Since Matt already taught you how to do the various brew methods and I discussed the proper grind for each method, this week’s ANCR Blog will discuss the roasting process and the importance of each step in the process.
The 5BUY Criteria
Anchor Coffee Roasters recommends 5BUY purchasing guidelines for your coffee:
- BUY only from roasters who identify the roast date of the coffee. Some roasters only list a “Use by” date. This says nothing about the day it was roasted, only that it is good until the listed date. If that date is months from the day you are buying don’t purchase unless you know it was recently roasted.
- BUY within 2 weeks of roasting. At Anchor Coffee Roasters, we don’t roast it until you buy it. You are guaranteed to get coffee within days of roasting (with shipping included). To be fair to other craft roasters, ground coffee will stay fresh within two weeks of roasting as long as it is unopened in its airtight packaging.
- BUY enough for only a few weeks. Same reason as above. You deserve the best, so why not give yourself the best.
- BUY whole bean coffee and invest in a burr coffee grinder. Whole bean coffee does not stale as rapidly as ground coffee. Once the coffee is ground, you are on a ticking clock between great and meh. Grind immediately before brewing and grind only the amount you need. Also, invest is a quality burr grinder. For questions about good quality grinders see our Art of the Grind blog.
- BUY coffee from a trusted roaster via subscription services. Why worry about where and when your coffee will arrive? Most craft coffee roasters have subscription services so you can set up your own frequency and select your preferred beans. Anchor Coffee Roasters offers subscriptions of each bean and roast or our customer favorite Anchor of the Week, which delivers a randomly selected bean and roast at your preferred frequency.
Part II: The Roast
Matt and I, like many craft coffee professionals, learned about roasting coffee from trial and error using a hot air popcorn popper. While this carries some issues with safety and can create a mess (and make your house smell), it is how we started. If you'd like tips on home roasting, Matt or I would be happy to help.
Centuries ago, someone got a great idea of taking a coffee bean, heating/roasting the bean (via fire, not a popcorn popper), grinding the bean and adding it to some water. From there, the beginnings of today’s coffee was born.
When roasting coffee, the coffee bean goes through an almost Frankenstein-esque transformation, from a green earthy scented bean, yellowing, shedding its thin cocoon and advancing to a wonderfully brown and aromatic. While roasting is fairly straight forward, there are innumerable aspects of science in getting the right flavors out of each bean. Roast the beans too fast and you won’t be exposed to all the flavors of each bean, leaving a flat tasting coffee. Roast too short and you’ll get bitter and sour flavors of unripened fruit. Roast them too long you’ll get bitter/gritty flavors such as soot and charcoal. While these flavors are sometimes enjoyable in a scotch, not quite what you will want with your coffee.
There are six known stages a bean transitions through in its roast. Some beans (light to light/medium) only will go through five of these stages. Below you will see why.
Six stages of a roasted bean
Drying: Green coffee beans are made up of 9-13% water. When a bean begins its journey to your cup, it first has to dry out from some of that water inside the bean. Once a bean begins to heat up, the evaporation of that water begins. When roasting using a fluid bed roaster, it is easy to notice as the beans begin to get lighter and they loft considerably higher in their first few minutes as the water evaporates from the bean.
Yellowing: Every now and then, Anchor Coffee Roasters will post multiple pictures of the beans passing through this rainbow of color as the bean goes from green, to yellow and begins to become the beautiful brown we know of our coffee. The yellowing process is fascinating due to the various shades of yellow each distinct bean displays.
First Crack: The stage at which coffee beans become ‘brewable’ coffee. As moisture and gases are released in coffee beans, the bean expands it reaches a point where the seam in the coffee bean breaks apart, creating a loud “pop” or first crack. This is a very distinct crack and most beans can be stopped at any point after first crack. However, we recommend you try reaching multiple temperatures, times and stages of the next phase to determine your preferred level through first crack, or into the next stage, Developing.
Developing: If you are beginning to roast on your own, this is the most fun aspect of learning the art of the roast. This developing phase is where the bean continues its transformation through its flavors. At any time during this stage, you can remove the bean from the heat source and stop roasting. Test this out on your own, try roasting a little longer, shorter, etc. From there decide what you like. Our recommendation is to keep track of the amount of time you roast your beans, and when you stop them. This is key for consistency of each subsequent roast but also gives you an understanding of the length of time it takes to reach each flavor in the bean’s profile. Also, if possible, keep track of the temperatures you reach at each stage, specifically First Crack, Developing and our next Stage, Second Crack
Second Crack: This stage is where the bean starts to get temperamental. The bean will continue to develop some wonderful flavors in this stage as well, bringing out the chocolate, tobacco and leather flavors in many beans. The second crack is a lighter, less pronounced crack from first crack, so it is very important to listen carefully for this stage. As a bean progresses through second crack, the beans will start to get very dark, and oils will begin to come to the surface of the bean. The bean can rapidly pass through second crack, depending on the temperature of the roast, and therefore, ruin your roast. Once the bean progresses all the way through second crack, there is a significant risk of fire as well, due to the increased temperature of the beans (nearly 500 degrees Fahrenheit with some hard beans) and the oils sitting the surface.
Cooling: You must cool beans as fast as possible after stopping your roasting process. When roasting coffee, the beans reach a temperature of over 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and if you simply remove the beans from the heating element, they will continue to roast. Some roasting machines have cooling trays which pull air through the warm beans, some machines use a cooling tray with a fan. Home roaster machines, such as the Behmor 1600, the warm air out of the machine and bring air from the outside in. The key to all of this is to stop the roasting process as soon as possible.
That’s it. Not overly complicated, although we left much of the specifics and science out intentionally. We encourage you to try out home roasting on your own and see what you prefer.