Coffee Roasting Guide
You may have heard that no cup of coffee ever tastes identical, and there is a reason for that. Every part of the coffee yielding process — from the soil, weather and altitude to age and roasting temperature — effects the end result.
Barnie's Coffee & Tea treats coffee roasting like an art, incorporating our customers' favorite flavors and feedback along the way. To understand Barnie's difference, you must first understand the coffee roasting process. Keep reading to learn where coffee beans come from, how they are processed and roasted, how different types of coffee roasts are determined and more.
Where Do Coffee Beans Come From?
There are four different types of plants used in coffee production today — Arabica, Robusta, Liberca and Excelsa.
- Arabica: Arabica beans are the most commonly consumed coffee bean in America. Pick up any bag in a grocery store or at your local cafe and it will probably read "100% Arabica" on it somewhere. All this means is that all the beans inside are from an Arabica plant, which is a large bush with dark green oval leaves. Arabica plants come in dozens of varieties. The fruits — or cherries — from these trees take an average of seven to nine months to reach maturity. The inside of the cherry has two coffee beans. Arabica beans can be grown at high elevations and are commonly found throughout the "coffee belt," which refers to those countries near the equator that produce most of the world's coffee supply.
- Robusta: Robusta beans are the second most common, but often lack the quality of Arabica beans. Robusta plants are small shrubs or trees with round fruits that take approximately 11 months to mature. Robusta plant coffee beans are smaller in size than Arabica beans. There are also fewer varieties available. Robusta plants are grown in Africa, Indonesia and some regions of Vietnam.
- Liberca and Excelsa: Liberca and Excelsa coffee are a rare find in comparison to Arabica and Robusta. Because Excelsa and Liberca are similarly shaped, Excelsa was recently re-classified as a member of the Liberca family. However, that does not mean there are no differences between the two. Excelsa is found in Asia, while Liberca coffee is a jungle bean. Excelsa tastes dark and fruity. Drinkers describe Liberca as tasting "wild" and having a polarizing effect.
Harvesting Coffee Beans
When a farmer harvests a coffee tree, they yield roughly 4 to 8 pounds of coffee each time. There are two different ways to collect the cherries from a coffee tree — strip picking or selectively picking.
Strip picking refers to a process of mass harvesting, where a human or machine strips the tree branch of all its cherries at one time. Selectively picking is a more time-consuming process that involves a human handpicking only ripe cherries from the branch.
Coffee beans are known as "green coffee beans" until they go through the browning and roasting process.
Processing the Coffee Bean
There are two methods of coffee bean processing — wet processing and dry processing.
The most apparent difference between the two is the use of water. Wet processing involves repeatedly cleaning the coffee beans and pulping them to separate the beans from the rest of the cherry flesh. The beans are then dried using a machine, the sun or a combination of the two. After they are dry, they are hulled and sent to sorting. The entire wet process takes about two weeks.
Dry processing takes up to four weeks, but the overall process is more straightforward. Whole cherries are sat out in the sun to dry. They are stirred and regularly shuffled to ensure thorough drying. In the event of rain, the cherries are covered.
Dry processed coffee usually tastes sweet, smooth and heavier in the body. Wet processing yields a lighter, cleaner and fruitier coffee taste. Of course, the final taste and aroma of a batch of coffee depend on where the beans are harvested and processed, how they are roasted and the method of brewing used.
After green coffee beans are processed, they are sorted, graded and then sold to bean suppliers and coffee bean roasters.
How Are Coffee Beans Roasted?
The coffee roasting process gives coffee its signature color and smell. The basic process involves three steps — drying, browning and roasting. Throughout each stage, roasters have several opportunities to experiment and personalize the result. Even the smallest changes, like a higher drying temperature or longer browning process, can completely change a coffee bean.
- Drying: Beans are first dried for four to eight minutes in a drum roaster to roughly 320 degrees Fahrenheit. The coffee scent begins to form here, but it smells more like grain and less like your favorite roast. During the drying process, coffee beans begin collecting energy inside themselves. This is important.
- Browning: The next step is the bean browning process. Drying continues into the browning. A Maillard reaction takes place during this stage, which is when the amino acids and sugars of the beans interact with one another and produce a flavor compound called melanoidin. This is where the coffee smell comes from. As coffee's sucrose breaks down, caramelization occurs. This reaction is also where some roasters experiment with different browning speeds to produce different types and intensities of flavors.
- Roasting: Remember all that energy the coffee beans began storing in the drying stage? When the beans are done browning, they use that energy to "pop." This pop is called the "first crack." Depending on the roast strength of the batch, coffee bean roasters will either pull the beans after this first crack or let them continue toward a second crack.
What Is the Difference Between Coffee Roasts?
The flavor, color and oil sheen of each coffee bean are determined by how long it is left to roast after the first crack. The sooner a batch of coffee is pulled after the first crack, the lighter the brew and taste. Batches left to roast beyond the first crack result in darker roasts.
- Light: Light roast beans are light brown and taste acidic and fruity. Light roasts include the popular blends Light City, Half City and Cinnamon. Light roasts taste fruity because the longer a roster leaves the beans to roast, the more the fruity compound is broken down. Light City and Half City roast are pulled at the first crack. Cinnamon is removed just before.
- Medium: Medium roasts include City, American and Breakfast blends. They are medium-brown in color and roasted through the end of the first crack.
