Being greeted by the sweet aroma of coffee is one of my favorite things about visiting local cafes. It is this type of scent that I wish candle shops could more perfectly capture. The overarching narrative that a crazy-awesome cup of coffee is derived out of is largely defined during the roasting stage. This skill set takes years to build and can always be improved upon. However, most of us do not have the means to operate a proper machine with respect to the fact that they cost $4,400 on average. So, maybe you are thinking, is there a way for me to still be a part of this process? The short answer is yes.
At Grounds for Travel, we take coffee fairly seriously, and are always looking for ways to be more involved. So, over the next few weeks, we have committed to trying out a variety of home roasting methods. We hope that you will join us on this journey or will at least feel entertained by our attempt!
Here is how we are getting started-
While doing our background research, we read about how some people get started by purchasing a popcorn popper, which is obviously not intended to roast coffee. But, it is an extremely affordable option. Getting one that works well (enough) for this sort of thing will cost around $15-$150 depending on where you buy it and its quality. Another suggestion is to use an iron skillet if you are looking to not invest too much initially. This can cost anywhere between $15 and $60.
We have elected to try out the iron skillet first, and progress from there.
The next thing we will need to collect are the “green beans,” which is what unroasted coffee is referred to as within the roasting/farming industry. [Pro-Tip: Buy two pounds of raw beans to yield one pound of roasted beans] These, if you are lucky, can be purchased from a local shop (assuming they too roast their own beans). If not, there are a few online portals through which the ordering can be done. Below are the links to a few single origin green coffees that we have found from an online provider called Sweet Maria’s:
- Africa: Ethiopia Agaro Biftu Gudina
- Peaches, Dried Apricot, Sarsaparilla and Cola Sodas, Marmalade, and a Subtle Floral Aroma
- El Salvador: Finca Miravalle Bourbon
- Sweetness, Light Brown Sugars, Roasted Peanut, Almond, Walnut, and Cocoa
- Colombia: Lo Mejor de Caicedo
- Honey Aroma with Raw Honey Flavors, Floral Sweetness, Golden Raisin, Dried Apple, and the Crisp of Sweetness of a Bosc pear
The additional equipment we will want to acquire before roasting are a few metal bowls, a pair of oven mitts, and a wooden spoon large enough to stir either in the popper or in the skillet.
Now that we have our tools together, it is almost time to start roasting. Some of the things we want to be mindful of is the color of the bean as the heat is slowly introduced. This is one of the things we are most excited about- having control of the tasting notes, the strength, and the level of caffeine maintained.
We were told that when getting started, you should listen for the first crack because it indicates that the real roasting has begun. The following are known as the 10 stages of roasting coffee-
- Green: the beans keep their green color, even as they start to heat
- Yellow: as heat is added, a grassy aroma will be released, and the beans’ color will turn yellow
- Steam: here is where the water inside the beans will start to evaporate
- First Crack: this is when the roasting begins; sugars start to caramelize, and a crackling sound is emitted
- City Roast: city roast follows the first crack, and means that a minimal level of roast for grinding and brewing has been reached
- City Plus Roast: additional caramelization of the sugars and the migration of oils takes place in this stage **this is a popular roast stage
- Full City Roast: this level comes just before the second crack, and is even darker than the previous five stages
- Second Crack: this is a more violent crack than the first and is when the bean reaches “Full City Plus Roast.” If this level is selected, then the roast will reveal even more layers of intensity to the flavor
- Dark Roast: also known as French Roast, this stage will permit a more pungent smoke, as the sugars start to burn; keep in mind that the bean structure will start to break down
- Burn: if you have not stopped roasting before now, it is likely that the smell is on the side of miserable; please avoid roasting to this level, but if you do, please do not brew these
Our next step will be letting the beans cool and discarding the chaff. (The chaff is the outer skin layer.) Here is where the two-metal bowls will become helpful. First, we will tumble the beans back and forth between the two, as will remove the unwanted layers. Keep in mind that when you do this, it is okay if you do not get them all, it shouldn’t affect your tasting notes.
Finally, we plan to place our coffee somewhere that is air tight in order to preserve the freshness for as long as possible, and then give it a try! Maybe via a Kalita Wave!
Stay tuned for our updates on how things are going in this new adventure to partake in roasting crazy-awesome coffee. Be sure to look out for our Pro-Tips and Pro-Fails.
As always, thanks so much for reading! We hope that you found this post helpful, and if you have any roasting tips of your own, please leave your comments in the box below!