Azahar is about giving full expression to the terroir and human toil behind each and every farmer’s coffee, granting coffee lovers once-in-a-lifetime access to some of the world’s most delicate aromas and flavors. As much of coffee's taste is in its sugars, we believe that the best place to roast is at origin, where those sugars are still fresh and intact.
Though our roastering equipment is outfitted with thermostats allowing us to plot and replicate unique roasting curves, Azahar's Jayson Galvis and Andrés Castro rely heavily on their senses to trace the evolution of each batch as it passes through the drying phase into 'first crack’ – a phenomenon known as 'first crepitation’ (crepitación) in Spanish.
At 'first crack,' the internal temperature of the coffee beans creates an exothermic reaction, causing the beans to expand while separating the oxygen inside them from the carbon dioxide and giving off steam. This usually occurs between 390 and 410 degrees Fahrenheit and coincides with what is know as the Maillard Reaction, when the beans’ natural sugars react with amino acids to form molecules responsible for the coffee’s unique aromas and flavors.
At ‘second crack,’ which occurs around 440 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit, the cellulose structure of the beans actually begins to break down, releasing oils trapped inside them while giving the coffee a glossy look. We never let our coffees reach 'second crack,' as our goal is to highlight rather than smother the irreducible terroir and human factors that when collated and carefully ushered through the various stages of processing produce a truly interesting and at times beautiful cup. In other words, we don’t go to great lengths to seek out Colombia’s most interesting coffees and then overcook them.
Nonetheless, each coffee's sugars must be carmelized enough to balance the different acidities, ranging from citric to berry- and apple-like. Much of the magic of this fragile balance is achieved between the roasting deck and our cupping lab, where Jayson, Andrés and Azahar's Barista, Jorge Hernán, work carefully to calibrate the best roast profile for each coffee. A few seconds too far beyond 'first crack' can easily ruin a volatile aroma, while a few seconds too early can stow away an exotic flavor forever.
In the process, we have rebuilt our roasting equipment numerous times and don't plan on stopping anytime soon, as we are obsessed with giving ourselves the highest degree of maneuverability when it comes to processing the fruit of each farmer's labor.