Sunday, May 17, 2009

Home Coffee Roasting

There is little doubt that I am a foodie. I made the switch to home brewed coffee long ago and will only get something from Starbucks these days as a last resort before having Folgers. No, there is no doubt that I have high standards, but where do I go from here in my quest for ultimate foodie-ness?

I am among the lucky. I say that because I know a friend that roasts coffee. I've talked about him before; Spunky Monkey Coffee. My friend uses a common and inexpensive method of home roasting. He utilizes an air-popper, typically used for popcorn, only slightly modified. I've discovered that he is much more an artist than just a coffee roaster because with these air poppers one can only judge the roast by eye. He is rarely off by much.

Here is how it all starts: With the beans.

These are Tanzania Pea Beans. Notice that they are not half beans like most coffee. They also tend to smell more like caramel when you roast them (my opinion).
Now, with these raw beans, all he did was to plug in the air poppers, get them going and pour in a cup (a measurement he found by trial and error) and start swirling the poppers.

The beans will start to turn golden brown as you swirl them around. The whole reason for swirling is that you need to move the beans around. After they have roasted for a little while, they will expand and become lighter. Eventually the air popper will move them around on its own. Soon, the beans will start "popping" and shedding their skins. At this point, you will realize the wisdom of doing this outside as the bean skins or hulls start swirling around every where. The beans will eventually stop popping. They are now through what is plainly called the first pop. At this point the beans will be somewhere around a medium roast. If you keep on roasting you will enter into the "second pop" - so aptly termed. During this pop the beans sound more like the crackling of a camp fire. Then its all a matter of seconds as you go through medium dark roast, to a light french roast when the second pop starts dying down. A few seconds after the second pop stops you have reached a dark or true french roast (about 10 seconds following the second pop - give or take). A few more seconds you will be at espresso. After that you will have achieved charcoal. When your bean gets to the desired roast level, dump them out on a baking sheet to cool them and stop the roasting. After a few batches you will have a wonderful smelling pan of beans.

(Notice the bean skins all around the tray? Best not to do this inside)
That's it folks. Bag those beans up in a paper bag or put them in a resealable container and you've got good coffee for a week or so... depending on your level of addiction! So that is not to bad of an ordeal. I hope I have de-mystified the secrets of coffee roasting here. If I have left anything out or not explained something well enough please post your questions and I would be happy to clarify. Also, if you have any other tricks to add, please share!

(The "tricks" of the trade)

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