Posted Sat Jun 8, 2013, 5:16am Subject: Roasting African Beans
I know many of the Africans are softer and should be roasted more like Indonesians, etc, than like most South American coffees. Some, though are harder and should be roasted more like South Americans. I believe Kenyans are in that list.
How do I know how best to roast an African coffee? I can't always find out the hardness or altitude.
PS: I use a Behmor, though my question is generalizable.
Posted Sun Jun 9, 2013, 10:16am Subject: Re: Roasting African Beans
When you talk about roasting beans a certain way, do you mean what sort of heat curve to use? Or batch size? Or maybe a flavor you're trying to bring out and highlight?
African coffees vary so widely. There are so many geographies and altitudes and weather conditions that span Africa that you really can't assign a roasting technique to "African coffees". Maybe more so to each country but even still you'll find such different behaviors from each bean.
If you want to get an idea, you can literally just smash the bean or pop it in your mouth. See if it's soft or hard and compare it to everything you have on hand. Try smaller batches and roast on a wider spectrum. You'll learn so much from practice.
The Behmor is a good home roaster but it's much harder to control the roast profile than a commercial style roaster with access to airflow and temperature. I enjoy the coffee from mine though. I roast P1 all the way through and I might crack the door open to draw out a stage and at the end to cool the beans faster.
Posted Sun Jun 9, 2013, 4:07pm Subject: Re: Roasting African Beans
Sorry, my post wasn't clear. I meant profile (or equivalent like cracking the door), I wasn't referring to roast level. With Asian coffees (and decafs), I assume I want a gentler roast profile. I usually use P1 but can crack the door, etc. For non-Brazil South Americans I assume less gentle roast. For Africans I wing it unless I have info to guide me.
I like the ideal of smashing the bean, didn't realize "hardness" was that literal. Will my teeth be OK if I try to chew a green coffee bean?
You may simply have to do the research when you buy the beans. Most importers of speciality coffees have info about altitude, etc. for a specific lot. I know that Thom at Sweet Maria's almost always has elevation info. If you know what farm/co-op/region it's from, you can usually find info about the geography on the web and go from there.
Hardness doesn't seem to be strictly altitude related from what I know (though I'm always learning more), and is affected by the weather conditions in that particular growing season. So it's going to vary a certain amount from year to year. This is why developing cupping skills is an important part of roasting. take a small batch just to the end of first crack, cup it, and see what the flavors tell you.
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