Light versus dark roast

Tasting light roast for the first time is strange for many coffee drinkers  – because something is missing compared to the darker roasts.

But many coffee people loves it because it has some great flavours that dark roasts don’t have.

Boenner uens overflade 12sep2016

But light and dark roasted coffee are not only different in taste but also to work with. So if you treat a light roast like a dark it won’t taste good. And the other way around.

If you are curious to try there is a few things to know. Because they are different to work with. Below is a list with the differences. We also talk about this in Episode 8 in the Coffee Roasting Navigated podcast.

Fil 15-08-2017 09.11.02

There is no common definition of when exactly a roast is light or dark. In the U.S.A. it is common to call it a light roast when stopped before the Second Crack, but still having completed First Crack. Here in Nothern Europe that would be considered a medium roast. We call it a light roast when it’s stopped before the First Crack is over – or just around the end.


List with differences to pay attention to

Comparing dark coffee roasted to 2nd Crack versus light roasted stopped before First Crack is over or just around the end.

1. Roastingbeans-trier-sh1
Not all beans taste good in a light roast. High grown beans is a good place to start if you want to explore roasting light.

Not any light color roast taste good. You have to explore to find what roast profile suits the given bean.

2. Dosage
This is mainly for filter/drip and french press. Regarding espresso go to #7.

When you brew a light roast: updose = use more coffee.

Light roast has less solubles than dark roast. So you need more grams of coffee.

Exactly how high dose depends on the roast and what you prefer in the taste – so go explore.

When I brew a light roast filter/drip or french press – I mostly use a dosage around 60 grams pr liter  – but goes from 55 up to 70 grams pr liter depending on the coffee. It’s different where they are the best. I even know people who do 85 grams pr liter.

Darker roasts are better at lower dosage. I have even heard of people using dark espresso roast as low as 35 g/liter.

3. Grinding
Grind light roasts finer than for dark roasts. I don’t know if it’s because light roasts are less porous or again this less-solubles. But you get more of the good taste by grinding finer.

4. Brew water
If your tap water is hard = has a lot of chalk … then it can make a light roast brew taste boring – compared with filtered water. This is a whole science in itself. Look up “third wave water”


5. In the cup
When you taste it – pay attention to how the taste change as the coffee cools in the cup. Very light coffee do not have much taste around 70ºC but get  interesting around 50ºC.

6. Milk and sugar
Be cautious with the milk. Some light roasts taste great on it’s own … but if you poor milk into it: the interesting taste will all be gone. Because the flavours are so delicate.

The same with sugar. Lighter roasts can be sweeter in itself than darker roast. So taste before you ad anything.

7. Espresso
Brewing espresso of a light roast is different than with darker roasts. There are different approaches. But a few things people agree on:

espresso brygningUse a large basket in the portafilter, size 18 or 21 grams for 58 mm. Light roast doesn’t seem to work well in smaller pucks.

Use longer preinfusion.

Traditional in espresso you have a rule of thumb saying: reach 1:2 brew ratio in 25 seconds. So if you have 18 gram coffee → then get 36 grams in the cup. That doesn’t seem to work with light roasts: it’s sharp, sour and do not get the aroma of the given coffee.

Again bear in mind; light roast are denser and got less solubles than dark roasts. So the good taste is not as quickly released as with dark roast.

I know of two strategies to brew light roast:
– Grind so it runs faster. And go for brew ratio 1:3.
– Pull slow long shots, like 40 seconds instead of the traditional 25 seconds. Or even 1 minute shots on a Slayer espressomachine.

To explore this try letting a shot run really long while you taste with a spoon to follow what taste is extracted. At first it is alway very sour and sharp. So maybe skip the first 10 seconds that comes out. But then keep tasting along untill it gets weak (=no more taste is extracted). In this way you can tell when the good taste is extracted. In a dark roast it gets weak quicker than with the light roasts.

Here is lots to play around with. I have had great shots of light roast espresso that ran only 18 seconds to achieve the 1:2 brew ratio. And I had a shots where good taste kept comming out even after 60 grams in the cup with 18 grams coffee in the basket.

