Roasting Awesome CoffeeMarch 19, 2023 (Published: May 10, 2013)
Without roasting, coffee would never have achieved its place among the world’s favorite beverages. Green coffee beans produce a bitter, acidic drink that most people find undrinkable.
Roasting helps transform green coffee beans into the beverage we all love. Under controlled heat and time, the beans expand and change in color, taste, aroma and density. Coffee also loses about 20 percent of its weight during the roasting process.
Awesome Flavor Begins with the Beans
Not all beans are created equal. At Crimson Cup, we travel the world to select the top class of specialty-grade coffee beans from the best coffee-producing countries. The flavor of each bean is affected by the variety of coffee, soil, altitude, and weather conditions in the location where it was grown. At any given time, we have beans from 25 to 30 countries of origin in our roasting facility.
The Art & Science of Roasting
Part art and part science, roasting requires experience, control, and quick reflexes. The roasting approach has a profound impact on the fragrance, taste, aroma, sweetness, acidity and body of the coffee. The roast must be matched to the coffee varietal, as different beans require more or less heat and shorter or longer roasting to develop their optimal flavors.
To produce Crimson Cup’s awesome coffee, Roast Master Dave Rochus supervises the roasting of each bean on one of four gas-fired drum coffee roasters. Drum coffee roasters work kind of like clothes dryers, rotating to keep the beans tumbling in hot air. Crimson Cup’s roasters include:
- “Godzilla,” a Roure roaster that can roast up to 325 pounds of coffee beans in one batch.
- Another Roure Roaster, “Little Red,” which can roast 66 pounds at a time.
- Probat Roasters “Hansel and Gretel,” each of which roasts 25 pounds at a time.
Dave chooses a roaster based on demand for each type of coffee. He uses Godzilla primarily for our most popular coffees such as Armando’s Blend, and Hansel and Gretel for single-origin micro-lots. On high-demand days, Dave is kept busy dancing between the four roasters as he precisely controls the temperatures and roasting times to produce our signature roasts.
The Roasting Process
The green coffee beans first undergo a screening process to remove any foreign items or imperfect beans. Dave weighs out the beans and puts them into the hopper, a funnel-shaped device at the top of the roaster. He checks the temperature of the roaster and ensures that it’s rotating properly before allowing the beans to flow from the hopper into the roaster.
Roasting times average around 15 minutes. Dave monitors the roasting process by observing the bean temperature, smell, color and sound.
Circulating in the hot air, the beans change in color and emit gasses and moisture. Between 210 and 240 degrees, they turn from the dull green of dried grass to a yellowish color, giving off a grassy aroma and releasing steam. At around 285 degrees the coffee goes into what is called the golden stage, where the bean turns a beautiful amber color.
As the temperature reaches approaches 300 degrees, the external membrane of the bean, or chaff, dries up and begins to separate from the bean itself. The beans turn a light, mottled brown and give off a yeasty aroma, like baking bread.
At approximately 385 degrees, the bean reaches “first crack,” an audible signal much like corn popping. The release of moisture and gasses separates chaff from the bean. Sugars start to caramelize. Natural oils begin to migrate towards the surface of the bean. The beans turn browner and emit a nutty, toasty aroma.
First crack marks the beginning of light roasts. At lighter roasts, the beans will exhibit more of the origin flavors created by the coffee variety and the soil, altitude, and weather conditions in the location where it was grown. They will also cup a bit sweeter, since the natural sugars are sweeter than caramelized sugars.
Most of Crimson Cup’s single-origin and micro-lot coffees are lightly roasted to preserve and enhance their origin flavors. A few to try are our Brazil Bourbons, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Guatemalan Antigua and Kona coffees.
Continuing past first crack, heat increases, caramelization continues, oils continue migrating toward the surface, and the beans expand in size and darken until they reach a medium brown.
For the majority of Crimson Cup roasts, Dave will stop the process somewhere between first crack and an audible “second crack,” which occurs at approximately 400 to 410 degrees depending on the roaster. Second Crack is the dividing point between medium and dark roasts.
In medium roasts, the roasting process contributes as much to the taste of the beans as their origin flavors. Some medium roasts to try include our signature Armando’s Blend and Single-Origin: Honduras coffees.
At second crack, the beans are a deep brown color but still dry on the surface, as the oils haven’t yet exfoliated out.
Allowing the roast to continue past second crack produces the darker roasts, which are smokier and less acidic in flavor than the light and medium roasts. The sugars within the bean are almost fully caramelized. The beans continue to dehydrate and darken to an ebony color. They look oily.
Roast character eclipses origin character in the flavor of the beans in the darker roasts. Some of our favorite dark roasts include Jungle Love, Dark Reign, and 3rd Shift.
If beans are allowed to continue roasting much past second crack, all of the sugars caramelize and the beans have a bitter, burnt flavor – like charcoal. They can also catch on fire!
Once the beans reach the desired level of roast, Dave must stop the roasting process quickly so that the beans don’t continue to roast past the desired roast level. To do this, he discharges the beans onto a rotating cooling tray. A fan draws cool air over the beans so that they cool evenly.
After the beans cool completely, they are allowed to sit for a time to allow gasses to disperse. Then our fulfillment team packages and ships fresh-roasted beans to the 350 independent coffee houses, grocers, college and universities, restaurants and food service operations across 28 states that serve Crimson Cup beverages.
Since 1991, Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea has hand-roasted great-tasting specialty coffee in Columbus, Ohio. We’ve also taught more than 300 independent business owners in 30 states how to open a coffee shop through our 7 Steps to Coffee Shop Success process.
Questions about opening a coffee shop? Or want to learn more about our wholesale coffee roasting programs for specialty grocers, colleges and universities and restaurants and food service operators? Give us a call at 888-800-9224 or fill out this form, and we’ll get back to you within one business day.