Have you considered trying DIY coffee roasting? It’s not that hard to do and doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, but it does require some patience.
Me as a DIY Coffee Roasting Afficianado
Some people who personally know me will think this a a great hobby for me, as I love coffee. Others will be surprised to find that I enjoy DIY roasting coffee, as I’m not known for my great patience at waiting for anything to happen. However, roasting my own coffee has turned out to be a fun and relaxing pastime.
In the photo, you’ll see a popcorn popper and a burr coffee grinder (I’ll talk about grinding, in a few paragraphs).
You will need something to roast your coffee in. It needs to be used for this single purpose. If you decide to use a skillet to roast beans on the stove, use it only for that purpose. Pans you find at the thrift shop or a garage sale could be a thrifty option. On the other end of the scale, you can buy coffee roasting machines than can cost over one hundred dollars and up.
If you don’t want to be swirling the beans around and if you don’t have a good heat source, this style of popcorn popper, often quite inexpensive at a thrift store or free from a friend cleaning out their house, the hot air will keep the beans moving and it will do a nice job of roasting. You can sit while it roasts.
Where to Roast
Some people liken the oil that gets in the air from roasting coffee to that of a stir fry. It hangs in the house and some people come to find it annoying. And, for those of you who live by a growing coffee roaster, some of you have already come to think the aroma isn’t that pleasant when you have to smell it all the time.
This is why I roast outside. I don’t roast when it’s really damp or as cool as 60 degree Fahrenheit because it just takes too long for each batch to roast. Living in the Midwest of the USA, this does limit my days and seasons.
Also, with the brown covers, that comes off the beans, I like to roast into my brown mulch area, but a lot of it will just blow away. I don’t roast right over anything that’s alive, like a bush or grass. The heat is intense.
More on the Heat
Do not touch anything that is being or has been roasted until it cools-down. If you put your beans in a metal bowl, do not put your hand under that bowl and do not put the bowl on something that would melt. I put my bowl on the concrete sidewalk.
If you get a big metal bowl such as you see chefs using on TV, you can toss the beans around a little to help them cool off. I make sure the bowl is out of the sun. Partly, because a metal bowl gets too hot to grab if it sits in the sun but also because the beans stay hot, longer. Once you’re done roasting them, you want them to cool-off.
How to Roast
If you’re using a pan, don’t fill the bottom because you want to swirl the beans. If you’re using a popcorn popper, you can use the popcorn measuring device. In the popper I show in my photo, it’s 1/2 Cup.
Start it up and wait. Here’s the part you have to learn, but here’s where you have to pay some attention and listen to the popper. You can’t do this is someone is cutting grass next to you because it’s not super-loud to hear the stages of roasting.
Tip: Don’t hesitate to stop the roaster and look inside. If the beans look too green or just not dark-enough, overall, you can keep roasting. It won’t hurt to stop the popper to look for a few seconds and restart it. It will obviously take longer if you keep doing that but, it really won’t hurt anything. However, I’m not sure if you could turn it off, let the beans cool, then return to roast. I don’t know what the result of that would be.
In any case, initially, the covers will start to come off the beans. The covers will fly everywhere, which is another reason I like to do this outside. You will also start to hear a cracking noise. After a while, less than a minute of cracking, the cracking noise will stop.
Then, after a few more minutes, you’ll start to hear a cracking noise and will start to see smoke coming out of the popper. This is about the time to stop. Don’t let it keep smoking or you’ll burn it.
These steps require a bit of patience because:
- They require you to listen and wait.
- Each coffee bean purchase you roast could be different.
For example, sometimes, the cracking will almost be finished before the smoke starts to come out. Other times, they start around the same time.
One More Thing About the Process of DIY Coffee Roasting
DIY coffee roasting also depends on your personal taste. I like a medium to dark roast. If you like a light roast, you’ll have to check after that first cracking step to see what stage the beans are at.
Purchasing Green (Unroasted) Beans
While there are a few coffee roasters who also sell green beans, they’re few and far-between. If you can’t find any from a local shop, you can find a lot of places to get great deals on green beans, which are unroasted. As with anything else we buy on-line, shipping is included as part of the cost, other times charged as additional. There are many different types to select from and from many parts of the world.
Unlike roasted coffee, they seem to store fine in a burlap bag at room temp. I keep mine away from moisture, sunlight and temperature changes, for the most part, but that’s all I do.
Then, the Grinder
So, if you’re going to roast your own beans, you will need to grind them. There are all types of grinders. Blade grinders tend to be the least expensive but also do the poorest job in grinding.
If you look at the photo, I am showing a burr grinder. You can’t see the grinding mechanism, but a burr grinder is one that grinds between two coarse surfaces. These tend to do a more consistent job of grinding. In addition, most of them have various settings and you just pick a grind coarseness and let it grind away.
However, one issue with some of these grinders is that the hopper allows for more beans than can grind into the container that holds the ground coffee. Notice that mine has clear plastic. It’s nice to be able to see how much coffee you have in there. Some grinders will burn-out if you don’t notice that the storage container has gotten too full. And, yes, I know this from experience.
Final Notes on DIY Coffee Roasting
So, the bottom line is that DIY coffee roasting does take some attention, but I now am used to doing it to the point that I can read while I listen for the roasting stages. Also, it’s a knack you have to develop. While your personal coffee might turn out fine, you might not be able to compete with the finest of roast coffees, either.
Also, while you can save money by roasting your own coffee, you can also spend a lot if you start buying the fancy equipment.
But if you like the idea of naming your coffee, you’ll find it fun to roast, create your own labels, and try different beans and roasts.