Sometimes, and in any consumer industry, we preserve certain customs that endure in our society simply because of tradition or because the passage of time has standardised them. The torrado or glazing of coffee is one of them. It is possible that reading these lines, you do not know what torrefacto coffee means, but we are sure that you have consumed it throughout your life… and many more times than you can imagine.
In today’s article, we are going to find out what torrefacto or glazed coffee is, if anyone still doesn’t know, how coffee is glazed and, above all, what its advantages and disadvantages are.
Glazed coffee is the same as Torrado or torrefacto coffee. It gets its name (glazed) from the layer of caramelised sugar that remains when it is roasted, similar to the glazing process used in baking.
Whether it is called glazed, Torrado or torrefacto depends solely on the region or country. But the process and philosophy are the same.
How is torrefacto coffee made?
To make torrefacto coffee, the process is very simple. The coffee is roasted in the roaster as if it were a conventional roasting process. Still, during the process, sugar is added little by little (in a variable percentage, but normally between 10% and 15% of the total coffee being roasted).
At the end of roasting, the sugar will have caramelised and stuck to the surface of the bean, giving it a characteristic dark brown to black colour… much darker than a naturally roasted bean.
This coffee is not usually marketed on its own but is mixed with another batch of unglazed, naturally roasted coffee. This is called torrefacto coffee blend (it is most commonly found in 50% natural-glazed).
Why is coffee glazed?
Originally, the process of glazing coffee made sense from a preservation point of view. We were talking about several centuries ago when technology and knowledge were far behind our current possibilities, and there were not many reliable methods to preserve coffee for a long time without losing flavour. So it was glazed so that the sugar layer formed would serve as a kind of protective shield for the bean against the environment.
In our own time, coffee glazing is carried out to mask or disguise the possible faults of poor quality coffee. By adding a certain amount of sugar after roasting, the original taste of the coffee is altered and tends to become homogenised. Have you ever noticed that virtually all glazed or torrefacto coffees taste the same?
In the same way, adding milk or flavourings to coffee only made sense in the beginning to mask the defects of poor quality batches of coffee. Just try a torrefacto coffee with milk and espresso with natural roast only. Although you might think they are the same product, in reality, the flavours and aromas will be like night and day.
In addition, in certain regions such as the Iberian Peninsula, glazing became very popular in order to reduce coffee production costs in the post-war period, when a large part of the population was experiencing economic hardship. And from that time onwards, it became a custom, so much so that today many consumers have become accustomed to its taste and cannot tolerate the taste of natural coffee, even if it is of a higher quality.
Advantages of torrefacto coffee
- It is cheaper to produce and therefore its final price to the consumer is more affordable.
- The sugar disguises the defects of poor quality coffee.
- It keeps better, as the glazed coffee beans are less exposed to oxygen.
Disadvantages of torrefacto coffee
- By consuming glazed coffee, we are putting a large amount of sugar into the body, which is not necessary.
- The natural flavours and nuances of coffee are masked by the action of the sugar: all glazed coffees taste pretty much the same.
- To make glazed coffee, it is common to use poor quality beans, with defects, moulds, etc., knowing that these problems will not be transmitted to the flavour.
Is torrefacto coffee good?
Glazed coffee contains a lot of sugar, which also caramelises or burns during roasting. It is true that it never has more than 15% of the total (in theory), but if you think about it slowly, that is quite a considerable amount of sugars that are not necessary at all. For this reason, unglazed coffee will always be healthier and of better quality.
Moreover, natural coffee is the only coffee that retains its original aromas and properties intact.
It is another matter, whether it is a matter of habit, economics (coffee with icing is much cheaper to produce) or because it is easier to preserve, that many consumers still prefer glazed coffee to natural coffee.
But from an objective point of view, unglazed coffee is always preferable.