Roasting for brew method

So I’ve been searching for inspiration for a while for a good blog post. Not just making noise for noise sake.

To be fair I have been incredibly busy of late, a quick jump to you will see exactly why. A major revamp of the whole site, focusing on some of the lovely photos I’ve collected over the past few years, I hope you enjoy using is as much as I enjoy looking at it. Feedback always very very welcome

I had an email conversation last week that set my blogging mind off, and I was talking about roasting styles for certain brewing methods, and we got talking about the recent in my mugs being roasted more for espresso. I disagreed with this and thought the gayo was a great brewed coffee, and well, it set my mind a running.

I think that the roast style has nothing to do with the brew method of the coffee, nor do I believe that you should roast coffee differently for those different styles. I think I owe it to the coffee to let it be the very best that it can, if that means playing with a profile that may not suit the majority of peoples pre conceptions of a brew method then I can live with it. What I couldn’t live with is not present the coffee the best I believe it can be.

On saying this I don’t think a roast will suit all brew methods an omniroast, but it will be what it will be, it may be inclined towards brewed or espresso. I really enjoy some times a darker roasted coffee in the filter just as some times I’ll play with a lighter more delicate bean in espresso its all part of the fun, but what I want from each cup is delicious tasty coffee that is a wonderful expression from the farmer.

So thoughts, I’m guessing the camp I am in is not a popular one, and not for the cool kids, but I’d love to hear your thoughts, and arguments for and against. Opinions can be changed.

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  1. I wish I knew the first thing about roasting. I got to roast some COE samples (under strict guidance) recently, and marveled at the variables you have to control just to make it palpable. Changing it for specific brewing styles makes my head hurt.

  2. Interesting post Steve, to be honest I’ve always considered an espresso roast to be marketting BS from lazy / commercial roasters. I can only think of one coffee that was truely unpleasant in a certain method (and it wasn’t from you).

    Certainatly some coffees suit an espresso/filter/vacpot/aeropress/etc… better than another method, but I find it part of the fun. Finding a different flavour in a coffee dependant on nothing more than wether it is brewed through immersion, pressurisation or drip or through a mechanical filter, paper or flannel filter is always exciting for me, and I hope it never stops being exciting. I have only brewed a handful of the recent IMMs through my espresso machine, and though they were enjoyable experiances, with the exception of the palmerias, I always enjoyed a brewed cup more.

    Maybe this is reflecting my recent preference away from espresso in general, but I like to beleive I’m more objective than that…but I’m probably not.

    At the end of the day Steve, I think it comes down to wether you beleive you’ve approached roasting the coffee in the best way for the beans, if you beleive that then I don’t think you can ask more from yourself.

    I didn’t want this to come off fan-boy but it kind of did…

  3. …though it should be said I now NOTHING about roasting

  4. I must say the universal roast profile for all brew methods doesn’t do it for me. Not at all. Compromising with roast profile, to me, means one or both brew methods will suffer. Compromise equates to either ‘roasty’ characters in the filter style brew or an overly bright and unbalanced espresso. We all work so much to get the best water temp, dosage, brew time, etc – to not treat roast profiles the same for different brew methods seems bonkers to me.

  5. My head hurrts too Mike getting coffee right is a challenge without extra parameters.

    Alex, I love the fan boy, this is whole heartily encouraged 🙂

    Tim, So is there compromise in what the coffee for what it can be, by making the coffee darker or lighter for a specific brew method? The word compromise is the key word in this for me as there must be if we use this rule of thumb.

    I will not compromise the coffee for the brew method, but understand that the coffee will be what it is. It may be better towards one method or another but I know that the coffee is the best it can be.

    So we need to decide its good for espresso, its good for filter or at its optimum roast (decided by the roaster) its good for both. But saying we can do it for this we can make it fit here if you want does not wash for me.

  6. I had to convince a bean retailer to sell me some yirgacheefe for espresso. V light flavour unlike most espresso flavours but really nice and unexpected. There should be no rules!

  7. I agree with the idea that not all coffees work on all brew methods, which is why we never recommend using a coffee specifically roasted for say filter or French press as espresso. This is especially the case for us, as we are roasting lighter than most other roasters. We have coffees that are roasted completely differently for espresso vs. for filter style brewing. For example, putting our Tekangu from Kenya through an espresso machine would be like biting into a lemon, but brewed on a V60, for instance, you get a wonderfully balanced and aromatic cup.

  8. No coffee is drank without being brewed in some manner. So in my mind the best it can be, cannot be separated from this step.

    While there may be circumstances where the best for filter and espresso overlap, in my experience (for what its worth) the two brew methods are too different for it generally to be the case.

  9. It seems to me that the UK cafe culture is obsessed with espresso machines, and large milky drinks. This culture is then influencing how our roasters roast their beans.
    Espresso is probably not the best way to realise all the fantastic flavors in coffee and large 12/16oz lattes are deffinately not. In fact Steve these types of coffee are not worthy of your fab beans. The problem is that these drinks make up a huge part of our coffee consumption.
    The roasters job it to get the coffee to its optimum roast level then it is the baristas job to select to the coffee and brew method to serve the best possible cup to the consumer. The longer you stay on this road the quicker you will realise the downfalls in espresso.
    If your’re still obsessed with espresso then don’t pass the buck to the roaster, the equipment is out there for YOU to make better coffee: now you can now change the water temp, pre infusion time, pressure profile, shot size, extraction time, dose size. All these tools to realise the great flavors in hasbeans coffee.
    Who said espresso was easy?
    Along the way we should educate the consumer that there are better drinks than ones with over 90%milk in them.

