At M5, we take customer feedback seriously. Thus, when we received a note from a customer saying that they enjoyed their coffee, but that they wished the coffee used in their long black had been roasted darker, we felt that a public explanation might be helpful.
Many different things affect the final cup of cup of coffee. Origin, processing, roast, age, brew method, grind size, water to coffee ratio, water quality, agitation... all these things come together to create the cup of coffee we serve you at M5. Thus, there are a huge number of paths to get to a good "strong" cup of coffee. While individual tastes and preferences vary, our preference at M5 is for coffees roasted to full development, but not past that.
The initial trend towards roasting darker occurred for many reasons, but a major one was consistency. Coffee is a seasonal crop, and as such you can't have the same awesome Guatemalan crop all year round without it losing some of its freshness. Beyond that, up until fairly recently, there was very little effort being made to grade and improve quality of crops at the farm and processing levels. On our bar, we respond to this by working with roasters to bring in only fresh and incredible, specialty grade crops, and rotating our menu each month in other to highlight fresh coffees from different origins. Many roasters, rather than rotating their menus or investing in higher quality crops, increase their roast levels to mask crop imperfections and old coffee.
This is especially the case in the world of commodity coffee, where coffee is bought in bulk at the (universally low) market price from farmers, creating no incentive for farmers to grow higher quality crops or improve their processing. Our coffees are bought at many times the price of commodity coffee and even the fair trade standard. Our roasters work directly with farmers and processors to improve quality at the source, and roast light to highlight the unique beauty of the crops they import. A dark roasted coffee can only ever taste like roast, whereas, with a light roasted coffee, you can experience delicate citrus and floral notes, thick flavors of nut and caramel, and earthy or grassy undertones. Each region tastes unique, and every coffee has a story that is apparent in the cup.
Coffee is not a uniform, bitter beverage, and each bean has a history that ought to be celebrated and honored, rather than roasted away. If you prefer a fuller bodied cup, I'd recommend a slightly fruity African coffee with a lot of body, or perhaps a Colombia Caturra with notes of chocolate and caramel. We can promise you that it will be brewed by the cup with a balanced recipe hand-tailored to showcase each coffee.
If you'd like to chat more about roasting styles, crop sourcing, or anything else, feel free to email us or stop by the cafe for a chat - we'd love to explain why we do things the way we do, and hopefully learn something new in the process.