Use All Five Senses To Determine Degree of Roast

This is the most important aspect of home roasting to master.  The roasted coffee you buy from the store or your local coffee shop has been roasted on commercial equipment that does provide certain advantages in roasting coffee to a particular level.  However, the main drawbacks are they may roast too dark (in most cases) or not dark enough (in very few cases), and the selection of coffee available to you is limited.  By honing your skills and knowledge you can create roasts that are every bit as good as those from your local shop or store.  

The key ingredient is always high-quality green coffee.
Roasting is something you learn by doing it. You can't pin it down to a set of numbers. The best way to determine roast level is by using all five of your senses. One sense alone can’t reliably determine roast level. Just like cooking, coffee roasting is an acquired skill that improves with experience.

There is always a balance between the "roast character" and the "origin character" of the coffee in any roast. In darker roasts, the origin character of the coffee becomes secondary to the flavors of the roast. I subscribe to the idea that the best roast is the one that maximizes all the "origin character" ... one that reveals the unique origin character of the coffee. This is usually associated with a lighter "City" roast. At some point between French and fire, it really doesn't matter much what the "origin character" of the coffee was, all coffees will tend to taste the same (i.e. ashy and bitter). It is up to you, the home roaster, to navigate the variables of roasting to create the coffee you truly enjoy. This may be a darker roast than I recommend but stand your ground, and brave the smoke! The experience of finding the combination that suits your senses only deepens the appreciation for the great variety of coffee available, and the enjoyment of the diverse cup qualities available..

Take Notes
It’s crucial to keep track of your roasts using our handy
Roast Log. Roasting is a craft where cumulative knowledge is the goal.  Each time you roast coffee, write fill in the Roast Log as best you can and tasting notes.  You don’t have to cup coffees in a traditional way, but do jot down a few thoughts about how the roast tastes when you brew it.  Is it sweet?  Does it taste bitter?   You can try different brewing methods too; some roast levels are better for certain brewing methods than others.  By logging your results you can more easily refer to things that worked and things that didn’t quite turn out how you’d hoped.
Here is a quick reference chart on how to use your senses to determine roast level followed by detailed explanation for each level.  You can click on the heading of each row to go to a separate page with more information. Click on the column headings to jump to more information on using that sense.
Roast Level (see expanded description below)SightSoundTasteSmellTouch
City-City+Splotchy, light brown no oil, no cracks near bean tips, slight expansionFirst Crack complete, 0:30-1:30 after end of 1st CrackBright, sweet, juicy, light body, fresh fruitMalty, sweet, floral, herbalBumpy, uneven surface, no sheen
Full City-FC+More even, no oil, medium brown, slight cracks at tips, moderate expansionJust before 2nd crack, 1:30-3:00 after end of 1st CrackBalanced, bittersweet, medium body, ripe fruitChocolate, bittersweet,
ripe berry, caramel hints
Smooth, more even surface, slight sheen
Vienna-FrenchEven, dark brown, bigger cracks at bean tips, oil on surface, large expansionJust after 2nd crack starts up to 0:30-1:00 into 2nd crackBitter, thin body, not very sweet, carbonyRoasty, bitter, dark chocolateOily, more loss of weight, brittle
Roast Levels
Please note: temperatures given in the notes below are general and relative to the quality and placement of your thermo-probe.  They are not the absolute truth for every single roaster and in fact your roaster might read as much as 50 degrees different (higher or lower) depending on how the temperature is being measured!   If your roaster can not measure temperature - don’t worry.  Use all your senses to judge the sight, smell, sound and more importantly the taste of the roasted coffee. Please check our
Coffee Glossary for definitions of unknown terms.

First Crack:
The first of two distinct pyrolytic reactions in roasting coffee, First Crack is distinguished by a loud cracking or popping sound and occurs in most roasters between 390-410 degrees F.  It has a sound similar to the popping of popcorn. This is a much louder and more forceful sound than Second Crack, which is more akin to Rice Krispies crackling in milk. First Crack marks a rapid expansion of the seed and the point where water and carbon dioxide fracture, leading to the liberation of moisture in the form of steam. This process opens the crease in the bean enough to release remaining silverskin in the form of chaff.

This is a roast that has been stopped before the coffee has gone through the necessary roasting-induced chemical reactions to transform it from undrinkable to enjoyable. First Crack has either not been completed or has just ended and the coffee hasn’t progressed far enough to fully develop its potential sweetness and flavor.  