Dudley Powel from Horsham Coffee Roaster (UK) also found that running faster shots works better with very light roasts. His recipe is:
18g in – 54g out – 26 seconds

Read his whole blogpost at

It all also depends on your equipment. Christian Hansen (Denmark) says he goes for brewratio 1:2 with conical burr grinders but 1:3 for flat burr grinders. Conical burrs gives a more spread out particle distribution.


8. Storage
Light roasted coffee often gets better when rested a bit. For a start 4-5 days. And sometimes light roasts first peak at 3 weeks after roast date. If a coffee do not taste good in the first week – try letting it rest for some weeks.

Boris Lee once had an Ethiopian Gesha Village roast that was flavorless at first. He had given up on it but accidentally tried it after 3 months (stored in a sealed bag) – and then it was much better.

The Danish roastery La Cabra roast very light (no more than 1 minute from First Crack start). They say their espresso roast is best between 30 and 60 days.

Dark roasted coffee (roasted to 2nd crack) is best between something like 2 and 10 days. Later the oils will get rancid = taste bad (well, some people don’t notice this). When you roast to Second Crack the oils will come out. If you stop at the beginning of Second Crack the oils may not be visible right away, but will appear as small wet dots on the bean surface. If you roast longer the beans will be completely covered with oils = look wet. When the oils has come out they are more degraded and exposed – and so they quicker go rancid than in lighter roasted coffee.

James normal dark roast

But as always; taste for yourself. This is just guidelines to inspire you. Here are lots to explore.

New podcast episode

Episode 8 – published in December 2017

Episode 8 in the podcast Coffee Roasting Navigated is about the many differences on very light roasts  and the darker ones roasted to Second Crack.

Listen here:

Boenner uens overflade 12sep2016

James normal dark roast

Episode 7 – published in November 2017

Episode 7 in the podcast Coffee Roasting Navigated is with Kaya Caretta. She is roaster at the bean importer Nordic Approach in Norway. This is only sample roasting: each batch is 100 grams and the roaster is a small Probat gas-roaster. It’s very different from roasting 120 kilos as Kaya did in her former roaster job.

Daily she roasts more than 40-60 new coffees – apart from their coffees in stock.

Listen here:

NA Oslo Kaya Therese roaster

Episode 6 – published in October 2017

Episode 6 in the podcast Coffee Roasting Navigated is with four roasters at the Danish Roasting Championship. Again I ask them about how they decide to stop the roast. But we also talk development times and more.

Listen here:

Winner and participants

Episode 5 – published in September 2017

Episode 5 in the podcast Coffee Roasting Navigated is about listening to the beans cracking and counting seconds.

It is a mix of my own background in coffee roasting and roaster Mikkel Selmer from La Cabra.

Listen here:


Episode 4 – published in June 2017

Do you go for high acidity or more body in your roast ? How do you roast a Kenya for a light espresso ? And how do you present your beloved coffee for the customers who dont know coffee ?

Episode 4 in the podcast Coffee Roasting Navigated is with Tony Jacobsen from Norway. He own a coffee shop and roastery in Trondheim.

As in episode 2 and 3 – I interview him about how he decides to stop the roast. He goes by bean temperature.

Listen to the interview here:

A brittish Youtube-channel made a review of two Geisha coffees from Jacobsen og Svart:

Jacobsen and svart



Bean probe sensitivity to airflow

The bean probe does not only measure the temperature of the beans. It is affected by the metal carcass where it is fixed – and by the air passing by.

The bean probe is quicker affected by the airflow than the beans. Metal absorb heat quicker than the cellulose beans. Think of sitting on a bench in the park on a cold day; the difference of a wood bench and a metal bench. Coffee beans are more like wood than metal.

Here I have tested the bean probes sensitivity to airflow.

This test is on my Bullet R1 roaster (a test roast with old beans, not meant to taste good). The bean probe is a NTC precision type.

Look at the graph after 8 minutes:

Peru test ny probe sept2017

In the last 4 minutes of the roast I jumped between a high airflow; F7 and a low; F2 (and once F1). Each time approximatly 30 seconds stretch. I chose F7 because already at F5 the airflow starts to cool rather than increase heat transfer. That is with 400 grams batches – at larger batches it takes higher fansetting.

