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The fruits of the coffee plant look a lot different than the coffee beans you’re accustomed to seeing. The crisp, curved, brown beans that you see have been through an entire roasting process that gives them their flavor. When you grind coffee beans at home to make your coffee, you’re actually using roasted coffee beans.
So exactly what is roasted coffee beans? What are the steps that happen between picking out the fruits and the roasted beans ending up in your coffee machine? In this article, we talk about everything you need to know about roasted coffee beans.
What Are Roasted Coffee Beans?
When coffee beans are plucked from the coffee plants, they are green in color. You cannot directly use these beans to make your favorite cup of coffee in the morning. They have to be dried and processed before they can be used for brewing.
Raw coffee beans do not even smell like coffee. The popular aroma of coffee that you know and love comes after the beans have gone through the drying process. There are different types of roasts and a number of factors go into deciding exactly what your coffee will taste like, how strong it will be, and what its acid percentage will be.
There are three main steps when it comes to roasting beans and making them ready for brewing coffee.
The first step in the roasting process is drying the beans, which basically involves removing the high moisture content from the beans. When harvested, a coffee bean can have a moisture content of as high as 12%. Before this can be roasted, it needs to be dried.
Drying can be carried out in different ways as well. While most commercial coffee is dried in large machines, there is also a natural sun-dried process of drying these beans. Machines are much faster and effective at roasting beans than using natural sunlight.
The temperature of the drying machine has to be controlled in a sophisticated manner to ensure that the beans do not have too much or too little moisture in them. Overheating might cause them to burn, ruining the final taste of the coffee. The temperature of the drying machine is usually set at 160 degrees Celsius.
Before the coffee beans are roasted, there is an intermediate step called the browning process. This step occurs immediately after the drying process. This is when the aroma of the coffee beans comes into the picture.
Raw coffee beans have sugar and amino acids present in them. Applying heat makes them break down and react to give you the typical smell of coffee. While drying coffee beans is a quick process, browning is carried out more slowly. The gradual browning of the coffee beans helps them develop a rich flavor profile.
Browning further reduces the moisture content of the beans. After a while, the coffee beans start to crack and pop, leading to the next and final stage of the process.
Roasting is the final step of the process. The coffee beans have absorbed a lot of heat in the first two steps and they start releasing this energy in the final step. The process is further slowed down at this point to ensure that the coffee does not have a burnt flavor.
The amount of time spent in the roasting stage depends on what the degree of the roast is. Different degrees of roasting result in different flavor profiles for coffee. Still, what are the different roasts of coffee?
Degrees of Roasting
You might have noticed different kinds of types like medium, light, and dark while browsing for coffee. These are roast degrees. Roast degrees play a very important role in determining the strength and taste of your coffee. How long should coffee beans be roasted for?
Light roasts, as the name suggests, come in a light shade of brown. These coffee beans spend the least amount of time in the final roasting stage, making them retain a lot of flavor. They contain the highest amount of acidity and usually have a high caffeine content.
People who have been drinking coffee for years prefer light roast coffee beans because of their strength and taste. Since light roasts are roasted for the least amount of time, they also tend to have herbal undertones. A light roast usually takes about 7 minutes in the roaster.
Medium roast coffee beans are slightly darker than light roast beans and spend more time in the development stage. The darker color does not mean a stronger taste, and medium roasts usually have a more balanced taste than their lighter counterparts. Medium roasts usually take about 10 minutes in the roaster.
Most of the coffee options that you will find in commercial coffee shops will be medium roasts. These types of coffee beans are excellent for lattes, hazelnut, and vanilla scented coffees due to their balanced taste and flavor profile. Popular coffee recipes also use medium roasts because they do not have the high acidity and caffeine content of lighter roasts.
For coffee enthusiasts who prefer a full-bodied cup of coffee and would choose taste over caffeine content, dark roasts are the way to go. These types of roasts are left in the development or roasting stage for a long time until the oil starts to show up on the surface. They have the least moisture content and come with a bitter taste because of the burnt nature of the beans.
Dark roasts are common in coffee recipes that incorporate chocolate in them. The lower acidity and caffeine content of this coffee bean makes it a good fit for people who prefer a strong, burnt taste without loading up on caffeine. Coffee beans usually take over 12 minutes to crack, leading to a dark roast.
Are Roasted Coffee Beans Good for You?
While most of the options you will find readily in the aisles of your supermarket will come roasted, the question still remains: are roasted coffee beans good for you?
