The Complexities of The Coffee Roasting Process

Posted by Cesar Murillo on

           At Mandela Coffee, our foremost commitment is to working to create and conserve water access in otherwise underserved parts of the world at large - but a close second is our commitment to the love of coffee. That’s just it, we absolutely love the product that we create, and for a seemingly untold amount of reasons. One of the greatest aspects of producing coffee, in our opinion, is getting to really understand the complexities that go into delivering the finished product to our customers. We firmly believe that, for too many people, coffee is just another beverage that they use to get through their day; of course, we know, it’s so much more than that.

            You may have wondered, over the years as you’ve developed a taste for your favorite caffeinated products, just how so many variations of coffee have come to be widely available for consumption. The answer, here, lies at least somewhat in the product’s natural state. For example, coffee, as many of you may have already known, has over three hundred flavor compounds when it’s harvested raw. As though this wouldn’t allow for enough variation to begin with, the production process can actually add a great deal more. Specifically, our roasting process ( a significant point of pride here at Mandela Coffee) adds approximately an additional 650 flavor compounds to the mix.

           If that seems mind boggling to you, you’re not alone. The coffee roasting process is an absolutely illuminating thing when you really get down to focusing on it, and we’re lucky to get to do that everyday here at Mandela Coffee. With that said, we wanted to use this blog post to take our readers through a (somewhat consolidated) version of what the coffee roasting process actually looks like, as well as share some of the coolest facts about it that we’ve stumbled on since starting out in this business. So sit back, relax, and read on - we hope you enjoy it!

A World of Color

            The roasting process - as you may have inferred from the name - involves a fair amount of heat being applied to the coffee beans themselves. What you may not realize when you open your next bag of your favorite blend of Mandela Coffee, though, is that the colors actually correspond in many ways to the type of roast the coffee has undergone. You see, as the National Coffee Association of the USA explains, when harvested, coffee beans appear a great deal differently to the casual observer than they do at the end of their processing.

            Indeed, coffee beans are green when they are harvested - these are known as raw beans - and are stored this way until the roasting process. As the article cited above indicates, beans in this state are very different - they feel soft and spongy and smell earthy, like grass.

            The roasting process is what ultimately changes both the color and texture of the beans. The more heat that the beans are exposed to, the darker the resulting beans in the finished product will turn out to be. While this seems like a somewhat rudimentary facet of the process, it’s anything but that. In fact, the amount of heat applied to each individual batch is critically important and measured very carefully to ensure the desired roast is what the finished product comes out to be.

Roasting for Caffeine

            Of course, color and texture aren’t the only things that change during the coffee roasting process. In fact, one of the most signature traits of the beverage - the caffeine level of the coffee - is affected by the roasting process as well. It’s true, different blends all have different levels of caffeine, and the level itself is directly contingent on how long the coffee is roasted and at what temperature.

            To be totally clear, some coffee producers choose to adulterate the caffeine levels of their blends using external means, such as the introduction of synthetic caffeine following the roasting procedure. While that may be the case with some brands, the traditional methods of roasting are what truly affect the caffeine level.

            According to Healthline, the average eight ounce cup of coffee contains roughly 95 milligrams of caffeine. Of course, that number may not mean a great deal to you without some additional context, and it’s not like you’ll always have the ability to carefully measure out how much caffeine is in a given cup of coffee before you drink it. So how is the casual coffee user to determine which coffee to drink when they want a cup to really wake them up? Or what about when they’re just looking to relax?

            The secret, as you may have guessed from the general tone of this blog, lies within the roasting process. Effectively, there’s a common misconception that the darker a roast is, the more caffeine it must have in it. In fact, the exact opposite is true. The caffeine that occurs naturally within coffee beans can be burnt off in the roasting process, so darker roasts generally have less caffeine per cup, while lighter roasts tend to have more. So, next time you’re looking for a cup of coffee with a specific mood to it, looking at which kind of roast it is can help you make your selection.

How Sweet It Is...Or Isn’t…

            Some people like cream and sugar in their coffee, while some people feel that adding anything to their morning beverage is absolute heresy. Here at Mandela Coffee, we’re not here to judge, but we do have some interesting information to share regarding how, exactly, coffee gets its initial sweetness, or lack thereof.

            As it turns out, additives and individual doctoring once the cup is served aren’t the only things that affect the overall sweetness level of a given cup of coffee. In fact, it starts with the roasting process.

            One of the primary chemical transformations taking place within your coffee beans during the roasting process is the decomposition of naturally occurring sucrose within the beans. This process is resultant of the heat being applied to the beans, and can be manipulated by the roaster adjusting the temperature at various points in the roasting process. The more of the natural sucrose decomposed throughout the roast, the more noticeable the difference in flavor will be on your end.

Take a Crack At It

            With all of the interesting facets and complexities of roasting coffee, it can be hard to identify the one thing that might be the most surprising to people not terribly familiar with the process. That is, it’s difficult until you start to really explore the language behind the entire process.

            Coffee roasting is, in essence, a very complex process with many, many different variations - a lot of levers to pull, if you will. Oddly enough, it’s various phases stand in stark contrast to this, as they’re named surprisingly simply.

            Effectively, coffee roasting as a process can be divided into two separate major components. The first of which occurs after the beans have already been harvested and dried, and represents the initial transition from their harvested, soft state to the final product. It occurs when the beans reach a temperature of approximately 385 degrees Fahrenheit (depending on the roast) and begin to make a crackling, popping sound. This sound, caused by the escaping of natural oils and chemical changes within the beans, is the namesake for this first stage, known as the first crack.

The second crack, which occurs at a slightly higher temperature, typically marks the escape of another round of gases and oils from the coffee bean, and indicates that the roasting process is nearing it’s close.

            An oddly simple terminology for such an involved process, don’t you think?

Mandela Coffee on The Roasting Process

            At Mandela Coffee, we know that there isn’t such a thing as the perfect cup of coffee. In truth, what you like is what you like, and we totally support that. What we want to do, here, is offer the finest level of whichever roast and flavor profile you prefer, so that no matter what your favorite cup of coffee is, it can be a cup of Mandela Coffee.

            Do you have a favorite roast not represented in our current product line? Do you think we could be doing something better, or have questions about our roasting process? We’d love to hear from you! Feel free to reach out at any point at


Happy Brewing!




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