Being both a mom and a Seattle native, I drink coffee daily. It is a vital part of my morning routine and my day isn’t quite the same if I miss out on a hot, steaming cup of coffee. While I appreciate the experience of drinking coffee as much as the quality, my appreciation for a high-quality cup of coffee has matured over the years. Coffee used to be a sugar-laden Frappuccino or a chocolatey peppermint mocha – both of which are delicious options (and options I still occasionally indulge in), but let’s be honest, the coffee isn’t the highlight of either of those drinks.
When I first experimented with Keto back in February of this year (2018), my dependence on coffee skyrocketed. My daily habit was costing a small fortune, so I investigated ways to cut my expenses without giving it up completely. I turned to cold brew, which as a concentrate, allowed me to extend the life of a bag of coffee. I have fallen head-over-heels in love with cold-brewed coffee. The flavor is amazing, it’s easy to make, and it is a lifesaver to my morning routine. I will expand on all of these in an upcoming post, but for now let’s just say that cold brew was a game changer for me.
Taking it one step further, I began looking into roasting my own coffee beans. Living on our little farmette, I have become very interested in homesteading, which means relying more on our own resources than on external resources. It’s a back-to-basics lifestyle that we have begun dabbling in slowly (which I recommend – it’s overwhelming if you bite off too much too fast!). Coffee roasting naturally fell right into that interest, and I finally bit the bullet by purchasing 20 pounds of green coffee beans and a machine that allows me to roast them (more on that below).
Store-bought coffee is generally at least a week old, about the age that it starts to oxidize – resulting in loss of flavor and freshness. However, it was reported in Fortune that some coffee beans may be as old as 9 years old – yuck! Roasting at home ensures that the coffee is as fresh as it gets. That means a delicious full-of-flavor cup of coffee every time!
Roasting my own coffee has been so rewarding. It’s fun, tastes AMAZING, saves us money, and to top it off – it’s so easy!
To begin, identify how you want to roast your coffee. Some people opt to use their oven or stove top – if using the stove top, I’ve heard that the Whirley Pop works great. However, because coffee roasting produces a lot of smoke – and with it, a pretty strong smell – we use a West Bend Poppery popcorn maker and roast our beans outside. This style of popcorn maker is no longer made, but you can buy them on ebay for $20 to $30, or if you’re lucky you may even be able to track one down at your local thrift store for just a few dollars. Once you’ve found one, make sure the slots are around the sides of the roasting chamber and not on the bottom (that small beans and debris could fall into, creating a potential fire hazard).
Alternatively, Sweet Maria’s sells a popcorn machine that can also be used to roast coffee, and they even throw in a free 4 pound bag of green coffee beans to get you started.
You will also need:
- Wooden spoon for stirring the beans while roasting
- Flashlight or overhead light so that you can accurately judge the color of the beans
- Metal baking sheet (with sides) or colander for cooling the beans after roasting
- Bowl with a few cups of water in it (if roasting indoors)
- 2/3 to 1 cup of green coffee beans
Next, you will need to buy some green coffee beans. I purchased four 5 pound bags of coffee from Sonofresco. Their prices are very reasonable and they offer a great selection of beans. As an added bonus, they are offering free shipping through the end of November. Other companies that are similar in quality and price:
Bodhi Leaf Coffee (free shipping on all orders over $49)
Green coffee beans should be stored in a cool, dry place away from sunlight (do not store in the fridge or freezer). If stored properly, the beans should last at least a year.
Indoor vs Outdoor Roasting
If you decide to roast your coffee indoors, I recommend placing the popper on your stove top and turning the overhead fan on to help control the smoke. When coffee roasts, the dried skin of the bean – called the chaff – flies off. To minimize your clean-up, use the hood of the popcorn machine and place the bowl of water under the chute. That will direct the chaff to the bowl and the water should catch most of it.
Roasting your beans outside eliminates both the smoke and the mess. However, there are two things to note about roasting outdoors.
- First, plugging your machine directly into an outlet is ideal, as using an extension cord reduces the voltage to the machine. If you have an outdoor outlet, try to situate the machine so it can plug directly into it.
