Friday, June 26, 2009

Home-roasting Coffee

Many folks don't know it, but you can actually buy raw coffee beans, and an inexpensive roaster, and roast your own beans.

Why would you want to do this? Well, for one thing, green coffee beans keep much longer than do roasted ones, so effectively, every time you roast a batch, you have fresh coffee beans. These, of course, are much fresher than anything that you might buy in the grocery store. Roasted coffee beans are at their best about 24 hours after roasting; the ones in the store have been roasted somewhere, shipped somewhere, and perhaps even shipped somewhere else before finally arriving in the containers in the store. Then, who knows how long they've been sitting in the containers in the store? Then, after perhaps a couple of weeks, you take them home, and take another week or two to use them up.

For another thing, you can discover the perfect roast for your favorite coffee beans. You might, for example, find that while you like the Sumatra beans in your local shop. you like Sumatra even better if it is roasted lighter or darker than what you are normally able to get.

On the downside, it is a bit of a hassle, compared to simply dumping roasted beans out of a bag. It can be anything from a moderately to a very smoky operation, as well, so unless you have a very good fan system in your kitchen, it is an operation best performed outside.

Also, though you may imagine that roasting coffee would smell wonderful, please let me assure you, it does not. In fact it smells a lot like burning popcorn while it is roasting.

But, for those of you who have mastered the art of brewing coffee already, it can be a fun next step. If you locate some raw beans, and don't want to spend the money on a roaster until you're sure it's something you want to do, many roasters like the one pictured above are essentially glorified popcorn air-poppers, with a few bells and whistles tacked on, like timers, and filters to catch the papery skins that come off the beans. So, if you have a popper like this, you can certainly roast your beans in it. Again, though, you will want to do it outside, not only because of the smoke, but also because this method will blow out a lot of the papery skins, and you won't want to clean them up afterwards. And, make sure to roast in small batches; if you simply fill the popper, the beans on the bottom will burn, and the ones on the top won't roast.

If this interests you, and you have trouble finding beans and supplies locally, they can be found at Please try locally first, although I will certainly not blame you if you can't find anything. I live in the Seattle area, and I haven't been able to find a supplier, and Seattle is pretty much "Coffeetown, USA."

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