Our hosts at Salt Spring Coffee invited us back to their facility to view the roasting process. They roast 5 days per week so one out of three of our vacation days was perfect to view the roasting. Good timing. So, I have to say it was a really amazing thing to witness. It was our first time seeing the roasting happen.

The smell of coffee was not even as strong as you would think it would be. I think the main smell of coffee came when they were grinding up the fresh beans for resale. Or maybe I just got used to it once we entered. Yummy though.

So, we came mid roast and then stayed up until another roast was completed. We were there for the Mexican roast, which is a medium roast. Light roasts are done first in the day, gradually going up to dark roasts. This is because the roaster continues to get hotter the more it is used. It was pretty cool to be there pretty well mid roasting for the day.

There is a really interesting process that happens during the roasting. First, when the beans are put in, the roaster (which is already warm/hot) cools off a bit because the beans are cooler. Then the temperature gradually spikes back up to over 200C (I don’t recall the exact temperature).

Roasting sample

What you see above is the green bean. It has been roasting for a little bit, but not very long. This is a little part of the roaster that lets you check on the beans during the roast. Just pulls out a bit. Very good control mechanism.

The beans are roasted for different lengths of time depending on the roast – a dark roast stays in longer. The roast is in usually between 10 to 15 minutes, I believe. Not as long as you would think, but you have to take into consideration that the machine is super hot.

As you can see below, the roaster is really quite impressive.

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The topmost portion is where the beans tumble around during the roasting. They are constantly moving to make sure the roast is even for all the beans. Although you cannot see it in that picture, there is a set of tubing that dumps the raw beans (known as green beans) into the roaster. What you see above is the completion of the roasting when the beans are released into the cooling portion – it moves around until it comes to room temperature then it is put into a container. As you can see, the roast was very very even. It was a pro job.

It’s really quite efficient. While one set of beans is cooling, the other is released into the roaster to start all over again.

So, the roasting process is not just about making the beans darker, although you can see that process happening in the above to pictures. The roasting also makes the beans expand. That was the absolute best part of being there. The beans expand in what is called the “crack” – it sounds like popcorn popping. And that is kind of what it’s doing. The coffee is popping – getting bigger and losing weight. For a dark roast, there is actually two cracks. So, if you ever wonder why the packages for dark coffee are bigger it is simply because those beans expand more and weigh less. There is even some speculation that they eventually have less caffeine.

Great experience. Thanks again to Salt Spring Coffee!