As a barista with over 10 years of experience in the coffee industry, I’m fascinated by the origins and evolution of coffee roasting over the centuries. Many coffee drinkers take for granted how roasting transforms and enhances the beans we brew into a daily cup of joe.

Roasting is a crucial step in unleashing the complex flavors and aromas locked inside the green coffee beans. Here’s a look at why did we start roasting coffee and its impact on the global spread and enjoyment of coffee today.

The practice of roasting coffee dates back to the 17th century in Ottoman Empire. Initially, coffee was roasted using open flame on perforated pans. However, in 1864, Richard Evans invented a more efficient method of grilling coffee using heated air in a cylindrical, fluid-bed roasting equipment.

This invention revolutionized the coffee roasting process and paved the way for the modern coffee roaster. The use of the fluid-bed roasting pan allowed for more consistent and evenly roasted coffee, resulting in a richer and more flavorful cup of coffee.


  • Coffee grilling began in the 15th century in the Middle East to enhance the flavor and aroma of coffee seeds.
  • grilling caramelizes the natural sugars in coffee seeds, adding depth, complexity and reducing bitterness.
  • Coffee grilling allowed the drink to spread globally by improving shelf life and making it easier to transport.
  • Modern grilling techniques carefully control temperature and time to bring out the best qualities of different beans.
  • Home grilling is growing in popularity among coffee lovers looking to experiment with different flavors.

At the turn of the 20th century, the grilling industry started to bloom, giving rise to the popularity of coffee houses. Jabez Burns, a coffee roaster, played a significant role in this development by inventing the first practical grilling machine.

However, his invention was known for producing smoky coffee. Later on, another roaster patented a cleaner method of grilling, which revolutionized the industry. Since then, coffee grilling has come a long way, and the perfect daily grind has become an integral part of coffee culture as the demand for high-quality coffee grew exponentially.

A Brief History of Coffee grilling

While coffee as a beverage has been enjoyed for over 1,000 years, commercial coffee grilling only emerged in the 15th century in the Middle East. At first, coffee cherries were simply boiled whole after picking. An Ethiopian legend credits a 9th century goat herder named Kaldi for discovering the energizing effects of the beans after noticing his goats became more energetic chewing the red berries.

Grilling developed as a way to improve the flavor and aroma of infused coffee. Applying dry heat to the green beans causes chemical changes that add depth and complexity to the bean’s natural grassy flavor. grilling caramelizes the sugars naturally present in the beans, resulting in the nutty, chocolatey notes coffee drinkers crave.

A Brief History of Coffee grilling

The Arabs pioneered primitive grilling methods over open fires or in pans. The beans were stirred constantly to ensure even heating. Methods evolved over the centuries, with cylinder roasters invented in the 1800s allowing for more control over temperature, duration, and consistency.

Grilling was a pivotal innovation that allowed coffee to spread well beyond its origins in Ethiopia and Yemen.

why did we start Roasting coffee

Grilling improves the flavor, aroma, and experience of brewed coffee in several key ways:

  • Enhanced taste – grilling mutes the grassy bitterness of raw coffee beans, bringing out sweeter, more complex flavors.
  • Wider consumption – The high temperatures kill bacteria and increase the shelf-life of beans, making transport and storage possible.
  • Easier to brew – grilling causes the beans to shed their dry outer skin, leaving just the inner beans that can be ground and extracted more efficiently.
  • Better aroma – Heating the beans develops over 800 flavor compounds, allowing the enticing aromas of brewed coffee to blossom.

Grilling made it feasible for coffee to be shipped long distances and develop into a global commodity. While green beans last only a few weeks, roasted beans stay fresh for months if properly stored. The Dutch became the first to ship roasted coffee worldwide in the 1600s.

Today grilling remains vital to preparing raw coffee beans into a daily drink enjoyed by billions. The time and temperature of the roast determines the ultimate flavor profile, from light roast to dark espresso roast.

The tradition of grilling coffee dates back to ancient times. It is believed to have started in Cairo, where the grilling of coffee beans began. The process of grilling involves heating the beans to bring out their flavor and aroma.

Over time, this practice spread throughout the world, giving rise to the coffee grilling industry. Initially, small-scale methods like pan grilling were used, but with advancements in technology, large-scale coffee production became possible. Drum grilling became the preferred method, as it allows the beans to shake, ensuring an even roast. Nowadays, coffee beans can be roasted to achieve various levels of darkness and flavor profiles.

