Roasting coffee is a craft, and like any craft it involves a combination of art and science. In music, there is creativity in creating melodies, harmonies, and lyrics, but there is also a set of rules that govern how notes, chords, and keys are constructed, as well as the quantitative nature of time and tempo.
In roasting coffee, there is creativity in finding a coffee’s expression of flavors and characteristics that suits the taste palate of the coffee drinker and roaster. However, there is also a set of rules that govern the process which can be relied on to track, progress, and develop a roast.
At Pounds Coffee, we’re working with carefully grown and harvested coffees that have inherent traits locked inside. As a roaster, we get the opportunity to learn how a particular coffee needs to be roasted so as to develop a most pleasing and enjoyable cup of coffee.
Each coffee is roasted differently and has a unique profile that is followed each and every time to ensure optimal cup quality as well as consistency from roast to roast.
At its essence, there are two variables that are being controlled and manipulated to roast coffee: temperature over time.
- First things first, we charge the raw, green coffee into the pre-heated, rotating roaster drum to begin the roasting process. From this point forward, the coffee is tumbling over heat as we are constantly regulating the rise of bean temperature as well as ambient drum temperature by manipulating the intensity of the heat being applied and the flow of air in contact with the coffee.
- The coffee is dried of the majority of water content inside the bean, preparing the coffee for the additional chemical changes that will follow to produce sweetness, flavors, body, and acidity. Throughout the drying phase we begin to smell fragrances such as grass moving from wet grass, to freshly cut grass, to dry hay.
- Once drying is complete, the coffee begins to brown in color as it continues to take on heat. Generally, the rise in temperature begins to curb so as to allow more time to develop the sugars and sweetness present in the coffee. Throughout this browning phase the coffee begins to smell like toast and nutty and salty like peanuts.
- As the coffee continues to take on heat and darken in color it eventually reaches first crack. First crack is the point when the coffee can’t take on any more energy without popping. It is an audible cracking or popping of the coffee bean where the coffee splits open at the seam releasing a gust of energy and thus expanding in size. First crack is a violent and volatile step of the roast sounding like the popping of popcorn. The aromas start to deepen and take on sweeter and more profound notes of cooking chocolate, caramel, or spice.
- As first crack finishes, the roast is completed with the finishing touches of heat development until the coffee is dropped from the roasting drum and quickly cooled to stop the roasting process.
We're able to roast small batches, 3 to 3.5 pounds of coffee at a time, which means that with every roast we have a name or a prayer or someone in mind that we’re serving. We’re not just roasting coffee and putting it on a shelf, rather we know that it’s being roasted, packaged, sealed, and shipped or handed to someone that we have had the opportunity to grow (if even a little) in relationship with.
Roasting coffee is a craft, an art and a science, but even moreso, it’s an opportunity to serve.