Coffee gets both taste and aroma from a soluble oil which is trapped inside the bean. Roast is the single most important factor affecting the way that a coffee tastes. It is very important that you know how each different roast level affects coffee. There are three roasts that you need to be informed about: medium roast, dark roast and French roast.
Medium Roast – This is the roast used by professional cup-testers. They use a medium roast because it allows them to taste everything the coffee has to offer and thereby make an informed evaluation. If the coffee is flawed and has imperfections, they will be able to detect the imperfections. Alternately, if the coffee is superb, they will be able to taste all of the subtle characteristics that set it apart from other coffees. These subtle characteristics are masked or hidden when a coffee is roasted darker than a medium roast. A medium roast also brings out the acidity in the coffee.
Dark Roast – Although when coffee is roasted darker than a medium roast some of the more subtle characteristics are removed, some coffees such as aged Sumatra Mandhelings which are very rich and full-bodied, lend themselves to a dark roast. Dark roasting a full-bodied coffee lowers the acidity and giving the cup a smooth, rich taste.
French Roast – When coffee is roasted to a French roast the soluble oil which gives the coffee taste and aroma is brought to the surface of the bean. There are two important things to know about French roasted coffee. First, when the oil is on the surface of the bean it comes in contact with the air and oxidizes. Nothing deteriorates or stales coffee more rapidly than oxidation. Second, French roasting eliminates or masks all of the subtle characteristics of the coffee and replaces them with a bitter aftertaste. People frequently mistake bitterness in coffee for strength. This is a misconception. Strength is a function of the quantity of coffee in relation to the quantity of water used to prepare the brew.
Roasting Trends – Certain large coffee chains favor a very dark roast. This is due primarily to the influence of Alfred Peet, a coffee pioneer in California. He preferred a very dark roast and many of the founders of many West Coast roasters, Starbucks among them, apprenticed with Mr. Peet. The trend is starting to fade and "blonde" coffee is appearing in coffee chains. We will stick with roasting to match the coffee characteristics and our customers preferences.
Nota Bene – Coffee lovers should keep the following information in mind with regard to BITTERNESS. We human beings are creatures of habit. If our palate is accustomed to a bitter aftertaste and we do not get this bitter aftertaste when we drink a cup of coffee, our brain tells us that something is "wrong". In fact, nothing is wrong, it is simply that our palate is craving something which it is accustomed to and is no longer getting.
For more information about roasting see our newsletter: Labor Day 2011- Medium or Dark?