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byarvin

Home Coffee Roasting

137 posts in this topic

I have been a home coffee roaster for about four-five years now, and I am quite confident that my coffee is better than anything I can buy locally. I moved on from a popper years ago. I currently use an industrial heatgun and stainless steel bowl to roast my coffee.

Sweet Maria's is an excellent source of information and beans. The definitive book on the subject is 'Home Coffee Roasting' by Kenneth Davids. Coffeegeek is one of the most popular websites for all things related to coffee and espresso, including home roasting.

Read the material at Sweet Maria's first, and then let me know if you have any questions.


Edited by MGLloyd (log)

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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I have been a home coffee roaster for about four-five years now, and I am quite confident that my coffee is better than anything I can buy locally.  I moved on from a popper years ago.  I currently use an industrial heatgun and stainless steel bowl to roast my coffee.

Sweet Maria's is an excellent source of information and beans.  The definitive book on the subject is 'Home Coffee Roasting' by Kenneth Davids.  Coffeegeek is one of the most popular websites for all things related to coffee and espresso, including home roasting. 

Read the material at Sweet Maria's first, and then let me know if you have any questions.

Without going to the book, which may not be easily available, can you tell us about your technique? What is a heat gun? How do you move the beans? How long? Will a steel wok or cast iron wok do the job? Fess up, if you please!

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A heatgun is essentially a handheld hair dryer on steroids. It runs on electricity and most models reach temperatures of 500-1000 degrees. They are commonly used in painting, plumbing, electronics assembly and other industrial applications. I have written a primer on the use of the heatgun to roast coffee. It can be found here.

Another very simple method is stovetop roasting. I recently wrote a post on this method, using a heavy-gauge stockpot, on Coffeegeek, and have cut and pasted it below:

Longtime readers of this board will recall that I am a long-time fan of using the heatgun/dogbowl to roast. The other night, I was giving a poster on another board some tips about getting started in coffee roasting, and I gave him some information on stovetop pan roasting, and pointed him to Tiim Eggers' lovely site on this topic.

This morning, I needed some coffee for the office tomorrow, and just for the heck of it, thought about stovetop roasting. It has probably been a good four or five years since I last did stovetop roasting with any regularity, using both a stockpot and a Whirly-Pop. Back then, my usual batch size was 1 to 1.5 cups. My main concern over stovetop roasting these days was worry about the amount of smoke and chaff, since I usually roast one pound batch sizes.

But I decided to give this ancient method a whirl. So I dug out a Faberware stainless 3.5 qt. stockpot (with the clad aluminum disk bottom), heated it up for five minutes on my electric range (Whirlpool) on the large burner set to '4' on the control knob. I dumped in two cups by volume of Red Sea blend and started roasting. I stirred pretty frequently with a stainless balloon whisk to prevent scorching. I got to first crack at about 10 minutes, and it finished at a full city roast at about 15 minutes. I dumped, cooled and jarred the beans and repeated the experiment with three cups by volume (one pound by weight) of some Sumatra Mandheling that I had on hand. This got to first crack at about 15 minutes and finished to a full city plus roast at 21 minutes. Please note that I continued to stir the beans frequently to prevent scorching, turned the heat down to '3.5' as I got to first crack, and roasted both batches with the stockpot uncovered. Both of these batch times are longer than I would typically see with my HG/DB method.

Much to my surprise, the tall sides of the stockpot kept the chaff contained pretty well. The stovetop hood (vented to the outside) on 'high' managed the smoke pretty well. We were not smoked out of the house nor did the smoke detectors go off. Since this is one of my commonly-used pots for cooking, I will not be letting this pan season for roasting. There was a brown haze of baked-on coffee oils and volatiles, but it came right off with a Scotch pad and some Bar Keepers Friend.

Both of my roasts were fairly even but not as even as my HG/DB roasts, but I will continue experimenting. During the winter, I would not mind finding a method that I can do indoors, as opposed to outside on the front porch. My experience in roasting by other means came in quite handy with the stovetop, being able to monitor the roast by appearance, sound and smell. Tim Eggers is fond of using his cast-iron saucepan, and I thought the Farberware clad stockpot would serve a similar purpose in terms of heat retention and even bottom heating.

Some people have used a wok on the stovetop with good results. I can testify that you cannot use a wok with a heatgun since the beans will be blown right out of the wok.

