Why We Roast Light(er), Part 1

(Photo credit: Sweet Maria's)

(Photo credit: Sweet Maria's)


Bold. Dark. Robust. This is the kind of coffee we have come to love as Americans. The darker and stronger we can handle it, the more we’re true coffee lovers. I get this. I used to be proud that I liked my coffee as dark and hot and strong as you could get it. This is the legacy of the “second wave” coffee movement. The Starbucks revolution. Coffee lovers of all stripes can be grateful for this movement, because it got specialty coffee on the radar for many, many people. I would not be roasting coffee if it wasn’t for this movement.

At the same time, this is not the way I roast today and rarely how I drink coffee any more. So what happened? Well, thanks in large part to Sunergos Coffee in Louisville, Kentucky and the many people we knew connected to it when we lived in Louisville, I was introduced to coffee that was different from what I was used to. Lighter roasted, smaller batches, more attention to coffee origins and to detail. These are the characteristics of what has come to be known as the “third wave” coffee movement. And, step-by-step, I slowly began drinking different coffee. At first it was more of a treat, and then I would go back to my darker Starbucks, or cheaper substitute. Eventually, though, I was hooked for good.

This seems to be the natural progression to third wave coffee. At first you’re like, “Wow, that’s different. Hmmm. Smooth. Interesting. Almost tea-like. I’m not so sure about this.” You go back to your oily French roast, but the flavor you tasted kind of sticks with you. So eventually you circle back around and try it again. Now you’re more intrigued, the territory is not quite as unfamiliar as before, but you’re still not sold. At this point, it may or may not take a while, but if you are continually exposed to this kind of coffee, it becomes difficult to go back. It gets a hold on you in the very best way imaginable.

Next time we’ll talk a bit more about this, as well as what goes on in the actual roast that makes it light or dark . . .