Friday, February 26, 2010

Coffee - Roast Your Own Coffee Beans

I love coffee. I have to say that every time I write here. Why? Because I really do love coffee. I love it so much I want to keep learning more and more about it. And one of the lessons I am learning now is how to roast my own beans? Why? Because green coffee beans can keep for years in that form, but once roasted their flavor peaks after just a few days. Ever wonder how long those cans of coffee have been sitting around in the grocery store?

Can you say, forever? I can. And even though the product is vacuum packed there is a loss of the freshness of the ground beans. I want my coffee to be as fresh as I can get it. And that requires me to learn how to roast my own.

The first step is to get some green coffee beans. And that leads to another group of questions. First, what kind of coffee do you like to drink? A milder brew, a strong brew, an espresso? Different growing regions produce different flavored coffee beans. If you know you like mild coffees, you may want to focus on Central American or Island coffees. If you drink mostly espresso, then try an espresso blend or use Brazil as single origin espresso. If you know you like darker roasts and coffees with lots of body, you may want to check out Indonesian or Brazilian coffees; these tend to have more body, less acidity and take a dark roast well. If you like bright flavorful coffees, then try Kenyan coffees which can tend to be more acidic, more citrus, or Ethiopian coffees which can be fruited or bittersweet chocolate.

Once you have your beans chosen, you can start the process of roasting those babies.

The first method we are going to talk about is the frying pan/wok method:

What You Need: Any lightweight skillet with a good tight lid, or a heavy skillet for a real aerobic workout. (You might also try a Wok and agitate with a wooden spoon. With good technique, this method can produce fine results.) Gas or Electric stove. An oven thermometer . A big spoon, a big bowl or metal collander for cooling, and oven mitts.


  • Turn on your stovetop exhaust fan, or open a kitchen window. Have all your supplies within reach.
  • Measure out about 9 ounces of coffee by weight, or 12 ounces by volume for a large skillet.
  • Preheat skillet over low flame / medium electric burner setting with the lid on. An Oven thermometer placed inside can tell you when you have reached 500 degrees. Stabilize at 500.
  • Remove the thermometer, toss your beans in there, put the lid on tight, and armed with oven mits, start shakin'.
  • This is the most intuitive, rough and tumble (literally) roasting method. Keep the beans in motion. Listen for the "first crack" and smell for smoke around 5 minutes. Wait a minute and lift the lid to check the color.
  • It's easy to scorch the coffee by using too much heat, so it's better to taper off a little after the crack. Check color every minute or so.
  • You want to pour the beans out of the skillet into the collander when they are a tad lighter than the color you desire, since roasting continues until beans are cool.
  • Agitate beans in metal collander or bowl with a big spoon until they are warm to your touch. You may need oven mitts for this. You may want to walk out to a porch to aid cooling.
  • If beans have light colored chaff still attached to them, simply agitating them in the collander should remove it. If you blow lightly on the beans the chaff will fly off, but do this outside or over a sink to avoid sweeping the floor.
  • Coffee should be stored out of direct light (and not in a fridge or freezer) in an airtight glass jar, but with a fresh roast, wait 12 hours to seal the jar tightly; it needs to vent off C02.
  • Warm, fresh roasted beans are wonderful, but the coffee attains its peak 4 to 24 hours after roasting. If you store it as recommended, we'll call it fresh for 6 days. When you open that jar in the morning, you will know what fresh coffee truly is.
This method is the easiest on two sides. It is easy to do, but it is also easy to muck up. The beans have to be turned constantly, with the lid on the frying pan or else they will scorch. Scorched coffee beans do not taste good.

Next time we will talk about another method.

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