Home-Roasted Coffee

coffee roasting levels

I love coffee.  It has gone a bit beyond just drinking coffee and has become a sort of art.  A couple of years ago I saw something from a friend saying he was roasting coffee.  I immediately did what I always do when I am curious about something – I googled it.  Turns out, roasting your own coffee is actually fairly easy.  For years people roasted their own coffee.  The cowboys would carry unroasted, green coffee beans with them and roast them in a cast iron skillet over an open fire along the trail.  If a cowboy can do it, surely I can.  (This has yet to lead me to try cattle herding.)

This fed an addiction of mine and I’m not talking about a coffee addiction.  I have an addiction to learning to do something myself.  This has led me to learn how to program web pages, change my own oil and other car repairs, cook, do woodworking, and many, many other “hobbies.”  In fact, that’s how I started to play guitar – but that’s a topic for another day.  I guess I am a learning junkie and Google is like my heroin.

I got a popcorn roasting pan with a hand crank and found a website to buy unroasted coffee.  I had ideas of the wonderful aroma of freshly roasted coffee wafting through the house.  It turns out, fresh roasted coffee doesn’t actually smell that way until a few hours after it’s roasted.  While it’s roasting it smells a bit like burning dirt.  Not exactly a candle-worthy fragrance.  It doesn’t take very long to roast – maybe 8-12 minutes on the stove – but you have to keep the beans moving so you crank, and crank, and crank…. and quickly because you don’t want beans with burned spots.  On a steak the “grill marks” (burned parts where it touches the grill) add great flavor.   Unfortunately, burned spots on the coffee beans taste like licking an ashtray when you brew the stuff (and no, I have no plans to try that myself).

It’s also messy.  After the beans are roasted, they have chaff that has to be removed.  The chaff is small flecks of papery material.  I put the beans on a pan with little holes in it (made for cooking pizza) and set that on top of a box fan pointing up.  I have to move the beans around on the pan to get the chaff to release which basically puts my face in the path of the flying chaff.  Typically, I’m a bit sweaty after the hot stove and all the cranking and the chaff sticks – in my face, my ears, down the back of my shirt, in my hair…  Then, after all that work you would think you could brew a pot and enjoy the fruits of your labor, right?  Nope.  The coffee needs to sit for about a day before it reaches its full flavor potential.  It’s not bad right away, just not great yet.

So why all the trouble?  Several reasons – First because I’m cheap.  I can get a pound of  really good coffee for about 7 bucks unroasted while I was paying about 10-12 of the roasted stuff (note: the stuff that comes in cans does not qualify as coffee!).  Sure, I’m not going to put my kids through college this way, but it’s something (and there’s the addiction about doing things myself…).  The other reason, which has really taken precedence over any other reasons, is that it tastes amazing.  Coffee that has been roasted in small batches within the past day or two is the smoothest, most flavorful, least bitter coffee you can imagine.  You know how coffee gets gross as it cools – not this stuff!  And I can make it strong – really strong – and there is still no hint of bitterness.  I can roast dark or light and make my own blends.  Also, I get to pick exactly where my coffee comes from.  I don’t mean just the region or the country.  I get to pick from a particular farm in a country.  How’s that for control?  I researched growing my own coffee once but quickly decided that was way too much work.

So now I roast coffee about once-a-week.  All total it takes about 20 minutes from set up to clean up.  It’s a rewarding addiction hobby and if you come over to my house I’ll share some with you.

My next project is to make yogurt at home.  My wife, Becky, started making homemade granola which is amazing and it needs a friend.

What have you learned to do or make yourself that most people buy or pay others to do?

Edit: Turns out today is National Coffee Day! I had no idea. How’s that for timing?!

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