Roasting Coffee

The alchemy of blending heat and beans that creates coffee.
For, us truly great roasting is a science and an art. Precise control of heat and timing turns the hard, green beans into the wonderfully roasted coffee beans we all know and love. When roasting, all of your senses are engaged as you listen for the cracking, smell the developing bean, watch the color of the bean turn from green to yellow to brown, and finally taste the fully roasted bean, judging how well you did.

The environment that a coffee is grown in affects its final characteristics. Each type of coffee has its own unique flavor, aroma, and body. These characteristics can be developed in the roasting process. There is an optimum roast for every estate, region, or country. We roast our coffee in small batches, carefully bringing out the very best qualities of all of the beans that we sell.

The Roasting Process

HelgaThe beans are poured into the funnel at the top prior to the actual roasting. The machine is then heated to an average 450°F. At this point, the lever is raised, dropping the beans into the inner drum where they are constantly rotated by large paddles. As the beans develop, their status can be easily ascertained by using the sampler, which “catches” the tumbling beans.

By pulling regular samples, the roaster is able to see the color of the bean and smell the aromas. The beans go through two “cracks”, so named because they start to emit audible cracking noises (of course). This cracking noise is not only an indication of the beans’ readiness, but it is also an indication of their quality: generally, the stronger the crack, the higher the quality and the better the development.

The first crack occurs when the beans expand, releasing most of their stored water. At this point they have gone from their initial, raw green to a pale yellow. As that color turns to a deeper brown, they begin to give off that familiar coffee smell. The second crack occurs at the moment when they are almost ready. They have reached that familiar reddish-brown color and are at a crucial point in the roasting cycle. Two to three seconds after the second crack, they are at what roasters call Full City; three to five seconds after and they reach French Roast; five to seven seconds and they have become Espresso; anything after seven seconds and you end up with charcoal. Not the desired outcome at all!

Coffee RoastingAt the precise time, the door to the inner drum is opened and the beans come cascading out, bringing the steam and aromatic coffee fumes with them. They are caught in the cooling pan underneath where paddles stir them. A vent under the pan allows air to circulate in and around the beans, cooling them. This is an especially crucial step: at this point in the roasting cycle, the heat from the beans themselves is enough to cause the beans to continue to roast!

Once the beans are cool enough to be handled, they are poured out through the bottom. From there they “rest” for almost 24 hours, allowing the gasses to escape and ending the roasting process. Then they are bagged and shipped out to insure that they reach their final destination, the customer, as fresh as possible.

Mere words barely convey the wonder that is roasting. It is truly an art and an amazing spectacle to watch. If you are ever in Santa Barbara, give Gayla a call at (805) 963-8060: maybe you can arrange for a demonstration!

Six Degrees of Roasting

Each different varietal and each different blend will call for a different degree of roasting. Even roasting the same coffee to a different degree can make a drastic difference in what that coffee will taste like in the cup. And, to complicate matters even further, the same varietal may prefer a different roast from crop to crop or even from bag to bag. For us, therefore, roasting is a matter of using established standards as a guideline, and then modifying each roast depending on how the beans react. This is what we mean when we say that we “listen” to the beans.

Unlike with cupping terminology, coffee roasters have a difficult time agreeing on what to call each degree of roasting. One roaster may call her darkest roast a “Vienna”, while another calls the same roast an “Espresso”. Here are the six traditional degrees to which we roast our coffee, in order from lightest to darkest. This list is by no means complete: there are regional descriptions like “New Orleans” (which tends to be a dark roast) and “American” (which is a lighter roast), but this is how we define the degrees of roasts at Moore Coffee & Tea.


The lightest roast; the coffee is left almost in its green state. Having a very light brown color, this roast is almost exclusively used for cupping or in flavored coffees, where the flavors added to the bean will overpower the coffee’s natural flavors.

