City, Vienna, French…it can be confusing trying to decipher the best roast for your taste. What does it all mean? What’s the difference? My mission today is to clear up any confusion about the roast levels so that you may make an informed decision when purchasing beans!
All beans start out green and lack any flavor characteristics until they are roasted. Each bean has a specific profile that is developed by the roaster in order to bring out the particular tones they wish to highlight. The process is very subjective based on taste preference. The beans will roast for a period of about 15-20min until the preferred temperature is reached before being dumped into the cooling bin. A roaster will use a combination of smell, color, temperature, and sound (as the beans roast, they emit a popping sound that is referred to as “cracking”) to determine the best process for roasting. Though there are numerous ways to describe the final product, most types of roasts fall into four categories: light, medium, medium-dark, and dark. We also like to use the medium-light term.
Light roast-AKA Cinnamon Roast
First and lightest roast level before the first crack. Beans are light brown and very acidic. Flavors are subtle. We have roasted the Mexican decaf, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama coffees at this level.
Med-Light roast-AKA American or City Roast
First crack ending. Beans are medium brown and displays distinctive taste characteristics of the bean. Balanced acidity and aroma. We’ve roasted Honduras, Java, Sulawesi, Hawaiian, Guatemala, and Guatemala Decaf to a med-light roast.
Medium roast-AKA Full City Roast
At the beginning of the second crack. Beans are medium dark brown with occasional oily sheen and display complex varietal flavors. The Nicaragua, Peru, Rwanda, Uganda, and Mexican Decaf have been roasted to this level.
Medium-dark roast-AKA Vienna Roast
During the second crack, the oils are rising to the surface, and the beans are slightly shiny and moderate dark brown. The acidity is muted and flavors and aromas are effected by the roasting process. Bittersweet and somewhat spicy tones eminent. Beans at this roast often have a heavy body/mouth feel. We roast the Ethiopians, Sumatra, Tanzania Peaberry, Kenya, and the Sumatra Decaf to this level.
Dark roast-AKA French Roast
Beans are dark brown and shiny with oils after the second crack. Low acidity, and often smokey-sweet undertones. Very intense yet light bodied. We roast the Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Mexico, and Congo at this level.
It is important to note that even within the light, med-light, etc levels of roasting, there are still subtle differences between the beans. For example, though we consider both the Rwanda and the Peru to be medium roasts, the temperature of the Rwanda is higher than the Peru, making it slightly darker by several degrees. Again, it all depends of the flavors desired from the roasting process. In general, the lighter the roast, the more the bean will exhibit its individual characteristics determined by the soil, variety, altitude, and weather conditions where it was grown. As the beans continue to darken, they will inevitably lose some of its unique tones as it is affected by the flavors of the roasting process itself. The roast flavor is often so dominant in the darker roasts that it is difficult to discern any of the original characteristics of the bean.
I hope this has been informative in aiding in your bean selection. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of our delicious offerings! Happy brewing!
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