If someone wanted to immediately try coffee roasting, I suspect that most readers of this board have a sturdy stockpot and a stovetop readily to hand. There is a learning curve to roasting coffee, and particularly with a stovetop method, I roast at medium heat (4 out of 10 on the knob) to prevent scorching. This should also only be done if you have good ventilation at the stovetop, since if you roast more than a cup of beans and/or roast to a dark roast, copious amounts of smoke are produced.

Please let me know if you have any further questions, and I will be happy to help.


Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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Here is the instruction sheet at Sweet Maria's for stovetop pan roasting: stovetop pan roasting instructions

Both of your posts have been very informative, and I think I will try roasting with a wok, a cover, an oven thermometer, and a whisk, on my patio with a propane burner, when the weather permits. It will take a couple of weeks to travel from my suburban location to downtown Toronto to get a selection of beans, but I'll report to this thread when the quest for fresh coffee is completed, or at least bettered.

In the past I have found cast iron woks in Chinese stores, for $15-20. Would this work better than a steel wok?

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Here is the instruction sheet at Sweet Maria's for stovetop pan roasting: stovetop pan roasting instructions

My first batch, about 1/2 lb., of Costa Rican, came out OK but too brittle and dark.

I roasted it in a steel wok, over gas, on a cold patio day. I left it 1 minute too long as it was hard to judge in dim light.

I'm going at it again in mid week, hopefully a bit quicker and hotter, with lots of spoon movement.

I don't expect miracles, as it is below freezing every day on my patio now. But the first results were pleasant enough, just not superior, yet.

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Keep at it. You will be surprised at how quickly you pick it up, and how superior your own home-roasted coffee is. It will be worth it.


Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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And don't judge when to stop by color alone. You'll need to stop before you reach the desired color level because the beans continue to cook after you remove form the heat until they are fairly well cooled off.

Listen to the cracking sounds they make as the roast progresses. The "first crack" sounds are spaced a bit apart and sound like twigs cracking. The "second crack" sounds a bit more faint but they are more rapid and spaced closer together. It usually rolls directly into second crack from first crack but there may be a slight plateaus in bewteen. Most home roasts, unless they are intended to be very dark, will stop at the onset of second crack or just a few seconds into it (some commercial roasts will go just a bit faryer into second crack but they typically cool much faster)..

Using two colanders and tossing the beans back and forth between them for a minute or two does speed up cooling - always a good thing.

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I'm a home roaster. I've used a Fresh Roast, heat gun and now I'm using the famed stir crazy/convection oven method. Fun hobby and the coffee is excellent. I've bought specialty coffees and even coffee from one of our local pro roasters and I think I do a pretty comparable job compared to the pro roaster and way better than anything you can buy off the shelve.

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SweetMarias is the place. I've got the alpenroaster and have used it for years. You can't beat the selection of beans there, and the shipping is extremely fast.


A island in a lake, on a island in a lake, is where my house would be if I won the lottery.

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Using two colanders and tossing the beans back and forth between them for a minute or two does speed up cooling - always a good thing.

I'm getting lots of good advice from these recent posts.

Owen, at this time of year I can cool the beans by putting the wok into some snow!

Scuba, what is the stir crazy, convection oven method?

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Using two colanders and tossing the beans back and forth between them for a minute or two does speed up cooling - always a good thing.

I'm getting lots of good advice from these recent posts.

Owen, at this time of year I can cool the beans by putting the wok into some snow!

Scuba, what is the stir crazy, convection oven method?

Jay here is a website that gives some good general information and how to's

http://turbocrazy.atspace.com/

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I think this is one area (as opposed to, say, pulling an espresso or... rice!) where - as of date - the technology, trouble, electrical constraints & quality control conspire to make paying a pro the better way to go.

Various things to keep in mind...

Considering the good greens you can get, by the pound, for between 2 and 3 U.S. dollars, and considering the very satisfactory results I get from home-roasting, there's absolutely no reason, it seems, to prefer the more expensive professional blends (which usually come closer to $15 to $20 per roasted pound). Some of the batches I've roasted have come out worlds better than various staples of Terroir and Intelligentsia, while all of my batches at the very least come close to "professional" quality. Considering the money I'm saving, too, I can't complain.

Another issue for me is that a lot of coffee goes stale beyond the week it was roasted (the degeneration of Intelligentsia's Black Cat is particularly noticeable); roasting my own batches means always having fresh coffee in the quantities I need. The entire experience is more flexible: you choose the beans, the proportions of blends, and so on.


