The moment you start reading up about roast profiles, you’ll hear the term first crack. It’s that glorious moment in coffee roasting when coffee goes from underdeveloped to drinkable (although, depending on your preferences, you may want it darker.) And it’s very literal: it is the first time you hear your coffee crack.
But what causes first crack? And why does the end of first crack signal coffee being drinkable?
The answer is to do with the Maillard reaction.
First crack is caused by a loss in moisture, and this occurs shortly after the Maillard reaction. The reaction occurs in any food type with protein and sugars, and will occur at a different temperature with different food groups. But with coffee, first there will be the Maillard reaction, then caramelisation, and the first crack.
Both the Maillard reaction and caramelisation affect the flavours of the coffee. So although first crack isn’t a direct result of Maillard reaction, it does indicate that all the necessary reactions have occurred.
This video from Scientific American explains how the Maillard reaction affects flavour:
Feature photo credit: epSos.de via YouTube
Please note: Perfect Daily Grind does not own the rights to these videos and cannot be held accountable for their content.