Lots of things are marked as “gourmet” or “handmade” that really aren’t all that gourmet or handmade. It can be misleading and difficult to know what’s handcrafted and what’s not handcrafted.
When it comes to coffee, it can be even worse. All the major coffee roasting companies now offer “gourmet” coffee blends that look like something you might find at a local coffee roaster. Just like the “craft beers” that come from the major beer brewing houses, they are poor imitations of a truly handcrafted, gourmet coffee.
Coffee roasting is both an art form and a science. The art form is when you take a skill set that has been mastered over decades and combine it with the precision of a scientist. The science is knowing the specific dynamics of the coffee roasting process, a particular nose, and the empirical data about the green coffee bean you are roasting, and of course, the coffee roaster you are using to roast the coffee.
How We Sample Roast Green Coffee Beans for our Reserve Coffee
What is hand roasted coffee?
Hand roasted coffee is made in small batches with the direct intervention of a master coffee roaster. The master coffee roaster watches over the batch as it’s roasted to make sure it’s done to perfection.
Our mechanical coffee roaster is a 45 Kilo Probat. Our human Master Coffee Roaster controls the load size, the time the temperature and the air flow. Decisions are made on the spot, predicated on what coffee bean is in the roast and those decisions affect and create that unique flavor profile for each coffee blend or each single origin coffee. This takes a wee bit of genius, decades of practice and a lot of hard work by a lot of people to support the entire process. Consistency is critical, it is what separates us from every other coffee company. Eleven years of consistency and quality is a hard thing to do. (If you are reading this newsletter, you have been addicted to our coffee for a while, and we would like to take a moment to thank you for drinking our product because you truly appreciate the quality and consistency).
Large factory coffee roasting companies often turn to automation to manufacture their volume, however, the art and science of coffee roasting is lost in a large factory coffee roaster. There is no way to truly pull the full potential of the green coffee bean in a large factory roaster. Temperature control is automated and a fail safe is generally set only a maximum on/off temperature. It is not a computer; it does not control the profile, and it is usually set at a high temperature. Data logging by computers track changes in temperature, but do not do anything to create a roast profile. This is where the master coffee roaster steps in with their roasting profile system and to decide upon the load size, time, temperature and airflow.
Automation can be very convenient, but does not allow the fine control that hand crafting coffee roasters aspire to achieve by literally standing at the machine and controlling the roast.
Hand roasted coffee versus small batch coffee
There is a slight difference between hand roasted coffee and small batch roasted coffee. While all hand roasted coffees are small batch, not all small batch coffees are hand roasted.
There are many automatic coffee roasters on the market. They use technology to guide the roast. The issue is that there is as much art as science to the roasting of coffee. A master roaster understands that things like humidity, the differences in where the green coffee beans are grown, and even the ambient temperature of the room can make a difference.
If you think in terms of baking bread, it’s the difference between a bread machine and a master baker. Bread from a bread machine is adequate, but the master baker will bake bread that is life changing.
What is Reserve Coffee?
“Reserve” is a phrase that has no set meaning except that set by the coffee roaster, the vineyard, or anyone else. The meaning is generally that the item is only available in a limited quantity and is being released at the perfect time to maximum flavor.
One of the world’s largest coffee roasters has released Reserve Coffee. While these might be limited quantities for them, they are likely selling more of a single coffee than many small artisan coffee roasters sell of all their coffees in a year.
Hand Roasting Legacy Blend Coffee on a Royal No.5
At Weaver’s Coffee & Tea, our reserve coffees are truly rare. These are beans we can only buy in very small quantities, usually from a single farm and in limited quantity.
Why is hand roasted coffee better?
The difference between industrial coffee roasting and hand roasting coffee is that hand roasted coffee is nuanced and subtle.
A master roaster will help to bring the subtle hints of flavors, ranging from chocolate to fruits, by gently bringing the coffee beans to perfection. Again, like a baker, the influence of a master makes the coffee beans more than coffee. It makes them an experience.
How to brew hand roasted coffee?
If you’re brewing a national brand coffee from a vacuum sealed can from the grocery store, there is not a lot to do that will make the coffee more than it is. It’s usually a few months old. While the major coffee companies do their best to send you fresh coffee, anything left in a can for a couple of months is, by definition, not fresh.
When you receive your hand roasted coffee from Weaver’s Coffee & Tea, it is super fresh.
Here’s how we recommend you brew your coffee:
- Choose your favorite brewing method. Don’t use an espresso machine unless you’re using an espresso grind. You can use almost anything else. Our preference is a French Press or a simple pour-over. That allows you control the temperature and the length of time the coffee is in contact with the water.
- Heat fresh water. If you have access to true spring water, your coffee will be better. If you’re using municipal water, filter it first.
- If you’re using a pour-over method, heat the water to 195℉. If you’re using a French press, a lower temperature is great, about 185℉. Don’t using boiling water; it burns the coffee.
- If you’re pouring over, go slowly letting the water contact as much coffee as possible. If you’re using a cone, don’t just pour it. Just pour enough water to make the coffee float only slightly. Keep pouring slowly until the cup or carafe is full.
- If you’re using a French press, pour the water in. Then, using the plunger, gently stir the coffee in the press. Now let it stand for 4 minutes. Plunge, pour, and enjoy.
Hand roasted coffee that has been brewed perfectly is like a fine wine. It will have small subtleties, like cedar, berries, cocoa, and more. Similar to a wine tasting, coffee can give you a variety of experiences based on the roast, the grind, the brewing method, and how it’s treated. Once you’ve developed a method that works for you, experiment with temperatures, timing, and more. Everything you do will make your coffee a slightly different experience.
The one thing that will make every cup of coffee an excellent experience is when you use fresh hand-roasted reserve coffee.
Master Roaster Creating Cup Perfection at Weaver's Coffee & Tea
The best way to compare factory roasted coffee to hand roasted coffee would be to compare it to buying an apple pie at the grocery store or digging into Grandma’s fresh baked apple pie.
Grandma’s kitchen is smaller, she works carefully and precisely handcrafting her delicious apple pie, similar to a Master Coffee Roaster working his magic on a smaller 45 Kilo Probat coffee roaster, hand crafting each roast to cup perfection.