To say I love coffee is an understatement. A rather gross understatement, at that. I am a coffee fiend. I love the smell, the taste, the texture, the boldness. As you would assume from that description, a simple cup of Folgers just won’t do it for me. Believe me, I’ve tried much when it comes to my favorite beverage.
Starbucks. Great for hanging with friends and shooting the breeze. McD’s for a quick caffeine boost is OK. And they have decent Frappes for that hot summer day. Insert your favorite coffee in this spot. _____________Whatever it is, I have a plan that will make your favorite cup of Joe pale in comparison.
I’d contemplated doing this for several years. I’ve read about home roasted coffee beans before, but never really tried it. I don’t have the equipment for it, and I certainly don’t have the patience for it, or for the mess it would create. In the end, it wouldn’t be worth the effort for any savings, would it?
The short answer is yes! It is worth it! I’ve been home roasting all my coffee (save for the occasional Starbucks trip) for several months now. And really, all one needs to do it successfully is a frying pan and a good set of ears. Of course, the frying pan is rather slow, but if you have a clear glass pan cover, it is fun to do. All you do is heat the pan to a good medium setting, add 1/3 of a cup of unroasted (green) beans, cover, and pretend your making Jiffy Pop. As the beans heat up, they give off some water in the form of condensation on the lid, and as they dry out and, expansion takes place, releasing a paper-like coating called chaff. After 5 or so minutes, the coffee will start to crack in a manner similar to popcorn. This is called the “first crack”. But don’t stop now, you still need more time to get these beans ready for brew.
After the first crack stage subsides, a second, less noticeable crack stage will begin. At this point, you will notice the coffee getting that signature roast color, turning brown. You’ll want to stop shortly after the second crack stage subsides. You don’t want to risk burning your beans, unless burnt coffee is how you roll. Read down for the cooling process.
Another method that I use, and love, is the popcorn popper method. Word up, friends. Popcorn poppers were never intended to roast coffee. It just worked out that way. So, if you are going to use this method, I must warn you to do so at your own risk.
First of all, don’t just pull any popper out. Take the popcorn chute off and look inside. If you have a mesh screen at the bottom, go no further! Use that puppy as it was intended. But if you have the kind with hot air jets along the bottom of the sidewall in the popping chamber, you’re safe. The other kind, which makes up the majority of poppers these days, can actually ignite the chaff, which obviously can cause a fire. But if you have the right kind with the air jets on the side, it will spin the coffee as it heats is, safely giving you a really uniform, even roast.
I should note here that the right kind of popper is tough to find. Ebay.com is the best place to look, but it can cost upwards of $50 for a good popper (like the West Bend Poppery or Poppery 2, which I use). I got mine from a friend who gave it to me specifically for the purpose of coffee roasting. Also check the Salvation Army or Goodwill Stores. You might get lucky.
Get 1/3 of a cup of green coffee and dump it in the chamber. Position the popper at the edge of the sink, fill it with a little water, and put the chute on, pointed at the sink. The chute will direct the chaff directly into the water, making cleanup a breeze. Get a stop watch, like the kind I have on my iPhone. Make a mental note of times once you plug the popper in. About 3 minutes is the first crack. Once you’ve reached the second crack, you’ll want to stop the popper. It will be about 6 minutes. That will give you a good, full-bodied roast.
Immediately the beans must be cooled. I use an aluminum colander. It transfers the heat quickly from the beans, because they will continue roasting for a couple minutes otherwise. I cool my beans in the freezer during these hot Florida days, but it’s best to do it outside, gently blowing as you keep the beans in motion.
Once they’ve cooled, put them in a glass jar, like an old jam jar or a mason jar. Loosely cover it for about 4 hours. You never want to grind it immediately. The beans need to “cure” for a while, venting off the CO2 from the roasting process. Once that is done, crush those babies, and brew however you like it.
You’ll never enjoy a fresher cup of coffee than one you’ve crafted yourself from the roast up. Get ready to be spoiled!