Roasting Guide

Roasting a Kenya generally takes a lot of heat.  They tend to be dense beans.  You want to get it through the first cracks and maybe another 30 seconds and then the roast to get all of the complexity.  They can often be a finicky bean -- the sweet spot is very specific and if you have too much sour or too much acidity – take it up just a notch.  If you are finding bitter traits – take it just a notch lighter.  Slight adjustments of end time can make a major difference.  Kenya tends to like a quick roast, especially in the middle portion of the roast (really let it fly from 300 degrees into the first cracks).  

Because it is a dense bean, you can roast Kenyan coffees medium and dark as well.  They can make for a really sweet flavorful french roast.  


Kenya does sort its beans by size, and the AA is the largest with AB being the next step down and sometimes better tasting – size isn’t everything.The Kenya Peaberry has reasonable harvest numbers and often offers the greatest complexity with a reduced acidity level.Organic certification is rare, but starting to catch on.Most Kenya coffee is sold generically by bean size, with no certification or traceability.In recent years, the availability of coffees sold straight from estates is increasing and an important thing to look for when you are making a selection.Although grapefruit is the most common undertone in a Kenya, other citrus fruits such as lime, tangerine, and orange are fairly common as well.Although it is rarely advertised, the key to Kenya’s complexity is the varietal of coffee bean is grows, namely the SL-28, and the almost as esteemed SL-34.These two beans are essentially exclusive to Kenya, and when you taste a currant undertone, dried cherry, peach, and other pitted fruit flavors, you have an example crop of what made the SL-28 famous.Unfortunately, most growers have discovered that other varietals offer larger harvests, and blend in at least a small percentage of another varietal.This is generally fine, except where do you draw the line? The next year they stretch out their crop even a little further.And the next year, further yet.There are now some Kenya Estates with no SL- varietals whatsoever, and you rarely get to find this out up-front. Anything with the name Kenya on it sells for at least a 50 cents a pound premium over the other Africans, regardless of quality, and in many cases, it sells for quite a bit more than that.So Kenya is a frustrating origin because there is some REALLY good coffee, but you have do a lot of sorting out to track down the good ones, and buying the less-than-spectacular ones is an expensive mistake that starts to make one cynical of Kenya coffee.