Have you ever wondered what goes on inside the roaster that turns the coffee bean into your favorite morning drink? The roasting process unlocks the flavors trapped within the bean transforming a grassy tasting bean into the wonderfully flavorful coffee we all love.
The first stages of roasting are the drying and yellowing of the green bean. This process is mainly taking the moisture out of the green bean and causing the outer shell of the bean to buckle.
Next is what many consider the most important stage "First Crack." The beans make an audible popping sound as the the outer shell of the bean the "Chaff" cracks and falls off. While the foul tasting chaff is usually discarded it can be used in gardening as it helps plants grow and keeps pests out of the garden. During the first crack the bean almost doubles in size and continues to lose water content.
Between the first and second crack is the development stage when the flavor of the coffee is developed and the roaster can perfect the flavors they want out of the coffee. The longer the coffee is roasted at this point the more chocolate, caramel, and smokey flavors you get in the bean. Light and medium roasts are within this time frame. Usually coffees that have a lot of flavor like Ethiopian are roasted light just after the first crack to bring out the berry and fruit flavors.
After the second crack the coffee officially becomes dark roast. This second less audible crack is when the oils within the bean start to move to the outside of the bean. This is where the oily sheen on dark roast coffee comes from. Although most people consider the dark roast coffee to be more caffeinated it actually isn't. The roasting process will burn off a little bit of the caffeine in the bean over time and the longer it is roasted the less caffeine it will have (though this is a very minor loss).
While each coffee roaster uses different standards for what qualifies as light, medium, and dark coffee there is a simple common trend. Big commercial operations more often roast their coffee darker which is easier to roast in large quantities. Smaller specialty roasters usually roast their coffee lighter. Here at Terranova we roast our coffee at a variety of levels. Most of our coffees vary within the light roast range but we also love our dark roasts and do have several within the City to Italian range. We often experiment with various roast levels on the same types of coffee or blend until we get the best flavors we want from the bean.