Torrefacto Roasted Coffee

Had a weird one today – a bag of coffee roasted in Spain that at first glance looked a very odd mixture of roasts:

It wasn’t until I broke one of the shiny ones open that I worked out what was going on.  Inside the dark, sticky beans the colour wasn’t nearly as dark and in fact was pretty light.  I stuck one in my mouth and the weird sticky, sweet outer coating (the person I was with suggested sugar puffs as a description and he was spot on) pretty much confirmed that these were the result of the weird and rarely seen (in the uk anyways) practise of throwing sugar in the with the beans to help disguise qualities of the coffee.  Back when I was just getting into coffee chemistry I managed to get hold of my first scientific paper and it was about this style of roasting.  Sadly (sort of) I didn’t get to taste them.  I sort of want to know more – do you need special equipment for this?  How much sugar do you add?  Do you spray on sugar water?  Can it ever possibly actually taste nice?  Anyone ever had a go?

19 Comments

  1. All you do is just blast the coffee with as much heat as possible – very high drop in point, eliminate as much ramp up as possible, and basically char the outer bean.

    Happens all the time, albeit on a much less noticeable scale, with roasters who choose to do too fast a ramp up after the drop.

  2. PS – don’t know about the sugar side of things.

    Look up your history on uh, what’s it called… Ambrosia coffee? From the late 1800s to early 1900s. If that’s not the name, I’ll look it up tomorrow.

  3. I am going to do a couple of roasts later today – I will experiment with a sugar solution in an atomiser when I dump the beans to the cooling tray. If it works I’ll let you know. I am not sure why anyone would do this (besides to hide flaws in a bean) but I love to experiment!

  4. I roasted a batch of PNG beans yesterday and at about 40 seconds into second crack I dumped the beans straight into a bath of sugar solution then out of that onto the cooling tray. They were still quite wet so I spent 5 minutes drying the beans and watching the water bubble out.

    The result was fascinating – they look very much like the beans in your picture – I hate ‘link whores’ who link to their blog from mine but since I can’t post an image here – this is where you will find the picture: http://www.cafe-grendel.blogspot.com.

    The beans sucked in a lot of sugar which crystallised nicely inside the bean and coated the outside as well – using a light heat to dry the beans removed most of the stickiness. There is no way I am going to try these through my grinder, I just can’t imagine cleaning out a sticky sugar mess, but they make a nice crunchy coffee treat!

    Thanks for the idea – and sorry about the long comment!

  5. Not this one but I tried another one. So this one looks “exactly” like Tchibo’s wiener melange blend. A blend of kenyan and brasilian coffees (their word). They are offering it under “privat kaffee” label. Not pre-packed, though they sell their other packed products in non-tchibo shops/supermarkets you have to buy privat kaffee ones from their shops, and it’s not always readily available. And yes I tried, no it doesn’t do anything to your grinder, but no guarantie for home made versions :) They’re not sticky or anything like that, so I doubt they are sugar coated, the one I tried (tchibo wiener melange) when chewed I didn’t get sugar taste but a little caramel taste. I guess due to its roast profile (I’m talking about the darker roast in wiener melange). It’s great for milk drinks. Actually it’s a very good blend if you like your milk drink to taste creamy, chocolaty but with a hint of flowery sourness. The sourness I’m talking about similar 70% bitter chocolate sourness. So overall you can say death by chocolate plus flowery caramelized taste.. only if it was possible to get fresher roasts. They’re imported from Germany and freshest one I got at least 2 weeks old here in Turkiye.

  6. Torrefacto roast has been practised in Singapore and parts of Malaysia for the better part of 20th century. What we do is get a medium to dark “clean roast” and dunk the coffee beans into a melting pot pre heated with caramelize sugar. The solution will coat the coffee beans and thereby turning it black. The origin of this roast comes from the fact that this is a more economical way of roasting coffee as a compensation to the loss in weight due to moisture displacment during roasting. The most common ratio is 18Kg sugar to 60kg of green beans though in Malaysia, the ratio for sugar and coffee is sometime 1:1. Robusta is commonly used and over time, Singaporeans and Malyasian have developed a taste of this coffee and find that “Clean Roast” to be too thin and doesn’t pack the punch of torrefacto coffee.
    I run a roasting plant in Singapore and for those who like a free sample, you are free to drop me a mail – guanlim@singnet.com.sg
    Thank You.

