Product Introspection: Coffee Roasting

17.05.09

Dissertations

No matter how high or low the quality, it is impossible to create a delicious coffee without roasting the coffee beans properly. It is said that 80% of the coffee's taste is determined by the roasting process. At first glance, coffee bean roasting may simply seem like a standard heating treatment process However, have you ever noticed the various steps that professional coffee roasters pay special attention to during the roasting process?

We sat down with professional roaster Masakazu Matsuba, who roasts the coffee beans for our "visvim original roast coffee" at "little cloud coffee's", to talk about his roasting process and how difficult the process really is.

Mr. Matsuba, who has been a professional coffee roaster for over 18 years, runs a factory located in Shizuoka. After relocating to the current location last year, he has steadily expanded his operations. Inside his factory the first thing that you will notice is the "PROBAT" roaster, which was manufactured in Germany from the 1960s until the 1970s. Unlike new roasters which operate automatically, this roaster requires everything to be conducted and managed manually, including adjusting the heat levels and pressure conditions, as well as setting the timing for when to open the lid.

"Roasting, to put it simply, means to heat coffee beans until they turn dark brown, like everyone is used to seeing, but within this simple process the coffee beans undergo various chemical changes. This type of manually operating coffee roaster, which allows you to make subtle adjustments to react to those changes, is perfectly-suited for my needs."

The process of removing the natural moisture from each coffee bean involves pouring fermented green coffee beans into a tank that has been heated up to approximately 200º C. The beans are heated until they each contain the same amount of moisture while simultaneously adding pressure to the tank. Once the tank is heated up to a specific temperature, the moisture contained in the beans is removed and the beans turn into a yellow color.

The caramel pigments contained in the beans then transform into a bittersweet component. Gradually the coffee beans begin to expand, and you will hear the crackling sounds of the beans bursting open from inside the coffee roaster. This sound is a sign that the heat has passed through the inside of the coffee beans. Once its components are transformed by heat, the largely swelled up dark brown beans will produce the distinct coffee aroma and flavor.

"Just like when you make caramel for pudding, there's a specific point as you're heating the coffee beans where the sweetness and richness are in perfect harmony right before the beans get burnt. You have to adjust the heat levels depending on the type, amount, and moisture content of the coffee beans and open the tank once you hear the sound of the beans bursting open as they transform while their heated. Different beans can be heated past this point while others have to be removed before, and carefully adjusting this balance enables you to create various coffee flavors.

The degree to which coffee beans are roasted can be categorized in eight steps, consisting of a light roast, cinnamon roast, medium roast, high roast, city roast, full city roast, French roast, and Italian roast. Generally, the lighter roasts have a fruity acidic characteristic and the darker roasts have a bittersweet caramel-like flavor. The "visvim original roast coffee" served as "little cloud coffee" uses medium roast coffee beans that falls somewhere between a city roast and full city roast.

During the roasting process, you have to constantly keep your eye on the roaster's measuring meter, listen to the sound of the beans, and scoop up the beans using a test spoon to check their color and aroma. The roasting process may seem like a simple task at first glance, but each time you have to adjust your methods depending on the type of bean and even that day's temperature and humidity levels, so it takes many years of experience to roast coffee beans exactly the way you intended to.

"Having a lot of knowledge about different coffee beans is very important. However, understanding how a roaster works and having experience working with one is even more important to bring out the true flavor of the coffee beans. It also took me such a long time to reach this point because I'm a clumsy person."

Mr. Matsuba made the decision to become a professional coffee roaster when he encountered a memorable cup of coffee when he was in Egypt in 1993. That cup of coffee was made with a Turkish coffee method, which involves mixing finely ground coffee beans and water in a pan, heat it up to a boil to bring out the coffee extracts, and pour it into a cup and sip the top layer until the powder is completely precipitated. "It wasn't that the coffee tasted especially delicious, but it had such a simple yet refined flavor. The taste stayed with me and it remains in my memory to this day."

Later, he began traveling to various countries around the world as a backpacker and drank the local coffee at each of his destinations. He soon became unsatisfied with just drinking coffee, and started to study where and how the coffee beans he encountered were made. From around 1997, he began visiting different roasting factories and small roasters and even began working at them, where he learned about the art and principles of coffee roasting from experienced coffee craftsmen. In addition to gathering information about coffee shops around the world, he even occasionally traveled directly to coffee plantations to deepen his knowledge about coffee beans.

In addition to the years when he paid his dues while working at different coffee shops, Mr. Matsuba brushed up on his roasting techniques by visiting roasting factories in Egypt, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, the United Kingdom, France, and Taiwan. During the fall of 2000, he began roasting his own coffee beans. At the time, he didn't have a factory or store, so he would pack a large backpack with the beans that he roasted at his house along with a gas stove and a portable coffee set, get on his scooter, and deliver his original blend coffee. He served his coffee at special events hosted by clothing stores and novelty shops, and stopped by construction sites and office buildings where his acquaintances worked during their lunch time to serve them his drip coffee directly in front of them.

In 2001, the slight difference in temperature throughout the year made it optimal for roasting coffee. After creating a factory in Shizuoka, an area well suited for roasting, Mr. Matsuba experienced repeated roasting failures and learned by trial and error. "The measuring meter is simply a guide, so at the end of the day you just have to trust your own instincts. There's no right answer when it comes to roasting, so you're constantly discovering something new. That's what makes it so fun." Even after starting up his own factory, he continues to travel around the world visiting different roasting factories and plantations to gain more knowledge and experience of coffee roasting.

Mr. Matsuba, who has been working with coffee for many years, is at a point in his career where his goal is to create coffee beans by stripping away his own "particular beliefs" and "originality". "While the world has experienced the Industrial Revolution and a significant increase in population, until about the 1910s before coffee roasting entered the mainstream, people brewed and drank their own coffee on a daily basis throughout the world, excluding Japan.

It was an age when roasting beans for your family members each morning and drinking a fresh brew of coffee was a common everyday occurrence. Now that more and more people have started to have an interest in coffee throughout the world, I want to continue making natural-tasting coffee that can be enjoyed everyday, instead of trying to do something different from everyone else. I think that the coffee that I drank when I was in Egypt was the same way."

little cloud coffee
5-10-1 GYRE 2F, JINGUMAE, SHIBUYA-KU, TOKYO 150-0001
03 5468 5424

little cloud coffee
150-0001 東京都渋谷区神宮前5-10-1 GYRE 2F
03 5468 5424

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