What is Barrel Roasting Coffee?

What is Barrel Roasting Coffee?

Jake Bonneman Jake Bonneman
3 minutes of coffee drinking

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A picture of a hand inside of a barrel of roasted coffee.

While there are several methods out there for roasting coffee beans, many coffee guru's prefer the barrel roasting/drum roasting method. Nothing provokes a passionate argument in a room full of coffee enthusiasts like the decades-long debate over barrel roasting vs air roasting. 

(Okay, okay—There are lots of things in the coffee world that provoke spirited debates among coffee fanatics. But this one’s definitely way up there.)

So how does a barrel roaster (or drum roaster—the terms are interchangeable) work? More importantly: Why should you care?

How Barrel Roasting Works

In a classic barrel roasting setup, a cylinder-shaped chamber (the eponymous “barrel” or “drum”) rotates just above an open flame or a heat source (which may be a gas, electric, or even a wood fueled in some cases).

As all those coffee beans shift and tumble around inside, a mechanical fan pulls the hot air from the flame through the barrel and out of the roaster.

In some drum roaster/barrel roaster machines, a mechanical arm also stirs the beans while the barrel is rotating over the flame. All of this constant motion makes sure that the roasting is consistent throughout the barrel—that is, you don’t have different regions within the barrel being roasted way more than others.

All coffee beans need to be roasted before they make their way into your cup of coffee. Roasting not only controls the flavor of the coffee, but it physically and chemically alters the coffee beans from their original green coffee bean form. It turns them into the familiar, robust, aromatic brown beans we all know and love, and gets rid of all the raw “green” material we don’t love. In the end, the roasting process is what can bring out the best taste in a coffee bean, and what can reveal (or cover up) its natural underlying flavors.

The Art of The Roast

Most coffee aficionados would agree that drum roasting is a time-honored process that truly lends itself to the “craft” side of coffee roasting. Compared to air roasting, it allows far more room for tinkering, tweaking, and—most importantly—perfecting the taste of the coffee.

On the other hand, one of the key benefits of air roasters compared to barrel roasters is that they’re much more affordable for the coffee producer. Another benefit air roasting has over drum roasting is that the actual duration of the roasting is shorter.

So, next time you find yourself sipping on some coffee brewed from air roasted beans, savor how much money and time the coffee company saved by using an air roaster to roast your beans instead of a drum roaster.

Every single Black Insomnia coffee bean is roasted to absolute perfection in a barrel roaster. We roast with the highest precision, so you can get all the flavor and caffeine into you without dealing with bitterness or burn.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which roasting method you like better. (But honestly, we’re pretty damn confident that barrel roasting is better). Try Black Insomnia’s extreme caffeine barrel roasted coffee and decide for yourself.

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