Hood River Coffee Roasters starts with only the highest quality green Arabica beans from various parts of the world,the finest, most flavorful beans, in the coffee industry. Mass market coffee producers generally use less desirable and less expensive Robusta beans, sacrificing flavor. The roasting process, however, can change the characteristics of even the finest beans for better or worse.
Many elements influence coffee roasting, and the techniques used to control or adapt to the variations in these factors are as important as the quality of the coffee beans used.
At Hood River Coffee Roasters, Mark Hudon created his own automated roasting style based on the theories and formulas of Carl Staub, chemical engineer and coffee guru of Reno, Nevada. Staub’s technique are based on knowledge that variations in atmosphere affect how efficient roasting is. Differentials in weather, air pressure, air density and moisture affect coffee roaster efficiency, just like they affect the efficiency of an automobile or airplane engine. For example, higher altitude or humidity will require more roasting time to create the same coffee beans as a lower altitude, low humidity environment.
Staub discovered a chemical in all coffee beans that he could track, and analyzed how the chemical is affected by modifications in atmospheric conditions.
Simplified, what this means is that applying certain mathematical formulas to roasting temperature and time, based on atmospheric conditions on any given day will give you consistently roasted, flavored coffee beans.
Mark has set the menu of implementing these formulas at Hood River Coffee Roasters, to get the cup he and owner Peggy have deemed the perfect brew for each variety of bean. Samples of roasts are periodically ground and boiling water is added for a testing process called “cupping,” when the aroma and flavor are evaluated for the slightest variations.
At Hood River Coffee Roasters, Mark has developed charts of recipes and utilizes computerized roaster settings to control the time and temperature of each individual roast, giving each coffee what he considers a consistently optimum roast.
“We find the optimum roasting size for how efficient our roaster is today. We look at altitude (which is a perceived altitude that changes with air pressure/density), and temperature to derive a “density altitude.” This tells us where the roaster is “at”-how it’s operating in the current climate.
Then the roaster determines the density of each batch of beans-how much moisture is in the beans. By weighing a volume, the roaster determines the BTT (best transition temperature) and the MET (Maximum Environment Temperature), and programs them into the roasting equipment.
The formula gives us the “drop temperature”-the temperature the beans should be when dropped out of the roaster and cooled.
The system records the bean temperature, while another instrument checks environmental temperatures. To bring out different flavors in beans, each type is roasted slightly differently.
The beans go through two “crack” stages during the roasting. Initially, as the water within the beans begins to boil, they expand a little, as moisture is released. During the second crack, the sugars and oils in the beans boil, eliminating some flavors and adding some flavors. At these crack points, the beans give off little popping noises, like popcorn.
The precise moment to end each roast depends on the type of bean. The desired color and the amount of oil showing are indicators. Because hot beans will continue to cook a little after they are dropped out of the roaster, the roaster anticipates this in the timing.
For shipping, beans are vacuum-packed into valve bags. Oxygen, which deteriorates coffee, is flushed from the bags and replaced with nitrogen, an inert element which preserves flavor and aroma. The valve releases gases the coffee beans give off in the first 7-10 days after roasting.