The Ins and Outs of Coffee Roasting

Coffee roasting products

Even if you have your cup of Joe every morning, you may not know much about the process of coffeemaking, from the time the beans (called “cherries”) are grown to when your coffeemaker or favorite barista dispenses your caffeine fix. One of the most frequently forgotten steps of coffeemaking is roasting, and yet it’s also one of the most important steps. Read on to learn more:

Why Coffee is Roasted

Coffee is a necessary step between processing and grinding coffee beans. Roasting changes the color, smell, taste and size of the beans. The closer in time to brewing a batch of coffee beans is roasted, the better the coffee’s flavor will be.

Coffee is roasted to various darknesses for different applications. Light, medium and dark/full roasts are the most commonly used terms, though judging color by eye is an inaccurate way to measure roasting — most master roasters have more sophisticated systems in place to determine how long and at what temperatures to roast a batch. More lightly roasted beans retain what is called their “origin flavor,” or the characteristics it develops as a result of the variety of bean and growing conditions. Darker roasts take on more uniform flavors and are known for having a heavy “roast flavor” that can eclipse the beans’ origin or even variety.

How Coffee Roaster Machines Work

Looking at diagrams of coffee roasters, it may seem like an incomprehensible mess of heat sources and cylinders, chimneys and cyclones. But the basic function of a coffee roaster is actually quite simple.

There are two popular kinds of roasters. The first, drum machines, have horizontal drums that rotate, tumbling green coffee beans while they are heated. Most of these have heat sources directly under the drum. The second kind, hot-air roasters, move heated air through a perforated surface or screen with enough air pressure to lift the beans off the surface and circulate them as they roast.

Tip: Start With a Small Coffee Roaster

If you’re just starting out, it’s best to work with a small batch coffee roaster, rather than a huge commercial one. A small coffee roaster will allow you to experiment, since no machine is quite alike (coffee roaster manufacturers differ) and it’s hard to know exactly what roasting times and temperatures will provide the best result. And don’t worry, you’ll still have plenty of capacity for a small coffee roasting business or online sales — that is, if you plan to share the bounty.

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