Use All Five Senses To Determine Degree of Roast

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This is the most important aspect of home roasting to master.  The roasted coffee you buy from the store or your local coffee shop has been roasted on commercial equipment that does provide certain advantages in roasting coffee to a particular level.  However, the main drawbacks are they may roast too dark (in most cases) or not dark enough (in very few cases), and the selection of coffee available to you is limited.  By honing your skills and knowledge you can create roasts that are every bit as good as those from your local shop or store.

Using Sight to Determine Degree of Roast

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Color is just one of the ways to determine degree of roast. By itself, it is of limited use. When complemented by the audible cues (first and second crack) and the aromas of the roast process, it is extremely informative . Here is a You Tube video showing the color changes that occur during roasting -

 

Roast Profiling

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When we talk about roast profiles , we can be talking about a few different things.

Firstly, we can be talking about the flavor profile of a coffee; how the coffee tastes, the mouthfeel, acidity, balance, etc. Flavor profile characteristics are of course determined by the coffee itself, but are greatly impacted by the roast profile. A roast profile is basically what happened during the roast and what adjustments were made to effect the outcome.

Roasting Fundamentals: Decafs

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The classic decaf flavors that most people think of are the overwhelming maltiness and in the worst cases the wet cardboard flavors of both aged and damaged coffees, but these flavors are generally either the results of the original quality of the coffee itself or the intensity of the decaf processing. When the right coffee is selected and the process is carefully monitored, a good deal of the coffee's characteristics should survive. A really great decaf shouldn't taste all too differently than before it was processed for decaf.

Stretchin' Out the Roast pt. 3

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The initial spark for this series of experiments and articles came from  discussions regarding a class that I have been teaching for the Roasters Guild. The essence of the class is that it is the job of the coffee roaster to shape roast development to accentuate a coffee's positive attributes.

Cocoa Roasting

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Like many people, I've long thought of cocoa and coffee as being fairly similar; both are complex flavor-wise, both are grown in the tropics (one at low elevation, the other high) and both are seeds that need roasting before consumption.  But  I didn't know much about chocolate production until I met Robbie Stout of Ritual Chocolate in Denver, CO who gave me a tour of his facility and explained a bit about the cocoa roasting process and making chocolate. 

 

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The Perfect Roast?

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There's a phrase I've been guilty of using in the past, but now really bugs me. The gist of it is:

"I'm just trying to roast the coffee to show its best qualities, without showing my influence over it."

Stretchin' Out the Roast pt. 2

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 In part 1 of Stretchin' Out the Roast we looked at the effect of stretching out the time and development between 1st and 2nd crack during the roast. The greatest effect was on the perceived acidity and the type of sweetness in the cup from malt to candy, then fruit and  into bittersweet-cocoa-type sweetness. In this article we look at the effect of stretching out the 1st crack itself and how that changes the sweetness, body, and acidity in the finished roast.

Stretchin' Out the Roast: Part 1

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This article details one method to determine an ideal roast for a coffee;  in four roast experiments, the time between the end of 1st crack and the beginning of 2nd crack is lengthened, and the roast stopped at the same point each time.  Then by tasting and comparing the results, I arrive at some conclusions about what roast brings out the characteristics of the coffee I enjoy more.  Other articles will cover the effect of stretching other segments of the roast.

Using Sound to Determine Degree of Roast

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Audio cues are very important in determining degree of roast; it is a good indication of the chemical changes happening internally in the coffee bean. Learning to determine the difference between first crack and second crack is important.

Using Taste to Determine Degree of Roast

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No other sense is as important in determining roast level as the flavor.  The problem is that you can’t brew your coffee until it’s done roasting. Some folks can actually tell quite a bit about roast level by crunching a roasted bean between their teeth and eating it, but the most important information about your roast results must be tasted by brewing your coffee. Rest your coffee for 24-48 hours after roasting before making any judgment about your roast level.

Using Touch to Determine Degree of Roast

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You can not touch the beans and feel the texture - but that texture can tell you much about the level to which it was roasted.  Light roasts (City and City+) will have a bumpy texture and unevenness that you can actually feel.  Darker roasts (Full City and Full City+) will have a smoother texture and even quality.  Very dark roasts (Vienna and French) will have an oily surface that you can detect by touch.

Using Smell to Determine Degree of Roast

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There are subtle aroma shifts that occur as coffee is roasted and you will quickly become aware of the noticeable differences. At lighter roast levels you can detect delicate aromas as steam escapes the bean, but as you go darker this steam turns to smoke as you begin to incinerate the sugars and volatile organic compounds locked inside.  

Here are differences in aroma you’ll notice while roasting:

Coffee Roasting Basics - Color Changes

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Through close up images of coffee beans, Tom narrates the color changes in the roast process.

First Ever Homeroaster's Dream Camp!

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Publication Date: 
Wed, 2009-07-01
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A recap of our first Homeroasters' Dream Camp held June 2009.

Costa Rica RIP Red Honey Roast Images

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Publication Date: 
Thu, 2009-01-01
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This year's batch of R.I.P. coffee is in. Overall, we think the cup quality is improved over last year:

Panama Esmeralda Gesha Roast Color Pictures Page

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Publication Date: 
Sun, 2008-06-15
Summary: 
These are images of my preferred roast for each lot. Please note that these are taken under strong light with a macro lens.

Explaining Differences in Roasted Coffee Color: Another Attempt

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Publication Date: 
Mon, 2007-01-01
Summary: 
Here is a comparison between roasted coffee surface color, surface texture and ground coffee samples.

Degree of Roast Page (older version of roasted color guide)

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Publication Date: 
Sat, 2005-01-01
Summary: 
I have tried and failed many times to get images that adequately represent the roast process. It's not easy!

Roasting Article by Carl Staub from SCAA Roast Kit Literature

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Publication Date: 
Sat, 2000-01-01
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Sourced from the SCAA Roast Color Classification System developed by Agtron - SCAA in 1995
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