The Elusive 4-Minute Roast


For me the 4 minute roast remains elusive. I saw something on a brewer cup winner, I believe it was Tumi Ferrer, whose winning roast was about 3 minutes. I believe it was an Ethiopian washed bean. I’ve tried it with a Burundi and a Rwanda, and though I achieved crack and color, they weren’t great. One of the Burundis was decent but it was closer to 5 mins. I now think Ethiopian washed may be the optimal choice for such short roasts.
In case you’re wondering, I do have a few reasons for wanting to do this other than the simple desire to do it. I like acidity and aroma which can be enhanced by short roast times. I’m also very intrigued by the notion of using the internal pressure buildup within the beans to move the chemical reactions along. I got an Ethiopian natural to taste incredibly bright and clear at 5 and a half (although it had almost no perceptible finish), and Rob Hoos also argues that shortness can enhance clarity.
So, if you have any thoughts on short roasts, let me know!


Warning I sound negative, but I am rooting for you! There is no real right or wrong so do what you feel for as long as you feel like it.

If you are looking for coffee to have a nice end, it’s going to cost some acidity. Coffee can have acid like notes without being mouth puckering or vague. and clearly defined acidity like saying “this taste like an actual crab apple” and not “this has malic acidity”, is that what you mean by clarity?
Tasting an actual flavor vs a general sense I believe comes with an amount of development within the profile. If you are looking for clarity, I wouldn’t go to hot, or start to fast, defects in the roast can muddle the taste. Clarity as in tasting an actual flavor comes through development which in turn comes with coffee bean spending some time in the development temperature zone. Can I tell you what that temp range is no, because its based on the entirety of the roast. Personally, I’m working my way backwards, starting with a longer profile and shortening it down.

To me looking at region is like looking at terrior, I think all French wines have a “cheese” like flavor to them. If you are looking to copy Tumi Ferrer’s 3 minute roast, you might want to find out the varietal and altitude of that coffee. Will it taste the same, i guess no, will it roast the same, i guess yes.

All coffee is roasted by internal pressure(x heat) building up catalyzing/reducing/chemical stuff to chemicals.

Any thoughts on short roasts? No they are the worst MAUAHAHAHAHA! jk sort of. I think starting out roasting short is harder to control. I cant see transitions, or smell transitions. Though approaching a new bean on this roaster i’d say is the same, I don’t know where to start so any guess is a good guess.


I dont think a realy short roast should be better in keeping the fruits and acidity, but there may be some benefit in shortening some parts of the roast … i have the feeling that longer roasts may tend to be sweeter, yet such a turbospeed, not sure if I will ever try :wink:


Hi @jboutte88 - a worthy exploration! I have had some wonderful cups from short roasts and when they’re good, they’re very good.

Tumi did use a super short roast haha. Maybe the shortest I’ve seen. I think deven is correct in saying that’s more achievable by using an Ethiopian coffee. They tend to develop well, and be quite forgiving at different roast levels.

Quicker roasts can preserve more of the fruit acids and are lighter on the caramlisation and maillard flavours so they are more tea-like in body and more peppy. Don’t be afraid to go quickly through first crack with lots of heat. A short development time on with lots of heat can work really well for some coffees.


Interesting to read it @Geoff_IKAWA - so its really safe to go that short without having big difference between outside and inside of the bean? It is just so hard to wrap my head around … :smiley:


A better term than clarity might be simplicity, or they might be overlapping concepts. Time spent in maillard and or some other chemical reactions adds more “complexity,” according to Rob Hoos. Up to a certain point anyway when everything tastes burnt. Both clarity and simplicity are about overall perception more than any specific aspect like flavor, aroma, mouthfeel…it’s about how it all comes together. To answer to deven.patel411, my experience of clarity is any crisp immediate flavor that persists throughout the whole sip to the end without much change or interference from other flavors. And then simplicity is when there are one or two flavors like that in a coffee.


Hey Pavel, I can’t say for sure, but I know I’ve had great results sometimes! Probably very much ingredient dependent.


Yeah, that could be a great way to describe it. I think with coffees that naturally have really interesting acidity and delicate notes (floral, etc), the shorter roasts can showcase the coffee in a way that seems really crisp and clear because the delicate flavours and crisp acidity (“origin flavours”) aren’t being interfered with by too much of the “roast flavours” (maillard, caramalisation).

Of course, it’s easy to chase these origin flavours and actually run into underdevelopment (bad or green acidity) and mistake that for a good acidity. Lighter more delicate roasts are precarious! I tend to try and “miss” a roast on the hotter and longer side of perfect when I’m not sure about a coffee.

@jboutte88 do you have a profile that’s a go-to for this style?