Roasting coffee certainly adds to the health benefits that you can achieve from moderately consuming the beverage. Let’s talk about dark roasts, the beans that have the highest roast degree.
Dark roast coffee beans come with a large number of antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals that contribute to your health. These roasted coffee beans benefits can contribute to both your physical and mental well-being.
Roasted coffee beans are a rich source of Vitamin B5. Also known as pantothenic acid, Vitamin B5 helps you metabolize your food by converting it into usable energy during the day. This is not just the surge of energy that you get from the caffeine content of the coffee, but actual energy from the food you consume during the day.
Aiding in metabolism also means that roasted coffee beans help control your weight. If the food that you eat is not converted into energy, it will end up as fat deposits. Improving your metabolism is the key to obtaining and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Roasted coffee beans contain a considerable amount of antioxidants. These antioxidants fight against free radicals in your body that are known for causing damage to your cells. Roasted coffee beans, hence, are directly responsible for reducing certain types of cancer in your body.
When consumed in moderate amounts, caffeine can actually help your brain stay more active in the long run. Caffeine from roasted coffee beans is known to reduce risk of neurological and cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, and general impairment.
The Dangers of Roasting Coffee Beans
While roasting coffee beans certainly gives them a smooth flavor that can be customized for different types of beverages and preferences, there are some concerns about the hazards of roasted coffee beans. Is roasting coffee beans toxic?
If you consume a safe amount of caffeine every day, no. Roasted coffee beans are perfectly safe to consume. As long as you do not consume more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, you should not face any toxicity issues.
However, there is a compound called acrylamide that you need to look out for. Roasted coffee beans contain very small amounts of this compound. The roasting process is also known to release other chemicals like 2.3-pentanedione that can be toxic to your body.
These chemicals will only have any noticeable effect on your body if consumed in high amounts. The content of these chemicals in roasted coffee beans is extremely low, which makes them quite safe for consumption. However, there are some steps you can take to avoid consuming too much acrylamide with your coffee.
It is a simple rule of thumb that the more processed a consumable item is, the higher will be its chances of causing harm to your body. For this reason, using darker roasted beans can actually be safer for you.
Other ways in which you can avoid high quantities of acrylamide is by staying away from coffee substitutes and instant coffee. The high amount of processing that goes into these products can be detrimental to your health in the long run.
Want to try roasting your own coffee? Here are 4 DIY Ways to Roast Coffee.
While most people swear by a hot cup of coffee in the morning, you might actually be adding to your acrylamide levels by doing this. Heating up coffee drastically changes what is being extracted from the beans and just switching to a cold brew might come with multiple other health benefits.
Cold coffee is also known to have a much lower level of acidity as compared to hot coffee, which will be much gentler on your stomach and digestive system. You might also notice that cold brew is less bitter than hot coffee because of the absence of heat in the brewing process.
Besides this, cold brew is much easier to whip up! Check out this recipe for a DIY Iced Capp for an easy caffeine fix.
Coffee does not have to come in just one normal, boring flavor. You might have seen dozens of products on the market that offer coffee with hazelnut, chocolate, vanilla, and so many more flavors. But how do you roast coffee beans with flavor?
So, how to roast coffee beans with flavor? Roasting coffee beans while adding a flavor is a simple task of balance. You will need some ready-to-roast coffee beans, flavored syrup, and a roaster.
Step 1: Check the weight of your beans and add them into the mixer.
Step 2: Add 2%-5% of the flavored syrup into the mixer. These flavored syrups are very concentrated and adding anything more than the recommended amount might end up completely ruining the taste of your coffee.
Step 3: Leave the beans and the syrup in the mixer for 15-20 minutes. This will give the beans enough time to absorb the flavor and mix it well with their own aroma.
Step 4: Coffee is quite absorbent and you will see that the flavor has been completely absorbed, especially if you picked a lighter roast. Dark roasts have a layer of oil on the beans that do not let it absorb flavor as effectively as lighter roasts.
You’re done! You can now use these beans to make delicious flavored coffee at home.
The Bottom Line
So, what is roasted coffee beans? Every coffee beverage is made with roasted beans. You cannot use coffee beans directly harvested from plants and expect it to taste like the comfortable, familiar taste of coffee. Roasting these coffee beans is what gives them their signature flavor, body, and acidity. The degree of roasting also plays a major part in determining what kind of coffee you end up with.
Check out this article on the best coffee storage containers to make sure that your beans stay fresh! Coffee enthusiasts can check out our other posts to learn more about the wonderful world of brewing.