  7. James,

    Unfortunately the 90% of the coffee that is consumed in Argentina is “torrado”. By torrado I mean, roasted with sugar (up to a 20% of the weigth of the batch).

    This practice is not only used to disguise the bad quality coffees that are offered, but to adulterate the product (as you are paying 20% of sugar, that is 10 times cheaper, as coffee).

    Don`t worry, if I could make it to Copenhagen, I`ll take you a couple of samples (obviously, if my luggage makes it too).

    Best regards,

    Federico Cabrera
    Argentinian Competitor,
    WBC 2007 (Tokyo, Japan).-

  8. Hey James,

    I recently visited the Dominican Republic and had coffee roasted like this. I brought some home and it’s sitting in my freezer now!

    I really love this coffee and have some insight on how it is roasted in a small village (Travesia) above the city of Jarabacoa.

    They use an a clay-oven top called a “fugòn.” It’s basically a clay base and sides with a small fire. The coffee and unrefined (natural cane — still brown) sugar added at the same time to a huge cast-iron pot. Its stirred with a wooden spoon and caramelized.

    My theory is that this is done because the fugòn and wooden spoon can’t get the beans evenly roasted so the caramelization hides the roast.

    I recently wrote about this experience on my blog: http://makingbananapancakes.com/

  9. This study was in the news today.
    Arbor

    http://www.basqueresearch.com/berria_irakurri.asp?Berri_Kod=1661&hizk=I
    2008/3/6

    Torrefacto-roasted coffee has higher antioxidant properties, according to a dissertation defended at the University of Navarra
    Torrefacto-roasted coffee has higher antioxidant properties than natural roast, according to the dissertation defended by a biologist of the University of Navarra, Isabel López Galilea. She has emphasized in her study that the addition of sugar during the roasting process increases the development of compounds with high antioxidant activity.

    The researcher of Department of Food Sciences, Physiology and Toxicology of the University of Navarra analyzed eleven varieties of commercial coffee for her study, which was entitled “The Influence of Torrefacto Roasting on the Principal Components of Coffee and its Antioxidant and Pro-oxidant Capacity.”

    As this scientist of the School of Sciences emphasized, numerous studies have shown the benefits of this drink. In particular, it is considered to be one of the best sources for antioxidants in the diet; these substances help to protect us against free radicals, which are a cause of premature aging and certain diseases. Coffee has an antioxidant capacity which is ten times higher than other drinks, such as red wine and tea.

    The antioxidant capacity varies according to the preparation method
    In order to carry out this research, Isabel López analyzed the coffee consumption habits of the inhabitants of Navarra, via 300 surveys. The results showed that Navarrans consume an average of 125 ml of coffee per day, with consumption slightly higher among women. In addition, they primarily consume ground coffee resulting from a mixture of natural roast and torrefacto-roast coffees, and the coffee is generally prepared with Italian or mocha coffee makers, followed by the filter, espresso and pump methods.

    After confirming the increased antioxidant capacity of ground coffees roasted using the torrefacto process, she showed how these properties were present in the brewed coffee, which is the typical form of coffee consumption. In regard to the different preparation methods, she discovered that espresso machines produce a drink with the highest antioxidant capacity, more than coffee produced by the Italian, filter and pump methods. These properties may be due to the greater content of ‘brown compounds’ [compuestos pardos] developed during the roasting process, as well as to polyphenic compounds and caffeine.

    In addition, she demonstrated that both the compounds contained in coffee as well as its aroma are affected by the type of roast and the system of extraction; nevertheless, this is a topic that will require further study in order to identify results under varying conditions. In her study, Dr. López identified 34 volatile compounds with high aromatic impact on coffee drinks, and new aromatic compounds were detected, such as octanol, which produces an intense orange aroma.

  10. Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

    This is a letter of response to an article in the March 11 issue [about coffee beans roasted with sugar having more antioxidants.]

