Last month, I investigated the possibility of whether dark roasts can be done with the same attention as our coveted light roasts (they can) and I’m still working through some of the coffees sent to me by Brooklyn, New York’s D’Amico Coffee Roasters. Today I’m looking at their French Costa Rica Tarrazu. I was able to find the link to their “Costa Rica Tarrazu” but it didn’t specify French roast or not, so I’m not positive that’s the same coffee, but if it is, it retails for $12.49/lb, which is a steal!
There are lots of ways to describe roast levels. Most descriptions are based on temperature assumptions having a lot to do with where in the roast the beans were “dropped” (out of the roaster, to begin cooling) relative to first or second crack. These “cracks” are sounds that you can hear during roasting and they represent changes physical changes in the coffee seeds as they roast and expand. For the most part, coffee is pretty undrinkable if it doesn’t make it through first crack, which sounds like popcorn popping. I’ve had some unroasted coffee that didn’t make it through first crack and it’s absolutely terrible. After first crack, there is a stretch where you don’t hear any more sound, and then second crack, which sounds more like Rice Krispies popping in milk, occurs. Most of the lighter roasts coffee geeks like will be dropped anywhere during first crack all the way up to, but not quite into, second crack. This range encompasses most definitions of “light” and “medium” roasts.
Once you’re into second crack, you’re into what most people would call the dark roast range and this range is popularly still described as “Vienna” (middle of second crack), “French” (end of second crack) and “Italian” (anything past second crack, as dark as it gets). As you can see in the photo, a French roast like this one from D’Amico is dark and oily.
I’ve so far enjoyed the D’Amico dark roast blends I’ve tried. Conceptually, I’m a little torn on the idea of a single origin dark roast, but I have several from D’Amico to share with you, so we’ll see if I change my mind. The purpose of serving single origin coffee is to highlight the terroir and growing conditions of those particular plants, and to do that, a fairly light roast is required. Once you’re into second crack and beyond, very little, if any, origin characteristics will remain and now you’re highlighting the roast itself. So, the two things are somewhat at odds. My big question is whether I would be able to have side by side cups of the single origin dark roasts D’Amico sent me and tell the differences in origin? We shall find out!
I have to say, D’Amico would be a go-to place for me when I’m in a dark roast mood. And they ship worldwide, so take advantage of that if you’re a dark roast connoisseur! For as dark of a roast as this is, it isn’t fishy in the aroma and it’s not metallic/”roaster drum” tasting either. Yes, it’s dark and it has flavors of cocoa as well as something a little bread crusty going on, too, as well as an interesting herbal bitterness in the aftertaste. We would expect things like that from a roast this dark, but again, I keep going back in my comparisons to our pals of the green mermaid variety and these D’Amico coffees have all been infinitely more drinkable than a typical pour from Starbucks, for me.
I feel like the Red Hook and House blends were both a bit fuller bodied and had more of a presence on my palate. If it’s possible with such a dark roast, this is a somewhat lighter-bodied cup and that makes for an easy drink. I think it may not stand up to dairy as well as the blends would because of that, but I don’t have any in the house to try out. I’m very happy with this coffee just black, though. It’s sweet, has a bit of a dry aftertaste and that herbal bitterness going on lends some complexity I didn’t find in the blends. I’m a fan, I have to say it!