The Coffee Roasting Process and Its Effects On The Products You Drink

By Joseph H Leary
Today I would like to explain just how much the roasting process effects, the coffee we consume on a daily basis. I sincerely hope you find this article enjoyable, interesting and informative.

I am going to attempt to explain the 4 major roasting processes and what it does and doesn't do to the world's second most popularly traded commodity. Before I get started there is something you need to know about coffee. When coffee is roasted it goes through a process, within that process the beans are altered by temperature and generally gas, LNG, electricity and even wood. During this process the beans reach levels within that process that makes the beans, "crack". Depending on how light or dark they are being roasting they "crack either once or twice. This alters the flavor profile tremendously, so please keep that in mind while reading this article.

1. Light Roast- This is also referred to in the industry as, cinnamon roast, 1/2 City Roast or New England Roast.

Lighter roasted coffees are generally stopped immediately after the first "crack of the beans in the roaster. This cracking is generally a reaction to the beans losing some of its natural moisture and the result is the beans become larger. During the process the beans go from a green color to a yellowish hue and then finally a light brown shade.

Many flavor experts believe that this is the best way to roast coffee and the reason is quite simple and straightforward. The argument is based on the fact that coffee is an agricultural product, which means the unique flavors are based on region, territory, temperature, humidity and altitude. These factors all have significant roles in what characteristics the beans ultimately possess. Many purists believe that the less you alter the raw product, the more the consumer can taste and enjoy the vast differences in how the coffee should taste. So if you take a coffee from a specific well known region such as, Java, Kenya, Hawaiian Kona, or Jamaican Blue Mountain to name a few, they believe that the longer and darker you roast the coffee, the flavors get muddled and the unique qualities melt away!

All of the coffees mentioned above, roasted lightly have a very distinct flavor profile, that is unique to where they are grown. I have had the pleasure of trying all of them and more with this roast profile and I find it to be very true. As with anything though there are things you don't get, that some people may find even more pleasing. For instance, a coffee roasted at this level tends to lack some of the 

Body a slightly darker roasted coffee may have as well as some distinctive sweetness, which develops just before the second "crack" in the roasting process and possibly some overall complexity. But the coffee purists argue that those things mask the original flavor and are more about the process than the product. I can see their point.

2. Medium Roast- In the coffee industry this is also referred to as, Full City Roast, American Roast, regular or breakfast roast. This is the most popular style sold in the United States, and has been for many years. In a commercial roasting facility, this is achieved in a matter of minutes from the previously discussed light roasted coffee. This is the point, where the actual roasting process starts to impact the actual natural flavors and characteristics of the beans. The benefits of this level of roasting are significant and definitive. It will generally produce a sweeter cup profile and introduces what most people define as more body and a balanced acidity, all natural chemical components in coffee beans. The downside to that is it really does start to alter through a chemical change the distinct and original attributes of the beans country or region of origin. Which in effect, makes the beans taste more, "alike".

3. Full Roast- Also known as Vienna Roast, Continental Roast etc.. This roast change occurs after the second crack of the beans in the roaster. This part of the roasting process also starts to alter the beans visual look, where they become slightly oily looking to the naked eye. At the end of this process the beans will display a slightly shiny finish to the roasted coffee. This process again alters the flavor of the coffee, where the coffee becomes slightly spicier, and some of the more subtle complexities are lost, but the trade off is this roast has a much more full bodied mouth feel. Many people prefer that "full-bodied" profile. It does however shift the process to much more impact about the roasting process as opposed to the pure raw material that entered the plant.

4. Double-Roast- Most people know this as French Roast. During a french roast process the beans will actually start smoking and the natural sugars within the coffee bean start to carbonize. This results in a final product that is very oily and shiny to the eye. Unfortunately, the flavor profile at this point has little or nothing to do with the beans, however good, you started out with. The common characteristics are a bit misleading also. A french roast coffee will have a smokey/sweet aroma, amazingly, you lose the full bodied flavor, yet the human palette will generally think the flavors are quite intense. Once this process is complete you have in effect roasted out all the inherent unique flavors of the beans, and none of the initial qualities are in the least bit recognizable. This process has nothing to do with the coffee and everything to do with how you can alter an agricultural product beyond recognition. I am not judging it is just a fact. There are quite a few people I know that love french roast coffee!! It is all speculative!!
So in this case though, one could argue that you just about roast anything you want at the french roast level and get the same result!

I must admit that after being in the roasting industry for over 25 years, it still irks me when I see products that say "PREMIUM" French Roast or SUPER PREMIUM French Roast, but hey that's just me.
Anyway, I hope you found this article enjoyable, informative and helpful, if you are a coffee lover!!
In the coming weeks I am going to be focusing on the actual processing of the coffee, the farms and some different roasting and blending techniques.
Thank you for visiting and reading. I am a consultant for hire obviously specializing in the food & beverage industry, specializing but not limited to coffee! If you enjoyed this article please visit my site, which is all about my career in the coffee industry. The address is as follows, I encourage you to take a moment and read some of my other postings. Cheers!!
Have you ever wondered why the coffee you are drinking tastes the way it does? Well, the process has just as much to do with the flavors you like or dislike, as it does with the type of coffee you love! I hope you find this article enjoyable, helpful and informative!
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