- Medium-dark: Medium-dark coffee is a darker shade of brown than light and medium roast coffee. It includes Full City blends. Medium-dark beans are roasted to the beginning or middle of the second crack.
- Dark: Dark roast beans are dark brown and have an oily sheen. They include popular blends High, Continental, New Orleans, European, Espresso, Vienna and Italian. Dark beans are roasted to the end of the second crack.
- Very dark: The most popular version of very dark roast coffee is the French roast. Very dark roasted coffee is roasted through to the end of — and sometimes beyond — the second crack. These beans are black and very oily.
How Are Coffee Strengths Determined?
The strength or "boldness" of your coffee depends on the brewing process, not the roasting one. Coffee boldness is measured by analyzing the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). TDS is the measurement of coffee solids vs. water present in any given brew. It is measured used a refractometer, which measures the different angles of light as it shines through a liquid.
There are simple ways to manipulate the TDS of your at-home brew. This process may sound complicated, but chances are, you have manipulated the boldness of your coffee before. Ways to manipulate TDS include:
- A higher coffee to water ratio: The more scoops you add to your brew, the stronger your coffee will taste and the higher level of TDS it will have.
- Stirring or shifting coffee grounds during brewing: Moving coffee grounds around during brewing exposes a larger surface area of coffee to the water.
- Using finely ground coffee beans: A finely ground coffee has more surface area or water to extract flavor from. Additionally, finely ground coffees take longer to brew than coarse-grind. The longer your coffee takes to brew, the more coffee will infuse with water, resulting in a higher level of TDS.
- Brewing coffee with high water temperature: Hot coffee tastes better than lukewarm coffee and it results in a stronger, bolder taste.
Many people are surprised to learn that espresso — the popular, concentrated coffee blend used in many of your favorite lattes — is not a type of bean or roast. Espresso can be light, medium or dark roast blend. It all comes down to the way you brew it. A bean is considered an espresso bean if it has been brewed using a high-pressure method that results in the familiar, robust taste.
What Is Crop Ex Coffee?
Crop Ex stands for "extraordinary crop." Our Crop Ex collection consists of perfectly roasted single-origin coffee beans roasted in small batches. Only eight to nine bags of Crop Ex are crafted at a time, ensuring top quality. After we package Barnie's Crop Ex coffee, each bag is signed and dated as a mark of authenticity.
When you purchase a bag of Crop Ex, you also support Coffee Kids. Coffee Kids is a nonprofit organization that mentors children and trains them to take over family coffee farms when they grow older.
Browse our Crop Ex collection. Some of our favorite blends include the strawberry, lemon and caramel Costa Rica La Sanora, the brown sugar, chocolate and pecan Colombia La Palmera and the smooth brightness of Hawaiian Kona Greenwell Farms.
When Are Flavors Added to Packaged Coffee?
Quality flavored coffee tastes like a marriage between your morning brew and your favorite dessert. One way to flavor packaged coffee is by using naturally or artificially flavored syrups and oils. After the roasting process, beans are tossed in the flavor solution and coated in flavor.
Barnie's believes in having your cake and drinking it, too — that is why we are your favorite flavored coffee supplier.
Flavored coffees combine classic coffee tastes with fun flavor combinations to create a truly unforgettable brew. Popular flavors of coffee include hazelnut and pumpkin spice. In addition to these flavors, Barnie's offers innovative combinations such as blackberry shortcake, creme brulee, southern pecan and fan-favorite Santa's White Christmas.
How Is The Caffeine Level of Coffee Determined?
The decaffeination process of coffee takes place before the roasting process. Although methods and materials used vary between manufacturers, the basic process behind decaffeination looks like this:
- Water and steam enlarge green coffee beans.
- Water and solvents are used in a delicate process to separate the caffeine from the green coffee bean.
- Beans are dried back to their normal state, now decaffeinated.
- Coffee beans are roasted as normal.
Barnie's understands the importance of having plenty of decaf options — that's why we offer more than 15 decaf flavors. Our decaf blends come ground or in whole beans and span our most popular flavor selections, including blueberry crumble, s'mores and pistachio ice cream.
If you are worried about your caffeine intake, there are other ways to control the amount you consume beyond the use of decaf brews. Light roast coffees, for example, are said to have higher caffeine content, while dark roasts have the least amount. Another way is to keep an eye on your serving sizes. Many experts recommend no more than four cups of coffee a day — but this calculation is based on eight-ounce cup measurements. The average coffee mug clocks in between 12 and 24 ounces.
Barnie's Coffee Roasting Process
Barnie's gets to work early in the morning and begins crafting the different roasts and blends our customers love. When we receive a sustainably sourced coffee sample, we roast it to a specific industry standard. From there, we experiment with different roasts and make adjustments until we find the perfect flavor profile. We then save that profile and only use it for that particular coffee. Each coffee receives a minimum of five hours of individual attention before it ever reaches the consumer.
Barnie's has been crafting unique, mouthwatering coffee for over 40 years. It all began with our love of coffee — but our business continues to grow because of the love we feel for our customers. We believe that a brand doesn’t build itself, but is instead co-created alongside our customers. Our dedication to listening to your feedback and taste preferences sets us apart and inspires us every day.
Find Barnie's in a store or cafe near you to taste the difference.