Roasting Kenyas

Kenyan coffees are high grown, immaculately prepared and processed, well-bred varieties that roast up evenly and beautifully and can be incredibly forgiving to a variety of roast profiles. The most common Kenyas for a long time were the AA's, but now AB's and Peaberries are quite prevalent. The issue was that many considered this "grading" to be just that, a quality grade, when in fact it is only a size separation.

Coffees from each of these grades can have the quintessential Kenya qualities, and while there can be differences between how a peaberry and an AA take heat and move into and through first crack, they're subtle differences since all of these grades have substantial density. The main thing with roasting a Kenya is that you want to really bring out the sweetly fruited acidity while also showcasing the creamy or juicy (weighted) mouthfeel. Because of the brilliant acidity in coffees from Kenya, many roasters roast these very very light in order to try to promote it, but the truly sweet berry-like acidity beyond the citric lie just a little bit deeper into the roast and can even be still quite prominent in an Full City roast.

In fact, very light roasts of Kenyas can be starchy with strong notes of banana esters and citric brightness, and malty and cereal-like in the finish. Full City roasts can be loaded with caramel and cocoa or even tootsie roll type sweetness while still showing some berry-like acidity through to the finish, but City and City+ roasts are where these coffees truly shine. At the City+ roast level the fruited notes can have the crystal clear brightness with berry notes, tropical fruit notes from phospheric acids, or even sparkling white grape.

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The floral qualities of Kenyan can be intensely aromatic, and in some cases meld together with spice note, creating a floral clove flavor. In Kenyas with these spice notes, roast plays a large role in integrated those flavors into the whole experience in a way that that keeps them from being too percussive and instead add complexity to the sweetness.

One of the keys to a really well roasted Kenya lies in the drying stage of the roast. By doing a slightly slower drying stage at the beginning of the roast you can push the sweetness as well as help develop the mouthfeel. You can also help the mouthfeel by making sure that you have a robust first crack but to not rush through it. The first crack is the point of the roast where the cellular structure of the bean is at its most elastic and there is a breakdown of the carbohydrates that lend themselves to mouthfeel.

In roasting Peaberries and AB coffees from the same coffee factory, I’ve found the roasts with a slightly extended drying stage were not only more weighted in the mouthfeel, but this also lead to more expressive fragrances, aromas, and flavors in general. These roasts with the extended drying stage also where much more open and bright on day one out of the roaster than the roasts with a shorter drying stage. On day 2 out of the roaster the sweetness was intense and candy like. This is one of the most important things to consider when tasting Kenyas, that the coffees really need at least 2 days of rest out of the roaster to really show everything they've got and can continue to open up while retaining their brilliance over the next couple days as well.