Level: Apprentice

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So I am bending my own rules.  I'm not actually answering a question.  I'm completing the conversation about Profile Roasting.

The Finishing phase. 

This phase extends from a bean temperature of 232 F until you decide your beans are fully roasted, generally 245-270 F, and lasts 3-6 minutes with the temperature continually rising.

This is where you finish what you started.  Think of it as step two of the development phase.  By this point in the roast the stage is pretty much set and there is only so much you can do to adjust the flavor.  Of course you can ruin a roast at this point and it is really hard to salvage one if you messed up early on.

This is the crisping stage of your Thanksgiving dinner or the final sear time on your sous vide steak.  It affects the final outcome but doesn’t really change the cooking that has previously occurred.

If you nail the development phase you can now complete those chemical reactions and give nuance to your chocolate.  Not doing so is just leaving money on the table.

If you slightly missed the development stage then your chocolate can still come out fine, but (to use the same analogy) you don’t have as much money to bargain with.

There are not going to be any charts or spider graphs in this article.  They really don’t do justice conveying the subtle changes that occur and the changes depend so much upon what you did previously and not creating roast defects.  Mostly you are just giving the beans enough time and energy to finish up. 

I mentioned you want this stage to last from 3-6 minutes.  If you are unsure based on what I lay out here I’m going to suggest about 4 minutes.   That will allow the beans to roast fully without danger of scorching or baking.

That is really what you need to know.  Keeping in mind that whether you take 3 or 6 minutes your chocolate is going to be good. 

If you want to know more, keep reading and I’ll try and convey to you a few of the patterns I’ve noticed and why I think they are consistent between bean types and origins.

In many ways I don’t really like giving a time parameter.  I prefer to give you the ramp speed.  The reason is that if you are only going to an EOR of 245 F that will naturally take less time than if you are going to 265 F.  The ramp speed accounts for this.  The ramp I tend to start with is 5-6 F/min and it should always less than the Development ramp speed or 7-8 F/min.

The first thing to establish is that the flavors you get and how you treat the beans in the finishing phase depend upon whether you have a bean with dominant fruit or not.

Regardless, here are some of the trends you will see.

1)            Fruit character develops into cooked and caramel flavors adding darker complex notes the higher the EOR.

  • ·         If there is no fruit to start with, either because it was not developed or it is a fruitless bean nothing tends to change fruit wise.
  • ·         If you want fresh fruit flavors then keep your EOR low, but extend your length by slowing your ramp.   Why?  It will give you time to develop the fruit flavors without changing them to deeper flavors.

2)            Bitterness and astringency are in a lull after the development phase but can climb with EOR temp.

  • ·         If fruit is present, perceived bitterness will stay low until high EOR are reached.
  • ·         A fast hard ramp can cause bitterness to develop more quickly.
  • ·         If no fruit is present perceived bitterness can become pronounced more quickly but lessened by a low ramp.
  • ·         If the bean is naturally astringent and the level was not adequately lowered or covered by a proper flavor development phase extra astringency can start to be perceived.

3)            Acidity does not tend to be affected greatly but does tend to tail off slightly in this phase.

  • ·         You may notice an increased acidity if the development phase was too slow.  Why?  Because chocolate and fruit may not have been developed.
  • ·         You may also notice an increased acidity if the finishing phase is so fast fruit and chocolate flavors do not have time to develop. 

4)            Nut character develops relatively quickly and early.

  • ·         If a bean has only nut and chocolate flavors (no fruit or acid) then you to keep the ramp low (4-6 F/min).  Higher/faster ramps can cause bitter and astringent flavors to dominate. 
  • ·         Don’t take the EOR too high if nut flavors are high – they go bitter.  248-252 is a good starting window. 
  • ·         To get toasted nut flavors extend this phase instead of going to a higher EOR.
  • ·         Why doesn’t this happen in fruity beans?  It does, but the fruit covers it so you don’t perceive it easily and the fruit balances the bitter.

