Monday, May 7, 2007

Coffee Talk

For the past 5 years, I have been a home roaster. What's that? Well, that means that I have a serious caffeine problem, as does the boy, and that together we're such coffee snobs that we feel the need to manipulate every aspect of our morning coffee. Since the boy and I cannot be civil to each other, let alone our bosses and coworkers, without a cup of joe, we take our coffee Very Seriously.

My first forays into the world of home roasting began with the I-Roast. While it only took 7 minutes, the loud noise from the fan and the small capacity were tiring. I found myself having to roast beans every 3 to 4 days. Using the I-Roast was also a pain because I had to be very active in the roasting process - stepping away from the roaster meant that some beans would scorch, and even with my active participation, the resulting roast was never even.

By the way, any notions you may have of the sweet smell of roasting coffee should be dispelled - I learned that roasting coffee smells nothing like brewing coffee. Rather, it stinks and it gives off a lot of smoke. I usually had to change my clothes and take a shower after roasting!

For my birthday 2 years ago, MacGyver boy decided to make me a home roaster that I could use with our grill's rotisserie. He did a beautiful job on it - he put it together using 316 stainless steel mesh, rivets, and two measuring pots. Not only does this roaster have 5-pound capacity, but it is also quiet and I don't have to be actively involved! I can knit while the beans are roasting away. The downside is that it takes anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour to roast, depending on the quantity and type of beans, but the evenness of the roast and the better flavor is worth the extra time.

Since coffee is only as good as the beans you start off with, I buy green beans from my favorite bean pusher, Sweet Maria's. The beans pictured to the left is their Moka Kadir blend. Unlike knitting your own garments, you can actually save quite a bit of money by home roasting! We were spending about $15/lb for Peet's coffee, but a pound of green beans ranges from $4-$6/lb. Granted, those prices are for green beans, and therefore they are heavier than the roasted beans, but we still are saving quite a bit of dough. (Hooray, more money for yarn!)

How I roast the beans:
  1. Using all three burners, heat the grill to 500 deg F for 10 minutes. This reduces the bits of last night's dinner to carbon, which you can scrape off with a wire brush.
  2. Shut off the middle burner and attach your roaster to your rotisserie. Close the lid and reduce the heat to 450 deg F. Remember to turn on the rotisserie so the beans are turning and heating evenly.
  3. After the beans reach first crack, increase the heat to 470 deg F. First crack is usually hard for me to hear, so after 20 minutes, I open the lid and peek at the beans. Look here for a pictorial guide of the roasting process.
  4. When the beans reach second crack, which I can always hear, I lift the lid to see how the roast is coming along. I prefer my beans to be between a Full City roast and a French roast. When the beans are dark enough, I turn off all burners, but leave the rotisserie on to aid the beans on their cooling process.
  5. Once the beans are at ambient temperature, I dump them into a colander. Now, it is time to separate the beans from the chaff. I take a cue from my ancestors and let the wind do most of the work. I scoop up some of the beans and lift them about a foot over the receptacle. Then, I dump the beans into the container, letting the chaff get a ride from the wind. If it is a still day, you can lightly blow on the falling beans for a similar result.
  6. After the chaff is removed, your beans are ready for grinding and brewing! I like to let my beans rest for at least 24 hours after roasting to let them degass (excess CO2). While it isn't necessary to do this, brewing newly roasted beans results in a lot of foam that needs to settle and be mixed into the hot water.
Whoa there, Vespa! I think you need to lay off those coffee beans!


  1. I can attest to how yummy WT homeroast is.. its the only coffee that I actually enjoyed sans milk!

  2. WOW!!! that is so cool! and if you are up for it, would you like to do a yarn for coffee trade? :o)heehee!
    will you be able to make it tonight? hope so! have a great day! :o)

  3. I should send this to my brother. He still uses the hot air popper that I got him for Christmas!

    And you're right...they roasting process itself doesn't smell too great!



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