by Atypical Sapien
Note from Daisy: When I saw this incredibly useful post over in the forum, I knew I had to share with you guys for two reasons: first, to show you how awesome our forum is and secondly, to provide this fantastic information.
For those of you who
will go postal without would really miss a cup of coffee after an SHTF event, the best way to stock up it is with green, unroasted coffee beans. (You can get green coffee beans packed for the longterm in cans with a 20-year shelf life here.)
But the thing to know about green coffee beans is that you cannot brew coffee with them until you roast them. Here’s an awesome primer, posted with permission, on how to roast coffee beans at home to get you started.
How to Roast Coffee Beans at Home
There are numerous advantages to home roasting. You make the coffee that you want, the cost is much less, green beans last for a long time, (some say for years if properly stored) whereas roasted beans start deteriorating in flavor within a week or so regardless of how it is stored. Home-roasted coffee makes good gifts, too.
If you start looking around you will find many opinions on how to roast your own coffee beans. This is how I do it.
I get my beans from Sweet Maria’s. They have many varieties and a plethora of information on roasting. Beans are available from South America, Central America, Africa, Indonesia, South-East Asia, and a few other regions. I have tried many.
My palette is not refined enough to be able to differentiate the subtleties in the cupping descriptions. Most descriptions read like pedantic wine snob’s oenological lexicon. Here is a description of a Burundi Kayanza Nemba Station – Wet Process Bean with a cupping score of 87.9 – it costs $4.77 if you purchase at least 20 pounds. (gotta add shipping) “Tea-like characteristics flourish in the brew, Oolong and black teas, along with baking spice and a juicy lemon note. Acidity is brilliant, like citrus and the tannic side of black tea, and Nemba’s finish is quite clean.” City to Full City.
Even though I prefer a light City to Full City roast, I do have a few varieties that list as being good for espresso. There is a 95-year young lady at my church who loves dark roast. I usually keep her supplied.
Sweet Maria’s would be my recommendation for your first stop in roasting. You may want to start with one of their sample bags. I also purchased a book on home roasting from them. ( I probably should get a kickback for recommending them since I have sent many to their site. I don’t get a kickback, but I should.)
The Equipment You Need for Roasting Coffee Beans
My first few pounds were roasted in a toaster oven. I currently use a Victorio popcorn popper that I purchased from….Sweet Maria’s. (You can find that popper here, too.) It is designed with coffee roasters in mind. Skip the cheaper $25 aluminum popcorn poppers. The gears are plastic and it is aluminum.
You will find many options on roasting including air popcorn poppers – I started with this. Air poppers can only roast about ½ a cup at a time, and the paper-like chaff that is on the green beans blows all over the place which makes a mess.
I am considering upgrading to a Behmor this winter.
You also need:
- Outdoor grill with cooking burner
- One frozen plastic cooler pack wrapped in foil
- One large glass mixing bowl
- Oven mitt, air mattress air pump
- Bluetooth speaker
About once a week or so I go through my bean stash and select four cups of beans. Sometimes I mix the varieties, sometimes not.
- With the grill on high, preheat the popper. There is no particular time, though some say that it should get to 475 degrees. I usually put it on the grill, forget something, go in the house and then come back and pour the beans in the roaster. I roast a maximum of two cups of beans at a time – anything more than two cups and the roast range will vary from burnt to light roast.
- It usually about the length of a song (this is why you need the Bluetooth) for the beans to start the first crack – that is the official term. Grill temperature, wind, humidity, and beans are all variables. You’ll hear it. It’s a little popping sound, much like popcorn, but not exactly.
- I don’t stop stirring the pot as long as the beans are in it. It doesn’t take long for them to scorch. It also doesn’t take long for them to over-cook. The more times you roast the more you get familiar with the subtle smells and sounds of roasting. Since I like a lighter roast ( City to Full City) I usually default to taking them out when the cracking sounds start to get fairly vigorous. It’s just a few minutes between the first crack and the time the beans are ready. You can see the color change. It also doesn’t take but a few minutes to go from light roast to french roast ( black oily beans) to oh crap, I just ruined a batch.
- As soon as the beans have reached the desired cook time and brownness level, I dump them into a bowl with one of the freezer packs in it. A quick cool down time on the beans is as important as the roast time. Slow cool downs make the roast bitter.
- I usually do a second batch and once I have dumped those beans into a bowl, I use the air mattress blower with the tiny little nozzle to cool down the beans and also to blow off the paper-like chaff that encases all beans.
