The problem with roast degree descriptions is that there are (roughly) a million different systems. Most will know the light, medium, and dark designations. However, those are one part of the larger cinnamon, light, medium, medium-high, city/city-high, full-city, dark, and heavy classification. You may already be asking what do nouns for spices/places have to do with adjectives for weight/conditions? Yet, we are not done our litany of descriptors. The Nineties java-house frequently relied on the Viennese, Continental, French, and Italian titles. That system also includes a set of rarely used terms: New England, American, European-High, New Orleans, Neapolitan, and Spanish. To deal with all of these categorizations, Carl Staub invented the Agtron machine which correlates roast to a numerical scale. Along with the SCAA, he created a point guide that is great for roasters but it is likely rare that a customer requests a “forty-eight, please 😀”.
The end result of all of these semi-overlapping classifications is a confusing maze of terminology. If dark roasts are bold, does the mean light roasts are meek? If there are after-dinner and breakfast roasts?,what do you drink with lunch? How many words do we really need to describe raw beans or charcoal destruction?
Luckily at Cut, I have an easy solution: I ignore them! As outlined in previous dispatches, my goal in roasting is proper development. That means a sweet, rich, juicy, clean, and soluble cup that gives a window into the terroir of origin. Moreover, such qualities are dependent on inner bean development. I’ve had many coffees that look well-roasted but have the green sour or savory flavours of underdevelopment. In other words, the outer color of the bean is not a true indication of the end cup flavour.
tl;dr Cut Filters and Espresso are technically ‘medium-light/medium’ or ‘city/city plus’ or ‘American’ or ‘regular’ but each of my roasts focuses on proper development and is thus not dependent on an arbitrary roast scale but rather an individualized profile.
(Image from Bill Viola’s Fire Woman )