The coffee plant produces a raw fruit or cherry that is harvested when ripe. Once the pulp is removed from the cherry a seed or bean is left which is then dried. This bean is called a green bean and must be roasted before consumers use it to brew coffee.
During the roasting process the natural sugars, fats and starches that are within the coffee beans are emulsified, caramelized and released when exposed to high temperatures. Roasting methods vary and help determine the flavor of the final brewed cup of coffee. But, it is important to know that the roast alone does NOT determine the overall coffee taste or quality. The origin and quality of the beans are the true factors that determine the characteristics of a particular coffee.
Perfect coffee roasting is an art form that must be perfected over many years. There are many important variables that must be considered when roasting coffee including origin, moisture content, age of the green (unroasted) coffee bean, and even the weather! Even the slightest mistake can ruin the flavor of the delicate beans. Roastmasters use sound, sight and smell to determine when the beans are roasted to perfection. Timing is everything.
At Café Britt, we roast coffee beans in small batches, making sure that the beans are consistent in shape and size so that they roast evenly. First, the beans are placed in the roaster at a temperature above 400°F (204°C). A “POP!” sound indicates the beans are about to reach the ideal roasting and the process speeds up. They are constantly rotated inside the drum to achieve a consistent roast. The beans are checked every few seconds until our experts see that they are the perfect color, size, surface texture and smokiness depending on the type of roast we’re creating. When the desired result is achieved, the beans immediately travel to a cooling chamber to stop the process. The smell of the freshly roasted coffee is captivating!
After the coffee is cooled, it is taken into the cupping room where it is tasted to ensure that it meets our flavor profile. Once approved, the coffee is immediately packaged to protect it from oxygen, sunlight and water, all of which can alter the taste of the beans.
Different types of roasts are used to accentuate qualities in the beans or to prepare a bean for a certain type of drink, such as espresso.
Light roasted beans are usually roasted for about 7 minutes or just until they become a light caramel brown color. This roasting method is preferred for mild coffee varieties and for “cupping” or professional tasting because the lighter roast allows the bean’s natural characteristics to show through. Lighter roasts usually have a higher concentration of caffeine and higher acidity, a characteristic that yields an especially aromatic brew.
Coffee beans are roasted for 12-13 minutes to create a dark roast. At the end of the process, the beans are shiny and dark brown with an oily surface and heavier body. The dark roast produces a sweet, chocolaty flavor and acidity is muted as the natural sugars in the coffee beans caramelize and rise to the surface.
The darkest of our roasts, espresso roast, is also known as Italian, Viennese or French roast. Espresso potential is maximized in roasting when you maximize the sweetness and aroma of the coffee while minimizing the bitterness and acidity. At this stage of roasting, a creamy caramel taste is dominant and the body and flavor are of strong tones. As its name implies, this roast is ideal for making espresso and cappuccino.