A short guide to roasting coffee light in the Behmor coffee roaster to help you get the most out of our “light and bright” coffees
Somehow coffees that involve the least amount of time in the roaster are often the trickiest to roast. I’m talking about those with a roast recommendation in the City-City+ range, where the more delicate flavor compounds and bright cup characteristics are found. This includes coffee from Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania to name a few, as well as any Gesha or Parainema variety we sell.
Thankfully, it’s not all that hard to achieve a nice light roast in any Behmor model (1600 through 2000 AB) with a little preparation, and of course, the proper roast setting. The basics we cover in this light roast guide will help keep you from roasting out the delicate flavor traits, heightening cup characteristics like acidity and florals with ease.
Before we get to the roasting, we’ll first answer some basic questions you might have about light roasted coffee.
What do we mean by “light roast”?
When we talk about “light roasts”, we’re generally referring to roasts that are pulled either during, or just beyond the 1st crack stage. These roasts should see a weight loss roughly 11-13% of the green coffee’s moisture content. So if you’re roasting 100 grams of coffee, you should shoot for a roast yield of around 87-89 grams. How you reach those benchmarks will depend on the roaster you’re using.
What coffees are best when roasted light?
The coffee origins most likely to see a light roast recommendation are in East Africa; Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania are some of the more common ones you’ll find on our offer list. But we also recommend light roasts for other coffees where lighter development helps to highlight the volatile aromatic compounds that affect the coffee’s flavor. These include specific coffee varieties often found in Latin America like Gesha, Parainema, Maracaturra, and Pacamara.
Is the first audible snap I hear the beginning of 1st Crack?
That really depends on the coffee. Some coffees will let off a couple ‘pops’ before and after the body of the 1st Crack roast stage. We tend to see this the most in coffees where density or bean size vary, such as one of our blends, or natural process coffees. I usually wait to tag the beginning of 1st Crack until I hear a few successive snaps. Similarly, there are always a few latent snaps at the finish, so I mark the end when the rolling snaps have mostly died down.
What does a light roast look like?
Roasting to our lightest City recommendation will almost certainly ensure a slightly mottled surface texture. The color can also be a little uneven when roasted light, which is why checking weight loss is helpful in judging roast degree. Check out the Roasted Coffee Color Card we created. It’s an inexpensive visual tool for matching up and identifying roast level.
What happens if I roast these coffees too dark?
While this post is specifically about bringing out high tones and top notes, a lot of our coffees show well at a pretty wide roast range. You might not fully capture cup characteristics like acidity, and florals. Be sure to check our roast recommendations in each review.
The Behmor coffee roaster, a race against time:
No matter what your target roast level is, the length of your roast time is one of the most important factors to consider. Two coffees roasted to City roast level over vastly different lengths of time are going to taste quite different despite their similar appearance. Roast too long and you bake out sweetness and flatten the acidity level.
In general, you don’t have to worry about roasting too fast on the Behmor coffee roaster and are much more likely to find yourself working to speed things up. That is why we recommend using the hottest setting when roasting light, and trimming your batch size to a half pound or less (I usually keep my roasts to 150-250 grams).
Yes, you can physically roast more coffee. But not without sacrificing precious minutes, and potentially, cup complexity.
Our basic guide to roasting coffee light in the Behmor:
- Stick with a roast batch size between 150-250 grams in order to reach 1st Crack in a relatively short amount of time.
- Select the 1 LB setting to capitalize on the longer roast time and hit <Start>.
- Enter manual mode by selecting <P5> after starting your roast and remain on <P5>, the hottest power setting (100%).
- On the Behmor 1600 Plus, I have to watch my roaster temp sensor <B> in order to avoid triggering the high temp error and inevitable shutdown. This occurs at 325F on my Behmor, but the range seems to be 325F to 335F for other roasters. When the <B> temp reaches 310F, reduce power to <P3>/50%, or <P4>/75% until the temperature starts to drop, then bump back up to <P5>. I toggle between these settings in order to keep the temperature high and the roast progressing steadily.
- So far, we haven’t experienced this issue on the Behmor 2000AB or 1600 with the upgraded panel. Neither of mine reach the high temp threshold, even after pre-heating the roaster (but it is possible depending on your machine, so stay alert once you pass 300F).
- To achieve a City roast level, take the roast a full minute into 1st Crack and then hit the cool button.
- After one full minute, I open the door to cool my batch more quickly. Chaff will fly around the room, so this is entirely up to you! – you can also use an auxiliary cooling method like this one if you feel adventurous.
If you’re more of a visual learner, check out our video on roasting light in the Behmor.
This video was made using the 1600 Plus model, where there is a real danger in hitting the overtemp shutdown. You shouldn’t have that issue on a 2000 model, or a roaster with an upgraded panel, but you should still watch the roast chamber temperature just in case.
Answers to frequently asked questions we get about following this tutorial:
Can I get a nice light roast coffee using the Behmor’s preset functions?
You can! P1 is the best preset option for roasting light in all of the Behmor models. Our tests have shown that the P1 preset slightly lags behind P5 in manual mode, but still does the trick. But you also can’t drop your heat input when using the pre-set, which is something to consider.
What if I don’t start the cooling stage in my Behmor until the end of 1st Crack?
That’s fine, but you’ll be looking at more of a City+ roast level. This is still technically “light” by most roasting standards, but something to consider when trying to match up with cupping notes based that are based on a particular roast level.
Should I really start the cooling cycle before 1st crack has finished?
In the Behmor, yes! When you hit the “Cool” button, the Behmor’s cooling cycle engages, but the roast continues to develop while the hot chamber slowly cools (we call this “roast coast”). Because of this, I preemptively stop the roast about 1 full minute into the 1st Crack stage if I’m shooting for City roast level.
Will roasting more than 250 grams of coffee really make that much of a difference?
You can certainly roast more coffee if that’s suits your needs. But the bigger the batch size, the longer your roast time will be. We found a 2+ minute difference in overall roast time when roasting 150 and 250 gram batches of the same coffee!
How long should it take me to reach first crack following these settings?
Roast development time will vary depending on variables like batch size, the coffee’s moisture content, and density. But generally, you should expect to reach first crack in 10 minutes or less with 1/2 lb. of coffee. My 150-200g batches of washed Ethiopia’s usually hit 1st Crack at around the 8-9 minute mark.
Will upgrading the Behmor control panel help improve my roasts?
Upgrading the Behmor control panel won’t make your roaster run hotter, but it will allow you to manually adjust the power at the heating coils during the roast cycle. The benefit of manual heat adjustments when roasting light is that you can pull back on the heat as you enter 1st Crack, which can help keep the roast from getting away from you. This approach can be particularly useful for lower density coffees, or coffee with a lower moisture content. And if you’re upgrading the panel on the older 1600/1600 Plus models, you shouldn’t have to worry so much about hitting the over-temp shutdown feature!