Roasting is a heat process that turns coffee into the fragrant, dark brown beans with which we are most familiar. Before being roasted, the beans were stored green, a state in which they can be kept without loss of quality or taste. Once roasted, however, they should be used as quickly as possible before the fresh roast flavor begins to diminish.
Roasting is a technical skill which approaches an art form. It takes years of training to become an expert roaster with the ability to 'read' the beans and make decisions with split second timing. The difference between perfectly roasted coffee and a ruined batch can be a matter of seconds.
Roasting brings out the aroma and flavor that is locked inside the green coffee beans. A green bean has none of the characteristics of a roasted bean. It is soft and spongy to the bite and smells green, almost 'grassy.' Roasting causes numerous chemical changes to take place as the beans are rapidly brought to very high temperatures. When they reach the peak of perfection, they are quickly cooled to stop the process. Roasted beans smell like coffee, and weigh less because the moisture has been roasted out. They are crunchy to the bite, ready to be ground and brewed.
In general, roasts fall into one of four color categories − light, medium, medium-dark or dark. The perfect roast is a subjective choice that is sometimes determined by national preference or geographic location. Within the four color categories, you are likely to find common roasts as listed below. But it is a good idea to ask before you buy. There can be a world of difference between roasts!
Shiny black beans with a oily surface and a pronounced bitterness. The darker the roast, the less acidity will be found in the coffee beverage. Dark roast coffees run from slightly dark to charred and the names are often used interchangeably which can be very confusing. Be sure to check your beans before you buy them!
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