Carrier Roasting was started for a simple reason: bring fresh roasted coffee to our friends in Vermont (and beyond!). Since we started roasting, we’ve been asked numerous times why we’re doing it. The answer is actually pretty simple: fresh coffee tastes better. But beneath that answer, there are a few things that are a little more complex. We’ll attempt to explain them here.
How Dark is Too Dark?
Coffee beans are the seed of a fruit and as a result, have a lot of simple sugars locked inside them. Green coffee is quite hard and in order to be ground and brewed, needs to be roasted which causes the bean to lose water (and sugar), making it expand and less dense. The longer you roast coffee, the more developed these sugars become (to a point – more on this in the next few lines). The heat from the roast forces water from the bean, exposing simple sugars to carmelization. In quality green coffee beans, these flavors can be appealing, like citrus, berry and black tea. In poor quality coffee beans, these flavors come off as bitter or sour. If you roast coffee long enough, the simple sugars are forced out of the bean completely and the bean is left with a charred or burnt flavor. Most of the coffee you can buy at stores in Vermont has been roasted to this point. Roasting to a “dark roast” (which is a loose term, but in the case of mass market coffee is considered a French or Vienna roast level) covers up flavors of poor quality beans, masking them with burned flavors that are imparted by the roaster.
Flavor: The Bean or the Roaster?
A number of people who have tried our coffees have asked this question. In the case of most coffee you would find in a grocery store, the roasting method is determining the flavor. The “good” coffee flavor has been roasted out of the bean, and imparted a burned flavor onto the bean in the roasting process. Most big coffee companies do this to cover up poor quality beans that don't taste all that good anyway. Since we're buying high quality beans, our philosophy, aside from committing to roasting really fresh coffee, is to honor the intentions of the farmer at origin by not over-roasting the coffee. Rather we're roasting dark enough so we unlock the very best flavors in the bean, while imparting only a little bit of our own roast flavors in the roasting process. It's a tricky balance dialing this in, but one we've been able achieve through a lot of practice.
Honoring the Farmer’s Intentions
Depending on the region and type of processing, an individual coffee bean can be touched as many as 6 times (or more) before it reaches your coffee grinder. From picking to grading to processing to drying to shipping to roasting to packaging, a lot of work goes into bringing you your morning cup. No one in this chain works harder than the farmer though. The coffee we bring into the CSA is high quality, specialty grade coffee that’s been grown with very clear intentions by the farmer. The altitude and cultivation methods begin coffee’s long journey. Over-roasting coffee covers up the farmers hard work and we don’t feel it’s right. We roast coffee long enough to expose the best flavors in the coffee bean, but not so long that they’re covered up. The goal when we roast is to reveal the intentions of the farmer at origin, rather than impart the flavor inherent in the roaster. Not to mention, coffee shrubs take 3-4 years to bear fruit from the time their planted. In that time, the plant risks disease and even death!
Simply put: coffee farmers work too hard to mask the true flavor of the beans.
A Range of Origins
The idea of a coffee CSA is a different one and we knew from the start there would be questions about what it means to be a member. The most important thing to know is that joining the Carrier Roasting Coffee CSA is that you’ll be drinking fresh coffee every week. The catch with drinking really fresh coffee is that, in order for the beans to be fresh, coffee has to be from different origins. The coffee harvest happens at different times in different places...some regions have multiple harvests, but buying fresh throughout the year means buying from different countries resulting in different flavors. We buy coffees that we believe most people will find appealing...we're going to stay away from polarizing coffees that some people wouldn't like. But flavors will vary!