I often have people ask me for coffee recommendations and they tend to say one of two things, either “I like dark roasts” or “I like coffee that doesn’t have acidity”. As a roaster, I find this really interesting because the current trend of “Third Wave” coffee is all about emphasizing the uniqueness of coffee origins by roasting light and highlighting the characteristic acidity in coffee.
In coffee roasting, there isn’t a single formula or method that you can call “tried and true”. The variables are numerous, and knowing how to address each variety of coffee is what makes a roastmaster. In How Roasting Style Changes the Flavor of Coffee, I discussed how a faster application of heat can lead to sweeter flavors with more clarity. While this might be desirable for some varieties of coffees, for others it can ruin them!
You might be surprised to learn that the way a coffee is roasted can have a huge impact on the flavor. And we’re not talking about air roasting versus drum roasting, or home roasting versus commercial–different roasting styles that influence coffee flavor can be performed on any roasting equipment. Roasting coffee is as much an art as it is a craft, and one of the important variables that a master roaster has at their disposal is the application of heat. Or more specifically, how quickly or slowly to allow coffee beans to absorb heat.
This is one of the most frequent questions that I get when talking to people who are interested in learning more about artisan coffees. My answer is often ambiguous, and here’s why.