City Roast Level:
This is the earliest palatable stage that the roast can be stopped and result in good tasting coffee. City roast occurs between 415-425 degrees F on most roasters.  At this roast level the origin flavor isn’t eclipsed by roast flavors, but the risk is that sourness, astringency, or under-developed sweetness can make the cup unpleasant.  City roast generally has a light brown color with strong surface texture, even dark creases in the bean surface, and only moderate expansion of bean size. This varies greatly in different coffees, though. As a very general rule, to achieve City roast the coffee is removed from the heat at the last detectable sound of First Crack, or very soon after, with no development toward Second Crack.

City+ Roast Level:  
This ideal roast level, also called a “medium roast,” occurs roughly between 425-435 degrees F on most roasters. The coffee has been allowed to develop anywhere from 10 seconds to 1 minute or more, depending on roast method, after the last “pop” of First Crack. These times and heat ranges vary depending on the roasting method and green coffee.  At this level, there is a balance between moderate roast flavor and the origin flavor of the bean. Astringent, sour or “baked” light roast flavors are reduced, yet the flavors specific to a particular coffee lot are still expressed in the cup. City+ roasts have a medium brown color and may not yet have the smooth surface that with further development towards Second Crack.  

Full City Roast Level:

Full City is right at the brink of Second Crack, roughly between 435-445 degrees F. At this roast level, certain qualities of the origin might be best experienced when the roast flavors are actually greater. Many Sumatra coffees fall in to this category. Full City roasts have a much more uniform dark brown color and have a smooth surface from the browning and bean expansion that occurs as the coffee is on the brink of Second Crack.
Second Crack
Second Crack is the second audible clue the roaster-operator receives about the degree of roast. Whereas First Crack sounds like popcorn popping, Second Crack has a faster, shallower patter, much like Rice Krispies in milk, electrical sparking, a snapping sound. Second crack is a further stage of the pyrolytic conversion of compounds and occurs around 440 to 450 degrees F. This is a physical fracturing of the cellular matrix of the coffee, and results in an eventual migration of oils from their chambers within the coffee to the outside of the bean. When second crack is volatile, it can blow small discs off the coffee bean!
Full City+ Roast Level:  

A coffee that’s been roasted just up to the first few snaps of second crack are heard and then terminated, roughly around 445-450 degrees F. The main cue that distinguishes the difference between the Full City and Full City+ is audible, not visual. This is a term Sweet Maria's basically invented, and while used in the trade a bit, it has its context in our communications with home roasters more than anything. At this level roast flavors begin to dominate, which tones down certain origin characteristics and creates a harmony between the two. This is an ideal roast level for single origin espresso.

Vienna Roast Level:
Vienna Roast occurs at the beginning of second crack, roughly around 450-460 degrees F.  The Vienna stage (also called Continental) to Light French stage is where you begin to find origin character eclipsed by roast character. If you buy coffee for its distinct origin qualities, heavy roasting is at odds with revealing those nuances. Nonetheless, some coffees are excellent at this stage. Vienna is a common roast level for espresso.

French Roast:  
Sugars are heavily caramelized (burned) and degraded. This occurs roughly around 460-470 degrees F. At this stage, the woody bean structure is carbonizing, the seed continues to expand and loose mass, the body of the resulting cup will be thinner and lighter as the aromatic compounds, oils, and soluble solids are being burned out of the coffee and rising up to fill your house with smoke.  Second crack is well finished

By this point, it’s too late, at roughly 470-480 degrees F.  You’ve roasted the coffee too dark and will only end up with a bitter cup of charcoal water. The heat being applied for too long has obliterated all of the volatile compounds that might have added flavor and sweetness.  You will also have created a foul smelling smoke.  Please, if you learn anything from this handbook, do not roast your coffee to this point.  It’s dangerous and a waste of time and money.  

Over-Development happens when too much time is allowed between the 1st and 2nd Cracks. The results are flat flavors with a very muted acidity as well as a thin body and mouthfeel

CoolingThe most important thing is always ending the roast when you achieve the desired level - which means how you cool the roast is important.  How you got to that point in your roast will affect the flavor of your roast, but as long as you are within a reasonable time frame (which varies, of course) you’ll be fine.  At the end of this chapter I will speak a bit more about Roast Profiling, but for now just keep in mind that it is important to track how long your roasts take and how much heat has been applied at different stages of the roast. 

