December letter from our Roaster: a behind-the-scenes peek at the art and science of roast profiles

Coe Young and Mary Ann Magazzi are the owners of L’aveggio Roasteria– and Liga Masiva’s superstar roasting partners. Coe’s passion for perfect coffee, “super taster” palate, and generous approach to business combine to make him a true leader in the space. This is his letter to you. Read his last letter here.

As we move into December, I am working on some roasts to expand our Café Liga Masiva offerings– and put this great coffee into the hands of more people looking for Direct Trade options, but who prefer either a lighter or darker roast than the mid-Vienna we offer as our normal Liga Masiva roast level.

Last year, we offered a blend called “Liga Squared.” It was Liga Masiva, but roasted to two different roast levels and blended by hand after roasting.

After sitting down with Emily over Thanksgiving, she wondered if I could revive the blend, rework it a touch, or re-blend by adding a lighter roast this time instead of a darker one. This is what the craft of artisan roasting is all about – so today I did some sample roasting to work on the components (different roast profiles and end temperatures) for the blend.

For the most part, each coffee needs a different way of applying the heat to roast it correctly: this is what creates each coffee’s unique “roast profile.” One coffee may require high initial heat, followed by medium heat, and resulting in a slow rise in bean temperature until the end of the roast is reached. Or it may need a brief drying phase at very low heat before applying medium heat for a few minutes and ending with minimal heat, allowing the bean temperature to coast just above the stalling point.

The combinations are infinite, and each roaster develops profiles to take into account all of the variables in his or her roasting system: the balance between the amount of convective (airflow) heat applied vs. conductive (drum contact) heat, normal chimney draft, elevation the coffee was grown, barometric pressure at roast time (which greatly effects chimney draft), etc.

As I write this, I have done an initial cupping right out of the cooling tray – as is our method here at L’aveggio – to get an initial quick assessment of the success of the profile before letting the coffee rest for 24 hours and cupping it and scoring the results.

Because Liga Masiva coffee can be very acidic at light roast levels, I changed the balance of conductive heat vs convective heat in the profile to favor more conductive heat. This allows an acidic coffee to develop differently – with less brightness than it would with high convective heat.

The results showed very nice acidity which has mellowed in the last few hours to show some light caramel and sweet chocolate notes without the heavier finish of the mid-Vienna roast we normally use. By tomorrow morning this should be very close to what I am looking for. I may only have to make small adjustments to the roast profile before I start testing blend combinations in the next few days.

As always – use 2 rounded tablespoons of coffee (correctly ground for the brew method) for each 6 oz of water. Don’t trust the markings on your brewer or carafe– always measure the water. Never percolate your coffee: the high temperature of boiling water will burn the coffee – flat bottom drip into an insulated carafe does a great job. Chemex is my favorite brew method but try them all until you find your favorite way to drink Cafe Liga Masiva.

Happy Holidays!

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