High airflow made the ROR go negative within 10 seconds.
Low airflow made it go positive within 10 seconds.

During this shifting airflow the Bean temperature (BT) did anyway rise from 187 to 191°C, measured at low airflow. Probably due to heat transfer from the drum, where the heat setting was constant at P3 during these 4 minutes.

Data excelark

Clearly the bean probe is not only affected by the actual bean temperature – but also of the airflow. As we long expected. And as Rob Hoos also wrote in his Roast Magazine article this month (the sep/oct 2017 issue). He also talks about it in this video

Read more about the Bean Temperature under Roasting Basics.

Note: The first 8 minutes of the roast was because I had just changed the bean probe. At first the test was only to see the difference to the old one. But during the roast I got the idea to test the airflow impact on the BT reading.

Updates – coffee roasting

Texts on this web site get updated along the way. Sometimes I remember to mention here what has been changed or added.


Roasting to the start of Second Crack under Profiles

Update on Adjusting profile by control points

About cupping = comparing the taste of different coffees

Two new podcast episodes about coffee roasting, episode 5 and 6. See Coffee Roasting Navigated

Drum speed on the page Roasting basics.
We have explored further what impact different drum speeds has.

Different ways of roasting on the page Roast Profiles
John-Paul from Canada, his strategy
Bob Werby, an update on his strategy

We miss to hear from some one roasting into Second Crack
– some one who have tried out different strategies and found whats taste the best.

Added to Roasting Basics:
A roaster typical has an optimum load – that gives the best stearing posibility and the least problems.

With a 1 kilo batch in the Bullet the beans reacts slower to changes and you need to use max-power; P9 and have no headspace do more .

With a 300 grams batch it responds too quickly (“fly around”, Albino calls it).

The longtime-Bullet owners who have payed attention to this report around 600-750 gram works the best.

Kenyans for a light roast

I have been exploring roasting Kenya beans.

Here I have used a high heat start and aimed for a really low ROR at First Crack. This is inspired by Michael de Renouards approach (see High heat post) and Tony Jacobsen (listen to podcast episode 4).

Kenya beans are typical large beans with high density. So they can tolerate high heat – and maybe need more heat to develop the core ?

To achieve the shift from high speed in the beginning to low in the end – you have to turn the heat down well in advance of the first crack (FC).

I just roasted two batches of Kenya like this. Both roasts hit first crack around 7 minutes. Both have a Maillard phase around 3,5 minutes (from yellow to FC start).

The first one, 400 grams, has higher speed (e.g. ROR) going into FC.
DT (development time) was 48 sek and it rose 2,7 C.
Thats an avarage ROR on 3,4 during DT.

Kiambara nr1 25juni

Number 2, 500 grams, has a lower speed/ROR.
DT was 1:49 min and it rose 1,7 C.
That gives an avg ROR at only 0,7 !

Kiambara nr2 25juni

I was afraid ROR at 0,7 degrees pr minute was too low. But no, this was the best roast. A really elegant acidity. A nice body. Much more interesting than number 1.


I cupped them after only 2 days after roasting. Thats early in my world. But I had to ship off the 500 grams batch to a friend. So I just wanted to check if it was acceptable. Normally with Kenyans I let them rest a couple of weeks before opening.

Humidity project

How does the weather impact your roasting proces ? I have written about it in this post But this is complicated stuff – many things influence. It would be great to explore further.

sun-rain-seaSo, I have started this project to collect data more systematic (pilot phase in June 2017). There might be a difference depending on the type of roaster. And in some climates the humidity varies more.

Would you like to join ? It will help you to know your conditions better.

NOTE: It requires that you often roast the same bean so you have a baseline on how it responds to your heat setting. This makes you able to tell when it behaves differently.

And it does take some effort to calculate the air water content from the relative humidity. And dedication to make registrations.

If so, write me on:

Moisture meter sh

I worked out a google sheet where all participants can fill in data. The challenge is to make a set-up that isn’t too complicated AND to exclude all the other factors that affect the roast. This will be refine here in June 2017 with the first participans (5 have already started).