  10. I’m with David and Tim on this one.

    First of all: How do you judge that the coffee is roasted to it’s very best? Not by chewing on the bean for sure. You’d have to brew it first, and then you’ve already chosen a brew method which will “put it’s mark” on the coffee.

    Also rather than always only talking about roast degree I like to stress the importance about thinking about the roast profile. Same roast degree but two different profiles = two very different coffees.

    Interesting discussion. I don’t everyone will or should agree in the end, though.

  11. Yup, horses for courses here. We got coffees in the blend which also go on the counter for single origin, but with the occasional exception we can rarely achieve the best of both worlds, so we go gentle on the SO version, and push the blend level. It’s rare that the espresso level doesn’t taste a little roasty for filter on our gear.

  12. Having said that, it is only the blend coffees which get pushed and if you want to make espresso with the other SOs then yes, you’re going to have to get your skills out to a) get a good shot, or b) realise you’re flogging a dead horse and the coffee is unsuitable, go try another method.

  13. There are many variables in the chain of materials and actions involved in making a drink from a roasted, crushed and brewed coffee bean. Then, there is individual palate, taste and preference. Think about it for a moment and the size and complexity is apparent. Thankfully, over centuries, people have. Skilled operators can narrow the range of variables down to a manageable size, but personal preference, and chance, to a degree ultimately play the major part in realising the ‘perfect’ cup of coffee. It hardly needs saying then that coffee is highly subjective.

    A quality fresh coffee bean, properly roasted by a skilled person, then competently brewed fresh, is as close to a ‘perfect’ cup of coffee, whatever the degree, shade or style of ‘roast’ that has been used. The paramount requirement is quality materials and skill, then its up to you.

    A roaster’s primary consideration is the bean and how to bring it from raw material to finished product using skill and judgement to bring out maximum flavour potential. What the consumer subsequently does with it is not really the roasters concern. Enthusiasm for different roasting levels for different brew methods, etc, is therefore, in my opinion, misguided.

  14. Depending on what brew method you’ll use for your coffee, you should adjust the roasting time. Offcourse this will also make a huge difference on your entire profile. But from experience, i can tell that for espresso you will have to do a longer roast and for filter coffee you will have to do a much faster roast so the bean cells expand more and it is more easy for the water to take the all taste when brewed.

  15. I think first of all u should not compromise, the full potential of the coffee bean u supply, that is u should try to reveal the full, most complex characteristics of the bean u roast regardless of the brewing method.

    Sometimes simpler is better and less is more, so i think your method is great as long as u have a good evaluation of the bean u supply in order to pick the right roast. Now if someone wishes to have some fun and mix things up a bit to “personalise” his every day coffee experience he can do that by purchasing green beans and roasting them as he wishes. That’s how i see it.

  16. I agree with U Steve. The most important thing in it is to have clean cup, teasty and suitable for a person who drink it. In some cases the same bean roasted in a different way could give U some changes in a taste profile and thats the magic of coffee. Isn’t it the same as different dose and scale of grinding with espresso ? Diferent amount of coffee connected with a combination of different dose will giwe different taste. The whole thing is to have CLEAN CUP 🙂 with a good coffee. Cheers 🙂

  17. Certainly coffee should be roasted to bring out its essence(s) optimally. That said, with equal certainty, different brewing methods are better suited to different flavor profiles. Roast optimally and brew optimally. Compromise nothing…. Why not?

  18. Roasting for brew method is putting the horse before the cart somewhat. It is inevitable however that certain roast profiles will certain beans and that those roast profiles will shine through better in certain brew methods.

    I think everyone has their own internal coffee dogma through which they judge coffee. A kinder word would be taste but sometimes that’s what it is, personal dogma.

    Anything that widens the horizons and challenges this dogma is a good thing.

  19. Uppsala Coffee Roaster 8 December, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    In my experience and from a roaster’s perspective, some beans have a very small sweet spot (a few seconds too little or too much and you’ve missed it) whereas other beans have a much larger range in which they shine. In other words, some beans seem to have only one best profile whereas others can have different profiles and still be at their best. The beans that have the wider range pf best profiles of course have a range of taste profiles to match…
    For example, I might roast a Yirgacheffe slightly more when I want to use it in certain blends, but I would often roast the same bean slightly less if I wanted it by itself. roasting it less will give it slightly more brightness, fruit and citrus tones whereas roasting it more will smooth it out and allow it to blend with other beans better, IMHO…(I have always and probably will always roast different beans separately before blending. This is along the lines of Steve’s original post in which beans are roasted to get the optimal quality out of them…)
    In short, I like to find the ideal profile, or _range_ of profiles that bring out the best in a bean. I sometimes try _different_ brew methods to see which roasting profile brings out the best in the bean, though the “cupping” brew method is the standard brewing method when comparing…
    Another note: @Ola: I actually do chew on a bean or two sometimes to see where the roast is going and to see if I got it right or not…no kidding…I really do this…

  20. I think each coffee it has to be analyzed is a isolated way. And the key for that is trying different roasts profiles with different brew methods. Some coffees, in general balanced coffees, you can play a little bit more with the roast profile, and roast them in a different way (different time, different degree of roasting) and serve them as a “espresso roast” and without burning the coffee and still get the best of it. But this works only in some coffees. But some other coffees it doesn’t matter how much or how you roast them it will never are going to work for espresso because of some intrinsic characteristic, it could be an extreme level of acidity, or a lack of body, it could be whatever. The point is not to generalize and study each coffee in a separated way. Espresso is a very tricky beverage. Is not a natural way of brewing coffee, is a chemical carrousel. Sometimes you have to adjust the roast profile to get a better cup.

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