5 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Coffee Roasting

Published: December 2nd, 2021

Even the most die-hard coffee aficionados likely believe some common myths about coffee roasting. Whether you think that dark roasted coffee has more caffeine (it doesn’t!) or that coffee harvesting is done with machines (it’s not!), there are a lot of interesting facts about the coffee roasting process that will surprise even the biggest java lover.

Check out our round-up of the top five most remarkable coffee roasting facts that will make you say, ‘I didn’t know that!’.

1. It takes less than 20 minutes to roast a batch of coffee

People often think that coffee roasting is a long, slow process. But the truth is, roasting a batch of coffee takes less than half an hour. Whether it’s 30lbs or 10lbs, a dark roast or a light roast, the timings for any batch of coffee are surprisingly short.

A standard batch of coffee takes between 14 - 19 minutes to roast. Our lightest roast comes out of the roaster at 421°F and the darkest at 468°F - a difference in roasting time of only a few minutes. And a large batch of coffee will generally only take a few more minutes than a small batch.

In fact, the entire roasting process is controlled by a computer, which is partly what makes it so quick. Once coffee hits a certain temperature, it’s done roasting and is dumped out of the roaster to cool. It’s a much quicker process than most people think.

2. All coffee beans are harvested by hand

In our machine-driven, automated world, it might surprise you to learn that coffee is harvested the old school way. All coffee cherries are picked by hand, making it a labour-intensive job. This is because, much like other fruit, coffee cherries don’t all ripen at the same time. This means an individual - not a robot - needs to determine which cherries are ripe for picking. Most specialty coffee, including ours, is sorted by hand as well, making the process even more time-consuming. After being de-pulped, cherries move down a conveyor belt and workers manually pick out and remove the bad beans from the mix. The entire coffee harvesting process is definitely a labour of love.

3. The flavouring in specialty coffee is completely natural

Specialty coffee roasters don’t add any flavouring to their coffee. So when you see tasting notes like ‘toasted caramel’, ‘butter’, ‘hazelnut’ and ‘citrus’, those are all naturally occurring flavours.

These flavours are determined by several factors, including the elevation the beans are grown at, the soil composition, the speed of ripening and the type of cover crops planted near the coffee plants. Cover crops are crops, like banana trees which have huge leaves, that provide shade over the coffee plants. This added shade slows the ripening process and results in the coffee bean’s deeper, richer flavours.

And, of course, the temperature at which the beans are roasted also influences the coffee’s flavour profile.

4. Light roast coffee has more caffeine than dark roast

There’s a common misconception that the darker the roast, the higher caffeine content, but the opposite is actually true. The lighter the roast, the more caffeine there is.

This is because a darker roast coffee has been roasted for longer, which means more moisture has been removed, lowering its water content.

If you compare a 12 oz bag of light roast coffee and a 12 oz bag of dark roast coffee, the light roast coffee beans are more dense and therefore have less volume. This is because the light roast has a higher moisture content than the dark roast, making the beans heavier. So when you’re brewing a cup of coffee, it takes more dark roast beans to achieve the same caffeine level as a light roast.

5. The decaffeination process for specialty coffee is done 100% naturally

The decaffeination process is done 100% naturally with water using what’s called the Swiss Water Process. The Swiss Water Process was actually introduced by The Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company of Burnaby, British Columbia, in 1988.

Essentially, the process involves soaking green coffee beans in hot water, then filtering the liquid through an activated charcoal filter to remove the caffeine molecules.

From seed to cup, the coffee roasting process is truly fascinating. We’ve spent years learning about how to roast the perfect cup of coffee, and we’ve learned some interesting and surprising facts along the way.

Want to learn more about the coffee-making process? Check out our FAQ page to see answers to frequently asked questions. Just want a delicious cup of premium direct-trade coffee? Take a look at our collection of roasts.