Scheme weather roasting v3 2017

Preparation: mapping your weather situation

To evaluate when you got an extreme weather condition that affects your roast … you have to gather a picture of your “normal weather” or medium … so you can state “Today has more humidity in the air” and so.

We need both temperature and humidity.

Regarding temperature you probably already have an idea. I live in Denmark. Most of the year the temperature is between 5°C and 15°C. So 20°C is higher than normal and 0°C is lower.

The humidity is measured with a Moisture Meter. But it will only give the relative humidity. The warmer it gets the more water the air can hold. So 90% humidity at 25°C has a lot more water than 90% at 5°C. As this graph shows:

Rel vs abs humindity

So, to find what is extra high or low air water content where you live … you got to get both humidity and temperature data … and then calculate the water content by looking a the graph or using

How to find humidity levels for your locations:

Step 1
Find the official weather station near you – where you can get both data from the day and historical data. Both temperature and relative humidity (has to be measured at the time and at the same place).

You can also use your own instruments to log these data. But good calibration is needed. Moisture meters can easily measure 15% wrongly. Therefor data from an official weather is better. But if you live to far away, it wont represent the conditions where you are.

Step 2
Select days through out the year that shows the variation where you live. Pick a low and high humidity day on cold winter days … and in spring/autumn … and in different kinds of warm summer days. Pick more days from warm summer days because the water content varies more at higher temperatures (if its 25 or 30 C)

If you have little variation through out the year, maybe 10 days is enough. Otherwiese use more.

Step 3
Insert the data for these days in the google spread sheet and calculate the absolute humidity. You can use this one
It also takes in Barometric pressure, but it doesn’t have a big influence when being at the same location. But if you are located 3000 meters above sealevel this important to calculate the water content.

I have made an area in the spread sheet for this.

Step 4
When you got a good representation of how the weather varies at your location – then you can evaluate the limits; what is low water content where I live/what is high.

Maybee you start with one set of limits but then as you collect data on how it impacts your roast – then you adjust the limits.

Recording roast days

Makes notes both of days when the roasts behaves normal and when you suspect it to be affected by the weather – or when the weather is very different from normal. To get a full picture.

The impact on the roast relies on your evaluation compared with how the roast normally responds to the heat settings (the baseline).
Important: you should be aware if the first batch on the roaster needs more heat than the following – so this is eliminated from your evaluation of the weather impact.

The impact on the roast split up in to stages:
1) The start of the roast – how quickly do it get to yellowing point or First Crack ? Did the batch need more or less heat ?
2) Around First Crack start – here it’s normally nessecary to turn the heat down in advance to avoid to much rise in temperatur. Did you need to turn it more down than normal ? or less ?

To simplify things only note if you need more or less heat – or if it’s within normal range. In the comments you can note more details. Please do.

Then get weather data; outdoor temperature and relative humidity. Again calculate what that makes in Absolute humidity; grams water per cubic meter (m3).

Mark if the temperature and humidity is high than normal by coloring the value red.

Mark if the temperature and humidity is lower than normal by coloring the value red.

Leave it black if its in the normal range.

Weather notes

Roasting in changing weather conditions

It is well known that the weather makes a difference to the roasting process. The change of seasons. A clear sunny day versus rainy weather.


At first you should think that the temperature was the only factor. But  more factors play a role – like humidity.

And each factor may influence different parts of the roasting proces. So it’s complex. And it easily gets confusing. It also depends on the type of roaster and ventilation.

I will not claim that I got hold of all factors affecting your roasting. But here I can mention some of the factors:


At first you should think that the temperature was the only factor. If the surroundings are colder and the air sucked into the roaster during it takes more energy to heat up your beans

Also, what temperature do your beans have before roasting ? Does your bean storage change in temperature ?

Bean storage temperature
If your beans are 25°C and you heat them up to 200°C in 8-9 minutes, that is an average of 20°C per minute. If your beans instead is only 5°C, then there is a 20°C more “road” to heat up till 200°C – so that will take an extra minute to reach.

But temperature is not the only factor – the humidity also affects the roast.