The Roasting Process – Balancing Heat and Time

Modern commercial roasters carefully control the application of heat over time to draw the best qualities out of different types of beans. The beans are heated in a rotating drum, allowing them to tumble and circulate for even grilling.

There are four main stages in the grilling process:

  • Drying – Heating the beans to 30°C evaporates moisture and produces grassy, vegetal aromas.
  • Browning – At around 200°C, sugars begin to caramelize and browning reactions develop a nutty flavor.
  • Grilling – Temperatures of 220-240°C break down starches and intensify the aroma as beans approach the target grill level.
  • Cooling – The hot beans are quickly cooled in the drum to stop the grilling process for optimal flavor.

The length of grilling ranges from 8-20 minutes depending on factors like bean origin, moisture level, and desired grill profile. Lighter roasts highlight the origin character of the beans, while darker roasts bring out more robust, bittersweet chocolate notes.

The grilling Process - Balancing Heat and Time

The grilling process has a rich history dating back to Africa and the Middle East. Grilling companies have perfected the art of balancing heat and time to bring out the best flavors in coffee beans. In drum roasters, beans are placed in a rotating drum where they tumble and evenly grill.

Throughout the years, various patents were awarded to innovative techniques that lift the beans, allowing for a more consistent grill. The combination of heat and time is crucial in achieving that perfect balance of flavors in every cup of coffee.

The Growth of Artisan Grilling

The last decades have seen artisan grilling flourish as coffee drinkers demand specialty roasts that are fresh, sustainable, and showcase unique beans. Small batch grilling allows the skill of the roaster to shine through in bringing out the best attributes of rare single origin beans.

Many coffee shops roast on-site or partner with local micro-roasters to offer unique blends and single origin roasts with post-harvest processing methods like cold brewing. Custom grilling profiles can optimize the flavor profile of beans grown in a single farm or region. Freshly roasted small batches ensure the beans are at their peak flavor.

Home coffee grilling is another growth area, with hobbyists buying machines to experiment with different beans and grill levels. I love to meet customers who are curious to learn more about the coffee they drink! When you understand the care and skill involved in coffee grilling, it enhances your appreciation for every cup.

The growth of artisan grilling has been remarkable in recent years. More and more people are now opting to grill their food in small groups at home, rather than relying on mass-produced options. While this may seem like a simple task, it requires the efforts of many people and the use of specialized equipment.

For example, coffee’s roasters use hot-air roasters to ensure that heat is evenly transferred to the beans during the grilling process. This exposure to heat is crucial, as it forces the oils and flavors to come to the surface. The art of grilling is an intricate one, and as Chef Alexius Van Gulpen explains, it takes time and skill to perfectly analyse why a grill is successful.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the difference between light grill and dark grill coffee?

Light roasts are roasted for a shorter time at lower temperatures to highlight the origin character of the beans. Dark roasts are roasted longer at higher temps, producing a darker color, fuller body, and robust bittersweet flavor.

Is light or dark grill healthier?

Neither grill is inherently healthier, they just contain slightly different levels of compounds which affect flavor. Overall, coffee is loved for its antioxidant benefits.

Why are some coffee beans oily?

Oily beans occur when coffee is roasted longer to very dark levels. This causes the natural oils in the beans to rise to the surface and produce an oilier look and feel.

Can you grill coffee at home?

Yes, home grilling is a fun hobby using either stove-top or electric grilling machines. It allows you to experiment with beans and roast levels.

How long do roasted coffee beans stay fresh?

Whole roasted beans can stay fresh for 2-4 weeks at room temperature, or up to 6 months frozen. Pre-ground coffee goes stale much quicker.


From its origins centuries ago to the booming artisan grilling scene today, grilling remains integral to crafting an incredible cup of coffee. While grilling methods have evolved greatly over time, the aim remains the same – to unlock the complex flavors and aromas inherent in these magical beans. I hope this glimpse into the fascinating world of coffee grilling gives you a deeper appreciation next time you brew your morning cup!

In conclusion, the coffee roasting industry has seen significant advancements with the introduction of new technologies. The patent for a commercial coffee roaster with an inside the drum design has revolutionized the way roasts are conducted. This design allows for better control and measurement of variables during the roast, making it more accurate and consistent. Many people and companies in the industry now use a combination of traditional and modern roasters to achieve the best possible results.

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