Full City Minus

Next lightest, the coffee is just barely allowed to develop. We use this roast at Moore Coffee & Tea for all of our flavored coffees. This roast allows more of the coffee’s natural flavor to come through while not interfering with whatever flavors are added. This roast also does not have the “green” or raw taste that accompanies a Cinnamon roast.

Full City

Within the range that makes up Full City, almost all coffees find a perfect degree of roasting. The beans are allowed to fully develop, revealing all of their best and worst qualities. Almost all of the coffees roasted at Moore Coffee & Tea are roasted to a Full City.

Full City Plus

Somewhere in between a Full City and a French, this roast is often used by commercial roasters and large chains. The beans are allowed to fully develop and then are roasted just long enough for any impurities or faults to “roast out”. When starting with an inferior grade of coffee, this kind of over-roasting hides any of the faults that these coffees commonly have.

At Moore Coffee & Tea, we use this roast with our Breakfast Blend as we find that the darker roast brings out more of the coffee’s natural body without compromising any of its delicate flavors.

French Roast

A darker roast that, when done correctly, produces a full bodied, rich, flavorful coffee. The common association with French Roast and bitter, burnt coffee is largely due to the over-roasting of inferior robustas.

At Moore Coffee & Tea, our French Roast is a blend of Colombian and Mexican, producing a full bodied, almost sweet cup of coffee; it is a flavor reminiscent of a rich, dark chocolate.

Espresso Roast

The darkest of roasts. This roast is also associated with bitter and burnt coffee. At Moore Coffee & Tea however, our Espresso is smooth and creamy, “just like buttah”. We also use Colombian and Mexican for our Espresso Roast.

Swiss Water Vs. Chemical Decaffeination

It is perhaps a debate that will continue on until some new way of removing the caffeine from coffee is developed. The major arguments against each are widely known: chemical decaffeination leaves harmful chemicals behind and Swiss Water removes all of the flavor. However, few people know the truth behind decaffeinated coffees.

Swiss Water Process

Done exclusively in Vancouver, Canada, this method removes approximately 97% of the caffeine from coffee. The coffee is submerged in continuously circulating warm water, thereby extracting the caffeine. Unfortunately, this process also removes some of the coffee’s aromatic oils (our good friends, the colloids), resulting in a coffee that, although it has no chemical residuals, also has less flavor and body than its caffeinated cousins.

KVW (Kaffe Veredlvngs Werk) or European Water Process

The KVW process, done in West Germany, is widely known for producing some of the best tasting decaffeinated coffees available. Instead of water, the coffee is submerged in methylene chloride. The chemical bonds to the caffeine molecules in the beans and extracts approximately 97% of the caffeine this way.

Chemical Residues

In today’s health conscious world, most people are looking into the types and amounts of chemicals that they are putting into their bodies. Therefore, when someone is avoiding caffeine by drinking decaffe coffees, they would like to also avoid any chemicals from the decaffeination process. Contrary to popular belief, coffee that has been decaffeinated by the KVW process contains no traces of any methylene chloride.

The Food and Drug Administration has set its official safety limit at 10 parts per million(ppm). The KVW process guarantees 5ppm or lower; although the process generally produces less than 1ppm. An independent laboratory test was conducted to establish the levels of methylene chloride in green coffee that has been decaffeinated with the KVW process. With a sensitivity of 1ppm, the tests found no methylene chloride in the beans. Even if some traces of methylene chloride did remain in the beans, the methods used to prepare the coffee would destroy them. Methylene chloride evaporates at 170°F and the beans are roasted at temperatures exceeding 425°F. So any remnants of the chemical would evaporate when the beans are roasted.

You Still Don’t Trust Us?

To allow you the choice, we carry a selection of both KVW and Swiss Water process decaffeinated coffees. If you have a preference, just ask and we can tell you which decaffes are KVW and which are Swiss Water.

And if you’ve ever wondered why decaffe coffees cost more, the answer is simple. The green beans have to be shipped from their country of origin to either West Germany or Vancouver. After the decaffeination process, they are shipped to the United States. Also, the decaffeination process isn’t cheap either.

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