- Second, if it is cold outside, the temperature can cool the machine, slowing the roasting process and making it difficult to get an even roast. Running the machine for too long can also reduce the life of the motor, so those are just a few things to keep in mind. If you live in a climate that gets cold in the winter, you may want to move inside and follow the precautions I mentioned above.
Roasting the Beans
Plug in your popcorn popper and let it warm up for about 30 seconds. Slowly add the coffee beans. If the beans are moving quickly, you don’t have enough in the machine and should add more. If they aren’t moving at all, you added too many. In the latter case, use the end of the wooden spoon to help mix them, ensuring an even roast. The coffee beans will become lighter in weight as they roast, and will eventually start moving on their own (at which point you can stop stirring them). The perfect amount of beans will result in gradual movement, but will increase as they roast and lose weight.
First Crack – Light Roast
After about 3 minutes (though it could take as long as 5 minutes), the beans will reach first crack. First crack is apparent from the smell of the smoke and the sound of the beans crackling. About a minute after “first crack,” the beans will have reached a light roast. If light roast is your preference, you will stop roasting at this point. If a darker roast is desired, continue monitoring the beans.
Second Crack – Medium & Dark Roast
A few minutes after first crack (6 to 8 minutes total), you will hear another crack. At second crack, the beans have reached a medium roast. Roast for another 30 to 60 seconds if you prefer a dark roast. Do not roast much longer after second crack or your beans will burn.
The roast level can change quickly, so keep an eye on them and use your flashlight to accurately judge the color of the beans. Stop roasting when the beans are slightly lighter than your desired roast, as they will continue roasting until completely cooled. To cool the beans, pour them onto a metal baking sheet or into a metal colander and lightly shake to cool them off (or use the wooden spoon to agitate the beans). Continue doing so until the beans are cool enough to handle.
Word of Warning
Use care when handling the popper as the inside chamber becomes incredibly hot during roasting. Likewise, the metal of the baking sheet and colander will both absorb the heat of the beans and may become quite hot, so be careful during this process.
Once the beans have cooled, store them in an airtight glass jar out of direct light and do not place them in the fridge or freezer. Do not seal the jar for 12 hours – coffee beans give off CO2 after roasting and need a way to vent. You can grind your beans right away if you’re impatient, but for best flavor, wait at least 24 hours before grinding and brewing. The beans need time to mature and reach their peak flavor.
Some of the chaff may remain on the coffee bean. It will not ruin the flavor of the coffee, so don’t worry about removing it.
After the roasting chamber in the popper has cooled, lightly wipe the inside to remove any chaff or other debris as it could catch fire the next time you roast.
Fresh roasted coffee will last up to 7 days if stored properly. At that point, the beans will begin to oxidize, causing the flavor and quality to deteriorate.
Have fun with this process and experiment with different levels of roast and even with blending different beans. Most importantly, enjoy your home roasted coffee!
Below is the quick version for coffee roasting, though if you hopped down here without reading the above, I recommend doing a quick scan so you understand the “why” behind many of the instructions – it will help ensure a more successful roast. Happy roasting!
- A West Bend Poppery popcorn machine
- A wooden spoon for stirring the beans while roasting
- A flashlight or overhead light so that you can accurately judge the color of the beans
- A metal baking sheet (with sides) or colander for cooling the beans after roasting
- A bowl with a few cups of water in it (if roasting indoors)
- 2/3 to 1 cup of green coffee beans
- Allow popcorn machine to warm up for approximately 30 seconds.
- Add 2/3 to 1 cup green coffee beans. Use the handle of the wooden spoon to agitate the beans if they are not moving on their own.
- Listen for the first crack of the beans. This will take 3 to 5 minutes. You have reached a light roast. Turn off the popcorn machine if this is your preferred roast.
- A few minutes later (6 to 8 minutes total time), the beans will reach second crack. This is a medium roast. Allow to roast another 30 seconds or so if you prefer a dark roast.
- Turn off the popcorn machine. Carefully pour the beans onto a metal baking sheet (with sides) or into a metal colander. Gentle shake the beans to cool them down.
- Once cool to the touch, store in a glass airtight jar. Do not close the jar for 12 hours after roasting to allow the beans to degas.
- Allow the beans to mature in flavor for approximately 24 hours before grinding and brewing. Enjoy!
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