A Toast to the Roast
Whether you enjoy the deep, rich flavors of a pungent dark roast, the nutty or malted notes of a medium roast or the light, sweet citrusy perfume of a breakfast blend, there is one phenomenal artisan technique to thank: the art of coffee roasting. We look forward to the variance of flavor in our customary morning cup of Joe, afternoon pick-me-up and perfect compliment to dessert. The discovery and evolution of the roasted coffee bean; the universally popular pick-me-up beverage is renowned for starting the day, bringing friends together, and signaling the end of a delicious meal. Roasted coffee is etched in the collective consciousness of so many personal, professional and familial rituals. It’s unfathomable to think of our lives without the glorious roasted coffee bean!
Accidental Energy Drink
Around the 11th Century, prior to the coffee bean’s introduction to heat, the plant which produces the beans was actually harvested for its leaves, rather than the red, cherry-like fruit, which would later become known as the coffee bean. The fruit of the coffee plant is very similar to the red, juicy Pomegranate-like skin. This tart shell covers the green “bean.” Much like making tea, the leaves of the coffee plant were boiled in water and, after a good long steep, drinking the concoction was believed to deliver a medicinal energetic boost. Monks, interested in the effects of the leaves began growing the coffee plant, first for the leaves and soon after began harvesting the berries. Boiling the berries and making a juice, pleased the Monks, as they believed it kept them alert through the evening chores and even longer evening prayers. Soon, word of this potent magical berry began to spread globally.
The process to extract the bitter taste by boiling the leaves and berries may have been popular, however, other than the “motivational” effects it produced, the taste of these concoctions left little to be desired. As the coffee plant trekked around the globe, passing on it’s unique energizing abilities, it is believed around the 15th Century that the coffee berry, whether by accident or intention was roasted. Whoever possessed this inventive mind is a Saint! Using a very primitive metal pan over an open fire, and constantly stirring with a metal tool, akin to a crowbar the green coffee bean slowly turned to a rich dark brown. Imagine being there, and smelling the aroma of the first dark roast!!
Sadly, the result of that first roast yielded crunchy beans and the same bitter results. A hunch that will go down in history as the smartest move ever, found the roasted beans taking a quick trip to a hot bath of boiling pot of water in an attempt to remove the bitter taste. This primitive style of brewing gave way to an aromatic dark brown liquid. Whether the berries and leaves were eaten straight from the plant because a sheep herder saw his goats enjoying them, or discarded by a monk into a fire by accident, or someone had the wherewithal to fashion a primitive coffee roaster sit patiently, thank you all for your time and experimentation with the coffee plant, and getting coffee where it is today!
It’s Okay to Be Cranky
At the turn of the 17th Century coffee was a global beverage phenomenon. Most of the beans were grown solely in Ethiopia and Southern Yemen. Arabia and parts of the Netherlands peaked interest and joined ranks, colonizing coffee plantations, in what would become known, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn on the equator as the Bean Belt. Eventually the demand for coffee found plantations cropping up in the Middle East, Central and South America and Asia.
Consumer demand for roasted beans forced coffee into industry status overnight. The once manually operated, open fire, primitive roasting pan method gave way to a manually cranked coffee bean roaster, over an open fire, which in turn, with the miraculous discoveries of the Industrial Revolution evolved into the automatic crank-controlled cylinder roaster. This revolutionary design looked similar to a Bingo ball drum. The green beans were placed into the metal drum with steam perforations. A motor turned the crank in 360° revolutions over a heating element similar to toaster wires. As the beans tumbled in the cylinder over the heat, they roasted evenly to the preferred toasty light, medium or dark color. Individual personal coffee roasting transformed into a 1-pound-bag-surplus-shipping-business phenomenon. Roasted coffee beans were instantly available in every corner of the globe.
A Host of Roasts
As coffee has become a more marketable commodity, attaining the perfect roast has become something of a science. Commercial and industrial sized automated drum roasting machines are capable of roasting, stirring and cooling 25-50 pounds of raw green beans at a time. Many local coffee houses roast in small batches, in electric or gas-powered cylinder roasters no bigger than the original hand-crank roaster. Ask your barista next time you pop in for a cuppa, if your favorite coffee drink is fresh roasted on site!
The coffee market is saturated with a myriad of roasts and blends. Wine and cheese take a lot of time to make, so, how then is a coffee roast perfected? Fun fact: If you can pop popcorn, you can roast coffee. We’ll show you how the professionals do it.
- The drum is filled with beans and the coffee roaster is turned on. The drum begins spinning and the heating element turns on.
- FIRST CRACK: Between 3 - 15 minutes, and at around 380°, the beans start to make a cracking sound, similar to the sound popcorn makes as it begins to react to hot oil and flutter in the pot. If the roaster is trying to achieve a light or medium roast, and the beans are to the desired color, a hopper in the machine opens and the beans are sent to a cooling tray. A large paddle spins clockwise, constantly moving the beans, while a circular fan, blows air upwards into the beans for rapid cooling.
- SECOND CRACK: Within 15 seconds to 2 minutes after first crack, the coffee beans take on the sound of milk being poured over crispy rice cereal. It is crucial at this point that the sound of the second crack is distinct and not blending into the sounds of first crack. Otherwise, the beans run the risk of burning. Once the perfect dark roast is achieved, the beans enter the hopper and onto the cooling tray for a constant stir.
- Each roast is tasted fresh, from the roaster, and the notes of the date, time, climate and flavors are recorded to maintain consistent roasting batches. Then it’s off to the bagging facility where it’s packed fresh and shipped to your local store, coffeehouse or favorite online retailer.
Now that the beans are roasted, which one to choose? Coffee roasts range between Light, Medium, Medium-Dark and Dark. On the lighter end of the roasted coffee spectrum, the beans are dry in appearance, light brown, bold, with bright fruity or floral flavors and mild acidity. Light roasts are fondly known as Light City, Half City or Cinnamon.
If you’re right in the middle, like Goldilocks and want it just right, Medium roasts are also known as City, American and Breakfast roasts or blends. And if you’re wanting to stay with a full bodied coffee, with hints of the oily, chocolatey dark side, look for Full City roasts to touch on a bit of both.
Moving towards the dark end of the roasting spectrum, the beans are oily, very dark brown, pungent, and have chocolatey-caramelly, nutty flavors and acidity-wise, dark roasts are known to produce a chemical in the roasting process which inhibits stomach acid. Dark roast coffees can be described as Continental, European, Espresso, Italian and French roasts. Dark roasts are also used to make decaffeinated coffee, using a technique known as the Swiss-water process. A combination of fresh water, time and temperature are used to extract 99% of the caffeine from the roasted beans. You get all the great flavor, without the buzz!
A discerning palate, and a nose that knows flavor, can work in tandem to find the rich mouthfeel and bold vanilla, tobacco or licorice flavors of a full-bodied cabernet, the creamy earthy-mushroom flavor of a ripe Brie, and the discerning and delectable flavors of a finely roasted coffee. Treat yourself to a Leena Beans Coffee experience. From the lightest Breakfast blend to the boldest dark roast, a Leena Beans Coffee purchase not only supports the welfare of rescued and specially-abled dogs, it introduces you to the global spectrum of international coffee, roasted to perfection. Here’s a toast to the roast.