Everybody drinks coffee. We all know that coffee is a brown, round bean with great aroma… or so it would seem. Truth is, coffee beans are actually a pastel green color in their natural state. It is easy to forget, as consumers, that coffee beans don’t just come into existence ready to drink, roasted, and ground.
Roasting is a vital part of the equation, and the reason why coffee tastes so good. An old legend from Yemen, the country responsible for introducing coffee to the rest of the world, tells of a monk that had been on a pilgrimage. He saw a couple of goats eating a coffee cherry while he was meditating. Later, the same two goats made it impossible for him to focus because they had become too energetic and were running about. When the monk brought the seeds of the fruit to the temple, the head monk thought it was probably a devilish fruit, and threw the seeds into the fire. Big mistake. The air was filled instantly with the smell of freshly roasted coffee, at which point they were all fervently in favor of coffee.
A roast happens in three acts, each of them very important:
#1 The Drying Phase
Minute 0 to 5
As soon as the beans are introduced to the roaster, which is already heated, the green beans start losing moisture that has been locked inside. It goes from green to yellow and, when most of the humidity is gone and the surface starts to cook, you’ll get a nice light brown color.
#2 The First Crack
Minute 10 to 16
The bean expands in size and, as a result, it will crack. The sound, in fact, is more like a loud pop; think of making popcorn - it’s just like that. Many beans cracking, building to a crescendo and then dying out one by one.
The bean now acquires a darker color and is significantly bigger in size.
#3 The Second Crack
Minute 16 to 20
Here takes place something called pyrolysis; the transformation of organic matter via heat. The heat reaches a point where certain chemicals in the bean undergo transformations. The bean will show even more cracks on its surface than during the first time. This time, however, you will only hear a very faint sound unlike the first one.
Here, the bean becomes a very dark brown and, depending on how long you make this last act last, it can turn black or almost black.
The type of roasts we consume are determined mostly on how long they are roasted. A usual roast lasts 20 minutes. Let’s take a look at some of the most classic roasts and where do they fit in the roasting process.
Also known as Cinnamon, Half City, or Blonde roast, this type of roast usually lasts 10 to 12 minutes, or immediately after the first crack. Some even stop roasting before the first crack, as long as the bean has acquired a pleasant light brown color.
Known as City, Breakfast or American roast, this is the all-rounder of roasts. It’s a balanced roast between the first and the second crack that is rather darker in color and stronger in flavor than the light roast.
There’s also a roast between medium and dark; the Full City roast, of a much darker color that is still not quite dark enough to be considered a dark roast.
The preferred roast for espresso coffee, particularly in Europe. There are virtually a thousand names for this roast: Viennese, French, Italian, Continental, etc. The dark roast is closer to a black color and yields a very strong flavor that is very popular among espresso drinkers.
Now that you know a little more about roasting coffee, try all of them and let us know which one is your favorite.