Last week, during a meeting at Chazzano Coffee Roasters, someone asked me, “Frank, do you ever roast to an Italian Roast?” Funny that they asked at that time, because I had forgotten that I was roasting coffee, the Nicaragua Jinotega specifically! I cooled down the beans at 473 degrees Fahrenheit, a true Italian Roast. There are some roasters that roast all of their coffees to a light, City or Cinnamon roast. The City Roast brings out everything that the bean offers, the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are other roasters who roast everything very dark to a French or Italian Roast because they either want to bring out the rich pungency of dark roasts or murder any of the taints that come from specialty or cheap commercial coffee. I tend to roast somewhere in between the two. For Kenya, a light roast brings out the apricot and apple notes. For Sumatra Mandheling, a dark Vienna/ French Roast brings out the earthy and chocolaty notes, while a medium Full City roasts brings out the floral, jasmine and lavender notes. I love roasting most of our coffees to a Full City roast where the fruit and chocolate join to produce a full bodied balanced flavor profile.
However, I never roast coffee to an Italian Roast on purpose. Let’s review roast profiles. A City Roast is a light roast. Full City is a medium roast. Vienna is a dark roast without any oil (the flavor oils) on top of the beans. A French Roast is darker than Vienna and you’ll see a lot of the flavor oils on the bean. Finally, an Italian Roast is roasted so dark that the oils have evaporated. So, how did the Italian Roast of the Nicaragua Jinotega Las Camelia taste? It depends. As a French Press, I wouldn’t dare try it- it’ll taste carbony, burnt, and the black licorice will kill you with its boldness. On the other hand, as a straight espresso shot or a macchiato- this roast should be on your bucket list. The black licorice melts into a caramelly sweetness- this will put hair on your chest- whether it’s desirable or not. As a macchiato (stained with a dollop of cream) the licorice and caramel will just remind you of your favorite dessert. So the answer to “Do you ever roast to an Italian Roast?” is: “Why, yes I do, but only accidentally…”