Things you need to know about coffee roasting.
There are countless schools of thought in coffee roasting. A search about coffee roasting will get you a mind-boggling amount of information, and every one tells a different story.
After working with more than 30 coffee roasters in Malaysia and meeting many from overseas, we got an understanding about the vision and philosophy of each roaster, and the message it wants to deliver through its roasted coffees.
This post is not about how coffee beans are roasted. But rather, an insight of roasters' point of view and a guide for home brewers when buying coffee beans from roasters.
Unleash the freshly roasted coffee beans!
Traditional coffee roasting
Real easy. Source any coffee (Arabica and/or Robusta) from anywhere, blend them together and chuck them into a roasting machine, typically with a capacity of 50kg or more, and roast them dark for easy management. Nothing about green beans quality or taste. Coffee was sold merely as a product that contains caffeine.
However, this was mainly because coffee was a commodity and the majority of coffee farmers and producers back then focused only on yield (quantity) over quality produces. Roasting the coffee dark was the best and easiest way to mask defects, in the name of “consistency”.
As a result, it's the black liquid that we all are familiar with. Bitter, charcoal, woody, and unpalatable without milk and sugar, the so-called “coffee taste” that we grew up with, and will never forget.
This is still a common practice until today. But thankfully, there are a growing number of coffee people, from farmers, roasters, baristas and coffee drinkers that are passionate, enthusiastic, and care very much about coffee in their pursuit of a delicious cup!
The work behind a good cup of coffee.
A good cup of coffee
It's been said that, to produce a good cup of coffee:
60% from the quality of green beans
30% from roasting
10% from brewing
That said, a coffee roaster is controlling 90% of coffee quality! From green beans purchasing, lots of trial and error in roasting, final sorting and etc. Leaving the remaining 10% to whoever is brewing it.
Now you know the importance of getting coffee beans from passionate small batch coffee roasters. They source only the best possible quality specialty grade coffees, with minimal to zero defects, and roast them to perfection!
Thousands of single origins around the world, how to choose them?
About Green Beans
Thanks to a growing global demand for quality coffees, many coffee farmers have diverted their focus to producing high quality green beans instead of just on yield or quantity.
Like many Indonesian coffee farmers, they have been working on cultivating better varietals like Bourbon and even Gesha, with improved facilities and technology of coffee processing, in order to trade at a higher price. Coffee roasters would pay a premium for such quality produces, and this practise have changed many lives of farmers all around the world. Also, it's good news for us too!
Coffee beans sorting facility in Indonesia, taken by Sprezzatura Team.
Buying green beans is the most important task as a coffee roaster (the 60%). Buying green beans can be as easy as an online purchase, or a life-threatening journey.
There are 2 main ways of buying green beans.
- Via coffee traders or merchants who act as middle men between farmers and roasters. Like Mercanta, Cafe Imports, Sweet Maria's, Project Origin etc. They collect and trade only the best quality specialty coffees, from the best farmers in the world.
- A direct trade with coffee farmers, building a sustainable relationship for quality improvement.
The first option is the safest and quality guaranteed option. It is as simple as enquire online, getting samples, place order and ship them over.
The second, however, is challenging and adventurous, often dangerous in certain countries. It's always enlightening to hear interesting stories about farm trips. And to many coffee roasters, these trips are an eye-opening experience and exposure to the world of coffee.
In the end, the decision is down to the 'Price vs Quality' question. No absolute answer. It is wholly dependent on individual coffee roasters. Fortunately, we have many coffee roasters here who are willing to source exceptional coffees, considering some are spending a fortune on green beans (see The World's Best Coffee).
The Espresso Shot!
Espresso or Filter coffee
For Espresso Roast, the aim is to pair well and punch through milk.
Almost every cafe around the world owns an espresso machine. It is used to produce a beverage that's generally acceptable to the public, such as latte and cappuccino. It is a product that ensures the sustainability of the cafe business in many countries. In Malaysia, 80% of people go for milk coffee.
Hence, there is a higher demand for and consumption of Espresso Roast coffees. Many coffee roasters would source coffees that have medium to bold body that is able to punch through milk, rather than sourcing for flavourful ones. These coffees are typically from South America and Asia (Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia single origins etc).
