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Cake
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Cake
Joined: 28 Aug 2009
Posts: 30
Location: net
Expertise: I love coffee

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Posted Thu Oct 15, 2009, 8:25am
Subject: Trying to understand roast level tastes and brew methods
 

Back before my journey into fresh roasted coffee,while buying at the local supermarket,I always looked for the lightest roast level coffee I could find for drip.When I tried darker roasts they were undrinkable.

Now that I am buying fresh roasted coffee(not roasting my own yet)I am finding that I like medium to darker roasts(full city-espresso roasts) for drip.Now that I have an espresso machine,I am also finding that I like very light roasts(city before second crack) pulled as espresso and also like it better in espresso based milk drinks.

I need some help understanding fresh roasted bean roast levels and what to expect from them and what the best brewing method would be for different roast levels.I am not sure there is any general guidelines for these and from what I have I have experienced so far,my tastes seem to go against common practices.


All that I knew about what roasts I liked and what roasts to use for espresso or drip coffee seems to have been turned upside down with my last 2 orders of fresh roasted coffee.

Espresso seems to be traditionally brewed with darker roasted espresso blends.
For some reason I find that I love city level roasts(before second crack) and non-espresso blends much more as espresso.The taste seems to be much better balanced.Although it could be my cheap espresso machine is just making it seem this way.I am not sure.

For Drip,when using stale store bought coffee.I would look for the lightest roast possible and avoid dark roasts.Now I find with fresh roasted beans the lighter roast(city before second crack)Has no flavor and is too acidic,and the darker roasts(full city-espresso) and I like the espresso blends I have tried more as drip than brewed as espresso.

Maybe I just have strange tastes,but it seems like everything I thought I knew about coffee roasts and blends,and what brew methods to use,is out the window now.

What do you consider the best brewing method for light roasts before second crack?

What do you consider the best brew method for medium roasts(full city second crack)?

What do you consider the best brew method for darker roasts(beyond second crack and oily)?

Of course this will be subject to taste.Thanks.
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JasonBrandtLewis
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JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,378
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
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Posted Thu Oct 15, 2009, 9:34am
Subject: Re: Trying to understand roast level tastes and brew methods
 

Cake Said:

Back before my journey into fresh roasted coffee,while buying at the local supermarket,I always looked for the lightest roast level coffee I could find for drip.When I tried darker roasts they were undrinkable.

Posted October 15, 2009 link

Not surprising.

Cake Said:

Now that I am buying fresh roasted coffee(not roasting my own yet)I am finding that I like medium to darker roasts(full city-espresso roasts) for drip.

Posted October 15, 2009 link

Not surprising.

Cake Said:

Now that I have an espresso machine,I am also finding that I like very light roasts(city before second crack) pulled as espresso and also like it better in espresso based milk drinks.

Posted October 15, 2009 link

Not surprising.

Cake Said:

I need some help understanding fresh roasted bean roast levels and what to expect from them and what the best brewing method would be for different roast levels.I am not sure there is any general guidelines for these and from what I have I have experienced so far,my tastes seem to go against common practices.

Posted October 15, 2009 link

a) No, they don't.  It seems to me your tastes are pretty normal.

b) #^<! "common practices" -- trust your own taste buds!

Cake Said:

Espresso seems to be traditionally brewed with darker roasted espresso blends.

Posted October 15, 2009 link

Only in Southern Italy and by Starbucks.

Cake Said:

For some reason I find that I love city level roasts(before second crack) and non-espresso blends much more as espresso.The taste seems to be much better balanced.Although it could be my cheap espresso machine is just making it seem this way.I am not sure.

Posted October 15, 2009 link

It has nothing to do with your "cheap espresso machine," and everything to do with your taste buds.

Not that this proves anything, but -- roughly, in terms of geography -- in Naples and Sicily, coffee is roasted quite dark.  As you move north, through Rome, Tuscany, the Italian Alps, and even into the Canton of Ticino in the Italian-speaking portion of Switzerland, the lighter the roast for espresso.

Look, Starbucks is not the poster child for anything related to coffee, but they have succeeded in convincing most people that darker = espresso.  Espresso is simply one method of preparing coffee.  So too, is drip, press, siphon, and so on . . .

