There is a new trend with many coffee roasters and café’s that involves a lighter style of roasting. It’s being coined as “Nordic” style and it’s roasted only until the coffee has barely left the first crack. These lighter roasts when stopped at this point can often give you a “lemon” or “brighter” taste in your cup. Some will argue that you’re getting more of the original taste of the coffee. There is nothing wrong with a lighter roasting style, but there is a vast difference between a properly developed light roast, and a roast that is simply cut short without any development time.
Now light roasts may taste good for some but personally I prefer a more developed body with carmelization to create balance and cut some of the acidity. I prefer my coffee tasting a bit more nutty and less like a tart or sour cherry. I like to use the example of browning onions on the BBQ to explain some differences. Some people like crispy onions…goodness some eat them raw like apples. Nice and crunchy. BUT this is not for me. When you cook onions on a BBQ, something special happens when the onion starts to brown. The skin softens, the moisture is released and the onion cells start to breakdown. The natural flavors and sugars within the onion begin to caramelize. At this point you get a light sweetness that is distinctly different than the sharp, strong taste you might experience when they are still raw. If you leave the onions cooking, they get to a point where they will char and turn black, crispy and lose that sweetness. They taste nothing like onions.
This is similar when you roast coffee. This caramelization is the result of a ‘Maillard’ reaction that occurs in a roast. This is a chemical reaction that gives coffee the desirable flavor, sweetness and aroma. Too much caramelization can result in the sugars completely becoming charred giving a bitter taste.
You may like this new trend, or you may not. I am in the “not” section. I prefer my onions carmelized, my wine big and jammy and my coffee nutty, bold and balanced. What about you?
Since this new trend has developed, I’ve purchased coffee from multiple roasters that are labeled as medium or dark roast and when I open the bag, I find that these "dark" roasts are about the color if the cinnamon roast (indicated below). It makes it difficult to purchase the coffee beans I like.
Here is one reference guide to give you an example of roasting levels.
Furthermore, people may be unaware that as you roast coffee beans you lose natural moisture from the bean. Roasted coffee naturally weighs less the darker you roast. So the lighter you roast, the more your beans will weigh. On average you can lose between 15-25% of the weight, depending on your roast. So what I’m saying is, it takes less raw product to equal a one pound bag using a light roast, than a dark roast. This will definitely increase profits per pound of coffee. No wonder so many roasters like to roast this way.
On top of that, if you like bold flavors, you will also need to use MORE of that light roasted coffee to get the flavors you desire. And it is very common to purchase bags that weigh only 12 ounces, instead of a full pound with the cost difference often being negligible. In fact, often times, smaller packages cost more per ounce due to the higher cost of packaging.
Is this a trend driven by taste or profits…Hmmm, at the very least, it’s something to think about.
What about you? Do you like the light roasted coffee trend?
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