As the coffee industry has developed over the past decade, many hands have been wrung and much ink spilled in the discussion surrounding roasting style. Roasting is one of the most fluid and ever-evolving aspects of coffee as a whole; convention changes constantly. This post won’t endeavor to make claims about which of the myriad of roasting styles is correct, but rather, attempt to define the dominant trends of coffee roasting and situate the roasting of Centri Coffee within said trends. We hope this framework will not only better help our customers to understand our style of coffee, but also gain a more holistic perspective on the coffee world and coffee roasting.
Second Wave Coffee & Dark Roasting
Dark roasting is defined as coffee roasting which results in finished coffee beans exhibiting a dark brown to black color, often with specks of oil showing on the surface of the beans. From a technical perspective, this means that the coffee has been roasted to the point of what is called ‘second crack’; coffee cracks first at a lower temperature when the water vapor stored in raw coffee seeds bursts out, and a second time at higher temperature when the cell structure of the bean cannot take on any more heat and starts to blow apart. This disintegration process, in combination with the large amounts of heat transferred to the beans over extended roast times, leads to coffees which are extremely dark in color, which in turn produces low-toned, roast-forward notes in the cup. Indeed, dark roasted coffees tend to exhibit flavor characteristics which are considered classic coffee descriptors; dark chocolate, toast, tobacco, rich body and high bitterness.
Dark roasting is by far the most popular style of coffee roasting in the world; large chains like Peet’s Starbucks, and the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf are all dark roasters, and thus dark roasted coffee is familiar to most consumers. Proponents of this style of roasting tend to highlight its broadly appealing flavor characteristics, ease of use in milk-centric coffee beverages, and uniformity across batches. Critics of the style focus on its limited range of flavor options, the increased speed at which darkly roasted coffee stales, and often assert that dark roasting obfuscates the inherent flavor characteristics of a coffee in favor of roast driven flavor.
Light Roasting and the Third Wave
A movement which began in the late 90s and got into full swing in the new millennium, third wave coffee began as a direct counterpoint to second wave coffee. Whereas second wave coffee is often blended or marketed as a single origin with no information beyond the country of origin, third wave coffee companies focus on the specificities of individual coffees. Prominent companies such as Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle, and Stumptown not only sell single-origin coffees, but also drill down to the varieties, elevation, and processing practices of each individual farmer, building transparent trade relationships and working towards environmental sustainability along the way. Because of these commitments, light roasting is the style of choice in the third wave, the logic being that if great effort is to be undertaken to source unique and specific coffees, roasting should not obfuscate said coffee’s specificity, but rather, reveal it. This means imparting as little roast-driven flavor as possible and attempting to allow the coffee to speak for itself. From a technical perspective, this means roasting coffees just into first crack, or the period of the roast in which the water vapor in the beans bursts out. Dropping the coffee out of the roaster during this process results in beans which are significantly lighter in color than their more darkly roasted counterparts, and which display similarly lighter and higher-toned flavors; citrus, berries, sugar, and high acidity are the classic marks of a third wave light roast.
Centri’s Roasting Style
At Centri, we do not exclusively subscribe to either a light or dark roasting philosophy. Instead, we strive to learn from and appreciate many approaches, and roast our coffees according to the style we feel is most appropriate to each one. This means that sometimes we roast single origin coffees fairly light, other times we roast blended coffees quite dark, and still other times we invert that methodology completely and offer light blends and dark single origins. Regardless of the roast degree of a coffee, we endeavor to create a unique and delicious experience for our customers to enjoy. We firmly believe that coffee tastes delicious at a wide variety of roast levels, and that an open mind and flexible approach are necessary tools to be successful in the coffee world. As such, we keep things loose and roast coffees the way we think they need to be for our customers to enjoy them. We’re not light, dark, or medium roasters, third wavers or the old guard; we’re just a group of passionate people who really love coffee and the people that drink it. We feel pretty lucky that we get to roast and sell coffee for a living, and we’re excited to have you along on that journey.
We hope this brief dive into our roasting philosophy has been illustrative, and stay tuned to this blog and website for updates on all things coffee. Until next time!
Article By : Bret Colman, Director of Coffee / Head Roaster, Centri Coffee