roaster’s interpretation through roast development. The roaster has a unique opportunity, nay obligation, to study a coffee’s performance potential under the microscope of taste and present that coffee to the world the way that he or she feels it is best represented, or dare I say, preferred.” This is why we practice different roasts for different coffees and clients.

Medium Roast

wheel_bigThe medium roast develops past the light roast as time and temperature rise and keep ticking. This is when the Maillard reaction kicks in, creating flavor and browning the beans, with huge implications in what we taste in the cup. We see and taste the Maillard reaction in the browning of bread into toast, the colors of beer, chocolate, coffee, and maple syrup, and the flavor of roast meat.

Some suggest this reaction optimizes at medium roast. Once again from my experience, we can’t reduce flavor attributes to a single roast level for every coffee. At this level, the flavors nutty and chocolate are often found–but not always.

At medium roast we begin to add body, decrease acidity and see a slight drop in origin distinction. This is where you’ll find a good balance of bitterness, acidity and fullness. Organic acids are changing in strength: Citric acid is now only 50% of its original concentration, meaning that it is losing more of that lemon/orange taste. Acetic acid (e.g. vinegar) is at its peak. At low concentrations, acetic acid imparts a pleasant clean, sweet-seeming characteristic, but at higher concentrations, as in a medium roast, it can have some fermented characteristics. Quinic acids (e.g. found in tonic water) are increasing also, bringing some bitterness and astringency.

Dark Roast

By the time you hit dark roast, the Maillard Reaction is in full swing. We find sweetness in the cup, which is of course desirable, but there are diminishing returns as starch and cellulose also carbonize. Chlorogenic acid (CQA) has split into quinic acid (often experienced from coffee brewed too long on the burner) and caffeic acid, a good antioxidant yet both bitter and astringent. The caffeic acid in coffee is often responsible for the bitterness we associate with coffee. Quinic acid, on the other hand, is the actual primary cause of coffee’s acidity and astringency.

At this roast level, the coffee will begin to lose brightness as well as gain some bitterness and a fuller body. A dark roast tends to have flavor notes that can, but not always, rely more on the roasting itself than the unique character of the bean (such as smokiness). At this stage bean quality becomes less discernible, like comparing overcooked fine sirloin or ground beef; even a culinary expert might not be able to tell the difference.

Next month we will start drawing some conclusions from these profiles we’ve been exploring.


Coffee Cupping Instructions

Coffee Cupping Instructions

Perhaps you’re seen a coffee connoisseur sampling a gourmet coffee and wondered… ‘what’s that guy doing?’ or …. ‘did he just spit out that coffee?’

Chances are you were watching someone ‘cup’ coffee. This practice is one that is used around the world by coffee experts and coffee enthusiasts to taste all of the intricacies of coffee. It’s actually a lot like tasting wine. Coffee too has many flavor profiles and characteristics. Ever walk into a coffee shop and see coffee descriptions listed like “bold, fruity, acidic.” If so, those descriptions were provided by someone who cupped the coffee.

Anyone can cup coffee, in fact, we invite our customers here to cup with us at our facility. But not just anyone can be called a Q Grader – these are the really serious guys who have spent years developing their pallet and going through a rigorous process to get that certification. These guys are truly exceptional and recognized by the international coffee community as such.

At Caravan, we’re super-fortunate that our Roast Master, Paul Allen, is a Certified Q-Grader. His experience and expertise ensures that the coffee you drink from Caravan is truly amazing!

Have you ever wanted to know about the art and science of cupping? Pete Miller, owner / operator and Paul Allen, Roast Master of Caravan Coffee and Certified Quality Grader gives an overview of coffee cupping instructions here in the podcast from Above the Press. Enjoy!

All About World Renown Guatemala Antigua La Flor

Guatemala Antigua La Flor is a world renown coffee. At Caravan, we’re privileged to have our industry famous owner/operator Pete Miller here at Caravan Coffee share his experience and love of this famous coffee! After visiting Antigua in Guatemala, Pete Miller became hooked. Here, Pete Miller explains his love and the history behind Guatemala Antigua La Flor.  We hope you fall in love with this coffee as all of us here at Caravan have fallen in love with it. Enjoy!

Check out more podcasts from Above the Press