Roasting Coffee at Home

Some posts are worth repeating.

I have a confession to make. I’m a coffee geek. Good coffee makes my day, and bad coffee makes me mad. When I get a cup of joe at a coffee shop, and I ask what kind of beans they use for their house blend, I get ticked off when I get an answer like, “Oh, it’s French roast.” Okay, you told me how you roast your house blend. What about beans? Chiapas? Yirgacheffe? Monsoon malabar? What is it???

Our home coffee roasting device

As you can tell, I’m little passionate about coffee. Several years ago I decided to start roasting coffee at home so that I know what I’m drinking. You need only four things to roast coffee at home: 1) green coffee beans, 2) measuring cup, 3) timer, and 4) old air popcorn popper. You read it right. Old air popcorn poppers that you see at a thrift store for $3.50 make a perfect home roasting device. Caution: do not use a popper with mesh bottom. When you roast green coffee beans, skins come off from the beans. When you use an air popper with mesh bottom, skins may fall through the mesh, burn, and ignite fire.

View looking down into the chamber of my air popper. Note the solid chamber bottom and louvered vents around sides.

Let me tell you how easy it is to roast coffee beans. Place 1/2 cup green coffee beans in a popcorn popper. Set your timer for 5-15 minutes depending on your roast preference. Turn on the popper. After your timer goes off, place roasted beans on a pan. De-gas for 48 hours. After 48 hours, it’s grinding and drinking time!

I buy my green beans from Sweet Maria’s. My last order included beans from a women’s coffee cooperative in Rwanda. I try to support Rwandan coffee whenever I can so that the Rwandan economy, devastated by the genocide during the 1990’s, can make a comeback. Sweet Maria’s also offers beans from Mexico, Indonesia, India, and various South American and African countries. The website is http://www.sweetmarias.com.

De-gassing roasted coffee beans.

De-gassing roasted coffee beans.

Now let me make a case for roasting coffee at home. First, you will know what you are drinking. Many people drink coffee everyday, but they have no clue what they are drinking. Are they drinking arabica or robusta coffee? Are they drinking Sumatra or Harrar? Are they drinking sustainable or not-so-sustainable coffee? Wouldn’t you want to know what you drink everyday? When you roast coffee at home, you become involved with the selection of beans. You’ll know if you’re drinking organic Mexican Chiapas from a farmers’ co-op or Rwandan coffee from a women’s co-op. You’ll get to know your beans intimately. Second, you can control quality when you roast coffee at home. When you buy green beans from reputable suppliers such as Sweet Maria’s, you know you’re getting good quality beans. You can roast your beans to your specifications when you roast at home. Here’s the bottom line: your beans will always be fresh since you get to roast them whenever you want, however much you want. We roast ours once a week, so they are always fresh. In comparison, most coffee shops use beans that have been roasted 3 months to a year ago. Finally, I believe home coffee roasting reduces my carbon footprints. When roasting companies such as Green Mountain Coffee purchase beans, the beans travel from the plantations to the roasting companies. After they are roasted, the companies ship the beans to the stores. You purchase them at the store, and finally, the beans come home with you. My beans, on the other hand, travel from the plantations to Sweet Maria’s. I purchase them from Sweet Maria’s, and they arrive at my home. Voilà, I just eliminated several trips.

When I drink my home roast, though, I don’t think about all that. I just enjoy a good cup of joe. Coffee, anyone?

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