Specialty Dark Roast Coffee – Our Guide
a.k.a – the power of changing your mind…
What is dark roast coffee?
To put it simply, roasting coffee is all about turning raw green beans into roasted brown ones. It’s the job of the roaster to decide how long the beans spend in the drum, and this will ultimately affect the taste of the final product.
Roasting is just one of the steps that affect how your coffee tastes. How and where it’s grown, the varietal of coffee, and how it’s processed will all have a big say in the end result. But that’s a whole rabbit-hole of stuff that you can read about here… What we’re interested in today is dark roasted coffee: why does the dark roast exist, why do you not see many specialty dark roasts, and why have we changed our minds about dark coffee?
The history of dark coffee
To create a darker coffee, you simply need to leave it in the roaster for longer. Coffee goes through a number of stages in the roast, one of which is known as first crack. This is where the bean pops open and becomes soluble; at this point, you can remove the coffee and brew it up. The closer to first crack, the lighter your coffee will be.
There’s also second crack, which comes a little later. This happens when the coffee’s structure starts to fall apart: oils will start to rise to the surface of the bean, and if left too long, it will set on fire! Dark roasted coffee gets much closer to second crack, and sometimes will pass it entirely. But why?
Historically, most coffees used to be dark roasted. This is because there wasn’t as much focus on the quality of the beans themselves – people just wanted to roast as much as possible. The problem is, not all coffee cherries are perfect, and some have defects that don’t taste great in a lighter roast.
Dark roasted coffee has fewer characteristics of the coffee itself, and more of the taste characteristics of the roast. For example, you could take a Bourbon from El Salvador and an SL28 from Kenya. Roasted light, these taste wildly different, but if you roast them dark enough, they’ll start to taste the same.
Dark roasting meant that people could roast defective coffee without anyone knowing, because it all just tasted strong, bitter and powerful. Over time, people started to seek out that bitter style of coffee, which is why dark roasts are so popular today.
Why is it not specialty?
Because of its association with lower quality coffee, the specialty world has often looked
down on the dark roast. Specialty coffee prides itself on high quality, well-processed coffee, with little to no defects. This means that you can roast them more lightly, and bring out some of the characteristics of the coffee’s terroir (just like different wines from around the world). We’ve been guilty of turning our noses up at dark roast in the past, but we think there should always be a chance to hold your hands up, rethink a situation, and change your mind. So that’s what we’ve done.
Why should it be?
There’s another side to specialty coffee, and that’s giving back to the people who produce it. The higher a coffee’s quality, the more cash farmers can get for it – that’s a big deal for us at Rounton Coffee. But if no specialty coffee roasters want to make dark roasts, then what choice does that leave dark roast lovers?
The power of changing your mind
The way we see it – there will always be people who enjoy the darker style of coffee, and it’s up to us to give them something that tastes great, which is also responsibly sourced. Otherwise, dark roast coffee will always go hand-in-hand with people who aren’t getting a fair cut for the coffees they produce. We’d like to avoid that, which is why we developed The Rich Roast.
Award Winning dark coffee
The Rich Roast comes from a cooperative of farmers in the Planadas region of Tolima, Colombia. Whether you’re after a bit of old school coffee nostalgia, or just like darker coffee, it’s our solution – with notes of black cherry and bittersweet cocoa. Shortly after its launch, The Rich Roast won 2 stars in the 2021 Great Taste Awards, which really means a lot to us. Hopefully, it will show coffee lovers out there that there’s a place in the world for a speciality dark roast, and that it’s something to celebrate.
Want to try The Rich Roast? Shop here.