    May I respond to Ms. Lopez´s article of March 11th? Ms. Lopez is a biologist in the University de Navara. The poorer Costa Ricans have a high rate of stomach cancer. The principal causitive factor is their consumption of coffee with sugar added and burned in the roasting process. This sugar is carbonized and thus becomes carcinogenic.

  11. And how do you explain then that in Spain they exclusively drink torrefacto coffee twice a day but they don’t have stomach cancer? Maybe they drink pespy to counteract ;)

  12. Twice a day? You’ve been mixing with some fairly laid-back Spaniards I’d say :-). My wife is from Madrid and, since I have just got into coffee (espresso), keeps badgering me for some Marcilla Mezcla which has (I think) 20% torrefacto beans in it.

  13. Could the difference be that the Malaysian and Spanish method seems to involve dropping the roasted beans into sugar (according to previous posts here), rather than roasting the sugar in with the beans as in Costa Rica?

  14. i am a brit expat who lives in extremadura, spain, on the portuguese border. torrefacto is very popular here, although most bars serve mezcla, which is a 50/50 mixture. i’ve never heard of it being carcinogenic. it makes a really gutsy coffee, which i like. the only downside is that it clogs my pavoni grinder as the stickiness eventually gets the burrs down. no big problem, just need to clean it more often. well worth it. i have never come across anyone in the uk who has even heard of it. they are very backward. it needs posh spice to mention the word and suddenly they will all become lifelong torrefacto drinkers.

  15. Unsure of this but I believe there are some big spanish roasteries in this area which spray a proporation of beans with a sugar solution prior to roasting to produce a “caramel” effect. [I have only learnt from this blog that is increases weight cheaply!] but it would be interesting know if Dr Lopez had any funding from such roasteries.

  16. “To hide the quality”? Perhaps, however, the Spanish torrefacto beans I was getting in Malaga were of a very good quality and I’m a very picky person when it comes to my coffee. There was a place that did them in small batches (no more than a pound, a pound and a half, tops) and to call it any sort of inferior is pretty darn insulting. Actually, it’s practically offensive, especially when the one saying so has never actually *tasted* it. The coffee is very strong, yet it has a very low acidity, smooth, while round feeling in the mouth. It yields a slightly thicker coffee also, which is rather obvious considering the sugar, but it isn’t *just* to add weight – it is to cancel the bitterness of mixed roasts if one is making a coffee version of dry duck (which, when done properly, even sans the torrefacto sugaring process, can produce a very lovely coffee). What it boils down to is quality of bean and quality of sugar and actually knowing what you’re doing.

    To make a proper cafe con leche, you need at least a 1:3 ratio of torrefacto beans, otherwise it just doesn’t taste right. However, I prefer the Mezcla (the 2:2) myself, or even strong with a 3:1 ratio of torrefacto to a nice plain Spanish roast. 

  17. Some years ago, while visiting a coffee farm in Santa Barbara, Honduras (The Moreno family), we happened to pass by a kitchen where women were roasting coffee over open fire. They told us this was for their own use, and for sure this was beans of commercial value. To our astonishment the two women added loads of white sugar into the already greasy beans :: I got a small sample to cup  -and [wow] was that sweet!
    While most of the Speciality Coffee World is focussing on bean quality and origin characteristics  -and discovering that the best beans deserves a naked (light) roast-  -the lower quality arabica and robusta will always be roasted dark (and, it seems, sugar coated) to be even drinkable.

    Here’s a clip of the Santa Barbara roasting:

    John

  18. My grandfather used to roast his own coffee and when he got too old my mother roasted it for him. She taught me the way he did it. I dont know what its called but the results are nothing short of delicious. 1kg beans in roasting cast iron pot on hot fire drop beans at high heat 150 C or so roast to between first and second pop take off fire throw in half a cup of brown or dark brown sugar stir till it dissolves and evenly coat the beans, half a minute to a minute, dump in flat cooling pan blast with fan while stirring continuously and at about ten to fifteen minutes the beans loose their stickiness, stir some more leave fan on beans till theyre cold leave beans outside for another hour or two, pack in glass jar leave open for another hour or five and then close lid. Lasts for to to three weeks. njam njam. Nel

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