Home roasting coffee beans

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BrianShaw
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Home roasting coffee beans

In another thread Jay mentioned that he has roasted green coffee beans.  So have I, but not for very long.  I'd like to share knowledge.

Let's talk!

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Hot air popcorn maker for ghetto roasting

http://coffeegeek.com/guides/popperroasting

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I began home roasting as an experiment quite a while ago and at this point I can't drink most coffee but my own. I admit that I have become quite the coffee snob.

My first experiments were with some green coffee beans that I got on Ebay, I think, and 'roasted' in a cast iron Dutch oven. It works but needs to be done outside because of the smoke and chaff produced by the roasting process. Basically you heat the Dutch oven to a high temp, dump the green coffee beans in and stir with a wooden spoon till you get to the desired roast, which is quite variable. Then you dump the beans into a colander and have them cool as quickly as possible with a fan blowing on them. The fan blowing over the Dutch oven while roasting helps eliminate some of the chaff. Like I said, best done outside.

I then bough an iRoast (not by Apple ;-) ) or more affectionately called an iRoar as it is a large air popper. It does a good job, but roasts quite quickly so most of the roast are quite 'bright' (read acidic). For some green beans, like some African beans, that works well. For some like Island coffees, it doesn't bring out the ultimate flavors in the beans, which can be many.

I then bought a HotTop drum roaster and have been using it for 6 years or so. It is programmable so you can ramp up close to first crack, then back off and stretch the roast into 2 crack (if desired) and really develop some more nuanced flavors out of the beans. If I need to roast something quickly I can cut down the size of the batch (usually 1/2 pound) and get that bright roast needed for a Kenyan or others.

A good resource on the net is Sweet Marias. You can buy many quality green beans and equipment there. There is also a couple of green bean coffee buying coops on the net also. Green Coffee Buying Club and Green Coffee Coop. You can usually get a lot of the same beans as Sweet Marias but cheaper.

I have tried just about every brewing technique available and I keep coming back to the Melitta pour over (individual cup). I cannot find a better way to brew coffee. I used to drink a lot of espresso also, but for some reason the caffeine really hits me in an espresso and I end up looking like the Sid Ceasar version of 'The Joker'.

It is fun to blend different type of beans, sometimes at the roast and others after the roast. Right now I am drinking an Ehtiopian Harrar and Puerto Rican combined before the roast and taken to a few seconds into second crack. An odd combination, but a very enjoyable morning brew.

A bit of warning, if you the least bit OCD, you could end up like me and want to try every coffee bean out there.  I can attest to the keeping quality of green coffee beans. The Harrar is from 2005 and the Puerto Rican is from 2006. There are soooooooo many great beans out there. ;-)

Jay

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Coffeegeek, a Vancouver based site, is another excellent home roasting site on the net.

The popcorn popper is another good way to start. Batches are small, ie, 80 grams and you lose ~ 20% in the roasting process, so you end up with  ~64 grams of roasted coffee. I use ~30 grams per cup of coffee, so one will be roasting often. One can usually find used popcorn poppers at thrift stores for a few bucks and it makes for a cheap experiment.

There are tons of ways to home roast with home made roasters. Here is a link for some ingenious ones. I made a Turbo Crazy once. Didn't like it. ;-)

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I tip my hat to those of you who roast your own coffee beans.  That is dedication.

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@ Jay I did play with the idea of roasting.  How long can you store beans once they are roasted?
I had no idea that green beans kept for such a long time.  How do you store them?

  To brew coffee, we use a burr mill grinder,set on a course grind, and a French press.

"People who love to eat are always the best people." -- Julia Child

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I'll contribute more later, but I've been blessed by a workmate whose brother owns a coffee plantation. My buddy doesn't like his brothers beans and has no interest in roasting the green beans his brother sends him.  He also doesn't like the "mildness" of his brothers coffee, even that which is factory-roasted.  So I get them.  Yippee!  I roast in a wok and have been quite satisfied with the result.  One really needs to keep an eye on them, keep them moving at all times, and adapt the temperature depending on the stage of roasting.  Going from green to yellow I do very slow, then faster through first crack, slow again until second crack... then hotter during the first third of second crack (a complete estimate, by the way) and slow again to avoid over-roasting.  That gives me better consistency.   I tend to roast to a medium roast because these bean have such a "buttery finish" that doesn't benefit from the bitterness of a darker roast.  I like my home-roasted but those who like a deeper roast do not.  Yippeee... I get it all to myself!

