About a year ago, Mike started roasting coffee at home. It was something he had thought about doing for quite a while and well, his wife was getting pretty picky about the coffee she would and wouldn’t drink anymore. 😉 As we mentioned in yesterday’s post, buying coffee from a local roaster gives you a really great cup of coffee, but our “local” roasters are about 30 minutes away, not super convenient. So we decided to try out home roasting to see if it was something that we could do and would like. It was both the best and worst decision. The best because we now have amazing tasting coffee all the time at home. The worst because if I thought I was a coffee snob before, home roasting really took it over the edge…now that I know how good a cup of coffee can be, I don’t want anything but the best! (In all honesty folks, I won’t judge you by the coffee you drink, or how you drink it. I know that I’m super picky about coffee, but not everyone is, and that’s okay. And if you like a tiny bit of coffee with your cream & sugar, that’s okay too, we’ll still be friends. I like my coffee with some half & half and a tiny bit of sugar, and I know some would say that’s not true coffee drinking. And I’m okay with that. Most of our coffee related equipment is bought used, jury-rigged by Mike or a no-name brand, we’re not super fancy! I just enjoy a tasty cup of coffee and want to share a few tips and tricks with anyone that might want to improve their daily cup of joe!)
Roasting your own coffee beans is really not too difficult. There are a number of ways you can do it, from simply using a skillet on your stovetop or buying a nice home roasting machine. We’re currently roasting with a “Turbo Crazy” homemade roaster (I dream of one day owning a real home coffee roaster!) but we started with a hot air popcorn popper. We thought we’d share that method today as it’s pretty easy to do and hot air popcorn poppers are fairly easy to come by – we found ours at the thrift store for a few dollars. (The downside to using a popcorn popper is you can only roast small batches at a time – but it’s a good place to start). Not all popcorn poppers can be used for coffee roasting though, so make sure you use the correct kind – it needs to be one where the hot air enters from side vents; you can find more information on that and a list of the brands that work on Sweet Maria’s site. (This site is very helpful for getting started with home roasting…lots of tips, a lot of forums with tips from others, as well as a good source for buying green coffee beans).
One of the best things about home roasting is getting to roast your beans to your perfect roast. It can be as light or dark of a roast as you prefer. You’ll probably need to experiment with a few batches to see what you prefer and how exactly to get that perfect roast with the popper you’re using. Think of all the coffee taste testing in your future! And of course, the beans that you get will determine the roast you like. We like some varieties roasted a little darker and others a little lighter.
There are a surprising number of places you can buy green coffee beans. As I mentioned above, Sweet Maria’s is a good place to order from. We started off ordering sampler packs from there to see what varieties of coffee we liked. (I’m a fan of beans from Central and South America). You can definitely tell a difference between the places of origin – something I never really paid much attention to before. I would recommend buying sampler packs if you’re just getting started so that you don’t end up with a big bag of beans you don’t really like. We’ve also bought from a few other sources online – you can even get green coffee beans from Etsy sellers! A lot of local roasters are also willing to sell you green beans – so you can check with your local coffee shop (if they roast their own) and see if they would sell some. The nice thing about buying from a coffee shop is a lot of times you can try the brew right there, so you have an idea of how the beans taste before you buy a bag.
What you need:
- hot air popcorn popper (read above for the kind needed)
- green coffee beans
- measuring cup
- stirrer – we use a bamboo skewer
- strainer or sieve (it’s easier to do with 2)
- mason jar
How to do it:
Roasting gives off some smoke, so you’ll want to be sure you’re in a well ventilated area. It also makes a bit of a mess (the chaff blowing off the beans), so keep that in mind when picking your spot. We roast on the porch (requires a bit of work in the freezing cold winter, but that’s a post for a different time!). First, measure out your beans. We use a Toastmaster (#6203) and make 1/2 cup batches at a time. Take off the lid of the popper and pour in the beans. Turn on the popper and stir the beans until they lose enough moisture that the air begins to agitate them. At this point, you can put the lid back on to help blow the chaff that comes off the beans down, if you leave it off, the chaff will blow everywhere, which is fine if you’re outside and don’t care. After 5 or 6 minutes, you’ll begin to hear the beans crack, this is called the first crack. At this point you have very lightly roasted coffee beans. To get a darker roast, keep roasting, after a bit the cracking slows down. Soon, the beans will crack again, this is the second crack and at this point you have a dark roast. You’ll want to keep an eye on the color of the beans, as well as listening for the cracks. Once the beans are roasted to your desired preference, turn the popper off and dump the beans into the sieve. Pouring the beans back and forth between two sieves helps to cool them off quickly – and you want to cool them down as quickly as possible. Cool the beans until warm to the touch, they shouldn’t be hot. Pour the beans into a mason jar, but wait to put the lid on for at least 12 hours – freshly roasted beans give off CO2 and need to vent. You can use the beans immediately, but we think they taste best after sitting a day or two. Brew yourself a pot of coffee and enjoy your freshly roasted beans!
So what do you think? Is home roasting something you would ever try? Do you currently home roast? We’d love to hear about your experiences if you do it!