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Coffee Roasting 101: Personal Guide to Roasting Coffee Beans

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There are a million ways to enjoy your coffee, and roasting your own coffee is one of the best. Imagine having actual control of how you’d like your coffee to taste, right from step one. The thing is, not many know how to roast their own coffee at home, and lucky you, we’re just about to tell you how to get the perfect roast by yourself.

“Roasting process develops the flavours and aromas of your coffee, giving you the unique experience in every cup.”

Why Would You Roast Coffee?

Coffee actually has to go through different processes before finally being served in your every-morning cups.

To process the fruit into green coffee beans already takes quite some time and effort. First, coffee is processed to remove the outer skin, pulp, and inner parchment skin. Once that is complete, the inner seed, otherwise known as the coffee bean, is dried.

When it’s dried it becomes the green coffee bean that is shipped around the world for roasting, and it doesn’t stop there. There’s still the roasting process which is just as crucial as the other stages. Roasting is the part where the flavours are being developed before you can unleash the unique taste when you finally brew it to enjoy.

Brewing the green coffee beans would be too bitter and acidic to drink, making it impossible to enjoy. So, roasting builds up the flavours and aromas of your coffee, giving you the unique experience in every cup.

What happens during the roasting process?

Before actually starting to roast your own coffee, you first need to understand what will happen in the process. Generally, there are five stages during the roasting process from green beans to the roast level you were aiming for.

The Roasting Stages

Stage 1 – Drying

Drying is a crucial stage of roasting, it collects energy from the heat to make the “First Crack” happen. It’s also important to dry out the moisture in Green Beans so it’ll be less acidic and became actually “drinkable”.

Stage 2 – Browning

From 160⁰C the coffee starts to smell like toasted bread and hay. This is when the aroma precursors are starting to convert to aroma compounds, and the flavour of the coffee starts to appear. Even though the browning stage happens after the drying stage, drying continues during the browning stage.

Stage 3 – First Crack

When the beans gain enough energy from the drying stage, the First Crack happens. This is quite a crucial stage, at this stage, the sugar inside the beans starts to caramelize and it’s finally possible for grinding and brewing. You’ll recognize it by the audible cracks coming from the heated beans, telling you that it has gained enough energy from the heat.

Stage 4 – Second crack

If the roasting goes on at this stage, you’ll start to reach the medium-dark or even the dark roast. The sound will be much softer than the first crack, and you’ll see the oils will begin to appear on the outside.

Stage 5 – Cooling

After roasting, the beans must be cooled down real quick. When you stop roasting at any stage you want, it’s crucial to let the heat out from the roasted beans by moving them from the roasting chamber into another storage immediately to let them cool down after roasting.

After knowing the goal of coffee roasting, the next thing to learn is on which roast level you want to enjoy the coffee, and we’ll talk about all you need to know about it.

Know Your Coffee Roast Levels

Light Roast

The first thing you’d notice is the light brown colour, and that it has no oil on the surface. Light Roast also has a lighter body with pronounced acidity, and still keeps more of the bean’s original flavour. It’s a result of roasting between 180°C-205°C, starting with Cinnamon Roast at 196°C up until reaching the ‘First Crack’ at 205°C, also known as New England Roast. Light Roast usually works best with beans that offer bright and sweet notes such as Ethiopian Harrar and Madagascar Excellence beans.

Our favourite brewing method for Light Roast is a drip method such as pour-over. Drip Coffee creates a clean, rich, and light taste with a subtle flavour for the roast, highlighting the sweet and floral flavours even more.

Medium Roast

Medium Roast has a medium brown colour with a thicker body and is slightly sweeter than Light Roast. It offers you more balance in flavours, aroma, and acidity. This roast level suits some beans with fruity and bright notes like Kenyan beans in general, as well as Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, morningFirst’s Best. Usually roasted in the temperature between 210°C-219°C, up until the end of the ‘First Crack’. Medium Roast is often pronounced as the most preferred roast in America, for the 2 stages of this roast: American Roast (210°C) and City Roast (219°C). 

Coming with such balance, Medium Roast suits almost all methods, but Cold Brew is one of our favourites for such roast. it perfects the flavour of the beans and gives even more balance to the acidity, resulting in more sweet and less acidic notes in your fresh morning sips.

