If you’re like us, and if you’re reading this, let’s face it, you are, your love of coffee and desire to create your own unique cup were important factors in your decision to eschew the bland blends at the grocery store and start roasting your own. That enthusiasm has likely resulted in some truly great sipping, and perhaps on a rare occasion, left you wondering what went wrong. Often, a lack of consistency can be traced to easily overlooked variations in process. A basic roasting journal can help you dial in your process and create the tasty profiles you’re aiming for. We know, we know. It sounds like homework! But if you keep it simple and savor the sampling, you’ll begin to find a lot of fun in the written record of your roasting.
Here are 4 basic elements that we feel are essential to a roasting journal without making the task too tedious:
Bean Info: Note the origin/name, region, variety, farm etc. Good information about the green beans can help you to know which varieties and regions produce beans that are likely to produce the flavors you enjoy most. It will also help you decide on replacement beans if any of your favorites ever become unavailable. At Burman Coffee Traders, we make it easy to get this information! On each bag of green beans, our labels includes country, region and farm information.
Time: Timing is everything! And roasting great coffee takes time. But how much time? That depends on the bean, the equipment, and the roast point and flavor profile you’re trying to create. By carefully observing things like the time it takes to begin yellowing the beans, time to first and second crack, and total roast time (we feel that total roast time is easiest for most people to consistently track to start journaling) on your equipment, you’ll be able to more consistently hit those flavor profiles. Careful attention to roasting times is also the best way to avoid that guessing game we’ve all played when trying to determine roast points by sight alone!
Temperature: Roasting temperature is directly related to the amount of time a batch takes to roast. But the intensity of heat can also substantially impact the chemical reactions that take place in the beans during roasting, resulting in unintended or variations of flavors. Again, the equipment you’re using will make a difference. For some roasters, recording temperatures will mean taking note of whether the high, medium or low setting was used. On more sophisticated roasters, you’ll be able to record actually temperature readings from each step of the roast. Be as accurate as your equipment allows.
Tasting notes: How will you know if your process resulted in the flavors you desire? A cupping, of course! Recruit your friends and family to assist you in identifying the characteristics of the body, aroma and flavors. (You can also check out our tips on tasting notes in our article: The Taste of Good Coffee). Take detailed notes. Everyone’s palate is different and there are no wrong answers! Once you’ve collected good sensory data, you’re ready to make needed adjustments to bean selection, time and temperature.
These elements are only basics. The complexities of coffee allow nearly limitless possibilities for roasting evaluation. However deeply you want to geek out in pursuit of that perfect cup, remember that consistency and creativity can go hand in hand for the home roaster. Careful attention to detail in your roasting process can go a long way toward making a masterpiece of the liquid art we all love.