Roasting Styles

Coffee was first roasted in the late 14th century. The earliest method was by roasting the green coffee in a heavy pan over charcoal fire. Late last century, a new process was introduced where beans were spun in a hot air chamber heated by natural gas; this system remains the most widely used to date.

The chemical make-up of the coffee bean changes during the roasting process: water dissipates in the bean and a series of chemical reactions change sugars and starches into oils, which give coffee much of its aroma and flavor. When roasted, the coffee bean doubles in size, and the caramelization of the sugar turns it from green to brown.

The color and appearance of the roasted bean depends on how long it has been roasted for. The longer it is roasted, the darker the roast. Coffee is usually roasted for about 10 to 20 minutes at temperatures ranging from 400F to 425F.

The secret to developing the aroma and flavor of coffee is found in the roasting of the coffee beans. The length of time, as well as temperature of the roast, are crucial in producing a quality cup of coffee, as well as determining which characteristics will be emphasized or muted. If roasting is too short, the oils won't be brought to the surface and the coffee will have a nutty flavor and lack consistency.

Dark roasted beans contain less acid, have slightly less caffeine than lighter roasted beans and have a shorter shelf life, due to the amount of oils on the surface. In darker roasts, it is the roast's smoky, pungent, burnt taste that dominates overtaking the bean's natural flavor. Many times the dark roast's burnt taste will mask beans that are low in flavor and quality. Contrary to popular belief, a dark roast does not equal a richer, stronger cup. Roasting plays no part in determining the strength of a cup of coffee: you do when determining the amount of water and coffee to be used when brewing

Lightly roasted coffee beans have a sharper, more acidic taste than darker roasts. The coffee suffers less heat exposure, which maintains the bean's qualities. Because flavor is revealed, light roasts are used with higher quality beans

Several roasting levels have their own characteristics and may be suitable to different tastes or specific uses; they are the following:

LABEL

APPEARANCE

CHARACTERISTICS

Cinnamon Roast light roast, light cinnamon tone Pronounced nut-like flavor, high coffee acidity
American Roast Medium roast, chestnut hue Pronounced caramel like flavor
City Roast Medium roast, medium brown with no surface oils Full coffee flavor, with some loss of acidity
Full City Roast Chestnut brown, slightly darker than the City Roast Full coffee flavor, good balance of acidity and sugar
Vienna Dark brown, with traces of oil on the surface Dark roast flavor
French Roast Dark brown, nearly black, oily on the surface Bitter, smoky taste and pungent aroma
Italian Dark chocolate brown, oils on the surface Burnt flavor
Espresso Dark roast, used specifically for espresso machines Burnt flavor that is strong and sweet

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