Medium-dark Roast

Medium-dark Roast has a richer, darker colour with more oil on the surface. It comes with a heavier body than the lighter roasts, while the acidity fades off. It’s usually roasted to the beginning or the mid of ‘Second Crack’ at around a stage called Full City Roast at 225°C to the Vienna Roast at 230°C, resulting in the aroma and flavour to be noticeably emerged, and comes with a bittersweet aftertaste, making it goes along well with a sweet and more complex beans like Hawaiian Kona and Sulawesi Toraja.

And as for the brewing method, medium-dark roast never fails with espresso, not on our terms. That’s because espresso machines tend to amplify the taste of coffee, creating a concentrated, strong, and smooth shot of caffeine. It boosts up the low caffeine in medium-dark roast and also, it gets the emerged flavour in a perfect balance.

Dark Roast

Dark Roast is commonly recognized by the dark brown—almost black—colour and its shiny-oily look. At this level, it offers a significant bitterness and even rather a smoky taste. It makes Dark Roast a very suitable level for beans that lean toward a bold and chocolate-ish flavour, like the Colombian Supremo and Sumatra Mandheling. The beans were roasted to 240°C—around the end of ‘Second Crack—or even Beyond. The French Roast (240°C) is the last stage to be used commonly by roasters, while the Italian Roast (245°C) is usually rather uncommon, since it has an extreme burnt tone and charcoal flavour.

Dark roast sounds tricky to brew indeed, but it’s very possible to make it good. And when it comes to making things possible, Aeropress is the magic tool. Apart from being a practical brewing method, Aeropress is able to create a clean, smooth, and rich flavour out of any coffee at all. That means it could help balance the burnt taste of dark roast and richer flavours coming up to you.

The Various Interpretation in Roast Levels

Despite everything you’ve learnt so far, interpretation in roast levels varies across different roasters around the world. To set a great example, Starbucks’ Light Roast category usually includes coffees that are commonly interpreted as a Medium Roast by most speciality coffee roasters.

“Interpretation in roast levels varies across different roasters around the world. To set a great example, Starbucks’ Light Roast category usually includes coffees that are commonly interpreted as a Medium Roast by most speciality coffee roasters.”

All right! It’s finally time to get started on the actual steps you were searching for. In general, there are 4 simple steps to follow, although the methods could vary, with different tools you have.

Step 1 – Pick Your Green Beans

It all starts with the beans, the key factor to the taste of your coffee lies in the type of beans you chose right from the start, that’s why it’s essential to choose the right beans.

Tip: Start small with around 500 gram of coffee beans. Give it a few trials with 50 grams’ batches, 10 trials of roasting should be enough to get you the feelings.

Step 2 – Choose the Methods and Round Up the Tools

There are many different methods of home-roasting—and believe it or not—even a simple frying pan will do. Just make sure you have the right tool for the method you chose, whether it’s a pan, oven, or probably a popcorn maker. And don’t forget to prepare the storage for after the roasting process.

Tip: If you’re using a frying pan, avoid using a coated/non-stick pan, as it will negatively impact the flavour

Step 3 – Aim for a Roast Level

As we’ve talked about before, you should have the big picture of what you aim for. Setting your goal on your roast level will give you the mark of when to start and more importantly, when to stop.

Tip: Do your research or even ask your fellow roaster about the character of the beans and the best suited roast level to get the ideal taste out.

Step 4 – Cool the Beans

At this point make sure you cool the roasted beans immediately after roasting. Keeping the beans warm for too long will dull the flavour of your coffee. Move the roasted beans out where it can cool down as soon as the roasting process finishes.

Tip: Do your research or even ask your fellow roaster about the character of the beans and the best suited roast level to get the ideal taste out.

Now after all the process, the big question is: “is roasting your own coffee worth it?” Well, if you value coffee above everything else, then yes, it is. You’d be able to have your coffee at its best when it’s freshly brewed.

And now that you know what roasting is all about, the journey of your coffee doesn’t end here. There’s still a lot to learn even after all those processes, like Coffee Resting, and how it helps in developing more flavours of your coffee. Sign up now to get more updates about processing your coffee!

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