A Short Guide To Roasting Brazilian Coffee Beans

Kahwei Yoong
May 3, 2021
brazilian coffee roasting

Accounting for nearly 40% of the world’s total coffee production, Brazil has long been the world’s largest coffee-producing country. Grown across 14 regions in seven states, Brazilian coffee offers astonishing diversity of flavour, from sweet and nutty to round and chocolatey notes.

Although most of the coffee-growing regions are positioned at low altitudes, terroir, climate, variety, and processing methods vary across the country’s 220,000 farms, producing a range of characteristics. As such, it is the responsibility of the roaster to unlock the full potential of the coffee and craft a roast profile that highlights its best qualities.

To find out more about roasting Brazilian coffee, I spoke with São-Paulo-based roaster and WBC-certified judge, Danilo Lodi.

See also: A Pocket-Sized Guide To Roasting Ethiopian Coffee

Current Trends In Brazilian Coffee

Due to Brazil’s status as a coffee-producing behemoth, changes to their methods of coffee production usually have reverberations around the rest of the world. Nearly 70% of its coffee output is made up of arabica, which means it has a particularly significant impact on the specialty market. 

Over the past few years, one of the biggest trends has involved the post-harvest fermentation of coffee cherries. Using experimental methods such as carbonic maceration, Brazil’s coffee farmers have been exploring how fermentation can improve the quality, flavour, and consistency of their coffee.

“When you ferment coffee, the flavours don’t usually stay for too long; they tend to disappear after about ten months,” Danilo says. “Also, when people carry out the fermentation process on their own, it often results in different coffees each year.”

As a result, many Brazilian coffee producers have started partnering with universities like the Federal University of Lavras (UFLA) and University of Campinas (UNICAMP) to conduct research into methods of controlling the process.

“With controlled fermentation, the coffee is fermented in such a way that the flavours remain longer in the beans, while coffee producers can achieve a little more consistency in delivering the same process to end customers,” Danilo explains.

Indeed, a study conducted by a group of researchers from UFLA on the use of starter cultures to control the fermentation process found that the inoculation of certain yeast strains into the fermentation tank can influence and enhance certain characteristics of the final cup. Therefore, this guided process can present a solution for producers in ensuring quality and consistency, crop after crop.

According to Danilo, another big coffee trend in Brazilian coffee production is the emergence of specialty robusta. Despite being a majority arabica producer, last year Brazil produced more than a million metric tonnes of robusta coffee. With such high volumes, the focus has naturally turned to how to improve its quality.

“Coffee farmers in Brazil are trying to produce high-quality robusta in certain regions, including the Amazon forest and the Espírito Santo region,” Danilo says.

Although robusta is generally seen as inferior to arabica coffee, the idea of a specialty variety has been put forward by some experts as a viable solution to falling arabica production due to climate change.

An image of a barista pouring filter Brazilian coffee into a glass kettle, of roasted Brazilian coffe in a Short Guide To Roasting Brazilian Coffee Beans

What Are The Flavour Profiles Of Brazilian Coffee?

In Brazil, coffee-growing is spread across 14 major regions, including Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Espírito Santo, Bahia, Paraná, Rondônia, and Rio de Janeiro. Each region offers its own distinct coffees based on several factors, from altitude to climate. As a result, Brazilian coffee offers an astonishing diversity of characteristics, flavours, and aromas.

For example, Sul de Minas, the largest producing region in Brazil, is known for its full-bodied coffee with fruity flavour notes. Coffee from Espírito Santo, on the other hand, tends to have a bright acidity and a creamy body.

Danilo tells me that this diversity makes Brazilian coffee difficult to pin down. “I don’t think there is a country with so many different regions producing coffee, so there is no one quality or characteristic of Brazilian coffee,” he says.

“From a commercial point of view, Brazilian coffee is often sold as nutty and chocolatey. Whereas from a specialty coffee perspective, it’s generally considered to have more body than other Latin American coffees, which could be due to the fact that most Brazilian coffee is naturally processed.”

Danilo also explains that people who perceive Brazilian coffee to be of lower quality due to its low-altitude growing regions often haven’t taken all factors into account.

“When people talk about altitude, they tend to forget about latitude,” he explains. “The reason we don’t have high altitude is because we don’t need it – the places we grow coffee are further from the equator line, so the sun isn’t as strong.”

An image of a coffee roaster using a Probat coffee roaster to roast Brazilian coffee beans in a Short Guide To Roasting Brazilian Coffee Beans

How To Roast Brazilian Beans

Due to the wide diversity, there is no single roast profile that can be applied across all Brazilian coffees. While some may suit darker roasters with lower acidity, others will benefit from a light filter roast that showcases all its distinct characteristics.

Danilo suggests that roasters always start with a few rounds of sample roasting and cupping before deciding on the roast profile.

“Origin, variety, and processing may not mean anything until you taste the coffee,” he says. “Cup the coffee and evaluate the aroma, flavour, acidity and body of the beans. Respect its characteristics, and think about how your roast profile will maintain its qualities and create a well-balanced cup of coffee.”

The major mistake that specialty roasters make when dealing with Brazilian coffee beans is to treat them all as one origin. But, as Danilo tells me, this grouping of such diverse coffees will ultimately lead to bad tasting coffee.

“I once worked with a farm that has over 50 coffee varieties,” he says. “If I were to approach their coffees with only one way of roasting, I would have done more damage than good. Therefore you need to treat each Brazilian coffee as unique and then create a roast profile for that specific coffee.” 

Besides the intrinsic diversity of the beans themselves, Danilo says to also consider different processing methods. Whenever he roasts Brazilian coffee beans, his approach is different depending on whether the coffee is natural, pulped natural, or washed.

“Most tend to think that they should apply a lot of heat at the beginning for natural coffee, but my opinion is the other way around because more heat at the start will actually burn a little bit of the sugar right away,” Danilo explains. 

“For natural coffee, I think you should start with a lower temperature and then apply heat after the turning point whereas for washed coffee, I usually apply heat at a higher start temperature because they tend to lose temperature at the end.”

Additionally, working more closely with the producers or farmers can help to improve the roasting process. Having further information, such as harvest date, coffee varietal, screen size of the beans, how they were stored, and how long it took for the coffee to dry, allows roasters to make better judgement on the roast profile.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of sustainable packaging to coffee roasters that will preserve the distinct characteristics of your Brazilian coffee. With our fully customisable design option, you can include information from origin to roasting style and guiding flavour notes, to highlight the story of your Brazilian coffee.

For more information on our sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team here.

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