• The roast

    Coffee quality is assessed in terms of the green appearance, the roast appearance, and by taste (cup or liquor).

    The green appearance is discussed extensively in section 11.05.00.

    Coffee quality is greatly influenced by the roasting process. Dark roasts tend to obscure the finer aspects but enhance the body. Light roasts emphasize acidity but result in a weaker brew. See 11.06.04: the Agtron system of roast colour measurements. The degree of roasting depends therefore on one's marketing objectives. From the professional taster's point of view, it is easier to detect quality and any off-flavours when coffee is roasted lighter rather than darker. A light roast also makes it easier to spot immature and green beans, which tend to show up as yellowish pale in colour rather than brown when roasted. All pales affect the cup quality but extreme cases of pales (bright yellow beans) spoil the cup by giving it a quakery or peanut taste.

    The roast of naturals (sun-dried coffees) tends to lack the bright whitish centre cuts of wet-processed arabicas. In general, dull roasts also suggest imperfectly processed or aged coffees, whereas bright roasts indicate freshness and good processing. The following descriptions are commonly used:

    Fine roast. Bright, brilliant, uniform and even, no pales.

    Good to fine. Bright, uniform, even, no pales.

    Good roast. Bright to dullish, reasonably even, occasional pale, no other defects such as ears or brokens.

    Good to fair. Dullish, slightly uneven, mottled, a few pales and other defects, can be soft and open.

    Fair to poor. Dull and uneven, a number of pales and other defects, generally soft and open, often containing many brokens.

    Poor. Anything below fair to poor.

    Uneven bean size produces uneven roasts because small, broken and light beans roast faster than whole and solid beans. Very small pieces or chips may even burn up altogether. Some roasters prefer to roast coffees from different origins separately and then to combine them afterwards. Strong growth in the specialty and whole bean segments of the consumer market has rekindled the emphasis on a coffee's roast appearance, and at the retail end the roast is perhaps the first thing the consumer really looks at.
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