Roast Degree - Profile


Roast Profile
Do you have a dark roast? This may very well be the most common question I get asked. Maybe second to, "do you have K-Cups?"

The easy answer is 'no'. But, I love the question, "why not?"

I have described a little about this in the blog post 'What's so Special About "Craft" Roasted Coffee', but will try to give a little more context here. Green (raw) coffee has an inherent character to it. The terroir of the coffee and it's variety have the most to offer of what the finished product are going to taste like.

Think of taste like color. Imagine a wall that is covered in red sticky notes. The wall is never going to be blue unless you put blue sticky notes on it. But even then, it is still going to be reddish wall with blue notes. The more blue notes you add to it, the less influence the red notes will have. If you have a wall that is 50/50 covered in red and blue notes, you could easily see a divided line when half placed on one side and half placed on another side of the wall. 

However, we taste with a blend of the notes. So imagine the wall evenly distributed of the different colored notes across the wall. When we taste, we can pick out that there are blue notes and red notes. As our pallet becomes more refined, we can learn to call-out what these colored notes are. 

Now back to our green (raw) coffee. Like I said, the coffee has an inherent color (or taste) to it that can not be changed. As a roaster, it is my job to allow that nature colors to shine. It is possible to soften colors while highlighting others.

With the sticky notes, some are manufactured with brilliantly vibrant color. Some are so colorful, they are fluorescently bright! And yet there there are those that are colored so pastel soft or muted, it is difficult to clearly distinguish it from one note to another. Coffee has it's own particular color too. Some are tropical fruit, some dark fruit, some vegetal, others, stone fruit, etc. Here is a link to the new SCAA flavor wheel and lexicon highlights

When coffee gets roasted, the inherent flavor of the coffee is released and revealed. Coffee will taste like coffee, but think about it; it is organic material grown in soil, watered, developed over time. It will have a unique quality all its own. Yellow, green, blue, red, purple, brown?

I cannot, or at least, should not try to make a naturally tropical coffee taste like stone fruit. But taste, being as complex as it is, can distinguish notes of pineapple in a coffee that is primary apricot in character. The number of those distinguishable notes in coffee numbers in the thousands.

It is possible as a roaster to highlight those natural notes. Coffee is naturally acidic with a ph of around 5.4. There is a tendency of roasters these days to punctuate that acidity in an effort to highlight the origin character and roast the coffee VERY light. This leaves the coffee very sour. To my taste, these coffees are on the yellow side of the color-taste spectrum.

But, coffee has a lot of natural carbohydrates in it as well. When developed well, the balance of acidity and carbohydrates make for an amazing beverage to consume. Let's make lemonade out of lemons!

It is possible to over accentuate the acidity. And it is possible to over accentuate the sweetness. Balance is key.

You may love flourescent colors, but it sure is tough to live with them day in and day out. Pastels are nice and pleasant, but can be a little boring. There is a reason yellow has made the perfect sticky note color. It is just eye catching enough to remind you there is something to pay attention to, but it isn't colored in a way to be distracting. 

Each coffee has a unique need for the a great balance. Sometimes, it is a trade off. Through roasting, you can accentuate sweetness and acidity. Also, there is an ability to develop body, or mouth-feel of the coffee. 

Different brewing methods, e.g.: espresso, pour-over, french press, drip, all extract the total amount of dissolved solids in ways that affect body. Ideally, the roast profile ought to match the brewing method, and sometimes it does. But typically, balance is placed on a profile to allow the body, acidity and sweetness to compliment each other across a broader brewing methodology. 

Lastly, roasting itself does lend a character of taste and aroma to a coffee. Darker roasts have moved beyond caramelizing of the sugars and into pyrolysis of the oils. Smoke is produced and the coffee will begin to take on a particular personality. (To me, these are brown tastes.)

Unfortunately, coffee is too often roasted so dark, the sweetness, acidity, aroma, and origin of it is gone. You're left with black tasting, acrid, burnt rubber, charcoal. 

None of the regular coffees offered at Bridge Coffee Co. have entered into second crack during roasting. This is a particularly distinguishable level of roasting. It is when the physical structure of the bean fractures at a rather repeatable temperature. 

That being said, none of the coffee we offer, have been dropped during first crack. This initial 'pop' is a release when the structure of the bean has expanded to a point the built-up gases trapped inside are released explosively. The bean is not damaged, but the pores have opened up just enough to expel the gases. I will allow first crack to end and progress with some added development of sweetness, albeit, at the expense of some of the acidity. These are trade offs, but the overall balance of the coffee is pleasing. 

The coffees offered up here, hopefully, accentuate the natural character of the coffee by their particular roast profile. I have taken some liberties to develop a broader spectrum of color notes from the available selections. But all-in-all, you should have a coffee that has a natural sweetness, ripe, transparency in the subtle notes, complex, clarity of body, an identifiable acidity, and probably most important, tasty from the first sip through the finish. 

K-Cups? Can you hear my eyes rolling? Sorry, that was not my inside voice.


1 comment


  • J.L. (Marty) Marta

    Admittedly, my sense of humor is, uh, maybe a tad wonky. Thinking of roasting coffee reminds me of the joke going around the Internet about early man and the notion of milking a cow for the very first time. One guy says, “Let’s pull on those hangy-down things and drink whatever comes out”.

    I visualize early man coming upon some coffee cherries and saying, “Let’s remove this outer pulp, roast what’s left, grind it up and soak it in hot water, and then drink whatever we end up with”.

    Now, I’ve read the supposed story about the goatherd and his frisky goats that he observed after their eating coffee cherries heralding the discovery of coffee but I think my story is (almost) as plausible… Don’t you?

    In any case, roasting coffee has obviously come a long way. The nuances of flavor are too complicated for my uneducated palate but I’m very glad the roasting progress has been made.


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