I love really rich, flavorful foods. Things that just blow your socks off when you taste them and the flavor stays with you even after you drink it or eat it. Occasionally, I love a really rich tasting pumpkin spice latte with whipped cream and sprinkles. It’s dessert in a cup and it’s got espresso. Awesome.

Most of the coffees that are marketed at large chain coffee shops (and even at fast food chains) are roasted super dark. They’ve been doing it that way for years and the market has definitely bought into it big time. The American coffee-buying public (myself included) has for years learned to like the strong, smoky taste of these coffees.

So why doesn’t FreshGround roast their beans that dark?

Coffee is made up of lots of different chemicals. Among those are sugars. As the roast gets darker and darker those sugars start to caramelize. Just like it does in a pan when you’re cooking. This is the reason for the caramel flavors in a lot of coffees like our Dark Roast Yirgicheffe. Past the point of caramelization, however, sugar starts to burn. And when sugar burns it’s a powerful flavor that overwhelms almost everything else around it.

We love our beans. We love the story that’s behind them and we love all of the subtleties that come out as we roast them. We want to treat them well (before we mash them up in our grinder) so you can extract just the right amount of coffee joy from them.

Our feeling is that once you get a coffee bean to that dark roast point you are missing the true flavors and distinctiveness of the individual beans. The blueberry in a Ethiopian Harrar is gone. The citrus flavor in a Kenyan is, well, toast. It all tastes like burnt sugar.

Then why do the Big Boys do it that way?

Quite simply – 85% of their business is flavored milk based drinks. Carmel, hazelnut, toffee nut, vanilla and more. Add some milk, whipped cream, and a couple of sprinkles and there’s no way you can taste the subtleties of a particular single origin coffee through all of those other flavors. In fact, if the coffee didn’t have as strong a flavor you wouldn’t taste it at all. It would taste more like a milk shake than a coffee drink.

But I Like Strong Coffee!

As do I! I love lots of flavor. But I’ve learned that the flavor isn’t just in the darkness. The flavor comes from the farm – the location, the soil, the type of bean, what the weather was like this year. The flavor comes from the roast – if it’s carefully crafted and not burned. The flavor comes from proper brewing methods that extract just the right amount of coffee goodness before it gets bitter.

We’d like to challenge you – if you love really strong, dark coffees at the corner market, stop by sometime. We’ll brew up some of ours and put it right next to theirs – and we’ll give you a bag of whichever one you like better.

An Addendum…

It is interesting to note that Starbucks has just announced their “Blonde” Roast coffees.