Home Roasted Beans?
Coffee being such a comparatively expensive crop to produce made sure that these means of making the precious bean go all the further were needed in an industry but to start experimenting at home and produce the freshest cup you’ll ever taste all you need to try is:-
1) A heat source such as a stove
2) cooking pot
3) Some green coffee beans
That’s it, that’s the minimum needed and some folks say that’s the best. I personally would prefer a little more resources but in this rough guide I’ll try and keep it as simple and basic as possible. If you later find you have the knack for this tasty hobby there are plenty of extras you could spend your money on later. But this is the basics.
The green coffee bean holds next to none of the delicious oils and flavours of the coffee brew we all like to drink, these are in part created as the beans are roasted so it is imperative to get the heat into the bean as evenly as possible. And we are talking pretty high heat to. Some 400 degrees f is needed for this process, so I have heard it recommended that you Must have a high temperature thermometer for your home roasting experiments as well as the above. But I disagree. You can of course but old mother nature has granted us a much simpler way of telling when things are cooked and that is the colour the beans change to.
However you roast that’s the thing to aim at. Initially go for a rich chocolate brown colour before you pull the beans out of the heat. The other clue you can use if simply roasting the beans in a pot over the stove top is the sound of the beans crackling as the moisture in them starts to literally explode outwards making the beans swell and pop open. For the beginner I am not going to recommend you try for anything darker than this first go around as I would caution you that the delicious oil roasted coffee beans release is just that an Oil and as such is flammable. So if you take the beans out too late while aiming for a medium brown the worst that happens should be you get continental high roast….
Roasting Methods at home (That don’t cost the earth)
OK so there are three methods I want to cover here. The easy, the more involved and the (cheap) high tech one. In every case how much you roast is up to you, if you use a small amount you may find you need to reduce times. More beans may need longer or require more effort to get an evenly roasted finish. But half a pound is a good place to start, though method three by its nature requires less.
The easiest way to home roast coffee is by simply preheating an oven to at least 400-450 f and placing a single layer of green beans on a baking tray in the middle of the oven.
Let them roast like this for 15-20 minutes, keeping an eye on them of course, and giving the tray a little shake half way through, to prevent the worst scorching of the beans on one side.
If you have not over filled your tray then after 20 minutes like this the beans should be about the right colour to remove and cool. A good way to do this is to empty them into a metal colander and shake them to allow the air to cool and close their pores. This is needed in locking the flavoursome oils inside them until grinding.
Tossing them in your metal colander will also allow the chaff released when the beans swelled up to be blown free. This papery part of the husk is usually caught in the seam of the bean, and while the washing and hulling process takes off most of it, its not until the bean is roasted this last bit can be released.
More involved method:
In this you need to place your beans in a fairly deep sided pan on the Stove top, the heat setting can be a touch higher and the key here is that you stand over them stirring the beans as needed to ensure a more even roast. Oven roasting as above will often leave one side of the bean more roasted than the other and produce in turn a more uneven flavour.
Let the beans get a little heat in them for a couple of minutes before beginning your periodic stirring. As you stir and see the beans change colour listen out for the “first crack” as it is called this is your alert that your getting into the critical stage of the process where the flavoursome oils are being produced and the coffee flavour is at last coming out. You can in theory stop roasting right after the first crack but beans this light will be quite sour and so I advise you go on stirring very gently until a distinct second crackling can be heard and the beans should be a medium brown.
Pull them from the heat and cool them as swiftly as you can, a lot of the chaff will have been knocked free already by your stirring but a shake in the metal colander will complete the process.
A technique we have used here at Wilkinsons for ultra small roasts will work quite well at home as well. For small sample roasts we have at Wilkinsons a very small hot air popcorn roaster! This makes the whole process ultra simple as the device can be loaded with up to 3 oz of green coffee beans and turned on. After 5-8 minutes or less (depending on the roast) the beans are evenly roasted after being bathed in very hot air. All the chaff has been blasted free of them as well and all that remains is to cool them. As our particular machine has a very low heat setting that shortens the cooling process still further.
These little popcorn makers are very cheap indeed so if you want to experiment like this I strongly advise you to get one dedicated to roasting as we did. I can’t say what the flavour of any popcorn would be after being made in a machine that’s done a lot of coffee roasting – or vice versa for that matter!
After you have roasted your beans the next step is to pop them in your grinder and brew them up yes? Maybe.
While this will give you the single freshest cup of coffee your likely to ever have to be thorough I ought to add that it can take up to 24 hours for the freshly roasted beans to settle and there internal chemistry to stabilise after the effect of all that heat. So perhaps the best advice I can give is make a cup up right after you roast just to experience it, but reserve some of the beans for the next day and compare them side by side. You may find you prefer one to the other, you may not. But either way you are sure to find a really great coffee.