Think of roasting coffee as a range -- you already do -- from light roasts to dark.  Arabica beans from (e.g.) Indonesia are very different than those from (e.g.) Yemen, just like Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are different from Napa Valley than when they are grown in Chile or in Bordeaux.  But just as winemakers can put such a heavy stamp on the wine made from those grapes that it would be impossible to tell where the wine grapes were grown, so too can coffee roasters.  Picture a see-saw . . . on one side are the inherent, distinctive qualities that make (e.g.) Indonesian and Yemeni coffees so different; on the other side is what the roaster does.  When talking about unroasted (green) coffee beans, the see-saw is tipped so the "bean" side is resting on the ground.  As roasting starts, the see-saw starts to move -- picture more weight being added to the roasting side.  The more it tips the other way, the more "roast" flavor you get, and the less distinctive, unique flavors of the bean you retain.  

By the time Starbucks (it ain't called "Charbucks" for nuttin') is finished, the very dark roast beans are horrible for espresso (IMHO) and barely drinkable as brewed coffee.  

Espresso is the best way (again, IMHO) to bring out the different aspects of a bean's origin -- whether that's a proprietary blend of different beans bringing an added dimension of layered complexity to the cup, or a single origin espresso.

You don't indicate where you live in your profile, but -- being in the US myself -- I'm going to presume you live in the US . . . you might want to check out the coffees available from these top-quality roasters:

Cake Said:

Maybe I just have strange tastes,but it seems like everything I thought I knew about coffee roasts and blends,and what brew methods to use,is out the window now.

Posted October 15, 2009 link

Actually I find your tastes quite normal -- they not only echo my own, but also most people I know who are "serious" about coffee.

Cake Said:

What do you consider the best brewing method for light roasts before second crack?

What do you consider the best brew method for medium roasts(full city second crack)?

What do you consider the best brew method for darker roasts(beyond second crack and oily)?

Posted October 15, 2009 link

No offense, but I never thought about it this way -- I do not home roast, nor do I see any reason to (but that's me; YMMV) -- nor do I really care.  It's all about the taste . . . and I've been VERY happy with what I get from the roasters shown above.  Most ship the coffee the same day it's roasted, and I get it on Day 2-3 after roasting, perfectly fresh and in fact, generally in need of a little more de-gassing.

Cheers,
Jason

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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Frost
Senior Member
Frost
Joined: 26 Jul 2007
Posts: 2,090
Location: Sierra
Expertise: I love coffee

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Roaster: Poppery I w/variac, MET, BT
Posted Thu Oct 15, 2009, 10:17pm
Subject: Re: Trying to understand roast level tastes and brew methods
 

It may be helpful in understanding roast degree to clarify the first and second crack, and how they relate to roast degree. While there is not complete agreement here, I follow Tom Owens at Sweet Maria's on this.

City roast, has just cleared first crack and the roast is terminated.

City+, just a shade beyond City, the finish is a bit longer, smoother, more even browned, a bit softer acidity.

Full City, can cover a rather broad range but does not generally include second crack at all.... or if second crack, just the very first snaps.

Full City+, roast is terminated as second crack is just getting started.

Vienna and darker, second crack is fully underway.

Second crack completes..... burned beans.

To further complicate things, there is a distinct difference in roast flavor development depending on how long the roast time from begin of first crack until the roast is terminated. A City+ or Full City roast that is terminated 3 minutes after first crack begins will tend to brighter acidity than a roast that runs 4+ minutes here.

Generally coffee is not fully roasted if first crack does not complete. This range between the cracks is where maximum aroma  flavor and complexity generally peaks.  As second crack gets underway, there is a distinct flavor shift to 'bittersweet and pungent' flavors.  

There is not just a simple progression from origin to roast flavors as the roast goes to longer and/or darker, it is much more complicated than just that. While some flavors may be decreasing, others are building. And some 'origin characters' are very distinct in the medium roasts. As a roaster this is usually about achieving maximum balance and character.

What roast degree and what brew methods are best? Depends on the particular bean, individual taste and the roaster's discretion.
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