Coffee Beans

Understanding Whole Beans and Roasting

A cup of coffee serves many purposes. It can be part of our morning routine, provide the perfect end to a meal, or be part of a casual social meeting.  While coffee is a standard part of our daily life, many coffee drinkers are not getting the most from their coffee.

Whole Beans are Best

The first step in getting the best coffee possible is to buy whole bean coffee and grind it yourself. When you grind coffee beans you release the coffee oils, which are the key ingredient in the tastes. These oils are very delicate and can be compromised easily; they take on aromas from the air and lose some of their taste. Whole beans also keep the aroma of the coffee intact. There are thousands of volatile aromas and flavours in the cells of coffee beans. Within 15 minutes of grinding, almost 60% of these aromas are lost.

Experiment with Different Roasts

You drink coffee in a variety of situations and just as with other beverages, like wine, you want to pick the coffee that best suits the setting.  The first step in picking the right roast is to understand the roasting process.

Green Beans – Unroasted beans are called green coffee. In its unroasted state coffee is very stable and can be stored for up to two years.  The beans contain most of the same acids and caffeine as roasted ones but lack the taste.  Roasting changes the colour and brings out the taste and aroma of the coffee.  You want to use the beans as close to roasting as possible.

First Crack – The first step in the roasting process is the drying phase, or “first crack”.  In this phase the beans are heated to about 165° C until a cracking sound is heard. 

Second Crack – When the beans are heated to about 225° they will emit another sound, this is called the second crack.

The various types of roasted beans available depend on where the roaster ended the process.

Light Roasts – Light roast beans are roasted only slightly beyond the first crack stage. These beans are slightly more acidic and have little roast flavour. They will retain a lot of the ‘origin’ flavours that are determined by the soil, climate, and even altitude.

Medium Roasts – Medium roasted beans include all of those past the first few minutes of the first crack stage, but short of the second crack stage. They retain much of the origin flavours and the roasted flavour becomes more pronounced.

Dark Roasts – When the beans are roasted past the second crack stage, they become darker and oilier in appearance as the heat brings more oils to the surface.  At this point the origin flavours are lost and are replaced with a rich full-bodied taste and full aromas. French roasted beans are the choice for many coffee drinkers. Italian roast beans are heated even more, and to many have a slightly burnt, thin taste.