Espresso – Good for Beans, Not for Roasting

June 2, 2011

Espresso – Beans we Love; Roast Level we Don’t

I was talking about roasting recently and someone asked about ‘espresso roast.’ While other shops may use this as a roast level, we do not. Technically, espresso roast is a very dark roast but, ironically, it doesn’t make a very good roast level for espresso itself.
To add to the confusion there are espressos and espresso blends as well. Our espresso blend is a blend of light and dark coffees from different origins, none of which are roasted at espresso roast. For these beans, an espresso roast would be too dark, too ashy and pull some really burnt flavors from the beans. Not exactly a great way to start or perk your day in my mind!

Perhaps it’s a fault in the nomenclature. Some people do ask for espresso roast for beans for their espresso machine but I don’t think that makes for the best cup of espresso. In fact, our house espresso blend has equal part Sumatra, Brazil, Guatemala and Peru.
We do an ‘extra French’ roast by request for wholesale customers, which is the closest thing we have to an espresso roast is. We think this helps avoid confusion. Our Sumatra would be the best of our selection roasted this way.

Coffee beans are cellulosic and the more you roast them, the more they convert to carbon. At a certain point, they just combust. At a certain level of roast, all coffee will taste the same. After that, it catches on fire. I suppose that’s one method of creating consistency, but certainly not one we practice here!

As a roaster, there are two reasons why we don’t like to do the extra dark roasting:

  1. It’s a potential fire hazard, and
  2. You eliminate the flavor nuance of the coffee, which is precisely what we’re trying to enhance when we roast our beans.

As all rules, this one also has its exception. We will roast to a customer’s preference (within our safety comfort levels) if they make a minimum two-pound order. Recently, we had a customer ask for something very dark, which we labeled a Brazilian XX French Roast.
Whenever we get a new coffee, we do a good amount of testing to determine what roast level brings out the coffee’s best characteristics. However, everyone has their own opinion of what tastes good. In fact, we also get orders for the other end of the spectrum: cinnamon roasts.

What do you think? Would you like to see any of the coffees roasted differently?


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