Coffee Roasting Notes

Before we explain some of the terms commonly used by coffee roasters throughout the industry, we thought we’d share a few coffee basics you may or may not know.

For starters, did you know the coffee bean isn’t even a bean? It’s actually a seed found in the coffee cherry fruit tree but to keep things simple we’ll continue to use the word bean.

A green coffee bean, which is about 11% water, will experience a variety of different physical and chemical changes as it moves throughout roasting process. Listed below are a few of those changes.

  • The bean will change color (green, yellow, tan, brown, and black)
  • The bean will double in size
  • The bean will become more acidic
  • The bean will lose up to three-quarters of its moisture content
  • The bean will become sweet then lose that sweetness
  • The bean will pop and crack as water and gas build up, then escape

Interestingly enough, there are no set industry standard roasting definitions. What one roaster might consider medium, another might consider dark. Some of the different roast names you might be familiar are typically named so because of the color of the roasted coffee bean. Some of those names are – light, medium, medium-dark and dark. You can break those four common categories down even further with labels like – light (light), cinnamon (light), medium (medium), high (medium), city (medium-dark), full city (medium-dark), French (dark) and Italian (dark).

The longer a coffee bean is roasted the more it will lose the original flavors that come from the soil and the pulp/mucilage of the coffee cherry fruit. As you lose those sweet fruity flavors they become replaced with flavors of the roast. Think about a cookie. When a cookie is in the batter stage you can taste the individual flavors of the flour, sugar, salt and the butter but as the cookie bakes all those flavors come together to make a sweet deliciously soft cookie. As the cookie continues baking longer and getting hotter, the sweet flavors are lost and replaced with a burnt or charred taste and what your left with a is hard burnt cookie. Have you ever noticed that a burnt cookie, burnt piece of meat, or burnt/dark roasted coffee all taste the same?

As an artisan micro-batch roaster, we do not roast our beans to the typically common roast styles you will find in most cafés and grocers. We don’t want to hide the beautiful flavors of the coffee cherry in the dark, we want to bring those flavors out and open them in the light.

We are focused on bringing out the original flavors and notes of the coffee as best we can and that is why we will never roast our coffee much further beyond first crack and we will certainly never roast to second crack. Second crack is the dark side of roasting and when oils begin to appear on the surface of the coffee bean. However, if that’s how you like you coffee, by all means go for it. Your options are endless.

Coffee is very much a personal experience.

Now, you might be reading this because you purchased a bag of coffee from Ramona Roasters and you’re curious about the roasting details on the back of your specific bag of coffee or maybe you just stumbled here. Either way it’s time for us to explain a few of the common terms associated with the coffee roasting cycle.

Turning Point – The point in a roasting cycle when the beans begin to absorb the heat through both conduction and convection transfer and or the energy being put off by the roasting machine. It is also referred to as the S curve.

Color Change – After the turning point the beans will begin the drying phase and change in color from green to yellow, from yellow to tan and eventually to brown. However, the drying phase can be misleading as the beans are continuously drying throughout the entire roasting process.

First Crack – When the bean reaches a certain temperature in the roasting process and undergoes a physical and chemical reaction causing water and gas to build up then explode through microscopic fissures located across the surface of the bean. This typically occurs within a temperature range of 370°F – 390°F and sounds like popcorn popping. By this time the bean will be light to medium brown in color.

Second Crack – While we never roast to second crack it is an important phase in the coffee roasting cycle because once again you will hear popping and cracking sounds as CO2 is released from the beans. This is also the stage in which oils begin to make their appearance on the surface of the bean. This is what we at Ramona Roasters call the dark side of roasting.

Bean Drop – This the time at which the roasting cycle is ended by the roaster opening the door to the roasting drum and dropping the beans into a cooling tray.

Roast Development – This is marked at the onset of first crack and runs until the beans are dropped. It is represented by a percentage and time that is a part of the entire roasting cycle. Often times a higher percentage will result in a deeper roast flavor. An example would be listed as 25.2%.