Our Craft Coffee Roasting Process

Roasting at Black Powder is an art with a little science. Black Powder Roasting has two drum roasters to meet a variety of batch size needs. The San Franciscan SF25 is the cornerstone of our process. Capable of running 16 lb to 25 lb batches fed by natural gas and a built to the old world standards of mass equals roast consistency. The other roaster is electric capable of 2 lbs per batch to sample, create unique roasts for small volume customers, and try new things quickly.

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The green beans we have selected are all specialty hard beans, SHB which provides an initial level of consistency in moisture and hardness. We then test each initial batch of single origin beans by running multiple profiles in the electric roaster to optimize the taste of the bean that is the Black Powder signature roast profile. All green beans come to Black Powder as dried (although many unique drying processes are used and to derive additional flavor notes) and some are decaffeinated.

Roasting green coffee can be straightforward, just look at YouTube for “Popcorn Popper roasting coffee”. Roasting green coffee consistently that tastes great for Black Powder is a scientific process for development and then an artisan craft to perfect it.

Very basic: Green beans transform to roasted coffee through heat and airflow. Every bean can have two audible pops that we call cracks. The 1st crack occurs between 350-370 deg F depending on the elevation grown (hardness), variety, and moisture level. A 2nd crack occurs when the beans are 415-425 deg F and this signifies the transformation from a medium to a dark roast. A crack is simply a dramatic bean change releasing moisture and enlarging the bean (think of popcorn).

Lots of customers ask for a light, medium, or dark. No offense, but that designation is rather trivial. A roaster can produce 20+ different colors of roast. By control of the time & temperature, rate of temperature change, and airflow, we can actually dramatically change the taste of the coffee no matter the color of the coffee bean skin. In the end, taste (and aroma is a component of taste) is everything and that is our focus.

Less Basic: Due to years of experience on the origin and the exact region, we develop a profile through multiple batches to optimize the flavor of the bean to a Black Powder signature roast flavor. With the artisan controls on our roasters, we can control the heat (resulting in temperature) and the air flow through the beans. By using these two primary controls, we develop bean temperature ramping profiles to determine how and when we achieve 1st crack on the bean. Dramatically changing the ramping (change in temperature per minute) to control the roast color and flavor as we take the bean on a journey to perfection. The perfect color, consistent throughout the bean, with the signature taste profile.

The reality is that the batch size, humidity of the day, humidity of the bean, all change the profile daily that only a small batch artisan roaster would realize and adapt on the fly to what he or she is seeing while roasting.

The REAL process starts with charging the roaster to 370-415 degrees (depending on the bean) and then allowing the batch of beans (at 70 F) to enter the hot drum. Initially, high heat is applied to start the roasting process but not to burn the exterior of the bean. We are careful to limit airflow creating a high humidity environment in the initial stages of development. In the roasting drum, bean are in contact with the drum from the 5 o’clock to 10 o’clock position and then free falls thru the airstream. The drum contact time allows for conduction heating to the bean and then convection during freefall returning to drum contact. We are a believer that you need both convection and conduction to have the optimal flavor. There are some fluidized bed roasters in the market and the taste is different from the same bean.

As Black Powder approaches the first crack, we change the heat and airflow to slow down the rate of temperature change of the bean. After first crack, we do many roaster changes heat and air flow as it continue the process to assure an approximate 3-4 minute cycle from 1st crack to completion. During this time we want to eliminate burning or baking, and focus on a smooth profile to the desired completion. Sometimes we take the bean thru second crack carefully to retain origin flavor but get more roasted flavor highlights. Every roaster has some tricks of the trade which changes the taste slightly. Mass production roaster use very large roasters (1 bag or 2 bag = 60 kg / 120 kg) to perform the roasting but that often times leads to defects due to a lack of artisan controls and hand crafted experiences. Craft roasted coffee is a blend of art and science.

FAQ:

Can you roast coffee to order?
Yes! Please contact us to learn more about custom orders (704) 614-0824

Does roast level affect caffeine content?
Yes. A lighter roast level will have more caffeine by up to 10%.

Can you create a smoky flavor?
We can create a smoky aroma based on some end of cycle profile changes and that can also get into the cup.

Have you ever burnt a bean?
Many batches never made it to a customer. These “learning experiences” is really what converts a roaster into an artisan. We make mistakes and learn from them to perfect our craft.

Are you ever satisfied?
Continuous improvement is part of our DNA. We are always learning more and applying what we learn to make our products even better.

 

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