June 2, 2020

How to Roast Brazilian Specialty Coffee


There is a variety of unique specialty coffee coming out of Brazil. Within this country is a diverse range of landscapes and regions, with space for different coffees to flourish. The result? There are countless different Brazilian flavour profiles to try.

Due to its diversity, Brazilian specialty coffee varies dramatically from lot to lot. There are different factors such as density, processing, and variety to consider which will affect roasting.

Join us as we explore the coffee in Brazil, how its landscape accommodates different varieties and qualities, and tips for how to roast Brazilian specialty coffee.

Lee este artículo en español Consejos Para Tostar Café Especial de Brasil

Coffee cherries at Sítio Rancho Dantas, Espirito Santo Mountains.

Coffee cherries at Sítio Rancho Dantas, Espirito Santo Mountains. Credit: Ivan Petrich

Understanding Brazilian Coffee

As the largest coffee producer in the world, Brazil might prompt thoughts of commodity production at large fazendas. However, there is a lot more to coffee in Brazilian coffee.

Brazilian Specialty Coffee Qualities

Brazilian specialty coffee is present on the market, with yearly growth in domestic and foreign specialty sales of around seven percent.

Popular Brazilian specialty coffee is often associated with a particular flavour profile. Thiago Saraiva, roaster at the coffee shop and roastery Cafe Mandrake in Chile, tells me, “Clean and sweet coffee: in general, this is expected of Brazilian coffee.”

Amanda Longo, co-founder of the roastery and coffee shop 4Beans Coffee Co. in Brazil, roasts 15 different coffees from at least 10 farmers from various regions in Brazil. Amanda refers first to the classic notes expected from pulped natural Brazilian specialty coffee such as chocolate and nuts, accompanied by low acidity and medium body.

Sweetness and good body in coffee is a popular profile among roasters as these qualities work well when creating specialty blends. This kind of coffee is considered a great starting point for specialty coffee drinkers.

However, as Francisco Supervielle, co-founder at coffee shop and roastery Seis Montes in Uruguay, says, “It’s a shame to talk about Brazil generically.” Brazil is a country that doesn’t solely farm one single flavour profile of coffee. Instead, it’s a large country with a diverse offering. It should be appreciated for the variety that it has to offer.

Diversity Within Brazil

Brazil has a longitude reaching 30° south of the equator, spanning over a considerable portion of the coffee-growing belt. It also has a diverse range of altitudes throughout the country from 600 m.a.s.l in Paraná Plateau to up to 2,000 m.a.s.l in the Caparaó mountains, which are both coffee-producing areas. 

Within this large space, Brazil accommodates a plethora of different geographical regions and features, the perfect home for different coffee varieties to flourish. It is classified as a megadiverse environment

There are 31 coffee-growing regions in Brazil where 46 different varieties are grown, many of which were discovered and developed in Brazil.

Flavour Profiles From Different Brazilian Regions

Throughout the country and coffee-growing regions, there are unique qualities that can be found in Brazilian specialty coffees. 

Boram Um, co-founder of roastery and coffee shop Um Coffee Coffee Co. in Brazil, says, “Brazil has many different producing regions with different terroirs. South of Minas for example which is very common worldwide, presents the more famous Brazilian notes, sugary, fruity. Espírito Santo is more intense with very acidic profiles.”

Amanda agrees, and explains the depth of flavours which can be found in Brazil: “There are super fruity naturals, for instance, with passion fruit, cashew, and red berries notes, or the coffee with peach notes from Bahia.”

Thiago talks about Caparaó, a high altitude region, describing the interesting fruity and floral flavours of the coffee.

There is a wide variety of flavours and experiences available from coffee in Brazil. Each of these, too, must be appropriately roasted to enhance these qualities.

You may also like: Catuai & Yellow Bourbon: Exploring Brazil’s Coffee Varieties

Lines of coffee trees at Sítio Rancho Dantas farm in Espirito Santo Mountains.

Lines of coffee trees at Sítio Rancho Dantas farm in Espirito Santo Mountains. Credit: Ivan Petrich

Tips For Roasting Brazilian Coffee

The more information you can get on a batch of coffee, the better. Considering the diversity of coffee coming from Brazil, it’s important to check the specific information for the lot you’re working with.

An understanding of altitudes and its effect on density will help with knowing how much heat to apply and when during roasting. The density of a bean will affect how the bean roasts. Simply, high-density (hard) beans respond quicker to heat, while low-density (soft) beans respond slower.

Boram says, “We could get a Brazilian natural, that has low density, requiring longer development rates and slower roasting profiles. Or a higher density bean from Espírito Santo that needs higher initial heat and shorter roasting time.”

Higher-density beans typically have more sweetness and fruity acidity. Lower-density beans are more chocolaty and nutty. Brazilian specialty coffee grown at lower altitudes is well known for sweetness, which can be accentuated during roasting. Francisco recommends that heat should be more gradually applied to help retain the fruitier notes.

Boram says to be aware of how you roast lower-density naturals as they run the risk of scorching. Less dense coffees have more air pockets, which slow the transfer of heat inside the bean and can result in a burnt exterior. Opting for a lower charge temperature can help reduce the risk of scorching low-density beans.

The coffee processing method can also affect the approach to roasting. The pulped naturals are common in Brazil. 

Francisco says that when roasting, the difference between naturals and pulped naturals is in the developing time. Francisco recommends a shorter development time for naturals to help retain the fruity notes. 

Amanda agrees, saying that Brazilian naturals have got fragile structures, which “take a lot of attention because they can get damaged at any time.” 

The pulped naturals, which can accentuate a heavier body, as well as higher acidity, may not need such a short development. However, chemical reactions after the first crack happen quickly so make sure you’re carefully watching the roast to ensure sweetness is enhanced without going too far to create burnt sugar flavours.

Each coffee-growing region grows different varieties, including Catuai, Mundo Novo, and Icatu. Each variety grows at different speeds and in different ways, which directly affects the size and density of the bean, and therefore how it roasts. Each variety’s characteristics should be taken into account when roasting. Variance in size and density requires different approaches to roasting and different speeds. 

A key point for roasting Brazilian specialty coffee is finding the best method and profile for your individual batch of coffee. Take into consideration all the factors about where it was grown and how it’s processed to best accentuate its features.

Brazil is diverse, and with that comes the ability to grow a multitude of different coffees with varying qualities. Roasters must learn which different factors to consider when roasting specialty Brazilian coffee as it will vary dramatically depending on which variety it is, where it’s grown, how it’s processed.

It’s time to discover the world of Brazilian specialty coffee and what roasters can achieve through roasting.

Enjoyed this? Check out How Brazilian Producers Are Roasting & Selling Their Coffee

Perfect Daily Grind

Featured Photo: Boram Um verifying the roasting consistency at Um Coffee Co. in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo credit: Ivan Petrich, Nicole Motteux

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