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Almost every coffee shop I go to serves up quite acidic and bright coffees. It seems that this is where modern coffee is and is not necessarily a bizarre phenomenon in itself but in particular the world of espresso it has veered quite far away from the traditional Italian style.

In fact it seems we've veered so far towards acidity and people have actually called the Italian style of espresso as 'over-roasted' which I believe to be untrue. I do enjoy a somewhat more acidic coffee when I am searching for a fruitier cup but I do not understand the current stigma against even the slightest darker roast.

So what caused this tip in the scales that prompted the surge in popularity in brighter and more acidic coffees and seeing even the slightest darker roast as being over-roasted?

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    This is probably an off-topic question as it would be primarily opinion based. My own opinion is that it's a backlash against what I consider to be horribly over-roasted coffee offered by Starbucks in their desire to make a consistent product across a vast network of outlets. I favor lighter roasts as it allows the more delicate and nuanced flavors from different varieties to be present. Acidity comes with lighter roasting. – PJNoes Apr 15 '16 at 17:26
  • And here I just thought it was me noticing this trend. Brightness can also be a function of the roast. The darker the roast the less acidity. A lot of the espresso roasts I've seen the last few years are very light. I find them undrinkable. I have my own roaster and roaste to full city+. Going into the darker roast starts to bring out a carbon taste. – Curt Apr 17 '16 at 16:57
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I think there are a number of factors influencing the current situation.

  • The rise of micro/small and home roasters. This allows people access to fresher coffee. The acidic and bright notes in coffees tend to fade quicker than roast notes. Meaning these bright notes are more readily available to the consumer.
  • Changes in coffee processing. Different process methods favor different flavor profiles. Dry Process (the oldest) favors less bright and more bodied flavors. Newer processing methods enhance bright flavor profiles.
  • The rise and market dominance of large chain roasters. These companies tend to roast dark because it is easier to hit a consistent flavor profile which lasts longer (important for shipping), but it sacrifices the origin flavors which are varied greatly and available. They have given dark roasts a more McDonald's character among consumers (consistent, but not high quality).

This is not to say that dark roasts are bad. But they have partially been given a bad rep by large chains who are using them to maximize profit, and not flavor. Home and microroasters now also have unprecedented access to a HUGE variety of beans that years back would have been out of reach. This means that companies can cheaply distribute very high quality beans with extraordinary flavor profiles when roasted at a lighter level.

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    Large roasters, e.g., Folgers, also maximized profit by buying the cheapest coffee than can find. This is typically the losest quaility. When I was in the bussines, forty years ago, all the high quality coffee went to Europe. There was even a 'European Prepartion' process that had addiontional processing steps to improve the quaility and consistency of the beans. – Curt Apr 17 '16 at 17:09
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    @Curt Specific to the biggest Turkish coffee roaster Mehmet Efendi, I can confirm Curt. Similar to his, they (probably) import the cheapest possible beans to maximize profit. In one specific occasion, I have count nearly 20% problematic beans in a bag. As a consequence, they go for darker roasts to cover the problematic beans. (I will write on this on a separate answer on Turkish tag.) – MTSan Apr 18 '16 at 10:52
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For me, there are many factors that all led to my preference to medium-light roasts. Any one of these factors by itself is trivial, but together they form a stronger argument.

  • I wanted to drink coffee black to lessen the empty caloric intake.
  • I didn't like the existing dark-roasted coffee served black. It was too bitter.
  • I think dark-roasts taste great in espresso, but I don't have an espresso machine.
  • Lighter roasts offer more complexities that are interesting served black, but are covered up with milk/sugar. Why preclude those complexities as a roaster?
  • Single origin differences can be drastic, and while master blends might be the best to balance flavors, it's nice as a consumer to learn the differences myself and make my own blend.

So I don't think there's a stigma against it, it's just that's not what people like me are looking for. I hated coffee before I discovered lighter roasts, and I think there are a lot of people like me who have been converted by it.

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