I have had this discussion with a number of friends lately concerning lighter and darker roasts for coffee and what they prefer. Now, I simply love coffee hence this whole coffee roasting gig. I love lighter fruitier roasted and I love dark, earthy, better make that teeth whitening appointment sooner roasts. So, how can you tell what you're getting when you buy one of our roasts? Well, I could say you'll have to order and find out but that wouldn't be nice now would it? The truth is that I roast according to the coffee itself. What I think the bean needs to bring out the best flavor, body and acidity.
Also, I'm using a slightly different scale to base the roast on. Here in the northwest there are an incredible number of coffee roasters and shops, and they all are selling an enormous amount of coffee. But, when you look at what people are actually drinking you find that they are in reality (for the most part) buying and consuming "coffee based" drinks, not necessarily the coffee itself.
This means that for the coffee to cut through all that cream, sugar and flavors it needs to be dark and strong for most people! I do have friends that drink straight up coffee as I do and they drink it very dark but, the majority do not. This isn't good or bad as we all have our preferences and we all experience things slightly differently. I do however think that due to certain market influences the coffee drinking public has become trained and geared toward a trend rather than a knowledge based refinement of their palates. I could just be full of beans but, if you'll bare with me I'll elaborate and pontificate a bit.
Coffee is an amazingly widespread and diverse food. It is grown and consumed all over the world and the factors that determine it's flavor are as varied and diverse as the people and places it comes from. As someone trying to market a finished product, I first had to spend an inordinate amount of time (and money) researching, testing and leaning all that I could before taking the proverbial plunge into the coffee world, so to speak. Being a lover of good coffee and really all good foods and drinks that are in this wonderful creation we call life, set out to research and experiment with as many varieties and roasts as I could. I found that there is no perfect roast! That is across the board. The coffee itself determined the roast needed to make or break the flavor of the brew. And I started realizing that I actually preferred lighter to medium roasts that brought out the complexities of the bean (sometimes it's on the dark side because the bean demands it).
All this said, I come back to our coffee! I mentioned that I use a slightly different scale for our roasts. I don't have a color chart or some sort of grading test but I do have my time and temperature charts that I have developed to base our roasts on. It's similar to the "roast profiles" that most of the industry uses but, because I use a hands on, no frills, non-automated roaster, having an actual profile isn't practical (or needed). So, my "profiles" are based on a more hands on croft method. I have roasted to varied levels, cupped, brewed and taste tested all of the coffees at those levels to find what "I" deem to be the best roast for that coffee to be. Now is it perfect? No. It is too subjective of a product to deem something as "perfect". Perfect to me might be gross to you, or just so, so.
Now, our dark vs. others dark. I have a more reserved approach to this scale. I didn't want to have a scale with umpteen roast levels on it but, you have to have a diverse selection to meet all the demands of the coffee public. So, I have graded our coffees as: Light, Med-light, Medium, Med-dark, Dark, French and Italian. Seven roast levels to cover a wide spectrum of tastes and needs. Some of these are not on our "shelf" yet but will be soon.
I hope that as folks continue to try our coffee they taste the difference that being fresh and "Clean Air Roasted" makes and realize that there's more in that bag'O'beans then just coffee. There is passion and an extraordinary amount of work. We'll be releasing more roast levels soon and we are working on sample packs so you can try a number of our coffees with one purchase instead of having to buy one at a time (these are hard to make roast to order which is why we haven't released them yet).