Instructables

Roast your own Coffee at home

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Do you want to drink gourmet coffee at near-Folgers prices?
Are you ready for the freshest coffee available anywhere?
Do you want that special blend no one makes?
Want to help 3rd world farmers escape the tyrannical thumb of big-business coffee?
Would you enjoy one-upping a Starbucks connoisseur wanna-be who claims to drink 'good' coffee?
Are you ready to drink the absolute best coffee you can get?

Then come on in, and learn to roast your own beans.
 
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Step 1: A warning

Picture of A warning
There are a lot of ways to roast coffee, from an oven to a popcorn popper to a commercial roaster. This is the heat gun method (also called the heat gun/dog bowl method.) I use this most of the time because it can produce excellent results for very little investment and only moderate work.

Before you read further, I should warn you of a few things.

First of all, this is habit forming. Much like sleeping and breathing.

Second, we will deal with some 500 degree F temps here, so you might get burned.

And finally, you run a high risk of becoming a coffee snob. You may soon find yourself wondering how you could stand to drink that coffee from the wonderful locally owned micro-roaster down the street, even though at this very moment you think it is wonderful. You may start using fancy wine-tasting terms to describe how SHG Pocofundo differs from SHB FTO Likimpti. And you are pretty much guaranteed to stop considering Starbucks swill to be coffee, if you have not already. (Not that I'm biased, or anything.)

If you are willing to take these risks, then proceed.
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For those beginning to roast at home, try the fresh roast 500. Its entry level and provides a great introduction. Also madbeanscoffee.com sells green beans.

Roasting coffee beans is easy and simple but we should take precautions and read the guidelines carefully like in this post. Before doing anything at home you should be aware of the things that might happen while roasting coffee beans.
I've been home roasting for a few years. Coffee Bean Corral is a great source. They carry ONLY green beans. Selection is good. They are not as pricey as some other sources I've used. I'm currently living on the East Coast, and my orders arrive within a couple of days. Visit their website at www.coffeebeancorral.com Enjoy your home roasting experience. You'll never go back to "regular" coffee again!
matrixzero5 years ago
As a roaster i can say that this method does work but should not be compared to commercially roasted coffee's. Modern day roasters are more like magicians. The reality of the coffee world is there is no such thing as consistency. With hundreds of thousands of farms in varying regions threwout the world, with variable weather conditions from year to year, its literally impossible to have the same output from one year to the next. Add variable change every few months the coffee ages and you can start to see some of the nightmares roasters have to deal with. The question now is how do roasters keep the same taste from one year to the next? The answer is comparable consistency. Depending how good a roaster is, they can substitute with other coffee's that match the prior coffee's taste profile to achieve a similiar cupping profile. Air roaster vs commercial drum roaster vs infrared roasting all bring different results...some good...some bad. All in all have fun with it and also have respect to people in the craft. Roasting may seem easy to some, but throw in a few more variables and you start learning how insanly complex it can become.
sysiphus (author)  matrixzero5 years ago
I would say that this compares to, but is not the same as, commercially roasted coffee. It is different, as different roasters' coffees are different. It is not the same year to year, or batch to batch, because it is a variable product. Whether that's a good or bad thing is a matter of preference and perspective. (I think of it as very good.) The great thing about roasting for yourself is that you don't have customers expecting March's coffee to taste the same as last August's coffee. I get to change out varieties all the time, and get different flavors. I love that, but others prefer consistency. I am aware of how complex roasting coffee can become, and that as you scale up paying attention to those complexities becomes a requirement. But that's true in most any field I can think of. At the small batch size, taking care of 25% of the complexity takes care of 90% of the quality. So I keep it simple enough that I can enjoy it, and keep my batch sizes small enough that I can keep it simple. And I hope a few other folks can enjoy it that way as well.
The Coffee Project gives out free samples and instructions to roasting newbies in the US. Email them at orders@coffeeproject.com with your name and address.
nogginhead5 years ago
According to other sources, this should take 10-15 minutes of heating; and hold the heat gun about an inch from the beans throughout. Thanks for inspiring me to try this. Results pending from my first effort.
Firebert0105 years ago
Quite an interesting method you have here. I'm proud to say I've taken your advice and tried your plan to the dot, and I must say, what a satisfying way to enjoy the freshest coffee you can get! I ordered my beans from The Coffee Project, which you have linked in the 'Ible. I started with one pound of Captain Cook's Kona coffee, which is a Hawaiian bean. I can't say I've ever had a fresher cup of coffee in my life. Wonderful Instructable and a wonderful idea. 5 stars/faved.
sysiphus (author)  Firebert0105 years ago
Thanks! I really need to add another couple of steps, or new instructables. I still use the Poppery method for very small batches, and have upgraded to a breadmaker for the bowl/mixer. I'm kicking out much higher volume this way. I'm glad you enjoy it. I love sharing good coffee.
People don't like Starbucks, just because it's so popular..in reality, they aren't just good because they charge a lot. Starbucks really only uses a small portion of the beans they buy, because they will only use the very best. The rest of the beans, they resell to other brands for use in house blends.
I got it from my dad...a vice president of operations with starbucks.
might I ask where you got your information?
That's creepy. Anyways, seeing as you're skirting around an answer, i'm sure it's safe to assume that you were making up everything as you went, and have no real references, or facts to go by as you push keys on the board?
He's out of town now..i'll ask him sometime when he gets home.
I know it's been a while and this thread is kind of dead, but just wanted to add: Weissensteinburg, your father may be a vp, but does he actually know what's going on in the roasting plants? I worked for Sbux in management and am originally from York, PA, where the east coast roasting facility is located. I can't even begin to count all of the 5-lb bags I personally opened only to find blackened beans, oily and smelling burnt. I realize that Sbux was created in part to bring the dark roasts popular on the upper west coast to the rest of the country, but the older and more ubiquitous the company becomes, the worse their quality seems to be. (and don't even get me started on the new machines - any barista who doesn't know how to grind, tamp and extract properly doesn't deserve his/her apron, imo)
This can't be true. I worked for Starbucks, and they make you go to "Starbucks University" (which isn't a real university, its just how they teach you all the ins and outs of the product and company). One of the things you learn is that Starbucks burns the beans to give the coffee that super "dark" taste. The company believes burning the beans is a good thing. When I learned that, I quit. I couldn't work for a company that is cheating its customers like that.
Of course if you get really good at roasting you can make better coffee than starbucks.... *however* there are going to be people that incredibly exaggerate the difference between the two because they are just really really into coffee. It's a mild form of insanity. And then there is the natural urge to become super critical about something that you are into. The only thing wrong with starbucks is the corporate part, your neighborhood roaster could fuck up too.
sysiphus (author)  lampajoo7 years ago
Long before I roasted my own, I knew Starbucks coffee was bad. Ash always tastes like ash, no matter how much you market it. And I even know people who can't tell Folgers from local roasters, but can always distinguish Starbucks. Because it always tasted burned, which is what makes it so distinctive.

