The Science of Coffee: Roasts

The Science of Coffee: Roasts

Chances are if you visit a third-wave coffee shop, ordering a cup of coffee is never just ordering a cup of coffee. You may feel as if you’ve encountered a new language. It can be a little intimidating to get your morning brew if you have no idea what you’re ordering. 

The coffee industry has its language, including its terminology surrounding the roasting, brewing, and tasting of the bean. And it isn’t even a bean but a seed that comes from the cherry of a coffee plant! (More on that here.)

Among many questions your barista may ask is what kind of roast you prefer. But, what’s the difference? Is light, medium, or dark roast better than the other? Shall we defer to the wisdom of Darth Vader and choose a lighter roast because, “ You don’t know the power of the dark side?” Or, maybe you just need something that powerful to get you up and going in the morning. 

Here, we encounter our first myth: Dark roasts contain more caffeine. This is one of the most common misconceptions about roast profiles. The opposite is often more likely. Lighter roasts tend to contain a higher caffeine content than the darker roasted beans. 

Let’s start at the beginning. Unroasted coffee is often referred to as “green beans” in the coffee business. During the roasting process, these beans not only change color but more than triple their aromatic molecular compounds and double in size. Therefore, caffeine content isn’t the only attribute of coffee affect by the roasting process. The natural flavor notes of the beans are brought to life in this process.

Take lighter roasted coffee for example: light roasts tend to be more acidic and fruity, whereas dark roasts tend to be more on the bitter side. Just like baking, roasting coffee is both a science and an art. Time and temperature are key factors in the development of the bean. Understanding the balance between the two is what makes for a great roast with perfectly developed flavors. 

It comes down to preference when selecting a roast for your beverage. However, if you want to get the most out of your bean and experience all the flavors of single origin coffees, the best place to be is right in the middle. The natural attributes of a coffee will come out without being too acidic or too bitter. All the fearlessly roasted beans from Coffee by Gillespie are roasted to perfection so that you can experience the multitude of flavors the beans have to offer. All the guesswork is taken out and you can experience the variety of flavors each single origin or blend has to offer. 

As always, freshly roasted coffee is always best. For not only beans roasted to perfection, but the freshest roasts possible check out single origin subscriptions. Or, if you want to try a variety of single origins beans but not sure where to start check out the Fearless Flight sample pack. (The Fearless Flight sample pack also makes perfect Christmas gifts for your friends and family.) 

Happy brewing! 


Kathy Morales is a graphic designer, writer, bookworm, printmaker, and coffee lover from Michigan. She is also contributor with Christ Hold Fast, Higher Things, and The Gospel Economist.

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