The Perfect Roast?

Under Developed Coffee Roast For Sale

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."

Yes, there are amazing characteristics latent in some coffees, and you can surely ruin those with too heavy a hand (er.. too heavy a roast). But here is my problem. The coffee trade is a value-added agriculture endeavor. At each step of the way, there is value added to the product and the price of the product increases accordingly. If you aren't adding any value through your roasting and it is only these inherent qualities which make a coffee special, then how on earth are you going to charge the prices that you're asking?

In the past few years, the "perfect roast"  has meant a very light roast, just a few seconds past the end of first crack (or, regrettably, even earlier).   You would think "roasting" had become a bad word. You hear people say "I don't want to taste 'roast' in the coffee." What? Unless you want a mouth full of astringency and possibly a stomach ache, you DO actually need to roast coffee before drinking it. And that requires you make decisions. Under-roasting is being applied to all kinds of green coffees with the same lack of fore-thought that dark roasting used to be slathered on everything.  The issue might stem from some confusion between the brightness that comes from good acidity, and what seems like brightness from light roasting.

Justin Carabello of Carabello Coffee says:

"[Roasting]'s  my part of the whole process from seed to cup. I'm the roaster, the one who helps transform [the coffee] from green to brown."

There is no perfect roast for any particular coffee, and the idea that there issuch a thing is the root of the dilemma.  Getting fixated on the nailing the "perfect roast" can mean that you end up missing something else really surprising and amazing about a coffee.  Commercial roasters sometimes get locked into one roast as their signature - and then stop experimenting.  From a home roasting perspective, there is more room for experimentation, since the audience for your roasts is mainly yourself.

What gets lost is the importance of roast development, or controlling different aspects of the roast to pull out different characteristics of the coffee.  Sweetness, body, and acidity are all greatly affected by decisions you make at certain times during the roast. You can shape the roast so that  brightness is more front-loaded or more in the finish, or so that the sweetness is more fruited or more bittersweet-cocoa. Depending on the coffee and how you're brewing it, or selling it for someone else to brew, this is such an important skill to learn.

Great coffee isn't just the exotic. The great coffee experience can be something that's sweet, clean, and balanced. That's a great coffee experience, for anyone, at anytime. Great coffee is any number of things, including approachable and accessible.

 

The Perfect Roast

I originally started roasting coffee because everything one could buy was predicated on the black shiny bean of a certain company that has a pleasant pagan like girl for a logo the one curiously despised by certain fanatical groups of christians. I see even they (not the christians) now sell a version of their roasted beans deceptively called 'blond.' I was intrigued I'll admit so I went to this place and saw for myself but to me these blond beans looked more 'Viennese' as it were, so I think the wall of corporate conservatism cannot actually be breached as their tendency to cling to outmoded thinking of the past that made money will make money now, just market an idea but serve the same product just not as shiny and let the mad men make it so. In my personal experience of roasting green coffee reaching the first crack brooked no discussion but also it was apparent after some experience when your small room filled with smoke to continue beyond this 'stage' was to your peril. Even the general public will at some point realize they've been had and the king has no clothes and they were chumps once more.

Too much hate

I find the criticism in this piece overblown.  Caralemization is fairly one-dimensional compared to other flavors accessible in coffee.  What complexity is present in caramelization is less unique from bean to bean than other flavor components.  If a roasters is trying to showcase what is unique about a bean, avoiding too much expression of caramelization is a reasonable decision and seems aptly described as "avoiding influence over the bean".

Roast Flavor?

I think this statement "I don't want to taste 'roast' in the coffee." may actually be some folks don't know how to express themselves specifically in this matter. What they may be referring to is "I don't want to taste 'charcoal' in the coffee".  Over roasting is every bit as bad as under roasting, but it's over roasting that is predominant in commerical coffees, at least in my experience.

For myself, if I read in the cupping notes  "fruit" at City and "chocolate" at Full City+, I'm heading for those 2nd snaps.

 

-jim