Specialty coffee roasting styles – roasting for espresso, roasting for filter, roasting for milk drinks

Hey hey!

It has been some time since the last post here.

But now, as we all know, due to the current circumstances, everybody is gonna have some extra time.

And I am definitely not an exception from this rule – therefore, although this f*ckin virus is gonna present it with some very serious economical, social and political crises, it gives us a break, so necessary for some (or I would even dare to say the most). Break from the thoughtless consumption, break from the established routine – and it depends solely on us how we are gonna take advantage of it. Changes are coming anyway.

I have various topics about which I wanted to think out loud – and this blog is basically thinking out loud.

Yesterday I went out roasting some coffees for the weeks to come. The consumption slowed down, then immediately followed the production, so we had to rethink and reorganize our processes (always a good thing to do, no matter the circumstances).

I was doing some roasts, when a client-friend of ours came in, for a visit and for a chat.

And he asked me about which is my roasting style.

Like, if I am roasting for espresso, or for filter.
I gave him my response, and immediately made a mental note for myself to write about it here.

roasted coffee vs green coffee

So… There are some very good studies about it, and there are different approaches. There is an approach when you are dividing your line between espresso and filter roasts. The other one is to roast coffee that is to be drank with or without milk, so called milk line, roasts for milk.

The idea behind the so called espresso roasts is not to roast coffee darker.

I am talking right now from the point of view of the roaster and coffee professional, not coffee drinker (because coffee drinker is expecting espresso roasts to be darker, and filter roasts to be lighter).

I believe that roasting styles are changing a lot, due to the development that we are witnessing in terms of grinders. And roasters as well. But mostly grinders. And my talking here not only about professional coffee shop grinders, but also about some more or less affordable models for home brewers.

Again, follow me. “Roasting for espresso” used to mean roasting darker. Why? Because this way you make coffee more brittle. More brittle means it is easier for not so advanced grinders to grind it the way the necessary amount of fines is achieved. This increases the surface of coffee that water contacts with during the espresso making.

The second reason why roasting for espresso is associated with roasting darker, is because of how roasting and roasters evolved in the last decade. Now we are having more and more control and more and more understanding of what is happening in the machine, and although coffee roasters are still incredibly unstable, talking about heat-retention, we, roast masters, have more control and are able to develop the coffee beans better not necessarily roasting them darker.

Are you following me? So “roasting for espresso” was based on not so advanced grinders that were giving a pretty unstable grind size distribution, and on not having much control and understanding of the roast process itself (we still don’t understand plenty of it, but yet, some things are starting to appear).

My point it – if I have a good espresso grinder that gives me a decent grind size distribution, and I properly develop the roast without going darker that I go for filter coffee – why should I roast differently for espresso and filter?

Any good reasons?
I don’t see any. At the moment. Probably yet.

I admit that my opinion might change with my growing understanding of coffee, which I try to contribute to every day – but for now I think that roaster can dedicate him/herself to properly developing the roast, bringing out what coffee variety, terroir and processing put into green coffee, and trying to mitigate all the roasty tastes that come with darker roasts.

There are less and less reasons to roast significantly darker for espresso, because you’ll be able to make a tasty coffee in every method if you are using coffee that has been properly developed during the roast.

The other strategy – roasting coffee for milk – sounds better for me.

For various reasons.

First, I remember very vividly the worst cappuccino in my life, that I got in a very famous coffee roaster in San Francisco. It had beautiful latte art, the serving temperature was perfect. The taste was awful. Awful. Nasty. I feel bad just thinking about it, so imagine how bad it had to be…
The problem was that the acidity of the coffee used was so high (and I bet that the roast was underdeveloped as well), that it completely destroyed the milk drink (and my belly as well).

It was sour and salty.

Second reason is that I do think that some coffees with some inherited taste parameters are nicer with milk that other ones. They make more harmonious, nicer couple, saying so.
Roasting for milk implicates mitigating the acidity of the coffee used, as well as going a bit longer with the caramelization of sugars.

In my opinion it makes all the sense when your goal is to deliver a proper experience to your client.

You can say that you don’t even need to roast for milk – you can just buy green coffee that has necessary parameters, for example, lower acidity. And you are right.
There are multiple ways of getting things done, and it depends on your goals.
I guess that’s it for today. I’ll be trying to write more frequently now. If you liked this post, or you have some comments – please, share with me, I’d be glad to have a chat and find out about your perspective regarding the topic.

Published by liza maksimova

Q Grader. Roast Master. SCAE certified.

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