By October 24, 2002 Read Article
Dark roasted coffee beans

A Roast Master’s Perspective on Dark Roasts: John Weaver

When Ken asked me to do this tasting with him I agreed with some trepidation. I was afraid that
my honest and unbiased opinion might be viewed as skewed because of my position as head
roaster at Peet’s Coffee & Tea. However, my intention is to help. Everything involved with
coffee is interesting to me, and blind tasting coffee has always been an enjoyable and valuable
experience.

For those of you who are not familiar with my experience in coffee I’ll give you a
nutshell version. It’s my 23rd year roasting coffee at Peet’s.The first four years I learned directly
from Alfred Peet on Probat 45-kilo and 120-kilo roasting machines. In 1985 Jerry Baldwin
bought Peet’s. In a few years we upgraded the plant to a Probat 75-kilo and a 240-kilo/R1000.
We now work with a Probat 120-kilo and two 240-kilo R1000s. We can roast 4000 lbs an hour.
Four other roasters and I sometimes produce over 90 different roast batches a day. We pull a
sample from each batch and taste the previous day’s outturn every following day.

Peet’s is known for its deep roasting style. Many in the industry believe we go too far or
too “dark” with our roast. Our large and loyal customer base begs to differ.

We occasionally taste competing companies’ coffees against ours, and often find some
excellent coffee out there. With this cupping I did my best to compensate for my own subjective
perspective and approach these samples with an open mind, ready to consider coffee that would
be too light for Peet’s roast, yet could be someone else’s French or Italian roast. I also maintained
an open mind about coffees that were even darker than ours. Our French roast is so dark it’s
legendary, but one coffee submitted for this cupping matched our French roast in darkness and
another one managed to be even darker.

As for procedure, Ken sent me 23 samples in unmarked bags identified only by number. I
then read their degree of roast or roast color by M-Basic Agtron machine. The range for ground
was 41 (dark) through 19 (extremely dark). I then tasted them blind, without displaying the
Agtron number, and reduced the group to ten with the two really dark samples included for
sidebar discussion. I emailed my results to Ken. While still identifying the coffees only by
number, we found that we agreed on most of my top picks. I then tasted the remaining ten to
twelve samples and used the Coffee Review rating system to score them. Then I wrote a few
comments on each of the ten. I only learned the identities of the coffees after I determined my
scores and wrote my comments.

For those roasters and other professionals who are reading this, my suggestion is to taste,
taste, taste. Taste your competitors’ coffees. Be as unbiased as you can. And always taste your
own coffee at the end of each stage of production.

There are some smaller roasters trying to duplicate or better what larger dark-roasting
companies have been successful with for years. If you are going to roast dark you need to buy
the hardiest green you can find and roast and taste every day to determine and monitor your roast
style and taste.

Posted in: Coffee News

About the Author:

Kenneth Davids is a coffee expert, author and co-founder of Coffee Review. He has been involved with coffee since the early 1970s and has published three books on coffee, including the influential Home Roasting: Romance and Revival, now in its second edition, and Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing and Enjoying, which has sold nearly 250,000 copies over five editions. His workshops and seminars on coffee sourcing, evaluation and communication have been featured at professional coffee meetings on six continents.

Comments are closed.