Edited by vanveen (log)

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I am having amazing success with the whirlypop, which I found in a thrift store for $3. A new one can't be more than $30. I can roast 8oz at a time.

I punched a hole in the top, put a meat thermometer in there, and start roasting when the temp hits 425. For most beans, I stop at the second crack, about 10 mins in. In seattle I found a few shops that roasted often enough and well enough for me, but since coming to the south, this is the only way to get anything close to the consistency and freshness I crave.

Being such a cheap ass, though, now I'm struggling with my coffee out-classing my grinder and machine. I wish there were as economical a solution on those two fronts.

Alas, I think I'm headed for Miss Silvia and a comparable grineder to replace my 2nd hand starbucks barista and low-end burr grinder.

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I think this is one area (as opposed to, say, pulling an espresso or... rice!) where - as of date - the technology, trouble, electrical constraints & quality control conspire to make paying a pro the better way to go.

Various things to keep in mind...

Considering the good greens you can get, by the pound, for between 2 and 3 U.S. dollars, and considering the very satisfactory results I get from home-roasting, there's absolutely no reason, it seems, to prefer the more expensive professional blends (which usually come closer to $15 to $20 per roasted pound). Some of the batches I've roasted have come out worlds better than various staples of Terroir and Intelligentsia, while all of my batches at the very least come close to "professional" quality. Considering the money I'm saving, too, I can't complain.

$2-3 is about 1/3 what I have to pay for green beans. If I had a source, I'd have a small sack shipped to me via internet.

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*Practices threadomancy*

I'm starting up my own little home-roasting operation, but I'm on a bit of a budget. Thus, I've ordered two half-pound samplers from www.coffeebeancorral.com (A half-pound each of Yemen Mocca and Sumatra Triple Pick Mandheling) and procured a cast-iron skillet from a Freecycle benefactor. I'm doing this inside, chaff be damned; most of the stovetop roasting primers I've seen have said that the chaff and smoke aren't bad. I'll be doing very small batches since I don't know how much I'll be drinking first off.

Burr grinders have become inexpensive and prevalent; there's a $30 Krups model at Wal-Mart and another at Kohl's. Both seem to fit the bill as entry-level grinders.

The beans should arrive today. The grinder will be a little bit longer in coming since it's gotta ship out. Ikea sells French presses. I'm fairly excited to start this and report on how much of a caffeind this turns me into.

I may try the dog bowl/heat gun method next since those are somewhat inexpensive. It may be better for chaffy roasts as well. We'll see.


"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside" -Mark Twain

"Video games are bad for you? That's what they said about rock 'n roll." -Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of The Legend of Zelda, circa 1990

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You may discover that a $30 burr grinder is not much of a bargain (or any other burr grinder priced much under $80 - $90). The feedback I've seen in this forum and that I've read elsewhere, reinforced by personal experience, is that the cheap burr grinders tend to run hot, be noisy, grind very inconsistent particle sizes (i.e. a mix of small chunks and fine powder unlike a good burr grinder) and are cheaply built.

Use your own judgement but if you buy one be sure it can be returned or exchanged. Judicious technique with a cheap whirly-blade grinder can yield results good enough for nearly any coffee prep method short of espresso.

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You may discover that a $30 burr grinder is not much of a bargain (or any other burr grinder priced much under $80 - $90).  The feedback I've seen in this forum and that I've read elsewhere, reinforced by personal experience, is that the cheap burr grinders tend to run hot, be noisy, grind very inconsistent particle sizes (i.e. a mix of small chunks and fine powder unlike a good burr grinder) and are cheaply built.

Use your own judgement but if you buy one be sure it can be returned or exchanged.  Judicious technique with a cheap whirly-blade grinder can yield results good enough for nearly any coffee prep method short of espresso.

I'll second that. For espresso the grinder can be as/more important than the brewer. That said, I'm in the biz and I do own a cheap Leilo Ariete burr grinder, useless for espresso, but fine for any other use. I also own a cheap whirly blade, which, if you shake it vigorously while grinding, can produce a pretty fine and consistent grind for use in an Aeropress or about any other method requiring a finer grind short of espresso.

As for roasting, as we retail intelly, we don't need to roast ourselves, but I've done samples picked up a trade shows on an electric wok, which is no harder than an average stir fry - pretty consisitent roast if you're constantly agitating the beans and can do so while still listening for the cracks.

