September 2021

Pandemics, frosts, and shipping shenanigans. Let’s talk this month about something we have more control over – roast levels and how we describe them.

By the time a coffee arrives at the roasting arch we have already tasted it numerous times, from buying samples to the arrival sample and everything in between, and we have a good idea what we expect to do with the coffee once it’s loaded into our roasters. We may want to keep the roast on the lighter side, preserving the natural acidity and fruity or floral notes, or we may take it fuller where we develop the fruit notes into jam and the sweetness becomes more honeyed. At the darker end we push the coffee to bring on the sugar caramelisation and bring out the chocolate and éclairs – yummo.

Different coffees suit different levels of roast and for us it generally follows a pattern that has been established over the last forty odd years. Not every coffee does well at every roast level, but some coffees can take quite a variance and give more room for play. A light roast for the Suke Quto, for example, brings out its floral and tea-like notes whereas in a medium to dark this would become all raspberry jam and toffee. Also on the counter in a light roast we have the Las Lajas but this has more dried fruit and syrupy sweetness – a darker roast here would obliterate these interesting flavours and burn in the caramel notes. In comparison a dark roast for our Yellow Bourbon Pulped Naturals from Brazil, which we adore, keeps the caramel and chocolate on the sweet side and reduces the inherent acidity to something more restrained.

It may surprise you that there is no universally accepted way to describe the roast level of a coffee. There have been and are attempts to do this periodically, but nothing has really stuck and become accepted by all the roasting industry over the years. Instead, we all classify them as we see them or want them described. On some bags of coffee, you’ll see a number denoting ‘strength’, on others you’ll see words such as light or medium and on others words that may not seem to describe a roast level but actually are in their own way.

Within the industry itself some roasters use colour-meters which measure the amount of light reflected from a sample of coffee and attribute a roast level number to that value (perhaps the best known are the systems by Agtron and Probat). Other roasters use the temperature of the beans at the end of the roast (the higher the number the darker the roast level), and some other roasters use the sensory profile to decipher what is happening (this is where we hang out). In reality, it doesn’t really matter how the degree of roasting is decided or described as long as you (yes you reading this) understand what the roaster is trying to communicate and the way that transcribes to how you like your coffee. How you like your coffee is the most important bit here.

We use describing words and we have five categories: light, light medium, medium, medium dark and dark. You’ll find them on the back of the bags, the coffee list in the shops, and on the website. For us, the roast levels relate to the type of acidity and quality of the body in the coffee. Typically, a lighter roast will have brighter acidity levels and lighter body, a medium roast has less acidity but more developed body and the darker roasts have more subtle acidity and fuller body. Of course, these are generalisations and there are coffees on our counter which make all this sound silly.

We all have our favourites and roast colour can have a big impact on this as it affects our perception of acidity and body. Take a closer look at the tasting and roast notes and you might well find a new favourite!

Time to dust off the autumnal wear it seems, if it was ever put away this summer.

See you next time,

Monmouth x

August 2021

In July’s newsletter we discussed the new crop being in full swing in Brazil. A few weeks later and the big news out of Brazil is the frost that hit on the morning of July 20th. A significant frost in the growing areas of Brazil has a huge impact on coffee growing and the wider… Read more »

July 2021

We are firmly in the landing time for the new crops from Central America. Some, like the Malacara A (El Salvador) and Telia Herbazu (Costa Rica), are already with us but July is when most of our coffee from Guatemala starts to land. And what a crop it is. We have old favourites from Capetillo… Read more »

June 2021

Last month we had our organic audit, always nerve racking and always better than expected, which we passed with a couple of small things to do within twenty-eight days of the audit. Audits are there to keep the process of buying, importing, warehousing, roasting and selling organic coffee controlled and legitimate. One cannot in the… Read more »

May 2021

We have, this month, our best decaffeinated coffee to date arriving. The coffee itself is from Fazenda IP, Brazil, a stalwart on our counter. It has been decaffeinated at Descamex in Mexico and at time of writing has just arrived at the roastery. We tasted the arrival sample when it landed and all of us… Read more »

April 2021

April in the roastery is all about sample roasting and tasting. This is a super busy time for our coffee buying team with all the new crop samples coming in from Central America. Each coffee is sampled before shipping, after shipping, and on arrival to make sure the coffees are tasting great and ready to… Read more »

March 2021

We have a new coffee on our counter this month – El Morito – from Peru. We haven’t had a coffee from Peru for several years and it is interesting to think about how and why that happens. Peru is a large coffee producer and over the thirty last years or so has really concentrated… Read more »

February 2021

As we are all here rejoicing in the occasional snow fall, holding off the usual February malaise, and generally feeling fed up and frustrated with the virus, there is plenty happening on the farms in Central America. The crop is finishing ripening and being picked with COVID precautions in place. Once picked the coffee cherry… Read more »

January 2021

Happy New Year! And what a hangover 2020 has dealt to us all. When the pandemic really got going and country after country began to close their borders and lock down, coffee, like all crops and harvests, continued to grow and work needed to get done. There is a saying in coffee growing (probably all… Read more »

December 2020

Christmas really starts at Monmouth when the panettone and chocolate arrive. Both are rocking this year and you will find more information about them on our website and in our shops. The next thoughts invariably turn to which coffee should be on the table for Christmas and that is where it gets interesting. Like all… Read more »