How Do You Measure Coffee Bean Color?

For millions of Americans, a productive day begins with a cup of coffee. In fact, more than 50 percent of the American adult population drinks coffee every day, making the United States one of the largest consumers of coffee worldwide. With the popularity of this java drink continuously on the rise, “How do you like your coffee?” has become one of the most frequently asked questions in day-to-day American life. In response to this question, however, consumers most often refer to the color level, not flavor, of coffee.

Light, medium, dark roasted, and black are common responses to the question, “How do you like your coffee?” This is because color is one of the elements indicative of coffee flavor, making it crucial for the color of coffee roasts to be on par with consumer expectations. Successful coffee manufacturers utilize a strict color evaluation process, similar to the one outlined in our Food Whitepaper. The process is implemented to efficiently control the color and flavor of these beans throughout the roasting process using a color meter with a custom index installed to identify industry standard roast levels.

Roasting with Flying Colors

Considered an art form, roasting transforms the flavor of beans by changing their color and density through heat, and is a practice that must be carefully monitored. There are four noted color categories of roasts, including light, medium, medium/dark, and dark, ranging from a mild taste (lighter roasts) to a distinct bitterness (darker roasts).

The difference between roast categories can be minimal, so roasters often use a color classification system called the Agtron scale as a guide to define each roast’s color level.

Coffee Roasting Control

For complete color control and accurate measurements, a color measurement instrument is also used to determine the roast level. Konica Minolta Sensing’s CR-410C portable colorimeter, for example, quantifies the color of coffee using advanced optical technology. These measurements provide valuable information for roasters, such as the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) roasting number, roast level, and pass/fail assessment to determine if the product meets the color standard. This allows coffee producers to separate production batches by roast levels, identify color discrepancies, and maintain the flavor profile associated with each roast color.

Several coffee companies use the CR-410C Colorimeter in their factories to maintain the quality of their products. After the roasting process, their coffee beans are ground into powder and evaluated for taste and color through human visual assessment. The color of the coffee powder is then measured with the CR-410C using an accessory attachment designed specifically for granules. While it is possible to measure the beans themselves, it is not recommended since the internal roasting of the beans can then not be evaluated. These measurements identify any color inconsistencies in the powder, as well as differences in coffee color quality.

By evaluating the color of coffee throughout the production and roasting processes, these companies successfully determine their product’s roast level, as well as, better determine their taste, to be either packaged for retail stores or shipped to coffee shops. With each response to the question, “How do you like your coffee?” it can be assured that the flavor profile will match the coffee’s color for consumer satisfaction.

Did you know?

Privacy Preference Center