I like to leave the beans out in a bowl overnight. It smells good and the roasted beans need to off-gas. Most of the time I will go ahead and grind the beans in a blade grinder- this is an absolute no-no according to the book I mentioned above. The “experts” say that the blade grinders heat the beans and affect the flavor. I have also invested in a few $50 burr grinders which work fine on darker roasts but the light, harder roasts just confuse the cheap-ish grinders. I’m not too enthused about investing a few hundred bucks into a grinder when I can’t taste the difference.
I do sieve the beans and re-grind. After the sieving process, the ground coffee goes into a loose lid jar. I also use a standard drip coffee pot with a metal mesh filter. Some coffee snobs’ heads would now be exploding if they read this.
You’ll also find that the hard-core roasters are picky about the grind size, the brew method, bean origins, temperature, almost anything to do with coffee for that matter. I have seen people who will invest thousands of dollars into a roaster, others who roast in a frying pan on the stove, in a metal dog bowl with a hot air gun, and others who use an electric bread machine.
I would recommend that you just have fun with it, learn a bit and don’t waste a whole bunch of money finding out that home roasting coffee not your “cup of tea”. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one.
Regarding the Behmor:
It’s good for light roasts, but not for dark roasts. The booklet in the one I bought about 8 years ago said that you void the warranty if you roast anything into the second crackle. So I voided my warranty on the first load, LOL. But I used it heavily, and it lasted well beyond the warranty period. But it’s difficult to get beans dark — you’ll need to do smaller loads. Also, it’s difficult to hear the crackles while roasting, but you can open the door to the roasting chamber while it’s roasting, so you can see and hear the beans.
I recommend the FreshRoast roasters for beginners, especially the one with the fan speed control. It does smaller loads than the Behmor, but gives you much more control, and you can do the darkest roasts.
But whichever machine you get, I’m sure you’ll have fun and end up with some great coffee!
I have used the Behmor for many years when they first came out. I don’t anymore….
They can do darker roasts but you really need to be careful they will run away on you pretty fast.
Although the thing claims it can do a pound, or used to, typically anything over 12 ounces you are pushing it, and as your machine gets older, or you use a higher moisture content bean, like a Sulawesi, you better cut it down to about 10 oz or you won’t hit first crack before it’s timer runs out. For all it’s quirks though, for the money, and the amount it does at times have the capability of doing, the Behmor is not too bad of a buy.
As mentioned though, you don’t need to pop 400 dollars or more for a roaster though, a 3 dollar score at a Salvation Army store of an old Poppery I hot air popper and a soup can to use as a chimney you can be roasting coffee.
Sweet Maria’s sells a lot of coffee. They ARE retail though so you are paying retail prices for your coffee.
I have been going to Greencoffeebuyingclub.com for many years. They have a wealth of information there on how to roast coffee properly using pretty much anything you can imagine to roast with, including commercial roasters.
People have roasted with hot air popcorn poppers, a steel dog bowl and heat gun, on the BBQ, just to name a few of the ways. Browser through their forums and you can find years and years worth of knowledge on coffee roasting. They also sell coffee there as well for pretty decent prices. I have found that the people in the forum there are generally really good at providing information on coffee, and darned anything else you may bring up.
DISCLAIMER: I have been with GCBC for many years and have been roasting my own coffee for oh geez, 14 years now? give or take.
There are many places to get coffee at if you do a quick google search so please use the article here as a starting point to start your coffee journey.
Daisy, you own this website correct? Could you please E mail me at an e mail I can contact you at? you should have my contact info with this post.
before i lost my sense of smell, i used to roast coffee. sweet maria’s is THE BEST.
I got tired of roasting in a popcorn popper so got a used Behmor from a friend. I roast about 13 oz at a time and it takes 2x to fill our vault. I love the Behmor and don’t want a dark roast, so it’s perfect. I tried about 5-6 varieties and settled on Yirgacheffe and Mokasida. I get my green beans from a local guy who’s not trying to get rich. He usually charges less than $4/lb.
Article was more entertainment than information…you could have gone into more detail that would have been helpful to the novice. You offer roasting options that are best suited to our current level of societal convenience without exploring alternative methods such as the use of cast iron skillets, etc. Additionally, to stop your roast explanation at the first crack without explaining the 2nd or 3rd crack and the final product just seems like a serious omission. I enjoy your articles, but I believe that todays Prepper needs as much detail as possible in the current political climate, we may not have modern convenience in the future.