Many master roasters consider the skill of coffee roasting an intricate dance between practice, curiosity, and passion. It is a true art form that requires much more than achieving a precise roasting color shade or number.
It requires full immersion into this sensory adventure. Transforming the humble green coffee bean into a delectable roast that is layered with a multitude of flavor tones like citrus, floral, sweet, or chocolate requires a master’s touch and knowledge.
Most truly great roastmasters emphasize that they never really stop learning. That insatiable drive to keep mastering their craft is at the core of their expertise.
If you are new to the coffee roasting scene or perhaps a master roaster that has been roasting beans for the local cafes and coffeehouses for some time, here are a few tips from the experts to help you hone your coffee roasting skills.
Understand the Raw Green Bean
Tim Wendelboe, a master coffee roaster based out of Oslo, Norway and recipient of many highly acclaimed coffee roasting awards and championships, believes that the making of a delectable coffee brew always starts with a great coffee bean.
So understanding the basics of green coffee beans is the underlying foundation for all extraordinary coffee roasts. Start with a bad green bean and you will ultimately have a bad roast no matter what you do to cover it up.
Tim elaborates, “You can’t really turn woody, old, stale coffee into a fruit bomb or a flower bomb. So, you really need to understand the ingredients you’re using before you can even begin thinking about roasting.”
To cultivate these intuitive roasting skills, you need to study coffee. Experience what defects in green coffee beans would taste like and compare it to high-quality beans. Learn how different origins have a profound effect on the unique flavor profile of each green bean.
Consider how interesting varieties and densities react to the heat differently, and how all of this lends itself to the final flavor.
If you know your green coffee bean then you can become masterful in manipulating flavors and drawing out certain elements from each roast.
Know Your Roasting Machinery
Gaining intimate knowledge about the actual roasting machinery that takes a raw coffee bean and transforms it into culinary magic is an essential skill that should be part of every serious coffee roaster’s skill set.
Jen Apodaca, a master roaster that has been immersed in the coffee industry for more than 13 years and Director of Roasting at Royal Coffee’s education center in Oakland, California, stresses the importance of knowing your machinery and recognizing its full potential.
She explains that learning how to truly manipulate a roaster will help you elevate your roasting skills to new heights.
Imagine envisioning the perfect flavor profile for a certain bean and then knowing how to execute the exact roasting process in order to draw out specific flavors in the bean to create that flavor.
This is mastery and it all starts with that experiential knowledge of your roasting machinery.
Use All of Your Senses
Drawing out different elements with each coffee roast involves more than just your taste buds. It’s a full immersive experience that plays with all of your senses.
Will Andrews, a master roaster out of Phoenix, Arizona, and recipient of the Golden Bean award in the desired Straight Espresso category, emphasizes the importance of using all of your senses to create great coffee.
This sensory journey allows you to fully immerse yourself in this creative process and allows you the experience to make tweaks along the way.
How do the beans smell before you put them in the roaster? How do they smell during different stages of the roasting process, and of course how do they smell after? What does the roast look like? Feel like?
All of these subtle sensations help you build a foundation of intuitive knowing of what is needed to craft the finest roast.
Of course, there is the taste. Learning how to taste coffee will help you develop a finely tuned palate that is able to distinguish diverse aspects of green coffee beans, experience the different tastes of beans from varying locations, and to master the art of roasting.