The roaster sucks in air from the outside during the roast. Even though you are roasting indoors the humidity / H2O content in the room is significantly affected by the weather outside.

The level of humidity in the air can work in two ways:

(1) If the air is already heated humid air will transfer heat quicker than dry air. Water molecules transfer heat more efficiently than other air molecules, which are mainly Nitrogen and Oxygen.

So, if you have any airflow in your roaster: Air with higher water content will transfer heat quicker.

Have you tried being in a sauna compared with a steam bath (also called Turkish Hamam) ? The steam bath is about 40°C, but the sauna is like 80-90°C. That’s because the heat in humid steam bath air will hit you much more efficiently than the dry sauna air.

(2) The roaster sucks in air from the outside during the roast. If the air is not heated up before entering the roasting chamber the humidity will compete with the beans for the heat. So; dry air will make a quicker roast than humid air.

It might also be a factor that drier air gives quicker drying of the beans because it removes water quicker from the beans.


Relative and Absolute humidity

But the air on a rainy day in summer doesn’t have the same water content as a rainy day in the winter.

Lets compare a humid day at 1°C and at 25°C.

Moisture meter shThe humidity is measured with a moisture meter also called a hygrometer. But it will only give the relative humidity.

Relative humidity is the amount of moisture in the air compared to what the air can “hold” at that temperature.


As you see on the graph below; warmer air can hold more water than colder. The x-axis is the temperature in Celsius. The y-axis on the left is grams of water per cubic meters (m3). The lines are levels of relative humidity.

Rel vs abs humindity

When outside air is sucked into the roaster we need to know the absolute amount of water per volume air.

Lets look at high humidity, 100% (rainy weather):
At 25°C the air holds 23 grams water per m3
At 1°C the air only holds 5 grams per m3

So if its 25°C outside and 100% humidity, there will be 4,5 times more water in the air sucked into the roaster – compared to 100% at 1°C.

As you can see on the graph, the difference in water content is much bigger at 25°C than around freezing point. So, in warm weather changes in humidity makes a bigger difference: At 25°C a dry day with 30% humidity has 7 grams water … compared to a humid day at 90% has 21 grams of water.

You can see this on a cold glass of water. On a warm humid day quickly water will condense on the outside of the glass. Thats because the warm air contains a lot of water. But right by the cold glass, it gets cooled down and the reach “dew point” – and condense from water vapor into fluid water.

Dry or humid climate
From the graph you can also see that this has biggest impact at higher humidity. Here in Denmark we got high humidity (often above 80%). But if you live in a low humidity climate (like in the desert), look at the 10% curve on graph: the water content doesn’t change much at different temperatures.


Calculate your absolute humidity
If you want to observe this in relation with your roasting – you can either have a moisture meter in the room, close together with a thermometer … Or get data from an official weather station nearby.

And then calculate the absolute humidity – like with this one
It also takes in Barometric pressure, but it doesn’t have a big influence.

Note: If you use your own moisture meter – good calibration is needed. Moisture meters can easily be 15% wrong.


PRactical experience

How big the influence is depend on how much airflow you use. And remember the coffee beans also loose water during roasting; going from a water content of around 10% to around 2 %.

Experiencing HIGHER humidity making heating during the roasting process more efficient:

Roaster Morten Riiskjær roast 150 tons of coffee a year, both on a 12 kilo Probat roaster using gas – and on a 60 kilo automatic roaster (listen to him roasting by smell in the podcast from december 2016).
He says: “When the weather is both warm and humid – you really have to watch out because the roast quickly runs out of hand”. So he uses lower charge temperature and lower heat around First Crack.

Experiencing LOWER humidity making heating during the roasting process more efficient:

Bob Werby had been roasting a lot on his 1 kilo Bullet R1 for a year – when he changed the humidity levels in his house. Going from 60-65% rel humidity to under 50% using dehumidification Equipment.

This made the roasts quicker. With same settings and batch size he reached first crack at around 7:15 minutes at 47% humidity – compared to an average of 8:50 min to first crack with humidity levels above 60%.


