When it comes to coffee, there are countless options on the market. One of the ways most coffee lovers classify their options is by coffee roast. Segmenting different coffees by their roasting profile is an easy way for roasters to bring their product into the marketplace because it helps set a baseline for consumers to guess how a product might taste. However, what’s printed on the label doesn’t always tell the full story. Basing assumptions about taste or quality on roasting profile alone is an easy way to choose lackluster products that can leave you disappointed with your cup.
Don’t Be Misled by Coffee Roasts
It’s easy to believe that different coffees roasted the same way can be comparable. There are instances where this is the case but it’s far from being a universal truth. Roasting profiles really only tell one small part of the story when it comes to what sort of drink a batch of coffee beans will brew. It’s still important to consider things like how the beans are grown and in what conditions, what their drying and processing was like, and how long it’s been since they were actually roasted. For truly great coffee, there are a variety of things that must be considered.
How Coffee Beans Are Sourced
It’s important to remember that coffee beans are crops, just like the produce we all buy in our local grocery stores. Everything from the soil in which beans are grown, the elevation at which the beans are farmed, and even the climate of the area where the beans originate can have an impact on the organic makeup of the beans. This has a direct influence on their flavor and aroma. No matter how well beans might be roasted, if they’re low quality or poorly-sourced they will never produce good coffee.
Harvesting, Drying, and Other Processes
Before fresh green coffee beans are ready to be roasted, they must undergo a bit of processing. At harvest time, the best farmers hand pick their coffee cherries at the peak of their freshness to ensure they aren’t compromising the quality of their batch by filling it with under-ripe or overdone beans. Once the cherries have been picked from the coffee trees, they have to be processed to remove the bean from the cherry pulp. This part of the process is often referred to as milling.
Beyond the harvest, there are still even more steps a coffee farmer or producer has to consider. Things like drying, cleaning, sorting, polishing, aging, storing, and exporting the beans cannot be overlooked. Each part of the process must be executed well or the quality of the entire batch can be easily compromised.
A product’s shelf life - or lack thereof - is one of the most common oversights when it comes to choosing coffee. As we mentioned before, coffee is more like produce than people realize. That means a can or a bag that’s been sitting on a grocery store shelf or in a warehouse for weeks is simply not going to be as good as something that was freshly processed, roasted, and prepared. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea not to buy coffee if there’s no way to know how long it’s been sitting in a plastic bag since the time it was roasted.
No matter how high quality the beans are, how well they’re processed, or even how they’re roasted, sitting stagnant for an extended period will simply dry out the product and lead to tasteless or stale coffee when it’s finally brewed. Now, all this is not to say that coffee roasting is not important. We like to think of these other factors as being prerequisites for delicious coffee. We just want to reiterate that it takes more to make a great cup of coffee than a well-executed roasting profile.
Should You Choose Coffee by Roast?
When it comes to choosing coffee, the more you know about a product the better your decision will be. As a proud fourth wave coffee roaster, we are extremely committed to knowing as much about coffee as we can before the beans ever make it into our facility. Our team has direct, fair trade relationships with farmers all over the world. We know the growing practices, environments, and abilities of all our partners and, even more importantly, we know that these relationships help them to improve the lives of the people in their respective regions. This, of course, is by design as well. So now that we’ve talked about some of the misconceptions about popular coffee roasts, let’s talk about how to choose new coffees to try.
Our Recommendations for Choosing Coffee
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again - drinking coffee is really about finding what you like. Tastes will vary from individual to individual, so we think it’s really important to focus more on your own palette than any label. It’s always a great idea to try several different things - especially if they’re all distinctly different!
If you aren’t sure exactly what sort of roast profile you prefer, maybe start with something like our Seasonal Coffee Sampler Package that will allow you to try five different premium organic coffees at your leisure. This is a great way to become familiar with the flavor profiles associated with different regions and also a great introduction to the different types of coffee roasts that we offer. Sampler packs like this one also provide a lot of options and opportunities for experimenting with things like different brewing methods and mixed drinks like red eyes or cafe au laits.
If you’re the type of person who just appreciates great coffee in general, you might enjoy our Roasters Choice Subscription. With this subscription, we’ll send you 2-4 different coffees each month based on an interval you choose. Both of these are fantastic ways to taste several coffee roasts from a roaster you can trust.