Okay, I wan’t to bring up something in the most diplomatic way possible without offending or implying offense to anyone.
I’ve been drinking + preparing what would be considered 3W specialty coffee now for well over 5 years. I’ve competed in competition, I’ve judged Regional barista competitions, read + watched anything I can get my hands + eyes on, I’m a member of the National Chapter of the SCA where I live, and most recently started home roasting. In my experience, albeit limited compared to some of you, I’ve found that the consistency of roasted coffee from specialty roasters is something that is missing the mark more often than not. Instead of finding some familiar and desirable coffee flavours (chocolate, caramel, nuts, soft fruits, berries, vanilla, spices, etc.), I’m finding more savoury flavours and brothiness that seems to have become more and more prevalent in ‘specialty’ coffee as of late.
As a coffee nerd, I’ll never ask for too much. I love coffee too much, I love preparing it, I love sharing it, and I love the story of it. I willingly spend $20+ for a 12 oz. bag, I pay for brewing gear + scales, support any number of crowd-funding campaigns for new products, etc., and with that, I think I’m entitled to a reasonable expectation of an even and adequately developed roast when I give my money away. Now I share a bit of my backstory here, because I’m still willing to pay the price for specialty coffee and give the roaster the benefit of the doubt, and I like adjusting parameters to try and pull different flavours out of a coffee because I understand this better than your average coffee drinker. In the end, the roaster wins with me because they’re selling retail, and I’m always going to buy more.
So, here’s my thoughts… Trying to roast lighter to follow the current roasting trend is causing lots (more than we’d care to admit…) of specialty coffee to be underdeveloped. It’s hard to roast coffee, it’s harder to roast well-developed coffee, and it’s even more difficult to roast lightly and develop it well. I think it can be done, and I’m sure there’s lots of roasters out there who do. In fact, one of the best coffees I had all year was a lightly roasted washed Rwandan. Secondly, what role does roasting software play in this…? Are we repeating bad profiles, are we scared to roast a little darker because we think the sweetness will disappear? Are we afraid of blending because it’s not ‘the best expression of a 1origin coffee’…? While this may be true, sometimes a 1origin coffee isn’t the best expression of specialty coffee either. #justsayin #amiright
I don’t know what the cause and/or answer is on a commercial-scale, but I do know that I’ve been able to roast some amazing coffee for drip/filter brewing at home. I can monitor + graph temperatures, drum speed, etc. manually to some degree and it gives me a little more control on the roasting side so I don’t feel like I need to tinker as much during brewing and can achieve great, repeatable results. To be honest, roasting for espresso is proving to be more difficult and is still a work in progress…
Again, don’t send me hate mail, don’t troll me. I’m looking for good discussion and honest feedback from the BH community here.