If you’re just starting to get into coffee, you’re probably coming across a lot of what seems to be jargon. A good example of this is ‘artisan coffee’. So what is artisan coffee? That’s the question we’ll be answering in this article as we highlight the differences between commercial coffee roasters and artisanal coffee roasters.
What is artisan coffee?
Artisan coffee is coffee that is produced by roasters who rely on experience and their senses to gauge how well roasted the coffee beans are. Typically, they don’t use complex roasters or any scientific controls and will often roast the coffee in small coffee shops in front of customers.
Artisan coffee appeals to the romantic in us but is this way of roasting the best?
I would say no. The issue with relying on your senses and using no controls when roasting essentially means the coffee produced is a bit of a pot luck. You might get really amazing tasting coffee but on the other hand it also makes subpar coffee a more likely occurrence.
What advantages does commercial roasting have?
Now we know what artisan coffee is, what advantages does commercial roasting have over artisan coffee? Well, by relying on science, commercial roasters can accurately and consistently make great tasting coffee. Here’s some of the ways commercial roasters use science and tools to ensure they’re making great coffee…
- Commercial roasters use a colorimeter which they can use to test the colour of the coffee beans. By shining a light onto the beans and measuring the reflection of the light they can sync the data up to ensure it matches their standards. Artisan roasters on the other hand essentially hold beans in their hand and decide whether it’s the correct shade of brown by using their naked eye.
- Another method commercial roasters use is a sieve analysis for ground coffee. They basically take the ground coffee and check (to the accuracy of a micron) what degree it’s been ground to. This is very important for different brewing methods as the size of the ground directly influences the extraction of the coffee. Artisan roasters on the other hand very rarely do this which leaves them susceptible to the odd extraction that’s simply too bitter or just doesn’t taste that good.
- The third thing commercial coffee roasters do is check their roast degree accurately. Artisan roasters tend to simply time the roast or use their vision to determine whether the beans are at the perfect roast level.
- Another check commercial coffee roasters use is the moisture check. When the green coffee beans becomes a roasted coffee bean, there’s a certain level of moisture that remains present. Commercial roasters will keep this moisture level consistent and make changes based on this. Artisan coffee makers very rarely pay any attention to moisture level in their beans.
Artisan coffee is coffee produced by feel and experience rather than science and is often a romantic visualisation, especially as it’s often done in front of customers.
The drawback is that you essentially need to hope that you’re going to get a good cup of coffee as the artisan roaster will very rarely perform any quality checks that are backed by science.