Interesting. Sure I allways try to surf just above that underdevelopment tastes dissapear, yet its never a 4 minute roast :slight_smile: my 1st crack usually starts above 4-5 minutes and lasts a minute or minute and something …
I will have to give it a go if you say it can keep more of those tones. My idea about it was that shortening the phase that adds sweetness and those caramels and roast taste layers may show more of those florals … but making the complete profile be really short that I did never thought about.


That sir, is Very interesting…considering “roast flavor” as Millard and Caramelization reactions, true as that may be I just have ne’er heard someone liken Millard as a “roast” but more as a “development” aspect. Very interesting indeed. Caramelization yes I can see the misinterpretation for sure, but the irony of sweeping these in with say “going deep into MR or CR” and not saying or instead of saying “going further than City or City+”. I believe to be a brash oversimplification. Beans are being turned brown, even to taste “acidity” a bean must transition through Millard. How far and deep, down the rabbit hole, is up to the user.


My understanding is that speeding through development, will keep sweetness and florals (assuming on the florals because really it’s a very hard flavor for me to capture so far). Higher temperatures will quickly start developing caramel flavors or darker notes but necessary to break down the bean so it can be ground and solvation can occur via water.

Hoos was mainly writing for a drum roaster (not that his writings don’t help me a lot, they very much do) but just keep that in mind, plus I think your jumping a little far. If your are still just tasting something acidity and its kind of like lemons, shoot for “I am tasting a lemon, there is a lemon in my coffee, who put this lemon in my coffee??!!”

No I highly disagree. A coffee itself can be very clear or itself, naturally, can be very muddled. I was able to make a Sumatran taste clear, fruity and non woody, that is by my hard work, perception of what can be achieved, and the quality of the roaster. And a lot of luck.

When people roast coffee, they shoot for getting as much flavor of the bean out as possible. One or two flavors is not simplicity it’s bland. That was the fault of 2nd wave coffee, as fundamental as it was to what coffee is now. What I am saying is not that you are wrong, but that you can achieve more. Or rather, more is possible.


For me its always so that a clarity, means very clear separation in flavours (in that sound spectrum histogram analogy its those spikes here and there, with other parts at lower intensities) … simple in my book would be pretty much what @jboutte88 means, buts not a good thing for me … I want complexity, but not to the point where you get lost in it … complexity listened to through audiophile style sounds system from 96 bit recording :smiley: … something like this.

I think most of the time … the muddled outcome is due to blured and unprecise steps, in any step from fruit to cup. When you grind is all over the place, or temperature of the water, or maybe size of the beans is so variable that they roast unevenly, or they were not treated the same when processing, I think any “blured” step matters …


Great to hear so much input on this topic. Happy to know that the IKAWA can be used to achieve whatever the user would like, whether it’s quick roasts, long roasts, light, dark…

Regarding clarity, if a coffee has just 2 distinct flavours, like passionfruit and orange, and they’re super intense, you can call me stoked. I believe intensity is a factor that needs to be considered when labelling something bland.

One of the best cups I’ve ever had was a geisha from Panama that tasted like fresh passionfruit juice. Nothing else. It was crazy. And it was awesome.

I was reading about George Howell’s Mamuto recently and liked this note, which some may find valuable:
“Our general roasting philosophy is this: roast light to make coffee transparent and let the terroir shine through. Our Mamuto AA from the 2013 harvest is no exception. Short roast times allow us to emphasize the acidity of the coffee, and bring out the natural blackberry and jam that’s become Mamuto’s calling card.”


I stand corrected, that is certainly a very good point.


Ah, I can see where some of the confusion might be.
When you say one flavour, and you mean one like the passion fruit juice, its then at the same time one and many (in my head, there may be multiple spikes and hills all around the spectrum, probably all around from low mids to high notes when using my sound analogy, to me, passion fruit is quite a complex taste, though possible to describe in two words :)) )
Its really interesting to read about how other people describe and think about coffe flavours, and its description.


Yea, it can be hard to communicate about subjective experience, but I feel like there’s some good consensus and points all around.
Geoff_IKAWA, this profile is the closest I’ve come to a delicious, but quite short, roast. It was purely blueberry flavored, with a very light body and basically no finish. It was very surprising as a cappuccino - super crisp, simple, bright flavors, and the milk added some body and finish. Ethiopian natural beans.
And deven.patel411, I agree that there are many other approaches worth exploring. This style of roast is not even my favorite, but it is one of many styles I appreciate. I would like to improve both my short and long roasts. I’ve done the same bean as a 12 minute roast, to a similar degree of roast, and I liked many aspects of that one too. I tried one of yours too, and was pleasantly surprised by the aroma and look! Still have to brew it up though.