San Juan Bautista Coffee Roaster
Okay, first things first – Coffee Quality. Generally speaking, and assuming we start with great green beans (and if you are dealing with a specialty roaster that should be a given) coffee quality is inversely proportional to its freshness and preparation. Never ever buy coffee if you don't know when it was roasted, which means that the roast date should be stamped on the bag or it was roasted in your presence. When the coffee comes out of the roaster, it starts gassing by continuously releasing the CO2 which prevents the oxygen from entering the bean and destroying it's flavors and aromas. One way valve bags are fantastic in keeping the beans fresh. But… if the beans in the bag are a few weeks old and mostly gassed out, then once it is open it starts to deteriorate at an extremely fast rate. It is kind of like a "Portrait of a Dorian Gray" scenario. Within days you will detect a difference in taste. So if you are opening one of those bags and don't know when it was roasted, Beware.
The degree of roast is largely a question of taste. But consider this: the lighter the roast the more acidic the coffee, overpowering the subtle notes of origin. The darker the roast the more caramelized are the sugars, turning bitter in the dark roast extremes. Again, masking the unique aromatics of the particular coffee. Every coffee has it's happy medium, sweet spot as we call it, where acidity meets caramelization in perfect harmony, letting all the unique individual aromatics of the particular bean shine through. And it is your roaster's job to find that holly grail.
A case for lighter roast
So how is your coffee today? Do you get those intense, tantalizing berry notes in your east African beans or the incredible chocolate finish of the better Brazils? How about the earthy, nutty flavors of the Indonesians? If the answer is no, chances are you are drinking commercial grade or stale coffee, which is almost unavoidable, fresh roasted coffee starts to stale after a few weeks and unless you get your coffee directly from the roaster it is hard to know how fresh it is.
Another possibility is: you are a fan of the dark roast. That will definitely contribute to a one-dimensional relationship with your cup. Darker is not stronger, nor is it more flavorful. On the contrary dark roast only gives you a glimpse of coffee flavor. Have you not noticed that sameness of a taste repeating itself over and over again be it African, Central American or Caribbean coffee? Every time you get your cup, regardless of origin, you know the taste profile even before you take your first sip. That bitter-rich, slightly ashy taste of the roast itself. The origin flavor distinction is all but unrecognizable.
Beware of the dark side my friends, it robs us of flavor nuances and it dulls our senses. It is a false friend.
In overly dark roasts it is much harder to distinguish a lesser coffee from its superior. Dark roast is a great equalizer.
And may be that is the attraction for some of you, the conformity of taste, the consistency of that one particular flavor. And if done right and coffee is fresh, dark roast can be a real good cup of Joe. Nevertheless, it is just scratching the surface of true coffee potential.
I mean, do we really want everything to taste like chicken?
But, having just said all that, dark roasts certainly have their place. Certain coffees are a natural done dark. The danger lies in indiscriminately roasting dark across the board.
At Vertigo we subscribe to the crazy notion that what is good for one bean is not necessarily good for another. Each coffee has it’s own sweet spot, each has its own magic waiting to be unlocked. And we spend countless hours attempting to do just that.
I don’t know if there is such a thing as perfect roast, but we are quite content to spend our days and nights in pursuit of that phantom perfection. And you are welcome to join the ride.