If you would like to explore this in details join the humidity project

Atmospheric Pressure

A roaster told me about this impact on the roasting process:

A fan typically controls the airflow in a coffee roaster. The fan has speed settings. However, the amount of air that the fan moves does not only depend on the fan speed setting, but also depend on the backpressure from the rest of the flow path. So if you have a chaff filter or collector depleted with chaffs it gives more resistance to the fan and the airflow is lower.

And … if the outside air is denser (higher barometric pressure, higher water content) it gives more resistance to the fan and the airflow is lower.

I suppose how much the weather affects the airflow in your roaster  depends on extent of airflow: If you roast with a low airflow it wont affect as much.


More factors

In general, lower water content in the air gives quicker drying … This should give a faster roast … But the question is if it has any significant importance ?

And roasters living in high altitudes say that affects the roasting too.

Somebody said that the gas burner is affected by weather conditions.

…. So many things influence the roasting process

High heat start

Our roasting community here in Denmark is exploring a new approach on the Bullet R1 roaster.

15 of us were on a roasting course with Michael de Renouard from The Factory Roast Lab Copenhagen. He is a roasting consultant and travels the world teaching coffee roasting. In his own roastery he is roasting on a Loring. He roast quite light.

Refshaleoen kursus maj2017

Michael tried out the Bullet roaster. He thought it did well; no burned or smoked taste in the beans. And its possible to get the beans heated quickly. He likes that you can control heat and airflow separately.

He found that you could start out with high heat without the beans got scorched/burned. Preheat 200°C for a 700 grams batch and then P8 – leaving room to step up to P9 at then end of the ROR peak.

But this was for high density beans (high grown). Be aware that lower density beans, like brasil, need a lower preheat temperature. Steffen got a Costa Rica bean which gets burned if the preheat is more than 170°C.

The high heat makes a fast start on the roast. But if it doesn’t scorch the beans, then no problem. Michael focus on the lenght of the phase from yellow until First Crack start. Here he aims at 3 minutes and at the same time aim to bring ROR below 5 for the First Crack phase. To do this the heat must be turned down markedly.


Exploring the difference

Here Thomas Villars used the strategy on a etiopean bean. He thought it tasted better than earlier roasts of the same bean. Despite FC starts as early as 5:23 min.

New strategy:

Villars Homa rist 13majIn general a fast roast like this gives more “clarity” in the taste – and less body. Here the “middle phase” – from yellow to FC start – is 2:15 minutes long. It should give more body to prolong this phase.

Earlier Thomas roasted the same bean like this:

Villars Homa 30apr

Update 2 months later:
Thomas has continued this new strategy. He like his coffees better now.


There are many approaches in coffee roasting. Don’t take this website as the only way to do it. Just take it as inspiration – and explore for your self what suits your taste.

Repeating a roast profile

If you made a good roast, you likely want to repeat it 🙂 But thats not easy to do accurately because so much influence a roast.

Steffen from KaffeRist do it often. Here he made 7 repeated roast of the same bean – trying to make the same roast profile. All done in a row.

You can see how the curves doesn’t overlay completely. And First Crack (FC) starts at different times and temperatures.

Steffens 7 gentagne rist april2017

He roast on a Bullet R1 roaster. The software got a PlayBack function that repeats the settings of preheat, power and fan during from the roast you want to repeat.

But the same settings doesn’t give the same profile even though it’s the same bean and the same batch size. So during the roast Steffen overrules the automatic settings. The ROR curve is the best way to see where the Bean temperature (BT) is heading – to adjust in time.

And then he listens for the First Crack (FC) start every time. And aim to make the development from FC start the same every time: regarding time and temperature rise.

Roast by color

My podcast Coffee Roasting Navigated is about the different approaches in coffee roasting. We start by exploring the different ways to decide how to stop the roast.

In Episode 3 it is about roasting to a certain color. We are at a roasting course with Morten Münchow from CoffeeMind. I have called the episode “Roasting by color” but Morten focuses on more than the bean color to make a good roast.

Listen at

In Episode 7 roaster Kaya Caretta tell about looking at the color during the roast. Listen at

Fil 12-12-2016 10.14.41Color change during the roast – samples taken out each minute of the roast.

