Why do we roast our own coffee? Brewing only freshly roasted coffee is the only way to extract the true flavor of a coffee bean. Our experienced Roast Masters select the beans, monitor the roasting process to the peak of perfection and create flavorful blends only available to hand craft roasters. Since a roasted bean's flavor degrades fairly quickly, we only roast what can be freshly brewed, preserving the true flavor of coffee in our store or in your home.
Coffee shops owned by large corporations cannot control the time between roasting and brewing, and have consciously abandoned the hope of true coffee flavor. To achieve consistency, these chain shops serve coffee that has been deliberately over roasted, leaving a characteristic charred or "burnt" flavor behind. Also, these roasters will over roast beans so that less flavorful coffees seem stronger and tastier. Less flavorful varietals are less expensive for the roaster and you simply aren't getting what you pay for. Batch consistency and profit has beaten the taste of excellent coffee into second place. Compare our coffee selection, custom roasting and quick brewing to taste why Rappahannock coffees are the best in town.
Roasting is a process that chemically changes the bean through controlled heat and time. The four beans shown here are a green bean, a lightly roasted bean, a bean considered "medium roast" and one considered "dark roast". The green bean caramelizes and darkens during the roasting process. Roasting releases what appears to be oils in the bean but they are actually sugars being driven out by gasses created as the bean is heated. The darker the roast, the more of these oils are produced. The caramelizing process is the browning of the sugars.
As the bean roasts, some of the caramelization begins to give way to char, or a burnt flavor that is detrimental to the taste of coffee. The sugars produced and the bean itself starts to smolder and burn if allowed. Some of the byproducts of a very dark roast are actually smoke and ash. The Roast Master can identify the peak of desired caramelization for the type of roast without an undue amount of char.
The chart above explains how the bean changes during the roasting process. One surprise is the decline of caffeine content as the bean roasts. A darker roasted, richer coffee is usually associated with a high caffeine level. The opposite is actually true. However, espresso, which is a dark roasted blend, is made with a process that extracts more solids from the coffee beans with less water, so an espresso shot may contain more caffeine than a cup of brewed coffee.
The particular names of the roasts, listed on the top margin, are relative to each other but not necessarily precise. For instance, in Seattle a French Roast is considered darker than Italian Roast which is the opposite of the New York convention. The chart wisely omits the Italian roast for that reason.
The Enemy of Coffee is Oxygen. When coffee is roasted, there is a considerable amount of carbon dioxide (and aromatics) released for the next 4 to 24 hours. So much gas is released that a sealed container of freshly roasted coffee may approach two atmospheres of pressure. As a result, coffee packed for shipping is often "aged" until the carbon dioxide gas has dissipated enough to actually enclose the beans in a container. In the mean time, oxygen is attacking the coffee beans and degrading the flavor. If left exposed to open air, roasted coffee beans will markedly lose their freshness within three days. The roasted beans are undergoing noticeable aroma and taste degradation before they are ever packaged.
Purchasing coffee as ground beans in vacuum packed containers is not as effective as one might think. The ground coffee has far more surface area to rapidly oxidize the aromatic chemicals (aldehydes) in the coffee. In fact, the easily differentiated tastes just after roasting are simply not available to the consumer from this type of packaged coffee. The vacuum in the package is only a partial vacuum that often leaves up to 4% oxygen in the container.
The ideal way to store coffee is to package it in sealed containers immediately after roasting and store it in a commercial freezer at less than -10 degrees F. This will stop the release of carbon dioxide and aromatics from the bean as well as stop any chemical reactions with oxygen. For the home coffee buyer, storing packaged ground coffee in the freezer may do more harm than good. By the time you get your ground packaged coffee from the store, the damage from oxygen exposure has already been done and your beans are in danger of absorbing odors from your freezer.
At Rappahannock Coffee, we use heat sealable plastic bags with one-way valves to package and ship coffee. The valve allows carbon dioxide to escape from the container without exploding and prevents oxygen from entering. Coffee comes directly from the roaster's cooling bin, into the packaging line and to your door without delay. If you use our whole bean coffee within a week, you will be experiencing the most desirable coffee flavors you can without roasting your own or visiting our store.