The Definitive Guide to Roasting Coffee at Home
One of the best ways you could ever hope to enjoy coffee is by roasting it yourself. When you roast coffee at home, you guarantee that every cup of coffee you make will be fresh and, with a little practice, you can ensure that it is roasted exactly to your taste. Some people like weak coffee, while others like a coffee with a bold taste. While you can always head to your local coffee shop or roaster and find this type of coffee, why not instead roast it yourself so you can begin to create superb cups of coffee from start finish right in your own home?
However, in order to roast coffee at home, you not only need a few supplies and a source of green coffee beans, but it is also important to understand the process from start to finish so you can better understand how your roasting can impact the flavors of your coffee.
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What Is Coffee and Why You Roast It
Before we can learn how to roast coffee, it is important that we learn why you roast it. In order to understand that, you must understand what coffee actually is. Coffee is actually a small red fruit that must go through many different stages before it reaches your cup each morning. First, coffee is wet processed to remove the outer skin, pulp and inner parchment skin. Once that is complete, the inner seed, otherwise known as the coffee bean, is dried. When it is dried it becomes the green coffee bean that is shipped around the world for roasting and grinding to become the coffee you know and love.
The coffee bean is much like a dry pinto bean, meaning it can be stored for a long periods of time and still become fresh once it goes through the roasting process. Outside of grinding, the final step that the coffee bean must go through is the roasting process. If you didn’t roast coffee, the drink would be bitter and very acidic, making it essentially undrinkable. It is the roasting process that helps give coffee its unique flavor and aromas that make us all enjoy coffee every day.
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What Happens During the Roasting Process
Green coffee changes drastically during the roasting process. When you roast coffee, moisture is forced out of the bean, causing it to dry and expand. During the process, some of the natural sugars are converted into CO2 gas while others are caramelized into some of the flavors that help form the complex flavors in the coffee. When the process is complete, the green bean will transform into a brown bean that is about 18% lighter while being 50 to 100% larger. As soon as the roasting process is complete, the coffee begins to “degas,” and in as little as week, the roasted coffee will have already begun to lose some of its flavor and aroma. That is why it is best to roast your own at home, but if you do, be sure you ready to use it within a week after you roast it.
Supplies You Need to Roast
You will need a few supplies to help you perform the roast properly:
- Green Coffee – Depending on where you live this could be the most difficult part of your roasting process. Check with your local coffee shops or look to see if there are any roasters in your area that sell unroasted coffee beans.
- Roaster – There are many different types of roasters out there and even a simple popcorn maker can do the job. Below we will highlight a few of the methods and what type of roaster you should use.
- Storage – Once you roast your coffee, you will need a place to store it until you use it. Remember, the more air tight the better. But even the best container won’t stop the coffee from losing its flavor and aroma after about a week if it isn’t used.
Now that you have everything you need to roast, it is time to get started. Keep in mind that for the roasting process to be successful, the beans must be heated to temperatures between 370 degrees F to 540 degrees F. When you roast, be sure the beans remain in constant motion so none of them become scorched. You should also be aware that the roasting process produces quite a bit of smoke, so be sure the area you are roasting is well ventilated or your house will quickly become quite smoky.
Coffee Roasting Machine
Today you can buy several different types of roasting machines that will take care of your coffee roasting process for you. These machines operate much like a popcorn popper by using fast moving hot air to roast the beans and keep them agitated while they are roasting. This is by far the easiest method of all of them as the roaster handles most of the heavy lifting for you.
- Place the proper amount of coffee inside the roaster. Check your manual to determine the correct amount.
- Close the roaster and turn it on.
- Allow the coffee to roast until the desired color has been reached. Remember, the longer you roast the coffee, the darker and stronger it will become.
- Pour the coffee into a colander and stir it until it is warm.
- Store the coffee in a room temperature location away from the sun.
Stove Top Roaster
Before the modern inventions of coffee roasters and popcorn poppers, people made due by roasting it on the stove. You will need a stovetop roaster, which is essentially a pot with a lid that you can easily agitate.
- Turn the stove burner on medium heat.
- Place the roaster onto the stove and allow it to heat up to about 450 degrees F.
- Pour the desired amount of coffee into the roaster.
- Continue to stir the coffee beans to ensure than none become scorched.
- Listen for the “first crack” of the beans. This will usually occur between 4 to 7 minutes.
- Approximately one minute after you hear the “first crack”, begin to check your coffee beans color.
- When the beans reach their desired color, remove them from the heat and pour them into one or two metal colanders and toss them back and forth to remove any of the excess chaff.
- Once they have cooled to a temperature that is warm to the touch, place them in your storage container and store them.
An air popcorn popper is an easy way to roast coffee and is recommended for any beginner who wants to start roasting their own beans.
- Place the popper in a well ventilated area in your kitchen.
- Use the same amount of coffee as the manufacturers recommend for popcorn. This is usually 2/3 to 3/4 of a cup
- Place the plastic hood and the butter dish where they would normally go and turn the popcorn popper on.
- After about 3 minutes, you will hear the “first crack” of the beans. After another minute, begin to monitor the coffee closely so you reach the desired roast color.
- Roasting times using a popcorn popper do vary, but a good rule of thumb is 4 minutes for a light roast, 5 minutes for a full medium roast, and 6-7 minutes for a darker roast.
- Agitate the beans in a metal colander with a large spoon until they are warm to the touch but no longer hot.
- Store your coffee in your container away from direct sunlight.
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These three methods are just a few ways you can try roasting coffee at home. For the truly adventurous, or at least for the grilling fanatics, you could always try roasting the beans in a pan on the grill, or even roasting them in a roaster over a camp fire as well. The possibilities are almost limitless as long as you have a few good containers and a heat source for the roasting process.
Cooling the Beans and Removing Chaff
During the roasting process, the coffee beans will shed their outer skins, leaving behind the shell which is known as the chaff. To remove the chaff, take 2 colanders and dump the hot beans into the colander as soon as you are done roasting. Continue to dump the beans back and forth between the two colanders a few times to remove the chaff. If you don’t get it all don’t worry about it. The taste of your coffee won’t be affected by the chaff as long as there is only a small quantity of it left behind.
When you are roasting your coffee, you will want to make sure you roast them long enough, but not too long, in order to get the taste you are looking for. Generally, the darker your roast, the stronger the cup of coffee it will make. Common colors to look for are light brown, medium light brown, medium brown, medium-dark, dark brown, very dark. I suggest you experiment by roasting small amounts of coffees to different colors as you try to find the perfect roasting time for your taste. Of course, if you enjoy variety, feel free to roast different batches for different lengths of time.
Roasting coffee at home is actually a relatively easy process and it allows you to create your own custom, unique tastes in your morning cup of joe. While you are trying your hand at roasting, feel free to experiment using different methods and try roasting the beans for different lengths of time so you find a roast of coffee that fits with your taste preferences perfectly.