Fil 10-02-2017 09.51.15Roasting class with Morten Münchow (on the right) from CoffeeMind.

Fil 10-02-2017 09.52.47Color and Agtron measurements of different batches.
Here you can see that #6 is darker than #5 – which is reflected in the Agtron values: #6 was 75 and #5 was 84.


Roasting by smell

How do you decide when to stop the roast ? Once, I asked roaster Morten Riiskjær this question. He said by smell. The smell of onion has to be over before stopping.

He has been roasting coffee for 7 years. I visited him in the roastery to try to pick up what he could smell during a roast. He also looks at the bean surface.

Hear Morten talk about it in episode 2 in the podcast Coffee Roasting Navigated

And here a video with an american roaster who also use the smell during First Crack, Eliza from Mill City Roasters:


Morten and his roaster – on the day we recorded for episode 2:








When do First Crack start ?

The onset of First Crack (FC / 1st crack) is an important control point in the roast of coffee. Rapid development takes place in the taste from here on. First crack is when the beans expand and make a noice like the crack of a thin branch.

But all the beans do not crack right at the same time. First one, then quiet, then another. But at some points lots are cracking. So when should you call the time ? Was it a 9:15 or 9:40 minutes ?

Another thing that makes it difficult is the background noice: the noice of the roaster and the beans hitting the drum. So its difficult to hear the cracks.

Try listen to this sound bite … Make you own notes before reading on



I have made podcast episode about this. It is episode 5 in the podcast Coffee Roasting Navigated

Some beans have a more clear FC start than others. A late FC (like more than 13 minutes) will tend to make a weaker crack. Low density beans tend to make weaker crack.



I asked in a roaster group on Facebook (click on the picture to see a bigger size):


Around 0:15 into the sound bite, I also was thinking: “is it starting now ?” But then it silenced, so No.

Then there is one clear snap around 0:55. But I need more of a roll of cracks to say that it has started.

So I would also say around 1 minute.

When you can’t hear the cracking

How well you can hear the cracking is different from roaster to roaster. Some roasters are so insulated that it is impossible to hear.

This is what I hear roasters then do:

-> smell the beans in the trier. At first crack comes a smell of vinegar.

-> look at the beans in the trier. When they crack they jump around.

Listening devices

You can also use some listening device to get the sound. On this photo I listen with a stethoscope. It only really works through air – and not on metal or glass window (because that will transmit all the other noices as well) . On this roaster I took out the trier and fittet the stethoscope on.

Photo by Morten Münchow, CoffeeMind.fil-07-12-2016-11-38-35


Here is another device: earmuffs with a tube. This photo is from the roastery Holy Bean in Denmark. Bo Nielsen got them from CoffeeTools.

Fil 08-09-2017 10.32.02



Sound analysis

Research has been done on the sounds during coffee roasting by P.S. Wilson. In his article “Coffee roasting acoustics” he concludes:

> Near the end of the roasting process, sounds known as first crack exhibit a higher acoustic amplitude than sounds emitted later, known as second crack. First crack emits more low frequency energy than second crack.

Link to article:

But I hear that the problem is to get microphones that can withstand the heat from the roasting process.


Taste preferences

When you get advice from other roasters … it’s important to know their taste preference.

What roast degree do they prefer ? Do they prefer clairity or a richer taste ? What kind of aromas ? How much acidity ? and so on.

itunes-logo1We do not like the same things in coffee. But also; we don’t notice the same things. So much is going on in the taste of coffee – so we can easily get different experiences from the same coffee.

Some people immediately notice bitterness. If the coffee has any bitterness they don’t like it. Maybe they like a light roast with clairity and fruit/flowers aromas. And dislike the burnt flavours.

Others only like coffee with solid burnt flavours, but really don’t pay attention to bitterness. That’s in the darker roast range. They find the light roast thin and missing what good coffee should taste like.


This is Henrik and me (Therese). He loves very dark roasted coffee – like in the Italian coffee tradition.

I find it tastes like a car workshop and awfully burnt. I don’t like it.


Read more about roast degree in the Coffee Lanscape and Light versus Dark.

