Level:  Apprentice

Read Time: 10 minutes

I really love your spider charts.  Where do you get them and how do I get the flavors you show?  My roasted beans never taste like that.


I am glad you like the spider charts.  I don’t get them anywhere.  I produce them.  They are part of my procedure for evaluating cocoa samples.  Every sample or lot that arrives I roast with a standard profile.  This profile is most often 1 kg, P1 on the Behmor, roughly 18-20 minutes until it smells to my senses a touch sharp or toasty. If I don’t state otherwise in the roasting section of the bean, that is what I’ve done.  More likely I will give the exact profile I used to when roasting 25 lbs on my Royal.  The chocolate is 80% (75% nibs, 5% cocoa butter, 20% granulated sugar).  The charts never depict the cocoa bean taste.

If you roast the way I do, and make an 80% chocolate your chocolate should taste very similar.  Your beans on the other hand will hardly ever taste like what I show in the spider charts.  If they did I would not need to make the samples into chocolate, but too many flavor components shift and change while the chocolate is refining.

On the other hand you can use the chart to give you an indication how to roast the bean.  As a general rule the more flavor in general you have the harder/longer/higher you can roast a bean without damaging it.  I kind of makes sense as the bigger the flavor potential, the more energy it takes to make those chemical changes and the more leeway you have in getting it not perfect and those big flavors will hide a multitude of sins as it were. 

To get a little more specific, the three components of the spider chart you should look at.  The first two are Chocolate and Fruit.  You will want to look at Nut flavors too but relative to the first two.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  For the moment though, look at Chocolate and Fruit.  I hesitate to give you exact numbers as this isn’t an exact science but numbers can sometimes help you with order of magnitude evaluations.  Have a look at these the charts.


Nigeria has lots of Chocolate and Fruit - 4.5 and 4.25 respectively.  8.75 total.  Honduras’s total is 7.5 and Cuyagua is around 5.25.

This means you have a pretty free hand with Nigeria.  Frankly unless you actively try and screw it up, it can take whatever you throw at it.  And it also means you WANT to throw heat at it.  That chocolate and fruit needs to be developed, but even taking it not pedal to the metal hard it is still going to produce those flavors. The Development phase can be as short as 2 minutes (but longer if you wish), 2-3 minutes for Finishing (but more if you want) and 255-270 F EOR.

Honduras takes a pretty aggressive roast, but not quite so much since the fruit is lower. 2-3 minutes Development, 4-5 Finishing, and 255-265 F EOR.

Cuyagua on the other hand should be paid attention to.  It isn’t hard or anything and note I didn’t say it needs to be roasted delicate.  Chocolate and Fruit add up to 5.25 on a scale of 10 as it were.  It is pretty much dead in the center really.  That basically means a 2.5-3 minute Development phase, 3-4 minute Finishing phase and EOR 250-260 F.  That is basically the profile I recommend for any unknown bean.

Do you notice that subtle but distinct shifting of times and temperatures?  That is what I’m trying to get across.  The times get a little longer and the final temperature a little lower.

Let’s talk about Nutty flavors now.


The Chocolate/Fruit total is 6.5.  You can be heavy handed a bit.  It can take it. Not unlike Honduras.  But you need to pay a bit of attention.  That Nut component at 3.5 is going to go bitter if you push the Development phase TOO hard or take the EOR TOO high.  That means I would lean closer to the 2.5-3 minutes on Development and  4-5 minutes on Finishing, but I would not take it into the 260s. 

And I can hear you asking how do I or more importantly you, know?  Aroma.  When you are at the upper end of pushing the roast the aromas coming off get sharp and prickly.  That does not mean you have ruined the roast, just that you need to back the heat off.  Turn the gas down in a propane roaster, dial the power back if on electric, or drop the power in the Behmor to the next lowest setting if in manual mode (i.e. P5/100% to P4/80%, etc).

That pattern continues.  Look at the Costa Rica Azul below.

costa rica 2017.jpg

 What you should see is that it the combined total of Chocolate/Fruit is a mere 4.5, and I could well have been generous on that chocolate note.  You need to roast this pretty delicately and be vigilant as to those sharp aromas.  This is the case because the Nut component is 3.5 and if you push the profile hard, it will result in an overly bitter and astringent bean since it does not have the Fruit to back it up.  It is almost like the Nut should be subtracted from the total so you end up with more like a 1.0 (4.5-3.5).  You can’t really subtract the Nut to make your judgement in all cases – just the ones without significant (<5 or so) Chocolate/Fruit.  In this very rare particular case you both have to slow your Development phase WAY down and keep your EOR low also.  These conditions shorten the usual profile structure so much that you often don’t have a Finishing phase.  I went over this in Ask the Alchemist #243 .  You need to slow the Development phase down to 4-5 F/min.  It is this slow for two complementary reasons.  The first is so you don’t cause bitter roast defects and the second is so that there is sufficient roast time for the bean to be fully roasted since you will only be going to an EOR temperature of 220-230 F.  It may take you a couple attempts to nail this type of roast.  The first time you keep the ramp low and end when the aroma tells you too.  After tasting the chocolate you make a judgement based on the perceived bitterness as to whether another roast is need to further reduce it by taking the ramp slower and/or the EOR lower.  A final nuance of this is that if the raw beans have a fruity smell, that indicates some inherent fruitiness that will allow you a slightly higher (230-235F) EOR temperature.

Basically, allow the gestalt of the spider charts to guide you.  A big and full spider chart allows and needs a big and full roast.  Medium beget medium and sharp, spiky, fragile looking shapes often denote a need for more delicate handling.