Light Roast or Dark Roast or In Between...
When picking the type of roast for your coffee, there are several things to consider. The same bean roasted different ways can have dramatic affect on the taste of your brew.
A little bit about the roasting process. There are two distinct audible points during the roast. First crack, as it is called, sounds a bit like popcorn popping and this is usually when light roast is ready. Second crack, similar to first, the beans are now more of a dark roast. The other variants of the roast take place before, during and after cracks.
History Of Roasting
385°F / 196°C
The first point at which coffee becomes "drinkable." This roast is found at the very beginning of first crack. The coffee will have a pretty grassy taste and will still be underdeveloped, though the coffee will now begin to really smell and look like coffee. Not commonly used for home or commercial brewing. We never roast our coffee to this level, no matter how light we want it!
400°F / 205°C
Also called New England Roast. At this point in the roast, we're mid 1st crack. The coffee begins to truly smell like coffee and is actually drinkable. Coffee is frequently roasted to this level for cupping purposes as the origin can be really tasted here with little "roast" taste. If you really want to be able to tell the difference between two coffees, roast them to this level and taste them side by side.
410°F / 207°C
This roast is at the tail end of 1st crack, and you may be still hearing the last few 1st cracks. There should be zero oil on the beans. Here you will mostly taste the individual character and origin of the coffee with very little taste of the roast, so we recommend this if you really want to taste the differences from one estate in the same region from another. At this point, the beans will also begin developing more body in the cup and any acidity in the coffee will be accentuated well.
425°F / 216°C
Now we're at what's commonly called "Full Medium". This is when 1st crack has ended but 2nd crack has not begun. The beans will not be oily to just having a few flecks of oil. You'll also notice a bit more smoke coming from your roaster. At this point there will be a balanced mixture in flavor between the individual origin of the coffee and the taste of the roasting process which is why it's so popular. We recommend this roast for most coffees as it gives the best of both worlds. You'll have a nice balance of acidity and body with most coffees at this roast level.
435°F / 222°C
Pulling a roast during the first few snaps of 2nd crack is sometimes called "Full City+". It's not quite dark enough to be called Vienna yet, but it's just past Full Medium. For some folks this is just right. There may be a few flecks of oil on the beans. There should still be a fair balance between origin and roasty flavors as well as a touch more body. There will also be less acidity if that is desired.
440°F / 227°C
At this point we're really into dark roast territory. It will be the middle of second crack (what we call rolling second crack as it's consistent and not just a few cracks here and there) and there will be a clear sheen of oil on most of the beans. There will be more and more smoke coming from your roaster at this point as well. Now we really begin tasting more of the actual roasting process flavors and little origin flavor. Some very dense beans (Indonesian beans usually) can get this dark and still maintain a pretty clear origin flavor. This is also a great roast level if you like your coffee to be less acidic and bright. This is generally about as dark as we recommend going with most coffees.
450°F / 232°C
We're now reaching the end of 2nd crack. The cracking will be tapering off, but still rolling for the most part. The beans will be covered in a sheen of oil that is unmistakable. There will also be lots of smoke coming from your roaster, so use caution with ventilation! The beans will also start to change color and will start to look more grey-black as than brown. At this point the coffee will have almost no origin flavor and will taste only like the "roast," meaning you could roast any coffee to French Roast and it would all taste almost the same. There will be a burnt undertone to the taste and the coffee will be much "thinner" in texture. There should be very little acidity or brightness here.
455°F / 235°C
Friends don't let friends drink charcoal. There will be tons of smoke pouring from your roaster, the aroma of the beans will be the same as burning tires and the beans will be black instead of brown. The only time you should drink this stuff is when it's a roasting accident and there's no other coffee in the house. Only slightly better than mega-store brand coffee.
Everyone has their own perfect roast, but we recommend trying something new. Maybe you only drink light roast, then try a medium roast, it may surprise you.