Introduction, Brief Tips, & Terms
Coffee: the drug of choice. The mystical global cup. It stirs your heart and excites your blood— you must be doing something meaningful. Coffee seems to endow a moment with purpose.
Imagine: you are sitting with friends on a quiet Sunday afternoon drinking coffee. You don’t need to do anything else, you feel quite like you are anxious for exactly this. Like many medicines, it is capable of opposite effects depending on dosing, timing, and the person. Helps waking, helps sleeping; helps digestion, helps hunger pains.
This blog series is for people getting into coffee roasting, privately or professionally, who want a quick and referable guide to the basics of getting a good roast. Perhaps you have read a book or two, perhaps spent many hours online watching roasting tips, or perhaps you need a quick primer before taking a class or just going for it yourself.
From my own experience, there were a lot of gaps left in the top books and videos. After discovering, through trial and error, what made a good roast, I felt the new roaster is often left in the dark. Much advice is written for already-good-but-not-great roasters. This advice usually serves to confuse new roasters. I saw this myself, but I also noticed it online when reading questions and answers on forums and at conferences. I hope to remedy this problem.
Besides what my blog series shows you, I do recommend you read the usually prescribed books. And I recommend you take them somewhat lightly. From what I can tell, those books and methodologies have garnered tribes of roasters working very hard to go “by the book” to their detriment. This is not because any advice in those books is bad or ill-intentioned. This is because you can often come away with very wrong ideas on the first read or two, especially if they are clouded by others’ interpretations. You must, in this case and in all cases, physically interact with the ideas presented, and not pretend that the idea you have gotten is exactly correct and exactly what must be replicated.
It is also helpful to find very machine-specific forums, Facebook groups, and the like. Search for roasters out there who use your exact machine. When I began roasting on a Diedrich, I took to Facebook and received very helpful advice. Often, the advice varied, even for the same model. There is usually more than one way to roast good coffee. You can usually find professional roasters with their own businesses who are happy to respond to earnest and polite questions.
Before we begin, let’s review a few elements of the roast itself.
Rate of Rise (ROR): the rate at which your bean temperature is increasing, usually measured in intervals of minutes.
Charge: The moment, or the action, of dropping beans into your roaster.
Turnaround, or Turning Point: The point at which your bean probe no longer reads the temperature as dropping after charge.
Dry End: the point when your beans change color, from green to a tannish yellow, indicating the beginning of Maillard.
Dry Phase (DRY): The time from Charge to Dry End. At this stage, most moisture is removed from the bean, and we are building momentum for the rest of the roast.
Maillard Phase (MAI): The time from Dry End to First Crack, during which many chemical reactions occur that impact the flavor of coffee.
Development Phase (DEV): The time from First Crack to Drop. In this phase, we affect how light or dark we want to roast, and how long to allow flavors to change and develop.
First Crack: The point at which the beans crack under pressure, signaling the end of Maillard Phase (as far as we are here concerned).
Second Crack: The point at which pressure has again built up inside the bean, following first crack, and a second crack occurs.
Drop: The end of the roast.
This will be a 7 part series (including this 1st post) covering everything beginners and intermediate roasters may need to know about roasting. Please keep an eye out Monday for the next installment, and check back every week for new blog posts.