“Have you got anything stronger?” is a question I often hear working with Cloud Picker. We are a roastery set out to source, roast and serve the best coffee our resources allow us. We showcase these coffees by roasting them light.
What does light roast mean?
Well, it’s the equivalent of cooking a steak medium/rare. You get to taste how tender the cut of meat is, rather than a well done steak where the meat would just be tough regardless. A dark roast is very similar to a well done steak in that sense, it is very one dimensional. A dark roast will always taste bitter and not much else. I’m not here to say one way is better than the other, it’s completely down to personal preference. (But if you like well-done steak your preference is wrong)
Why is the way we roast important?
Flavour. Roasting coffee has an incredibly massive impact on the flavour of the cup you drink. Roasting can affect flavours such as, acidity, sweetness and bitterness. In Cloud Picker we love lightly roasted coffee because it allows the flavour of the coffee to speak for itself. Roasting light can lead to a super complex cup. As roasters we can’t improve the flavour, the flavour develops at origin, on the farms and in the mills. So when we are roasting we try “cook” the beans enough to develop the flavour, but not burn and diminish it. We try and find the sweet spot.
How does dark roast affect the flavour?
Many dark roasts taste the same, which is, bitter. Bitterness is rarely a flavour that develops on the farm. It is a flavour that happens due to burning the coffee, and unfortunately that’s what people are used to. People have grown up drinking dark roasted coffee, which in most cases is cheap coffee bought with the intention of burning it. This way coffee suppliers can achieve a consistent cup of coffee for next to nothing. People have become so accustomed to bitterness in coffee when it’s absent, they assume the coffee is weak. People associate bitterness with strength, but this isn’t the case. Bitter or not coffee, is generally the same strength. Espresso is roughly 8% dissolved coffee particles and 92% water and drip/filter coffee is around 1.5% dissolved coffee particles and 98.5% water. So next time someone says the love a strong cup of coffee, drop the knowledge bomb on them. “Nah you like a bitter cup of coffee”. Even though dark roast is (with the risk of sounding like I’m hating on it) bitter and one dimensional; a lot of people who have been introduced to light roasted coffee still prefer dark roasted coffee. Especially in milky drinks such as cappuccinos and flat whites. The steamed milk can really complement the bitterness. Once it’s not super dark it can actually be pretty tasty (ish)!
What about coffee bags with “strength” level?
I often see bags of coffee in supermarkets with “strength level” on them. These bags refer to how dark the roast is. It’s not to do with strength which refers to the amount of dissolved coffee particles. After all, you are the one brewing it and you are in control of how strong it will be.
Why does it matter whether I say strength or roast level?
It matters because it gets people thinking about flavour. Rather than a simple strength meter, people get talking about what coffee can offer. Coffee isn’t as simple as how strong you like it. Coffee is complex. Different origins offer different flavour profile. Coffee from Kenya, for example, roasted correctly and brewed nicely can literally taste like Ribena. Coffee from Brazil can taste like nuts. It’s incredible how the flavour profile can change from one origin to another. Coffee can even taste different from one side of the farm to another! Coffee is complex. It’s interesting. Most of all, it’s annoying! (I’ll get to that in a future post). Not all coffee can taste like nuts or Ribena, but all coffee can taste bitter. Hence why so much does. It’s bought cheap and it’s intentionally burnt. The bitterness hides any negative flavours which may otherwise be dominant in the cup of a cheap coffee. Such as woody or baggy. Baggy is a flavour that develops when green coffee sits in the coffee sack for too long. This is why bitter coffee has been the norm for so long, and is why it’s still the norm. It’s why it’s sold as ‘strong coffee’. It’s what people are used to. If you have tasted a light roast but prefer dark, that’s no problem at all; you do you. However if you are currently drinking dark roasted coffee and have never tried speciality coffee roasted well, please give it a go and let me know what you think. If you would like any recommendations on where to get one let me know, I would be happy to help.