I've been living with the preconceived notion that coffee roasting is a very mysterious, difficult process. For some reason, I thought it was like making wine—very complicated and involving lots of steps I knew nothing about. And up until three weeks ago, I was still living with that fallacy. So wrong. All you do is apply heat to green coffee beans.
This new-found knowledge all started with a meeting at work, where all good things start. Before the meeting began, I was chatting with a coworker about the coffee that was served at the meeting, and somehow we started talking about roasting coffee. He told me he's done it before, gave me the Cliff Notes version of how-to, then suggested I check out Sweet Maria's for beans.
One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I was placing a $99 order for the 20-lb. African Sample Set of four types of beans (to split three ways—me, him, and another friend/coffee enthusiast/coworker).
The beans above are Rwanda Kivu Kageyo Station, which Sweet Maria's describes as "complex, baking spice layers, raw cane juice sweetness, clove soda, candied lemon peel, English Breakfast tea."
I've roasted five batches now, which obviously makes me an expert.
OK, maybe not, but I do know a lot more now that I did a few weeks ago, due in part to the fact that I've been doing a lot of reading about it, as well as getting hands-on roasting experience. Sweet Maria's has a whole section of their site devoted to home roasting instruction. Coffeegeek.com is a great resource, too.
A couple of things I would like to point out. The process creates A LOT of smoke. I live in a very tiny studio apartment with no exhaust fan, and wow did it fill up my entire space with smoke. And it's not quite the yummy aroma you would think either, like when you open up a bag of your favorite coffee and take that first whiff. Nope. Not at all. Eventually, it will smell like this, but it takes about 24 hours. No, when you're roasting it, it just sort smells like the house is on fire.
Open up all your windows and doors if you're roasting inside. If you live in a place where you can roast outdoors, I would suggest doing that! My eyes sting when I'm roasting, and I breathe through a kitchen towel that I hold over my nose and mouth. I wonder if this is healthy. Well, at least it's fun. And the coffee is sooooo good!
Oh, so I've been roasting the coffee is my small cast iron skillet. Preheat your pan to about 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Then scoop in a single layer of green beans. I find that 1/2 cup at a time is the right amount.
Then just stir with a wooden spoon until done.
Home coffee roasting sites will tell you there is a first crack and second crack, but honestly I can't tell the difference. It all just sounds like sizzling and cracking. Basically, I find that it takes about eight minutes. When they get a shade lighter than mostly dark, I turn off the heat.
And I'll give you some advice my coworker shared with me. When the beans are done, immediately throw them into a metal colander, not plastic. Metal because plastic will melt, and colander because you'll want the chaff to sift down and out away from your beans. It won't hurt it if it ends up in your grind, but aesthetically, it's nice to get rid of it. (I picked up this vintage colander at Goodwill, specifically for coffee roasting and I love it.)
Then just wait at least four hours before you grind them up and make coffee. Apparently, they need to off-gas. I have noticed that they don't smell like coffee, as we know it, until the next day.
One thing I've discovered is that my coffee grinder is useless, something I was not aware of until some coffee site said so. You'll notice in my photo above that is all "dust and boulders," as that site likes to describe coffee ground with a blade grinder. Well, it's true. Good description of what it is.
Apparently, I need a burr grinder. It's on the list. But, now that I'm getting into bread making, it's further on the list. (I love it. I'd rather buy this stuff than clothes, and I work in the fashion industry.)
Now that I know that coffee roasting is not rocket science, I have something to say to a certain coffee roaster on St. Johns Road in Vancouver, Washington. You, sir, are an asshole.
There, I feel better. I think I'll go have some coffee.