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Roasted beans not really good for use until about 24 hours after roasting.  Then store for no longer than 1 week in as airtight environment as possible.  Vacuum packing may allow longer storage but I don't have that equipment.

Green beans seem to store will for a long time as long as they are dry.  Moisture = mold.  Zip-lock bags in a dark cabinet is how I do it... and how the coffee grower I got them from did it.  I'm sure he has more advanced techniques in his business environment.

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Jay... after reading your comments on adjusting temps of your drum roaster... my wok is much more ghetto than anyone's popcorn popper, yet I can do the same kinds of temp adjustments!

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@Nina,

I do the same as Brian, what ever they are sent in, cotton, burlap, or ziplock, is how I store them. I just keep them dry and in a dark closet. George Howell of Terrior Coffee vacuum seals his greens and deep freezes them. He it trying to preserve all the delicate flavors within the beans, like the strawberry and blueberry flavors one can get in certain Ethiopian beans. He does buy some very expensive beans, so if I were in his shoes I might do the same thing.

Roasted coffee is best between 3 days and 3 weeks, though I can't tell you how many times I have grabbed my coffee bag in the morning to find it empty and quickly roasted a batch and they were fine. Most home roasters do around a 1/2 pound and that lasts me about 6 days. Roasted coffee is very hydrophilic so storing them in a fridge or freezer is a good way for them to pull in unwanted flavors. I just store them in mylar coffee bags in a cupboard.

I think a French press is about my second favorite method of brewing. I do find the oils from French pressing to bother my stomach a bit. I think the paper filter removes enough of the oil so that is doesn't bother me.

@Brian,

Yes your setup does give you good control, especially if it is a sheet metal wok vs. a cast iron wok. Plus your are intimately involved with the roast.

BTW, your friends last name isn't Peterson from Panama is it? Some of their Esmeralda Gesha Especial is the most sought after and expensive coffee found. ;-)

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Man! Am I jealous!  All this roasting going on around the country....behind my back!
No one told me!!  I love the wok idea Brian, it sounds like the perfect tool for the job.  I need a cafe correcto.

"People who love to eat are always the best people." -- Julia Child

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Carbon steel wok - best for both coffee and Chinese cookery!

Tried cast iron frying pan and didn't like the lag time in changes to the fire.

Re: French Press.  I know of what you speak and only have one word for you: Pepsid.  Trust me... 10 - 20 mg about 15 minutes prior to consumption and French Press will become your #1 favorite brewing method.  I French Press on weekends and drip through paper on weekdays.  I haven't yet been able to rig my French Press with an automatic timer like the one on the drip machine.

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p.s.  My buddy is Moya, with plantation in El Salvador.

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What machines do you use mostly to prepare your production? I know that some roasting methods may be ideal for some brewing methods to the detriment of others

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Home coffee roaster, here. :)

I've been roasting beans in thrift store bought popcorn poppers for a few years now. The trick is to pick the right ones and to defeat/bypass the internal thermostat. Makes a small amount of beans, but makes them quickly. With proper environmental control, the results are fairly consistent and wonderfully tasty. I'm the only coffee drinker in the house, so one roasting session usually gives me enough roasted beans for two weeks.

I get my beans from sweet Maria's. they're a great resource for all things coffee, including coffee education (much like Stella is for cooking!) and provide a great product. I've experimented with many different origins from Africa, south and Central America, Hawaii, Indonesia, and India, and with both arabica and robusta. It is a fun and rewarding process, and you just can't beat the flavor of coffee beans roasted a few days prior to brewing. It can be... magical, to say the least. 

I have used a pan and a "whirly-pop" as well. They both worked, but the results from the whirly-pop were better. Haven't tried the oven yet... I don't think the family would appreciate the smoke produced.

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