The Art of Roasting Coffee

SD Bell's have been roasting coffee from all over the world for 4 generations. Our experience has grown over the years, while we continually discover new coffees and new subtleties of flavour.



Every coffee producing country, and even every coffee plantation produces beans with their own individual character. While most of the flavour of a coffee is imparted through the roasting process, the properties of the raw bean will determine the degree to which that coffee should be roasted. Therefore it is the skill of the individual controlling the roasting process to tease the flavour out of the bean, by application of time, temperature and technique!


While automated and computer-controlled processes exist that ensure consistent batch quality taste, style and flavour profiles, the Bells still often employ the same time-honoured method of flame roasting....

Imagine an industrial strength, cast iron tumble-dryer, with a flame-thrower in the middle, and you are not far from a coffee roaster. Into the drum of such a roaster a quantity of raw green coffee beans is introduced.

‘Green’ Raw Coffee

The beans fall constantly through the flame so that over time, and in a very even manner, they slowly begin to turn colour. From green, the beans become first yellow, then a light tan, through mid brown to dark brown.

The expert roaster uses the senses of sight, smell and sound and even taste of these hot beans, to determine the precise time at which to release the roast into the cooling pan, always comparing the new roast with a 'control' roast, to ensure consistency. 

When the beans begin to crackle it is a sign that a medium roast is ready for ejection into the cooling pan, through which a fan draws air to cool the roasted beans. It is important that the beans are cooled quickly in order to halt the roasting process and retain the flavour.

A darker roast requires even greater concentration. The beans start to swell in the intense heat, gently releasing the natural oils that exist in every coffee bean. Depending on the moisture content of these beans, the coffee will continue to darken in the following few minutes. The smoke will turn more intense, and the crackling will increase. The coffee may be allowed to continue to cook in its own heat without a flame, depending on many factors which only the expert roaster can determine. In this way, the roaster adds his own personality to the roast, with a similar degree of expertise as the master cheesemaker or vintner applies his art.


With a final check against the control roast, the roaster releases the roast into the cooling pan. The sight, sound and smell of this process never fails to cause the hairs on the back of the neck to stand on end! 

Developed over four generations of the Bell Family, the obsession with quality and adherence to the coffee roaster's Art lives on today.


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