Unless you’re a dedicated coffee geek and like to roast your own beans, chances are that by the time you see your coffee beans they’ve been roasted and packaged. Home roasting coffee beans is an inexact science, as to produce a consistent result a whole range of factors need to be the same every time. This really requires commercial machinery, and although it’s perfectly possible to home roast your own coffee and get a good result, it generally involves too much messing around for most of us.
The first factor affecting coffee tastes is the location in which it’s grown. As a general rule of thumb, South American coffees have a nutty or citrussy note and African coffees tend more towards a berry taste. Other flavour notes include chocolate, caramel, pepper and spice, which is affected by the growing region, weather and variety of plant.
Once the beans are picked and process, the single most important thing that happens to them in their journey from plant to cup is roasting. A skilled roaster can bring out the flavour of the beans, highlighting their natural characteristics. A dark roast will result in an almost smoky taste, whereas with a lighter roast more of the subtle flavours will be kept. It can be fun to roast and blend your own coffees, but it takes a trained professional to match different flavour profiles together for a result that’s both delicious and consistent. Experiment by buying blends that have broadly similar compositions but are roasted differently to find out just what a difference roasting makes. Everyone will have their own personal preference, but trying the occasional new blend or roast can result in a greater understanding of the process involved and how it affects the flavour.