Between 2008 and 2018, the United Arab Emirates saw its coffee imports rise by 249%. A portion of it exits the country again through re-export; Dubai alone currently has 615 enterprises engaged in trading coffee. However, it’s also true that 2017 estimates put UAE coffee consumption at an average of six million cups per day. In other words, the UAE loves (and consumes a lot of) coffee. Indeed, the UAE has a thriving coffee scene. And its status as a dynamic coffee trading hub also means that if you’re in the market for coffee beans — even speciality coffee beans — UAE has them.
There are also thousands of cafes you can go to for coffee and places where you can buy your own roasted beans for home consumption — which brings this discussion to the next point.
Should You Buy Roasted Coffee or Roast Green Beans at Home?
The answer may seem obvious. Isn’t homemade always better than store-bought? Not necessarily and not always, especially when it comes to coffee and particularly when it comes to speciality coffee.
If you can do an excellent job of roasting your coffee at home, then by all means, do it. Otherwise, leave the roasting to professionals and buy your coffee roasted. Speciality coffees are highly rated coffee types. They are precious commodities, and you don’t want to waste them by under or over-roasting them. Freshly roasted coffee is indeed best, and this is the argument people use to justify roasting at home. However, ‘consume freshly roasted’ doesn’t mean ‘consume immediately after roasting’.
Coffee beans release accumulated gases after roasting. The coffee degassing rate slows down over time, but it is at its highest immediately and up to a few days after roasting. This is significant because coffee that hasn’t sufficiently aged can form air pockets that may hinder flavour extraction. As such, it is best to wait a few days after roasting your coffee beans before grinding and brewing them. For this reason, you want coffee beans with a roasting date of four to seven days ago. However, this is not an exact guideline. Some coffee beans can taste outstanding one month after roasting, while some can taste foul only ten days past their roasting date. It all depends on the beans and the roast. Thus, the best rule is to find a trustworthy speciality coffee roaster and rely on the best-before date printed on their packets. Creating nuanced roasts using the typical home roaster appliance is also more challenging. If you want exemplary results, you need excellent equipment. Unfortunately, professional roasting machines can be rather expensive.
Different Roast Levels
Coffee has different roast levels; you may choose one according to your preference. Your extraction method may also influence your choice. For instance, if you are making espresso and espresso-based drinks, you may first want to search your speciality coffee roaster’s brown coffee collection. Brown coffee is medium-roast coffee and is particularly appropriate for pulling shots.
The following are the typical coffee roast levels.
- Light Roast
A lightly roasted coffee is light brown or golden brown. Notice that lightly roasted coffee looks dull or has no shine because it doesn’t have any oil on the surface. They weren’t roasted long enough for the beans to release any oil. Typically, lightly roasted beans peak at an internal temperature of approximately 204°C. They have a toasted grain flavour, pronounced brightness or conspicuous acidity and a relatively high caffeine content per scoop.
- Medium Roast
Medium roast coffees look brown and don’t have the yellowish or golden highlights of light roast beans. Although darker, medium roast coffee is also not shiny or oily. Medium roast beans can peak at around 216°C internal temperature. They have acidity, sweetness and a hint of bitterness, and they are flavourful and balanced, making them the perfect espresso coffee. They also have less caffeine per scoop than lightly roasted coffee beans.
- Dark Roast
Dark roast coffee looks dark brown. Unlike medium roast beans, dark roast beans look shiny. They are roasted longer than the first two types, giving them enough time to release some of their oils onto the surface. Additionally, they are roasted at a higher temperature, with internal temperatures reaching approximately 230°C during roasting.
Dark roast beans don’t only look darker than medium roast coffee. They also have a comparably lower amount of caffeine per scoop and a fuller body with a hint of spice.
- Extra Dark Roast
Extra dark roast beans look charred compared to dark roast coffee. They are also much oilier because of the longer time they spend roasting. They are heavier and have a full body, with a pronounced burnt and smoky taste and a dominant bitterness. They also have a lower concentration of caffeine content per scoop than any of the three lighter roast types.
Their oiliness and bitterness make them less ideal for espresso. The oil will accumulate and clog espresso machines, while pulling shots may accentuate and emphasise their bitterness. Extra dark roast beans can have an internal temperature of 246 °C while roasting.
Filter Roast Versus Espresso Roast
Some speciality roasters indicate the coffee roast profile as either filter roast or espresso roast. What does this mean? Filter roast coffee is coffee roasted for filter extraction, as in a manual press, drip and pour-over. Meanwhile, espresso roast coffee is roasted for pressurised brewing methods (i.e., pulling shots through an espresso machine).
Typically, filter roast coffee corresponds to light roast coffee, while the darker roast levels correspond to espresso roast coffee. However, this is not always true, and it depends mainly on how the roaster can get a darker colour on beans meant for filter extraction.
Coffee Roast: More Complicated Than You Think
Roasted coffee beans can be light, medium, dark, and extra dark, and they can have a filter roast or an espresso roast profile. Learning about such roast differences is important because they affect how good coffee can be. Roasting coffee beans at home can be fun if you have the time and the expertise to do it properly. Otherwise, getting your speciality coffee roasted by professionals would be more rewarding.
Drew Dennehy is the co-founder of THREE Coffee, one of the region’s leading speciality coffee companies, headquartered in Dubai. His passion for coffee has led to the pursuit of career opportunities around the world, from New Zealand and Europe to the United Arab Emirates. Drew’s goal is to enhance coffee experiences and ensure the industry is sustainable at every level. “We will achieve this by telling the story of the farmers who make each cup possible.”
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