What is “First Crack” In Coffee Roasting?

Coffee Education
John Alden
April 28, 2023

Here at Perfect Extraction, our goal is to demystify the world of specialty coffee, and part of doing so is defining our terms, especially those that may not be familiar to the average reader.

One term we’d like to define is “First Crack”, a term used regularly in the coffee roasting process.  The obvious question…what is first crack, what does it mean, and why is it so commonly discussed?

First crack is a significant event that occurs during coffee roasting, and it defines the point in the roasting process when the coffee beans undergo a rapid expansion, making a loud popping  sound. This sound is caused by a chemical reaction between the water and carbon dioxide inside the bean, creating steam that is forced out of the bean's shell.

During first crack, the beans also begin to lose their green color and turn a light brown shade. This roasting stage is absolutely crucial, because it marks the beginning of the roast development phase, which is where the coffee beans start to develop their unique flavor and aroma.

How Long Does “First Crack” Last?

The duration of the first crack varies depending on the roasting method, the type of coffee beans, and the desired roast level. Generally, the first crack lasts for 1-2 minutes, and after that, the roaster needs to decide when to stop the roasting process. If the beans are roasted for too long after first crack, they will move into the second crack stage, resulting in a darker roast profile and a different set of flavors.

In summary, first crack is a pivotal moment in coffee roasting that signifies the start of roast development and the point at which the coffee beans start to change color and release their unique aroma and flavor. It’s incredibly important that roasters pay close attention to this roasting stage to achieve their desired roast level and flavor profile.

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