But I wouldn't do it every day on a wok because even with a decent ventilation system, it still makes quite the stink.


Rich Westerfield

Mt. Lebanon, PA

Drinking great coffee makes you a better lover.

There is no scientific data to support this conclusion, but try to prove otherwise. Go on. Try it. Right now.

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after about a year of (hand crank) roasting his own coffee ...with a whirlypop on the stove

my husband is out in his shop making the whirlypop go buy itself!

I will keep you posted on how this goes

we just purchased some great coffee from Seven Bridges Coop rabid delivery and as good as but a little cheaper for what we wanted than Sweet Marias ..they are about equal buy us to be honest

the way we brew when we really want to enjoy home roasted coffee is to mix a med and dark roast half and half then making it a moka pot

so freaking good

I would have never known about it if was not from another member her so thanks it has been fun

but now that HE is in the shop with the serious look and all the tools

sick turning that crank but not willing to give up home roasted coffee :)


Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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Nice to see this topic bumped up again.

A little over a year ago, we bought one of the first Behmor 1600's to play around with. It's a very capable unit with decent, but not wonderful profiling capabilities. If you enjoy home roasting and would like something that offers more repeatability than airpoppers or greater ease of use than heat guns, the $300 you'd spend on a Behmor might be worth it.

As I'm a co-owner of a coffeehouse that uses primarily Intelli coffees, I'll suggest that the advantage of buying from a larger roaster is QC and dependability (along with convenience of not taking an hour out of your day to roast). Most important to us is that they buy coffees using a Direct Trade model.

However, there's little doubt that roasting one's own is fun, will be less expensive in the long run, and allows you more opportunity to discover both coffees and roast levels that fit your particular palate

As to home roasts being uniformly better? I've been a judge at several barista competitions and have had home roasters pull me shots of what, in their opinion, was the best espresso I'd ever taste. They weren't. Ever. And it wasn't the equipment.

That said, I competed myself this year using a Behmor-roasted blend of Esmeralda (Lot 5) and Brazil Cerrado and did as well on the judges scoresheets for my espresso round as competitors who were using Black Cat, and in some cases better.

With good beans, a reliable and repeatable roasting method, and a bit of tasting and tweaking, much is possible.


Rich Westerfield

Mt. Lebanon, PA

Drinking great coffee makes you a better lover.

There is no scientific data to support this conclusion, but try to prove otherwise. Go on. Try it. Right now.

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As to home roasts being uniformly better?  I've been a judge at several barista competitions and have had home roasters pull me shots of what, in their opinion, was the best espresso I'd ever taste.  They weren't.  Ever.  And it wasn't the equipment.

This is not a huge surprise. It would be shocking if the very best artisinal coffee roasters weren't able to outdo home roasters when freshness is equal. The problem is that freshness usually isn't equal for the home coffee enthusiast. Sure, there are probably some specialty coffee shops that are getting their Black Cat the very next day after it's roasted. But even if you're willing to pay the $14 per pound plus shipping, by the time you get that Black Cat into your espresso machine, it's already around 4 days old. And, of course, you have to order the stuff at least once a week to have a decent supply of truly fresh coffee -- something few people are willing or able to do.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I remember my father would roast coffee using a steel or iron wok and before that he would roast it using a popcorn popper. lol. You don't get much control on how dark your beans will be using a popcorn popper though but it will work. When he would roast the coffee using a wok he would make a blend of medium beans and dark beans. Also, a warning your whole house will smell like coffee so open all your windows. Since we were coffee farmers he finally upgraded to a 15-20 lb roaster. Just be sure that your constantly watching the color so it won't burn.

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The holiday season is upon us and we tend to give homemade treats and gifts. We found a great article regarding roasting your own coffee beans and we were sold.

Has anyone roasted their own coffee, created their own blend and if so, was it worth it? How was it?


Whoever said that man cannot live by bread alone...simply did not know me.

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I've done it a couple of times. Can't say it was worth it. Green beans were a pain in the ass to find (though the internet wasn't so readily available back when I was doing it).

If you're willing to make the investment in a quality roaster and you look at this as more of a hobby than a money-saving technique, then I imagine you could make it work. However, I found the results weren't worth the input of time and effort. It was fun and the coffee was good (not excellent), but it turned out to be something I just stopped doing.

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