How do I know if the coffee bean is first crack or second crack, since all beans cannot crack at the same time?

How do I know if the coffee bean is first crack or second crack, since all beans cannot crack at the same time?

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0 thoughts on “How do I know if the coffee bean is first crack or second crack, since all beans cannot crack at the same time?”

  1. There is a pause between first and second cracks. While all beans don’t reach first crack at the exact same instant, they DO all finish first crack before second crack begins.
    Btw, it is possible to go all the way through second crack without burning beans. The temp inside the Roaster is the key. Temps can be lowered toward the end of roast, as coffee beans go exothermic and start putting off their own heat.

  2. This is a very good question, “how do I know if the coffee bean is first crack or second crack…?”.
    The crack stages in coffee roasting typically occur in clusters, but this also is affected by the roasting method used and whether you are roasting single origin beans or blends. Roasting blends with two or more beans can make the crack stages blend together and therefore make the determination of the stages more difficult. Blends often exhibiting longer crack stages due to differences between beans from varying origins.
    The first crack, in my experience, is characterized by lower or deeper sounding cracks (like little *thuds* and *chunks*. From the sound of the very first beans cracking in this stage, can last from 2–4 minutes, with blends trending toward longer crack stages vs. single origin. Too low a roasting temp can also extend the 1st crack stage, resulting in what some refer to as “baked beans”.
    If your roast method is not extremely hot, there is often a lull between the first and second crack stage, resulting in little or no overlap between the 1st and 2nd crack stages in many cases, even with blends. If your temps are on the high-end, you may find it very difficult to discern from the end of the 1st to the start of the 2nd without a keen ear (and nose, eyes).
    The 2nd crack tends to be characterized by higher pitched crack sounds which sound more like rice crispies than the 1st crack *thud-chunks*. The 2nd crack often starts slow like the 1st crack, but reaches at least two distinct crescendos as it hits a fever-pitch at the tail end of the 2nd crack.
    Even after nearly 1200 roasts, there are times when it is difficult to differentiate the end of the 1st crack as it winds down, and the beginning of the 2nd, based on sound alone. I have actually found my nose is the best tool in determining exactly where in the roast beans are, especially with blends which may have varying crack times for each origin based on density, size, processing type, etc.
    The more you smell the smoke during the different stages, the more you can discern the roast level. This does vary slightly from bean to bean, but generally the 1st crack has a more acidic/acrid smell all the way up to the 2nd crack, which eventually softens the smell (vs. the sharpest aroma at the peak of the 1st crack), and it begins to start smelling less sharp and more rounded. I picture the molecules looking like little balls with spikes during the 1st crack stage as the starches convert to sugars, and as you roll into the 2nd crack and beyond the spikes fall off of the balls until they are more or less smooth and become a bit sweeter as the sugars caramelize. If you go too far, they turn into charcoal briquettes, however and that is the char stage where the woody structures of the seed/bean turn back into carbon.
    I hope this helps. I’ve even come up with my own language to describe the aromas at different stages, and have managed to use it to more accurately pinpoint the roast level I am targeting. I tend to rely upon my eyes, with regard to the beans less and less as my nose and ears provide me with enough clues to get the roast levels I set out to achieve.

  3. You can tell while you’re roasting if you listen carefully, and if your roaster’s motor isn’t too loud. You are correct they don’t all crack simultaneously.
    First crack sounds like popcorn as the beans reach around 385 Fahrenheit. Then the temperature drops a bit from the moisture being released.
    Roasting just to first crack will be very light in color, with less sweetness and depth.
    Second crack sounds more like Rice Krispies when milk is added. Roasting just to the beginning of this sound will result in a medium-dark roast (my favorite for most bean types); continuing until this stage finishes will produce dark roast with the beginnings of burnt flavor.
    Each bean varietal, even each batch is slightly different, so going by time alone won’t work. If you really want to go full coffee geek (that’s a flattering term in roasting!), keep a notebook of bean varietals (bean type and country of origin), roasting times and which settings used.

  4. They don’t all crack at the same time, but in general, the first crack should finish, then some time passes, and then the second crack. As others have noted, the first crack will be a lower pitched pop, where the second is more of a high pitched, quieter snap.
    I’ve had cases where the cracks run together and its generally a situation to avoid. You either have a blend of different beans that are not roasting uniformly, or you need to back the heat off as the first crack starts. The first crack is an exothermal process, meaning its not only receiving heat from your roaster, but its giving off its own heat too. At this point the roast can start running away too fast and go right into the second crack. A lot of roasters will cut the gas back, or turn down the heat to try to counter this effect. I use a gas grill and will turn down the gas and open the lid for a few seconds.

  5. It depends on how you’re roasting, but I don’t know too much about that process. I’d look into it though before too long that way you’re getting the flavors you want.

  6. First crack (1C) and second crack (2C) each are a collection of multiple pops.
    For instance, if you are roasting a 4 oz batch of beans in a Behmor 1600 Plus, you will hear light pops around 7 mins. The pops get louder between 7:30 and 8 mins, and come with quick succession. This is 1C. There will be silence for the next 1–2 mins. Then, you will hear random pops again followed by incessant popping. This is 2C.
    The situation changes drastically during 2C and after the popping stops. This is where you get the dark roasts.


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