Use All Five Senses To Determine Degree of Roast

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This is the most important aspect of home roasting to master.  The roasted coffee you buy from the store or your local coffee shop has been roasted on commercial equipment that does provide certain advantages in roasting coffee to a particular level.  However, the main drawbacks are they may roast too dark (in most cases) or not dark enough (in very few cases), and the selection of coffee available to you is limited.  By honing your skills and knowledge you can create roasts that are every bit as good as those from your local shop or store.

Using Touch to Determine Degree of Roast

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You can not touch the beans and feel the texture - but that texture can tell you much about the level to which it was roasted.  Light roasts (City and City+) will have a bumpy texture and unevenness that you can actually feel.  Darker roasts (Full City and Full City+) will have a smoother texture and even quality.  Very dark roasts (Vienna and French) will have an oily surface that you can detect by touch.

Using Smell to Determine Degree of Roast

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There are subtle aroma shifts that occur as coffee is roasted and you will quickly become aware of the noticeable differences. At lighter roast levels you can detect delicate aromas as steam escapes the bean, but as you go darker this steam turns to smoke as you begin to incinerate the sugars and volatile organic compounds locked inside.  

Here are differences in aroma you’ll notice while roasting:

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