Tag : egacy.sweetmarias.com


Health Benefits of Coffee

Some of the most impressive health benefits of coffee include its ability to improve cognitive health, protect the cardiovascular system, reduce the chances of developing diabetes, aid in weight loss efforts, boost energy levels, maximize fitness efforts, increase liver protection, optimize the metabolism, and protect against certain types of cancer.

Known around the world for its wide variety of taste and stimulating nature, coffee is one of the most popular beverages on the planet, with 100 million daily drinkers in the United States alone. Billions of cups of coffee are drunk every day around the world; estimates put the total at 500 billion cups every year. When something is that universally celebrated and enjoyed, there must be something besides an energy boost and a well-blended flavor. Coffee is not typically thought of as a healthy drink, but it actually has some surprising side effects, many of which are due to its chemical components and nutrients. Coffee itself comes from coffee beans, derived from the coffee plant. Coffea arabica is the most commonly used bean, but there are many different varieties depending on the region of the world you are drinking coffee in, or on where you are importing the beans from.

Coffee represents the top agricultural export for 12 countries of the world, and despite its slightly acidic and addictive nature, it continues to be demanded from Japan to New Jersey in massive quantities. Historically, coffee was first recorded as a drink just over 500 years ago, beginning on the Arabian peninsula, but there is speculation that its use as a stimulating beverage stretches back more than 1,000 years in various ancient and indigenous cultures. Now, coffee is drunk in nearly every country of the world, and the cultivation and processing of coffee is the prime source of income for more than 100 million people around the world.

Nutritional Value of Coffee
Although most people think of coffee as nothing but hot water and coffee grounds, people forget that coffee beans for have important organic compounds and nutrients, including a range of B-family vitamins, including riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin, as well as potassium, manganese, and magnesium. Perhaps most importantly, coffee contains caffeine, which has a wide range of health benefits when consumed in moderation and at right times during the day.

Health Benefits of Coffee

Cognitive Health: It is widely known that coffee helps to sharpen focus and increase attention by stimulating the brain with caffeine. While this can sometimes result in a mental crash if too much coffee is consumed, the regular process of drinking caffeinated coffee has been shown to protect cognitive health and prevent mental degradation as we age. In fact, studies have shown that elderly people who consume coffee on a regular, moderate basis are 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia. Keeping those synapses firing with some caffeine isn’t a bad idea!

Cardiovascular Health: Although too much caffeine can put strain on your cardiovascular system, research has revealed that regular coffee drinkers can actually reduce their risk of having a stroke, and in females, coffee seems to decrease the risk of heart disease. While coffee can increase blood pressure, that is more of a temporary side effect, rather than a permanent effect, and temporarily raised blood pressure does not mean that a stroke or heart disease is inevitable. It can often work to clear out the system and keep your cardiovascular system functioning at a high level.

Diabetes Prevention: This is a relatively new benefit learned about coffee, but in recent years, studies have shown that people who regularly consume coffee have a 23-50% lower chance of developing diabetes. The study covered nearly half a million people, and returned some very interesting results. This could be due to the appetite suppressing effects of coffee, or the fact that it simply makes you more energized and active, helping to reduce your risk factors for diabetes.

Metabolic Health: One of the most essential roles of B vitamins in our body is to regulate and guide our metabolic activity. The significant levels of niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin mean that coffee helps us optimize our metabolic efficiency so we use nutrients efficiently, maintain balanced hormone levels, and generally keep our body running smoothly.

Weight Loss Efforts: An overlooked benefit of coffee is that it energizes people to move around, get active, and burn calories faster. The actual stimulant nature of caffeine speeds up the body’s metabolism briefly and increases calorie burning when coffee is drunk. Furthermore, coffee acts as an appetite suppressant, so you can calm cravings and remain firm in your dieting goals with a cup of joe on your side!

Maximize Fitness Goals: Many people who regularly work out or train in a gym use coffee as a final burst of energy so they can get the most of their workout. That burst of caffeine acts as instant energy, allowing people to push themselves a bit longer and a bit harder to really begin seeing results from their exercise regimen.

Liver Protection: Although this is still an area that is being heavily researched, coffee consumption has been linked to liver health, particularly in the prevention of cirrhosis, hepatitis, and fatty liver disease. One study showed that regular coffee consumption resulted in an 80% reduced chance of developing cirrhosis of the liver.

