Pure varietal and blended coffees can be roasted in many ways to produce very different results. A number scale is used to rate the coffees from 1-6 in accordance with the roast strength.
- Light ~ 1: A “city” or “light” roast preserves the acidic quality of the coffee and creates a medium body and mild flavour.
- Medium ~ 2: A “full city” or “medium” roast is as dark as possible without the beans showing any oil. This type of roast will reduce the acidic quality of coffee while creating a much richer flavour and a medium to full body.
- Medium-Dark ~ 3: A “full city dark” roast is a roast colour typical of espresso and Viennese type coffees. The acidic quality is further reduced with a much darker brown colour and a light oil sheen apparent on the beans.
- Dark ~ 4: A “dark or french” roast is where the beans are fully oiled but are not carbonized. The acidic quality of the coffee is now gone and the flavour is dominated by a bittersweet flavour and heavy body.
- French ~ 5: A “dark french” or “Italian style” roast is where the beans are very oiled and slightly carbonized. The bitter-sweet flavour has a carbony influence and the body becomes very heavy.
- Darkest ~6: “Special dark” is the darkest roast; the beans are allowed to fully oil and carbonize in the roaster. If the roast catches fire you’ve gone too far! The flavour is dominated by the carbony effect of this style of roast and it has a very heavy body.
Even when the colour of the coffee appears to be the same, the coffees may have entirely different flavours. The type of beans selected, how and when heat was applied and the length of time in the roaster are invisible but critical factors in creating the ultimate flavour of the beans.
Proper brewing enhances the taste of coffee by allowing you to extract the proper amount of flavour from the bean. Here are five essential elements of good brewing.
- Correct coffee-to-water ratio: The generally accepted ratio is 1-1.5 tablespoons of coffee for each cup (6 oz) of water.
- Coffee Grind: The grind style you choose will also affect the strength of your coffee. Too fine a grind will result in a strong and bitter cup and too coarse of a grind will result in a weak cup. The grind must also match the design and speed of your maker.
- Water: A cup of coffee is 98% water. The quality of the water that goes in determines the quality of coffee that comes out. Always use freshly drawn cold water, ideally filtered. Avoid artificially softened water which will result in a “flat” tasting cup.
- Brew Levels: To achieve optimum flavour and extraction brew at least half of your coffee brewer’s capacity. For example, brew at least five cups of coffee in a 10 cup brewer.
- Use Freshly Ground Coffee: Also, make sure that the grind of your coffee is consistent. Blade grinders cannot attain consistent particle size so have your coffee ground at your local coffee house using commercial burr grinders or purchase a home style burr grinder.
It is important to properly store your coffee, both before and after it’s been prepared.
- To ensure the freshness of your coffee, exposure to oxygen, moisture, and outside odors must be eliminated.
- Freshness is optimized by purchasing quantities that can be consumed within 7 to 10 days after opening.
- After opening your package, be sure to transfer coffee to the proper storage container. To ensure coffee maintains its full flavour characteristics, use an airtight, glass container, stored in a cool dry environment. Minimize empty “head space” in the container.
- A good rule to follow is not to leave coffee on a warming element longer than 20 minutes. Prolonged exposure to heat will cause coffee to burn.
- To store brewed coffee for longer periods of time, transfer it to a thermal container, which has been preheated with hot water. This will maintain coffee’s flavour and temperature.