What are Specialty Coffee Roasters and How they Improve Your Cup
Coffee is a versatile ingredient, it gives the barista a lot of ways to prepare a drink that will please the customer. You can prepare with coffee beans: espresso, drip coffee, French press, AeroPress, cold brew coffee, and many more milk based variants. Let’s not forget Turkish coffee which is in itself an experience. You should try it at least once if you are a true coffee explorer.
Many will say that coffee is coffee, no matter how you prepare it. That is not true. That would mean reducing coffee to its psychoactive ingredient the caffeine. Coffee is so much more than that. You can’t convince an espresso lover to switch to drip and vice versa. That’s because the two brewing methods give you drinks that taste completely different. What I want to emphasize is that preparing coffee is a complex operation. This operation includes many steps, and we are not talking about the final steps before brewing, like dosing grinding and steeping. This whole process starts even before the roaster, on the plantation.
Our discussion today revolves around the roaster and how third wave roasters have improved the experience in the last years. There are many choices to buy coffee today, and we’re always tempted to choose convenience. If you want a great cup of coffee though, the natural choice is a specialty coffee roaster.
Why Are Small Batch Roasters Better?
There is some appeal to buy from a big roaster. They are reputable, their packaging looks very good, and their marketing is magnetic. If you never tried a small roaster, the impulse to buy a bag of espresso beans from the store is irresistible. It’s there, on the shelf, ready to be picked up and taken home. Vittoria, Allpress, Merlo are reputable sources of the black gold, but small roasteries are better and I’ll explain why.
Big roasters have great resources and they can do research and refine a blend so much better than a small roaster. The problem with them is that their blends need to be consistent. If one of their blends tastes differently, their customers will complain. Their biggest challenge is not to roast the beans to perfection. It’s to roast the beans to taste exactly the same as all the previous batches. In order to achieve this, they will resort to a few tricks that will mute wonderful notes of origin coffees. They roast a little on the darker side, they select beans that don’t have a lot of personality, and they balance the ratio between various origins. All of these will give you a consistent blend every batch, but it will be average. This is the traditional way of handling coffee beans.
Another problem is the freshness. Coffee loses its aroma little by little every day after roasting. Big companies cannot afford to roast in small batches. The distribution channels are conceived to be economically efficient. This means that their coffee will sit on the shelves for months, in order to maximize profits. Mind you, most of the big players have special packaging technology such as nitrogen flush, or vacuum packaging. However, fresh coffee is the best no matter what coffee preparation method you are using.
Specialty coffee roasters are one of the best things could happen to the industry. Small roasters are more flexible, and they don’t depend on a distribution chain. They roast on a regular basis, in small batches, and they can adapt easier to the market’s demand. The biggest advantage of small roasters is their ability to create unique flavors and aromas. They choose an origin bean, and they roast it to perfection. They are not restricted by a label or the customer’s expectations. In fact, the customers expect change most of the times. The specialty coffee customer knows that the last year’s batch of Yirgacheffe will not be the same as this year’s batch. The idea is to make the most of the beans you are working with as a roaster, and not to mute them into an average blend.
Time. This is what kills even the best coffee beans. A small roaster typically has a roasting day every week, or every second week. The beans they roast are gone within a few days.
If you want to try specialty coffee, try Rosebank Coffee Roasters’ Papua New Guinea – Medium roast. This is a single origin with floral and fruit notes, and dark chocolate and nutty flavour. The nutty/chocolate flavour makes it a versatile roast, that you can use for almost any brewing method. The medium roast preserves the floral and fruity notes, specific for the origin, for a unique coffee experience.