Your questions answered! Coffee roasting tour chat

Well we’ve rounded up after three great weeks of our coffee roasting tour as part of the Dine Out Vancouver festival, hosted by the Vancouver Coffee Snob. What an engaging and enthusiastic audience! Not only did we get to meet some incredible coffee lovers, but we also learned a lot from our guests who had some clever (and challenging!) questions regarding roasting and all things coffee.

To our equally inquisitive online audience, we thought we’d share some of the top questions from our tour!


Q - Where does the coffee come from?

This is always a tricky question to answer in terms of defining which aspect, the country (or origin), or the process?

We found the majority of people understood that coffee was grown in many countries of the coffee belt, by farmers of varying sizes and degree of sophistication, but from there… then what? In short, the coffee chain is one of the more complex around.

From the farm (and after various processing techniques to extract the bean from the coffee cherry) the coffee is sent to a mill who is often associated with, or the exporter of the coffee beans.

Will picking coffee cherries in Colombia

Will picking coffee cherries in Colombia

These are put into a jute bag stamped with colour markings of that particular country of origin.

For the majority of roasters around the world, an importer will bring these beans into the country by container. From here, the coffee is usually stored at a facility where a roaster, like us, will collect the green beans and bring them back to our roasting facility. Of course this is all a typical scenario – there are plenty of alternatives and differing relationships. At the end of the day however, no matter the relationship with the farmer, the coffee needs to get on a ship and come to our door! Import permits, fees and quarantine requirements can play a significant role, one that requires a high level of expertise.

Roger demonstrating the markings of a coffee bag at a Colombian mill

Roger demonstrating the markings of a coffee bag at a Colombian mill

Q - Why do you cup coffee?

Cupping is really a fancy coffee word for tasting. Well, it also happens in a cup, so there’s that! The reason for cupping is that it is a simple process that can be replicated in any region around the world, with very limited and primitive equipment. This way everyone is tasting the coffee in a consistent way, from origin to cafe.

Additionally it is a way that we, as a roaster, can easily and consistently record how our coffee tastes in each and every roast. We can use this process to source amazing beans from around the world. After all with coffee, like many food products, It’s impossible to know what you are getting until you roast and taste the product!

Attie cupping coffees at the Swiss Water cupping lab

Attie cupping coffees at the Swiss Water cupping lab

Q - What makes a light, medium or dark roast?

This was a popular question on every tour as just like every chef, every roaster has a certain ‘stamp’ on their craft. Often this involves the degree of roast.  As Will likes to put it, ‘every coffee has a home,’and indeed this is the case even in our local market of Vancouver. Here you’ll find light roasts, roasts defined as medium and dark roasts.

A light roast is exactly that, a roast that has been roasted to a lighter degree, classified by colour as a light or cinnamon brown colour.

Medium is somewhere in between, typically richer brown in colour, yet no oils will appear on the surface. Our espresso is a good example of a medium roast, although some brands and often those that roast dark, may actually consider it light.

A dark roast is usually classified as very dark brown, with an oily surface and often a more ‘roasty’ flavour, often described as ashy.

Coffee roast levels from light to dark. Image credit: Roasting Depot

Coffee roast levels from light to dark. Image credit: Roasting Depot

So how does a roaster ensure their roast is in fact, light, medium or dark? Just like cooking a steak, time and temperature will enable the bean to caramelise and develop to a different degree. The longer the beans are left in the roasting drum, the darker the roast will become. Interesting fact: this does not actually mean more caffeine! In fact, the opposite, although the difference is fairly minimal. If you’re after a ‘stronger’ coffee, look to the brew method or amount of coffee being brewed! A double espresso might be your answer for kick off!

We loved hosting our Dine Out guests, demonstrating the roasting process, talking about all things coffee and cupping some coffees together!

If you have any burning (ha, we hope not!) questions regarding coffee roasting, feel free to ask us via social media or email and we’ll do our best to help you out.

Yours in coffee, Attie

Editor’s note: Due to high demand we’re actually hosting one more tour this weekend! Missed out this time? Sign up to our newsletter to hear when we’re running one next!