Coffee has become almost an essential breakfast item in the United States and throughout the world. Since the palate of each customer is different, various coffee roasts have been made available to satisfy each of them.
When coffee is roasted, numerous chemical reactions occur that change the bean into its final state. Coffee beans are roasted under different conditions based on the roast level desired.
Coffee beans are actually the seeds of the coffee plant. The green seeds are more shelf stable than roasted coffee, so it is recommended that coffee is consumed soon after it is roasted. The descriptions below will explain the most common roasts for coffee beans.
1. Light - The beans double in size and turn a light brown color. This step is normally called first crack since this is when the beans crack loudly.
2. Medium - The color of the beans changes from light brown to dark brown. This occurs shortly after the first crack.
3. Full - The beans begin to crack again and they become oily. The beans become medium-dark brown. This is called second crack.
4. Extremely Dark - The beans start to smoke and second crack is almost complete. Espresso beans are created with this roast.
Many companies may roast their coffee extra dark so that bitterness will hide the taste of the stale beans. Since coffee is best consumed shortly after the roasting process is complete, this disguise helps with shelf life factors.
After coffee is roasted the beans are allowed to cool and stabilize. This process is referred to as degassing and usually takes between 24 and 72 hours depending on the roast. You should always allow ample time for the coffee to degas before brewing as the beans need time for their flavor to even out. If ground and consumed too early, the coffee may taste too smoky or ashy.
As mentioned above, many chemical reactions take place during roasting. One of these reactions causes carbon dioxide to be released from the beans. Freshly roasted coffee will emit CO2 for up to 7 days after they are roasted. Roasted coffee is sensitive to light, oxygen and moisture. Because of this, finding packaging that will prevent the coffee from going stale was extremely difficult.