Remember, that is what we are doing here.  Finishing the chemical reactions we started in the Development phase. 

So let’s talk about timing and ramp speed. 

I suspect you noticed you want to draw the ramp time out.  It is difficult to go too long/slow but you can go too fast. 

You will know you are ramping too fast because you will notice off or scorched flavors in the chocolate.  This can be extra astringency or bitterness. 

You will know during the roast because you will smell it as a scorched or acrid smell.  If you are following the 3-6 minute guidelines you most likely are fine but if you do hit a delicate bean (as defined by need this special treatment) that smells acrid, turn the heat down.

As a rule of thumb, the less fruit and chocolate, the slower the ramp.  High levels of chocolate (Ghana and Uganda for instance) or a fruity Madagascar or Peru Superior can take a higher ramp.  A very nutty bean with moderate chocolate should have the most delicate ramp.

A lot of people want to take fruity and floral beans ‘long and low’ in convection ovens for fear of driving off the fruit.  And that can work.  But I’ll counter that it isn’t because you can drive off the fruit.  It is because if you try anything else in a convection oven you will scorch the beans and cause them to go bitter.  The result is perceived loss of fruit since most of those beans don’t have a high chocolate level.

In drum roasting this long and low does not apply since the profiles are so short (comparatively speaking) to begin with.

With that in mind, how do you know when you are done and you are EOR?  It is basically aroma.  A roast should never smell bad but it may not smell good.  It can be just neutral aromas.  If you are in the 3-6 minutes and the aroma suddenly turns acrid or extra good, most of the time I call it done.  One of the two are bound to happen, and if you are keeping your ramp nice and easy (read slow) you won't missed and you have plenty of leeway.

I am going to leave you with a couple examples.

I roasted Madagascar with these profiles:

Unsurprisingly 1 and 2 tasted indistinguishable.  Recall drying time has no effect on flavor.

Comparing 3 and 4, 4 tasted off.  It had a dark astringency and I noted during the roast that it was smelling hot.  Note how the Finishing time was shorter than 3.  This extra heat and speed caused a roast defect.

Comparing 4 and 5.  You might expect the same thing, that 5 should also taste scorched.  But that was not the case.  This is why I don’t care for times and prefer ramps.  Have a look.

What should jump out at you is that the Finishing ramp on 4 was faster than the previous Development ramp.  That was the issue and why the each subsequent ramp should be equal to or less than the previous one. 

Comparing  1 (or 2) with 5 I find that 1 has the greater chocolate flavor.  Both were given the same opportunity to develop chocolate flavors, but 1 finished better, having the longer time and slower ramp.  5 left chocolate money on the table.  But 5 had the more pronounced acidity.  Not because it was roasted less, but because there was less chocolate.

I’ll also make one more observation about roast 3.  It is pretty classic ‘long and low’.  The result totally tamed the bracing acidity.  True that.  But it also didn’t develop the chocolate and fruit (low development ramp) and the extended finishing phase heightened the astringency naturally present in the bean that was not noticeable when chocolate and fruit were present.

To my mind these distinctions are critical for being able to modify your chocolate as you want.   I didn’t decrease the acid in 5.  I suppressed chocolate in 5.  But the result was perceptually the same.  And I’ll be the first to admit this is theory and I could be wrong.  Taste is a funny thing.  We only have our perceptions to guide us.  But it is showing to be a helpful and consistent tool.

And I’ll remind that none of these were bad (well, 4 is close) and different people found different ones to be their favorite.  No single one was the best.  It’s a matter of using what you know to craft the product you want.   Balancing yin against yang to find the chocolate harmony that calls to you.

Alright everyone, that is Profile Roasting.  At least the surface amount I can pass along via the internet.

Please, hit me up with your questions.

For those interested I have just finished up the details of Chocolate Alchemy’s first Profile Roasting Seminar.  It is for June 24, 2017.  There will only be 12 slots available.