Get ready to read the most comprehensive article on Toasting!
Why is coffee roasted?
You cannot talk about roasting, its levels and stages, if you do not first understand why you roast coffee.
For this I leave you with one of our videos on the subject:
Summing up what has been said: you roast coffee because raw beans, when extracted with water, do not give any pleasant aroma to the final drink.
In addition, they are not grindable, so you could make the drink only with the whole grains.
So if we want artful, fine-tasting coffee, we have to roast it first.
During cooking, the grains undergo chemical and physical changes and develop the flavor profile. Ultimately the grains become crumbly and thus grindable.
If you would like to learn more about the whole roasting process, I suggest you click below and read the dedicated articles:
The different levels of roasting
Toasting can be divided into 3 different macro levels:
There are then further nuances among these, but let’s make it simple and talk about the three macro-groups:
Let us first learn to distinguish them.
It is very simple: just make a visual inspection.
In fact, in the picture we immediately see the first group on the left, with the light roasted beans, in the center the medium roasted beans, and on the right the dark roasted beans.
Easy isn’t it?
Now let’s talk about the merits and demerits that the different levels give to the extracted drink:
Reading the table then it is immediately clear on the fly that Medium roasting gives the perfect balance of taste and aroma, cream and body, and adaptability to different extraction methods.
In fact, the Medium Roast, or rather medium-light roast like ours from Ernani Coffee, can be used for different extraction methods, makes the drink intense and fragrant, without ever overdoing the bitterness. It also makes the coffees delicate and expressive, but without sacrificing the creaminess and full-bodiedness that we so seek in our Italian espressos.
The bitterness is there, but it is delicate and pleasant, as is the acidity and sweetness.
Looking at it this way, the Medium Toast seems the best–then why doesn’t everyone use it?
For two reasons:
- In the Nordic countries of Europe or, for example, in America, Canada, and Australia, where the most widely consumed coffee is filter coffee, the best roast is the light roast. These very long extractions in fact do not need to have a full-bodied beverage, but on the contrary need a finely acidic coffee with a wide and well-defined aromatic range. In these states therefore it is more common to find Light Roast coffee.
- In countries like ours, where instead it is espresso that wins in consumption outside or inside the home, we have to have beans that allow us to create a silky crema and a round body in the cup. Light roasting is not good, while medium roasting is preferable. In order to make Medium Roast, however, one must compulsorily start with a high quality and fine raw coffee, thus more expensive. Instead, to keep prices low, many roasters buy low-quality coffee, then see themselves forced to roast it to a dark level.
We better understand why!
Medium Roasting, just as it enhances the positive aromatic notes, also enhances all the negative notes and possible defects, so you have to start with a quality raw material!
Negative aroma notes can be for example: wood, mold, yuta, stinker, grass, hay, earth, ash, tar, rubber, etc.
Defects in green coffee can be for example: broken beans, unripe, rotten, moldy, bug-holed, shells, etc.
To learn more about all the shortcomings of green coffee, click below:
What is the difference between a quality coffee and one that is not?
Besides of course the quality per se and thus the final taste… but the main difference is the cost!
Do you want to sell your final product in a supermarket at € 3.00 per 250g of mince?
If you also want to make money, you have to buy low quality, defective and therefore low-priced coffee.
Do you want to focus on quality instead of low selling price?
Then you buy quality coffee at a much higher cost.
Understanding this difference, whoever opts for the first choice, must necessarily adopt the Dark Roast, as with the very strong bitterness it allows you to hide and cover all other defects.
If, on the other hand, the roaster wants to sell a truly high quality coffee, he or she will buy a fine, selected and faultless raw material and roast it to a Medium level, bringing out to the fullest all the qualities and natural aromas of the chosen beans.
In fact, as you can hear in the video below, the roaster’s job, if he wants to work well and give dignity to the whole very long supply chain, is to enhance the excellent work done by the figures who come before him, thanks to the Roasting.
There is an additional variable in all this: the type of plant the company owns.
In fact, there are artisanal plants, with a few but essential pieces of machinery, in which the work of the roaster and his or her skills are crucial to achieving a quality product.
This is, for example, the case for us at Cafe Ernani!
In fact, our roasters, Paolo and Andrea, immediately underwent a long and complex process of training and coaching to fully understand each and every step and variable in the cooking process and thus be able to handle them with extreme care and precision.
Without the two of them and without their passion, our product would not be what it is and it would not have the quality and research that we so desired when we opened the Desio Roasting Laboratory.
Unfortunately, you will be surprised by this, but not all roasters are trained and not all know how to master the variables and how to change them to achieve the desired result.
In fact, in this second case, choosing the Medium Roast becomes a risk, because the step from a quality coffee to a bad one is really short and making mistakes is easy.
Better then to opt for the Dark Roast, because the coffee will always be bitter anyway, and you can’t go wrong if you don’t seek perfection…
Finally, Medium Roasting is more complicated if the plant is industrial and fully automated, in which machinery and computers replace the roaster.
In fact, coffee is a natural product, so it varies over time. The plants bear different fruits from batch to batch and from year to year. The roaster must then modify the roasting curve based on the bean in front of him for that specific moment.
If this work is done by computer, with a standard, preset roasting curve, it is best to opt for a dark or at least medium-dark roast, so that at most the coffee comes out slightly more bitter, rather than having other defects such as astringency or poor acidity.
You can find out all the roasting defects in this video:
Did the chicken or the egg come first?
A tongue-in-cheek title just to reflect on: did people in the past use dark roasting or medium roasting?
Question that may seem out of context, but we are so used to buying or consuming around Dark Roast coffee that we are now convinced that that is the “real Italian coffee” with a “strong” and “bitter” taste.
“Medium and Light roast came later only for the spendthrift nerds on coffee.”
In fact, it is quite the opposite!
In the past, from the eighteenth century until the 1950s, coffee was roasted mainly at a Medium level.
There was no question about the quality of the drink: it was either fragrant, smooth and cozy or nothing!
A handbook written in 1836 itself tells us this:
Dark Roasting was introduced in Italy in the 1950s, during the Economic Boom, to make coffee a mass product, lowering selling prices and thus lowering the quality of the raw material and ruining the entire supply chain.
The big brands we all know have invested so much in marketing over the past sixty years that they have come to make us believe that those cheap, bitter coffees were actually the real taste of coffee.