Is It Better To Roast Coffee Slow Or Fast?

Coffee might be considered one of the most influential discoveries in the history of our species. Some historians speculate that the discovery of coffee ushered in the age of enlightenment and led to many great inventions and new groundbreaking philosophies.

Coffee beans that have more time to roast are considered to have a more even, pleasant, and rich flavor than coffee beans that are roasted quickly. Beans that are roasted slowly have more variations in bean color and composition when compared to beans that have been swiftly roasted.

There are thousands of different ways to consume coffee and many different schools of thought regarding if it is better to roast coffee beans slowly or quickly. In this article, we aim to discover whether it is better to roast your beans quickly or to exercise patience and roast them slowly.

Why Are Coffee Beans Roasted?

Coffee beans are roasted after they have been harvested because if you try to consume unroasted coffee beans, your pallet will be hit by a rather unpleasant, chewy vegetable taste. Coffee beans aren’t meant to be consumed unroasted. Roasting coffee beans release the bean’s flavor. Depending on the roast method, your coffee will have a different taste and texture.

How Roasting Affects The Taste Of Coffee

Three key things change based on the method one uses to roast coffee beans. These three things are the coffee bean’s acidity, sweetness, and bitterness. Changing the temperature or the roasting time will fundamentally alter the coffee bean. Let’s look at these critical things in a little more detail.

Acidity

Coffee contains natural acids that change the flavor of the coffee. These acids include tartaric, citric, malic, and acetic acids. The balance of these acids is what makes coffee taste good or bad. Most people who don’t like coffee have been exposed to more unbalanced coffee than harmonized coffees.

When acetic acid becomes the dominant acid, coffee becomes very unpleasant and can taste almost “vinegary.” When tartaric acid becomes dominant, coffee can start tasting almost “grape-like,” for comparison, bananas are known to have a high concentration of tartaric acid.

Citric acid makes coffee taste “fruity” and reminds people of fruits like lemons, nectarines, and the like, as they also have high amounts of citric acid. Malic acid gives coffee its signature crisp, smooth taste, like biting into a fresh apple.

It cannot be overstated how vital it is to correctly balance all these different kinds of acids. Coffee companies spend decades trying to perfect the acid levels in their beans, and the companies who succeed win awards and accolades.

Sweetness

Coffee beans contain a natural sweetness. This sweetness comes from the fructose and sucrose levels that form when the coffee beans ripen while it’s still a cherry. Different roasting methods alter the sugar levels inside the coffee bean and caramelize the sugar inside the bean, turning it from green to brown.

Different beans grown in different parts of the world contain varying sugar levels. That means parring the right bean from the correct region and the correct roasting method is crucial.

Bitterness

The bitter taste you get at the back of your pallet when drinking coffee is the bitterness associated with coffee. The roasting method and time affect how “bitter” a coffee tastes. Making coffee is an art and is dependent on the artist. If skilled enough, some baristas can bring out subtle hints of bitter flavors like dark chocolate, grapefruit, and even licorice without overpowering the bean’s natural flavors.

Unskilled baristas often neglect obvious pitfalls when roasting coffee beans that condemn their roast to a bitter, dry, and unsavory-tasting cup of coffee.

Slow Roasting Coffee

Slow-roasted coffee is coffee beans roasted at lower temperatures for extended periods. Slow roasting takes between 14 and 20 minutes on average. Let’s now consider the pros and cons of roasting coffee slowly.

Pros

Coffee beans that are slowly roasted give the barista ample time to make critical decisions that affect the coffee beans’ flavor. They have more time to adjust the temperature, affecting the bean’s acid levels, sugar, and bitterness.

Slow-roasting coffee generally results in a better-tasting coffee with a richer flavor profile and a more complex aroma. Slow-roasting coffee also allows the barista to decide if they want a light, medium, or dark roasted bean.

Cons

Slow-roasting coffee takes more time and costs more than fast-roasting coffee. If a mistake is made, the whole process restarts from scratch. Mistakes cost the company precious time and money every time it happens.

Slow-roasting coffee takes much more effort and expertise to perfect the roast than fast-roasting coffee. It can lead to more significant overheads and more expensive machinery that requires specialists to maintain.

Fast Roasting Coffee

Fast-roasted coffee is coffee beans roasted quickly at higher temperatures for shorter periods. Fast roasting could take as little as 90 seconds to complete. Let’s now consider the pros and cons of roasting coffee quickly.

Pros

Coffee beans that are quickly roasted allow the barista to fill more orders, thus generating a quicker turnaround and more sales in a given time. Fast-roasting coffee machines usually have preset programs that deliver a consistent roast every time.

Fast-roasting coffee takes less effort and expertise to deliver a consistent roast, saving the company money long term as they don’t necessarily need to hire skilled individuals to operate and maintain their machines.

Cons

Fast-roasting coffee generally doesn’t taste as good as slow-roasted coffee. Few fast-roasted coffees have ever won coffee competitions and are generally considered inferior to their slow-roasted competition.

Due to the beans’ limited time to roast, coffee beans are limited to the darker roast side. They, therefore, have a harsher flavor and more unbalanced acid levels, usually resulting in a more bitter-tasting coffee.

Different Types Of Coffee Roasting Machines

The two most commonly used roasting machines companies use are hot-air/fluid-bed roasters and drum roasters. Many companies manufacture these kinds of roasters, so there are loads of options that people can choose from to meet their specific roasting needs.

Hot-air/fluid-bed roasters work by injecting scorching air into a rotating drum. Using hot air instead of fire, the sugar in the bean caramelizes quickly. Drum roasters use fire in conjunction with a rotating drum to slowly and evenly heat the beans over a more extended period, resulting in a more even roast across the entire batch.

Conclusion

It is better to slowly roast coffee beans. Slowly roasting coffee beans allow the sugars inside the beans to caramelize evenly and consistently, giving the coffee a more balanced and prominent taste profile. An excellent slow-roasted bean will always beat the best fast-roasted bean.

References

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