When faced with the daunting pressures of life, allow the nuances of your character to mature like a finely crafted roast.
Heat, time, and pressure are three essential elements of change. The same is true for cyclists, diamonds, and, more importantly, coffee. Today we will answer the most difficult question there is when it comes to coffee, and that is “Which roast is best?”.
As young, budding Coffee Snobs, please know that this will not be an easy question to answer. I do have good news, however. Upon reading this, you will be equipped with the knowledge to address this and perhaps even challenge yourself in ways that you were not expecting.
So get ready as we tackle one of the most exciting aspects of the drink that we have come to appreciate!
Baby Steps Borne Out of Necessity
With that said, I roast beans for personal enjoyment (and occasionally for my close friends). What I’m about to share comes from my personal experience and knowledge.
I got into roasting coffee out of necessity. At the church where I am a pastor, we had someone offer to start roasting coffee for us. We noticed that our coffee consumption doubled when we switched from a ‘popular’ brand to our roast.
Unfortunately, our roaster moved (because of work). It was at this point that the engineer in me said, “I’ve got this.” I stepped in because I wanted to learn how to roast coffee, and more importantly, no one wanted to go back to the ‘popular’ coffee brand we had before.
Going Green - From Seed to Cup
We process coffee in a variety of ways. If you are interested in getting green coffee beans, I encourage you to read up on the steps it takes to go from Seed to Cup here.
Thankfully for you and me, we can purchase green coffee beans that have already gone through numerous stages, sparing us the laborious work and skill required to produce.
Green coffee beans have a few things in common. They have some level of moisture content, oil, and natural sugars. When subjected to heat, each of these potentially impacts the aromas and flavors of the finished product.
Coffee is Just Yard Clippings, Without Heat
Without heat, coffee beans are much less exciting. If you don’t trust me, grab some green coffee beans, grind them up, and make a pour-over. I will save you time and suggest that you achieve the same result by taking a handful of yard clippings and steeping them in a glass of warm water. It doesn’t sound appealing at all, right?!?!
When compared to wine, coffee is far more complex in the flavor and aroma department. If you consider the reaction between the amino acids and reducing sugars, coffee has double that of wine (around 800 flavor and aroma compounds).
Please take note that I am a Coffee Snob, not a wine snob. If you want to take a deeper dive, read what these folks here have to say. The point is, to discover these aromas and flavors, we need to apply heat!
One Crack, Two Crack, It’s Going Dark
Coffee roasting is a simple process to understand. The only tools that are needed are heat and time. With the use of these tools, internal and external changes occur to green coffee beans.
I compare the process equivalent (in nature) to how an artist sculpts a large rock into a meaningful piece of art. The artist considers the media and then begins to apply their tools intentionally to achieve something beautiful.
Coffee roasting starts as an endothermic reaction (absorbs heat), and then it becomes exothermic (gives off heat). It is fascinating to observe this process by watching the internal roasting drum temperature and listening to the beans expand, sounding off with an indistinguishable crack.
As the coffee beans are heated, internal reactions and external changes begin to take place. The moisture and oil that is internal to the coffee bean factor into how the bean will take and give off heat. As the beans are heated, they begin to expand.
At this point, some of the sugars begin to caramelize (this smells delicious, just ask my neighbors). You can read more about the first crack in the roasting process here.
As the beans are allowed to roast further, a second crack will occur, resulting in a darker roast. If left unchecked, the beans can burn to a point where they are not palatable. For more information on the popularity of the dark roast, read this.
Commit to Discovering The Nuances of Bean Flavor
I prefer a nice medium roast. More specifically, I have discovered that most of the beans I like are roasted just past or near the end of the first crack. I will typically roast my beans to a 7 or 8 on this visual scale for you home roasting cyclists out there.
If you are committed to discovering the nuances of the potential flavor profile of most green beans,
a light to medium roast will get you there. I typically never roast beans past the second crack.
It is my preference based on what I know I like. Everyone is different, though. If we ever have the pleasure of sharing a cup, I will never shame you for your preference as long as you do the same for me. I promise.
Allow the Nuances of Your Character to Emerge
Hopefully, you will walk away from this with a better understanding of coffee bean roasting. Moreso, I’d like you to gain an appreciation for how this process mimics life. When you consider how time and the pressures (heat) of life impact us internally and externally, it’s clear that we, too, can be affected similarly.
For instance, over the past year, I have seen so many people impacted by the pandemic. It has brought out the best in some, and it has brought out the worst for others. I urge you to contemplate this thought before we part ways.
Pay close attention to the heat you are applying to your life. Even if it is coming from somewhere outside, excess pressure impacts you internally as well as externally. Please don’t overdo it!
Don’t Take the Heat Alone and You Won’t Crack
I often remind myself and others (at my church) that the best gift you can give others is a healthy you. It is true in my relationship with my wife, my kids, and my friends.
If you need to drop the heat of life, find a way to do it. Reach out to others, either in person or virtually (I hear Zwift is great for this). The bottom line is that while some heat/pressure is necessary for us to become who we need to evolve, too much can cause an undesirable outcome.
I know you have people you can reach out to if things get too hard. Lean on them and let them lean back. Together we will stand up to life’s challenges and take the heat without cracking.
The Next Order Up
In the next installment in The Coffee Snob series, expect to be enlightened about the machine and the method. With so many ways to enjoy a cup of coffee, which is the best? Until then…
Like good friends parting ways after a long ride and a good cup of coffee, I will say this. I look forward to our next journey together. Travel safe, and may your coffee be strong and your watts high!
Drink Coffee! Do Good!
Until then, I want to encourage you to visit www.highwatt.coffee. You will find coffee curated by cyclists and roasted by an award-winning roaster. If you see something you like, know that $2/bag will go directly to the DIRT Dad Fund. Who says you can’t drink coffee and do good?
Enjoy other great anecdotes exploring the intersection of coffee, cycling and life by visiting the Community page of The ZOM!