Normally I roast quite light (from 45 sec to 2 minutes from 1st crack start). But I am not at the lightest end of the scale. Coffee roasters like The Coffee Collective here in Denmark and Tim Wendelboe in Norway are a bit lighter than me – and they like more acidity.

la-cabra-2George Stavrinou from Australia has the same roaster as I (a Bullet R1). He asked me what I was trying to achieve with my roast profiles regarding to taste.

My taste preference in coffee
1) Avoiding bad taste
2) Balanced in the basic tastes. No strong acidity, bitterness or sweetness. A little is fine. It should be pleasant in the mouth.
3) A big aroma. In a light roast I get a certain kind of grand aroma that I can’t associate with a specific food/flower/whatever. I like deep aromas that stays as a pleasant aftertaste for a long time.
4) Taste the characteristics of the bean.


riste-farveskift-ida-kofodPhoto by Ida Kofod from Kontra Coffee.

She took out a sample each minut during a 14 minute roast – to show the color change.

Good and bad tasting of the same bean

If you really want to learn how different roasting profiles affect the taste – then roast 2 batches on the same day with only small differences in the profile. And then taste them side by side in the weeks afterwards.


Here is an example of a good tasting and bad tasting coffee of the same bean. Much in the roast profile are alike, but not all the way. What causes the difference in taste ?

The bean is a washed arabica from Uganda. Fairly high grown at the Mount Elgon mountain on the border to Kenya.

The good tasting, 400 grams, by Therese

mt-elgon-great-2016-11-21-05-29-00Taste: no burn flavour, no bitternes, nice round and big aroma.

I roasted it again 9 days later. First the curves were very close. But after 5,5 minutes the ROR levels differed. Here both curves:

Two roast of the same bean Mt Elgon nov2016

The higher ROR level here gave an earlier FC; at 7 minutes in the second roast where as the first had 8:45 min.


This coffee didn’t taste good to me. It had bitterness and burned taste. And a weak aroma = boring coffee.


What could be causing this difference in taste ?

First the alike elements
The development-% was around 24% for both (the time after FC related to total roast time). And weightloss was about the same: 14,3 and 14,5%

Development time (DT) was 2:44 minutes for the good one. The bad with more burned taste you would expect to be roasted longer, but no, its roasted a bit shorter: the DT was only 2:19 minutes.


Possible explanations for the burnt taste
I cant say for sure why they tasted like they did – because several things was different. But here are some thoughts:

(1) A higher temperature rise in the bad one: 12°Celcius (and BT ended on 181°C) … where as the good one only rose 6-8°C (to end-BT at 175°C).

(2) When entering First Crack the bad one had a ROR around 10°C pr min. Whereas the good one was around 5. I have heard a recommandation around 5°C per minute – and not as high as 10°C when entering FC and for the rest of the roast.

(3) The american roaster Rob Hoos talks about the importance of the middle phase: from yellow point to FC start (see his book “Modulating the flavor profile of coffee“). He calls it the Maillard phase. In these two roasts the drying phase up untill yellow point are not that far apart: 4:00 and 3:45. But the lenght of this middle phase is 3 minutes for the bad one, and 5 minutes for the good one.

A roast consultant told me he prefers 3 minutes, so thats not criminal in itself. But maybe it suits this particular bean better with a slower roast; a longer middle phase and lower ROR levels during FC.

(4) They flavours go up and down during the roast – so maybe the bad one here would have been better if dropped earlier or later at than 2:19 minutes from FC start.


Martin Kjeldsen roast of the same bean

Martin Kjeldsen lives in different part of Denmark, but we got the same bean – and the same roaster, the Bullet. The bean is from Uganda from Mount Elgon (on the border to Kenya).

Martin have also roasted the bean several times. This is his best tasting batch:

500 grams, preheat 185°C


Martins bacth was roasted 2 minutes from FC start to end-BT at 192°C. My good one was roasted 2:45 min and to BT 175°C. But our bean probes do not measure alike. Notice the difference in FC starts: Martin at 182°C. Mine at 167°C and 169°C.


Read more under Roast profiles.