The price point of these coffees is usually slightly lower. The roast level of these coffees has to be well-developed (medium to darker roast), typically to the colour that we recognised as roasted coffee beans.
Yummy Filter Coffee.
As for Filter Roast, it's suitable for any brewing methods other than espresso. French Press, AeroPress, V60, Chemex, you name it. The aim, it's all about flavours!
These coffees (mainly single origins) are catered entirely for BLACK COFFEE!
If you take notice, you’ll realise that some cafes have 2 coffee grinders, one for milk coffee and the other for black coffee.
Coffee roasters look for coffees with interesting flavours and unique characteristics for this category, like many African and Central American single origins. Remember the Ethiopian coffee that completely blew your mind (blueberry, strawberry, raspberry!)?
The objective of roasting is to best preserve the flavours originated from its origin, to enhance or amplify its potential and beautiful flavours. Generally, coffee will be roasted on the lighter side, to avoid any additional flavours caused by roasting.
These coffees are generally of the highest quality (zero defect), premium priced and give a 'Wow' factor to many coffee drinkers. It's the inspiration of us founding Blaq Coffee, and we also encourage you to drink filter coffee.It tastes amazing!
Rockstar in the house.
Roasting Style & Philosophy
Another coffee fact: every coffee roaster has its very own roasting style, and no two roasters can produce the same roasted coffee beans.
If I were to distribute one single origin to 5 coffee roasters, I will get 5 different roasted coffees, possibly a very diverse range of character. Some roasters prefer developed roasts, some focus on aromatics, some pursue well-balanced flavours and so on.
We want to preserve the originality and the character of every coffee roaster. Hence, we never request a roast level or profile for all single origin coffees. Each coffee has a story behind it, from farm to roastery, and a message from its roaster – its philosophy and vision.
This gives us an absolutely inspiring and enjoyable job ever! In my opinion, the standard of Malaysian coffee roasters is on par with many globally renowned coffee roasters in the world. Trust me on this, I drink coffee for a living!
How to buy roasted coffee beans?
Everyone has his preference when it comes to his cup of coffee. Therefore, the communication between roasters and home brewers is essential to both parties. I'm certain that you do not want to drink a milk coffee that tastes like milk, or worse, sour milk.
First, tell them your brewing method. Espresso or Filter?
Second, with milk or black.
Third, about preference. Do you want it punchy or bright coffee (Strong bodied or flavourful coffee)? Or go into your favourite flavours (fruity, floral, chocolaty, nutty etc)
With this three information, you will get the coffee that you'll enjoy the most.
Espresso roast coffees for filter brewing?
Yes, why not! It is perfect for a punchy coffee, even great for cold brews!
Filter roast for Espresso?
Well, we are not a fan of lighter roast coffees on espresso, especially when pairing with milk. A cup of sour milk? I'll skip on that.
If you have a really good (expensive) coffee, I strongly recommend you to brew the filter way, slowly savour it, take your time and enjoy flavour changes as the coffee cools down.
Omni roast? Sounds like Espresso Roast coffee for long black?
Drip drip drip, for the perfect brew!
It's safe to say, terms like full city, French roast etc, are totally irrelevant to your decision when it comes to buying coffee. In fact, those terms are justified by the outer colour of the coffee beans, which can somehow be misleading as the inner and outer part of coffee may 'cook' differently.
In a chef’s term, under or overcooked. Agtron, is the ultimate numbers to roast level.
About single origin or blend, it goes back to the same questions above. We love single origin coffees and we have also tasted amazing coffee blends from our coffee roasters. Click here to see all the blends.
We hope everyone gets to enjoy a good cup of coffee, and the challenge is to cater to the individual's preference. Through communication, we believe this is the single most important aspect to enjoy your very own cup of coffee.
And of course, we encourage you to try and taste as many coffees as possible! There are way toooooooo many delicious coffees produced by passionate coffee people, we would love to support our local coffee roasters!
From now onwards, via communication, get the coffees you'll love. We will be glad to help you find the right coffee, just drop him a line at bottom right ChatBox. We'll definitely get back to you in a flash!
Enjoy your coffee!