Cancer Prevention: It seems that everyone is always looking for the magical anti-cancer cure, as the disease is one of the most deadly and widespread on the planet. Coffee is not traditionally thought of as anti-carcinogenic, but it has been linked specifically to two types of cancer prevention – liver and colorectal cancer, which are the 3rd and 4th deadliest forms of cancer, respectively.

Depression and Mood: The natural effects of coffee are to energize and activate the mind and body. This can do wonders for someone suffering from depression, and has even been connected to a reduced occurrence of suicidal tendencies. However, coffee has been connected to anxiety and mood swings if consumed in excess, because the classic caffeine crash can be quite severe as the chemical’s effect runs out. Remember – everything in moderation!

Tag : Organicfacts.net


Arabica and Robusta Coffee Plant

Coffee Plant Overview

The coffee plant is a woody perennial evergreen dicotyledon that belongs to the Rubiaceae family. Because it grows to a relatively large height, it is more accurately described as a coffee tree. It has a main vertical trunk (orthotropic) and primary, secondary, and tertiary horizontal branches (plagiotropic). 

The Difference Between Arabica and Robusta Coffee Beans

While there are several different coffee species, two main species of coffee are cultivated today.  Coffea arabica, known as Arabica coffee, accounts for 75-80 percent of the world's production.  Coffea canephora, known as Robusta coffee, accounts for about 20 percent and differs from the Arabica coffees in terms of taste. While Robusta coffee beans are more robust than the Arabica plants, but produces an inferior tasting beverage with a higher caffeine content.  Both the Robusta and Arabica coffee plant can grow to heights of 10 meters if not pruned, but producing countries will maintain the coffee plant at a height reasonable for easy harvesting.
Coffee Plant Growth and Development
Three to four years after the coffee is planted, sweetly smelling flowers grow in clusters in the axils of the coffee leaves.  Fruit is produced only in the new tissue.  The Coffea Arabica coffee plant is self-pollinating, whereas the Robusta coffee plant depends on cross pollination.  About 6-8 weeks after each coffee flower is fertilized, cell division occurs and the coffee fruit remains as a pin head for a period that is dependent upon the climate.  The ovaries will then develop into drupes in a rapid growth period that takes about 15 weeks after flowering.  During this time the integument takes on the shape of the final coffee bean.  After the rapid growth period the integument and parchment are fully grown and will not increase in size.  The endosperm remains small until about 12 weeks after flowering.  At this time it will suppress, consume, and replace the integument.  The remnants of the integument are what make up the silverskin.  The endosperm will have completely filled the cavity made by the integument nineteen weeks after flowing.  The endosperm is now white and moist, but will gain dry matter during the next several months.  During this time the endosperm attracts more than seventy percent of the total photsynthesates produced by the tree.  The mesocarps will expand to form the sweet pulp that surrounds the coffee bean.  The coffee cherry will change color from green to red about thirty to thirty-five weeks after flowing.  See Flash movie on Coffee Bean Development.
Coffee Plant Root System
The roots of the coffee tree can extend 20-25 km in total length (Malavolta, 195) and the absorbing surface of a tree ranges from 400 to 500 m2 (Nutman).  There are main vertical roots, tap roots, and lateral roots which grow parallel to the ground.  The tap roots extend no further than 30-45 cm below the soil surface.  Four to eight axial roots may be encountered which often originate horizontally but point downward.  The lateral roots can extend 2 m from the trunk.  About 80-90% of the feeder root is in the first 20 cm of soil and is 60-90 cm away from the trunk of the coffee tree (Mavolta, 195-196).  However, Nutman states that the greatest root concentration is in the 30 to 60 cm depth.  The roots systems are heavily affected by the type of soil and the mineral content of the soil.  To be thick and strong, the coffee roots need an extensive supply of nitrogen, calcium and magnesium. During planting the main vertical roots are often clipped to promote growth of the the horizontal roots, which then have better access to water and added nutrients in the top soil.
Coffee Leaves
The elliptical leaves of the coffee tree are shiny, dark green, and waxy.  The coffee bean leaf area index is between 7 and 8 for a high-yielding coffee (Malavolta, 195).  The coffee plant has become a major source of oxygen in much of the world.  Each hectare of coffee produces 86 lbs of oxygen per day, which is about half the production of the same area in a rain forest (source: Anacafe).
Tag : coffeeresearch.org