I know, I know, what is a coffee roasting company doing trying to teach people how to roast their own coffee? Well, we thought that some of you may not be satisfied with just learning about roasting, roast profiles and such from the outside. Homeroasting can be a ton of fun and is not as hard as you might imagine. Although you can buy a lot of great equipment to help you fine tune your roasts, you can start roasting with only a few simple, household items. In this little tutorial, I will briefly explain the basics of homeroasting, so that you can start learning about the many intricacies of this wonderful bean and enjoying coffee roasted by your own hand.
So, the first thing you need is a good supply of green coffee. Honestly, not just any beans will do if you want a great end product. One of the big differences between a company like PTs and Folgers or Maxwell House, is that we search the globe for the best greens the world has to offer. In the industry, these coffees are known as specialty coffees. Yet not even any specialty coffee will necessarily produce a great end product. That is why we travel to the countries and the farms where it is grown to taste the coffee before we buy it. Therefore, you really need to buy your greens from a company that you trust and know buys only the best coffees. PTs has just started offering our green coffee on our website to anyone who would like to try their hand at roasting some of these amazing offerings. So pick up one of our sampler packs (coming soon) to try some different origins, or go with one that you already know that you like.
As far as the roaster is concerned, you have quite a few options. A lot of people have different opinions about what makes the best home roaster, so if you want, try a few to see what works best for you. Among the many creative options, you can use a small air popcorn popper, a pan for over the stove or metal bowl and heat gun. I will mainly focus on using an air popcorn popper because that is what I use to roast. Soon I will hopefully be moving up to a home-built drum roaster but more on that at a later date.
In order to roast with an air popcorn popper, you need a popper like the Toastmaster 6202 Popcorn Maker. The key to finding a popcorn popper that will work for roasting coffee is finding one that will reach the proper temperature for roasting and keeps the beans moving the whole time. These types of popcorn poppers will have air vents on thesides in the bottom (See Image).
If you use the appropriate amount of beans, the popper will pushhot air through these vents that will roast the beans and keep them moving. The amount of beans you use should equal the amount of popcorn kernels the popper suggests. Initially you will need to stir the beans with a wooden spoon because the green beans are still full of water. Once they start roasting, they dry out and become light enough that the air from the vents is able to push the beans without any help from you.
As the beans roast, they will slough off something called chaff. The chaff is a skin that remains on the beans after they have been processed. This will happen with almost any type of coffee bean other than decaf beans. The decaffeination process removes the chaff. It is usually a good idea to have a bowl positioned where the popcorn would come out to catch the chaff; otherwise, it can create a bit of a mess.
As the beans roast, there are different stages that they go through. Recognizing and understanding these stages will help you perfect your roasting and will allow you to effectively communicate with other roasters. The first stage is a drying process. During this stage the beans will loose about 13% of their mass as the water evaporates from the bean. The next important stage in the roast is called the first crack. This occurs at about 400 F. During this stage, the bean expands due to heat and water evaporation and physical cracks will appear at the ends of the beans. As this stage occurs, you will hear the beans cracking; this cracking sounds like popcorn popping and is the first audible sign that the beans are roasting. At this point, the beans will have a light brown coloration and will not yet have any oils on the surface. Ideally, there will be a pause between the first crack and the next stage. This pause does not necessarily occur when using a popcorn popper because it is hard to keep the bean temperature from rising too quickly. This next stage is called second crack. It will sound more like rice krispies popping in milk than popcorn popping. The beans will have a darker brown coloration, and oils will start appearing on the surface of the beans. Towards second crack, a little smoke will appear. You needn’t worry about the smoke; it can start to be a pleasant smell after you have been roasting for a while. Because of this smoke, though, most people either roast outside or under a stove hood. Usually roasters do not allow the coffee to roast too much past this second crack because the beans will start to loose their distinct characteristics and take on the characteristics of the roast.
After you have determined that the coffee is almost at the roast profile that you desire, you should turn off the popper, dump the beans into a metal collender and shake the beans until they are about room temperature. It is important to try to cool the beans as quickly as possible because they will be anywhere between 430 F and 450 F and will continue to roast. There are many innovative and creative ways you can devise to cool the beans, but shaking them in a collender is probably the easiest.
So after that, you have completed your first coffee roast! You can either brew up the coffee right away or wait a couple days so that it has time to degas and come into its full flavor. Some coffees will taste better after they have rested for a couple of days.
Now that you have roasted your first batch of coffee, go ahead and experiment. Experimentation and creativity is an important part of homeroasting, so try some different roast profiles, origins of coffee and methods of roasting. You can use these basic ideas to try roasting in a pan over the stove or a campfire. If you want more information, there is plenty available on the internet, including a vibrant community of homeroasters who are more than willing to help. Another great resource is Kenneth Davids’ Home Coffee Roasting: Romance and Revival.
Have fun roasting, and let us know if you have any questions or need any help. I am more than happy to talk about homeroasting, and almost anyone here can talk your ear off about coffee in general. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.