Coffee Roasting

History of Coffee Roasting

Legend has it that goats were the first to discover the joys of coffee, only they–and subsequently the Galla tribe in Ethiopa tending them–chewed the green berries raw. It wasn’t until the 13th Century that Arabs brought coffee back home, roasted them over fire, ground them up, and stirred the grinds into animal fat. They called the drink “qahwa,” meaning “that which prevents sleep.”

As coffee roasting and brewing techniques evolved, the drink became so popular that, under Constantinople in 1453, the Turks in the Ottoman Empire amended divorce law to include a lack of daily coffee as grounds for a women to divorce her husband. Coffee had become a daily necessity.

What makes coffee so varied and delectable isn’t just the bean, it’s the roast. When heat is applied to raw beans, those beans produce and release oils, and their natural sugars caramelize, contributing to the bean’s colors and flavors. Roasting methods used to vary from one region to another, with roasting over open fires or baking inside ovens being the mainstays throughout the East and West. But by the 1800s, large roasting equipment was invented, and local roasting methods lost their variety, becoming so streamlined that today one of the older, less efficient methods–known as drum roasting–remains king.

Roasting coffee transforms the chemical and physical properties of green coffee beans into roasted coffee products. Although there are many different levels of roasting, the pictures below focus on eight levels of roasting: Light Cinnamon, Cinnamon, City, Full City, Vienna, Espresso, Italian and French. As described in the table below, each level has it's own characteristics.


Beans Being Harvested
Cinnamon Roasting
Espresso Roasting
French Roasting
Full City Roasting
Green Beans
Italian Roasting
Light Cinnamon Roasting
Vienna Roasting