Small Batch Roasting: What It Is and Why It Matters


Weighing the 1st Bag of Common Sense Coffee single-origin coffee beans.

The coffee cycle consists of three processes: growing, roasting, and brewing, or also known as extracting.

A lot of the spotlight falls on this last step because it is familiar to us, which most immediately links to our daily dose of coffee. We say coffee is a work of art because of the preparation methods used to brew, but we are often guilty of overlooking the art of roasting. But it’s all right; roasting happens inside closed doors, and it’s not as easy to appreciate.

About the art of coffee roasting

Roasting is all about unlocking the flavor dormant inside coffee beans. Roasting is the step where beans acquire their characteristic brown color.

The roasting process includes these steps:

 Start (with preheated oven)

 First crack — This sound is much like popcorn and occurs at about 9 minutes into the roasting process.

 Second crack — A much quieter crack, indicating we’re close to the end. The second crack happens approximately 12 minutes into the roasting process.

 Finish — For medium roasts, the beans are dumped from the roaster somewhere between the first and second crack.

The person who is in charge of roasting must know all the subtleties of coffee flavor in much detail and has to know exactly how to roast a specific batch of coffee in a way that best brings out its flavor. He or she is called the master roaster. Our master roaster is Zach! Learn more about him here.

Coffee roasters are complex machines that have only gotten even more intricate with time. There are several ways you can roast beans, and although there are many home roasting machines, the ideal size for such tools are not fit for home use unless you plan on roasting coffee in your garage.

As beans are roasted, many transformations occur inside them that give them the taste we all love. It is also widely thought that only through this process is that we get the caffeine in the beans. During this process -and depending on how long you roast them- one can bring out flavors and aroma in the beans that would otherwise never be present in green coffee beans.

Did you know?

You can roast coffee beans on a pan. The results are nearly the same as with a professional roaster, and it is a practice that persists to this day. In Ethiopian coffee ceremonies, only freshly roasted coffee is consumed. Freshly roasted coffee is said to have a much richer flavor.

Now that we’re a little familiar with coffee roasting, let’s talk about small-batch coffee roasting.

Small batch roasting

When it comes to roasting, there’s only one way big companies can meet the overwhelming demand for coffee while still keeping costs low: Roasting as much coffee as possible in one sitting.

As you may have noticed from the process we described before, the roasting process is a very set-in-stone kind of thing, and accelerating this process by turning the heat up will not yield the same great results. Indeed, the beans become roasted but, since not enough time is given for flavor and aroma to develop correctly, the overall quality is affected negatively.

Another significant factor is the quantity of coffee roasted at a single time. We’ve all had this experience when heating food up in our microwave: When heating a considerable amount of food, the food at the top is hot and steamy while the food at the bottom or center is either warm or worse, cold. This effect, although not to the same degree, is what will happen when we put massive amounts of coffee into a roaster oven, no matter how big.

Hence the reason why small-batch roasting has become so popular that when roasting coffee in small amounts, say, 5 kilograms at a time, you can adequately pay attention to that coffee’s needs and roast the beans in a way that will highlight that specific batch’s attributes. With small-batch roasting, the master roaster has much greater control over the bean’s final flavor, but he or she can achieve a consistently good result.

Why try small-batch coffee?

Although the reasons to try small-batch roasts are more or less evident by now, it’s always helpful to make lists like this to help our comprehension. Here are a few reasons why small-batch roasting is better than industrial roasting.

 Freshly roasted coffee. When buying small-batch, you can be 99% sure that the coffee you’re buying is fresh and roasted recently — which, sorry to say, is usually not the case when purchasing from more prominent brands. These brands typically roast their coffee months before it even makes its way into your cup.

 Tailored roasting. When roasting for small batches, it is much easier to roast individual beans in a way that will bring out the most flavor and aroma. Not all coffee beans are created equal, so each roast must be done in a form tailored for each variety of coffee beans.

 Better quality of the roast. Roasting is about much more than just the color of the bean. Two coffee beans may look the same color but have different roast profiles. Roasting is much more about the process than the resulting color of the coffee bean.

And so, it is evident by now that small-batch coffee roasting offers enough advantages over regular coffee for you to at least give it a chance. It’s all it takes really, one sip of small-batch roasted coffee and you’ll never turn back.


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