I have yet to meet someone who didn't get better results on their first roasting attempt than Starbucks gets, simply because no one I've met wants to try to recreate completely burned coffee. However, if you really like that taste, you can create it yourself for less than you would spend on Starbucks. I can even give you a few genuine tips to get closer, if you actually want them. And that's the great part about home roasting: you get to decide what your coffee tastes like, based on your preferences. You want variety? Great! Make that. Light? Medium? Vienna? Go for it! Want to mix a super-light Guatemala with a dark-roast Kenya AA? Try it! (It's actually pretty good.) Like the ashy taste of Starbucks? Roast away! Because it is your opinion that matters when roasting your own coffee, not the opinion of the roaster down the street, the committee at Starbucks, the accountant at Sara Lee, or some random guy with a name from greek mythology on a website.
I roast my own too... And the fact is, Starbucks coffee is not good because it is burnt. End of story. It looks burnt, smells burnt, and worst of all, tastes burnt. The reason I've seen posted is that at that stage of roast, you taste "roast character" rather than "bean character" - so Starbucks will always taste like Starbucks, regardless of variations in the crops. Perhaps you know better, if so, please enlighten us all on why they roast so dark. Another reason I saw is that it is to create an intense bitter flavor so a super-latte-fruit-o-ccino still tastes like it contains coffee by the time it's full of flavorings that would overwhelm most normal coffee. True, I also dislike their walmart-style business ethics, but that's not my reason for staying away. I find their coffee requires about a gallon of sugar to be drinkable, whereas my own roasts, in the full-city range, are delicious straight black!
I believe the word you're looking for is, "Charbucks." They're distinctive because nobody else would burn their coffee beans the way they do. One thing can be said: it is a unique flavor. I am not a fan of the burnt bean, and I have designs to develop my own special roast, as you all are doing. Happy roasting!
sysiphus (author)  GeeDeeKay7 years ago
I have several terms for them that include rhyming with both 'star' and 'bucks', but I try to be nice most of the time. ;-)
sysiphus (author)  Weissensteinburg7 years ago
They may have originally used only the best beans, but they are now way to big to be so selective. And my complaint with their coffee is not in the green beans they start with, but in how they roast them, how badly they burn them, and how stale they usually taste. I don't know any roasters who like Starbucks, and I unintentionally turned one ardent fan into a hater by teaching him to roast. And to be honest, I really like Starbucks the brand. It is a bit on the 'big company posing as hipsters' side of things, but they have great designs, a great vibe, pretty good taste in music, and usually nice locations. Which is to say, when I really look at Starbucks, I realize that coffee is only a pretext of the brand now, and is fast becoming a sub-plot. And that's okay, because the plot is better than the coffee. But this isn't about Starbucks, or our personal tastes in their style or coffee-like substance. It is about getting away from the corporate machine, making your own coffee, and finding it is better than what anyone else can make, because it yours, and it is fresh, and it is perfectly roasted to your own preferences instead of someone else's (no matter how cool that person and/or company may be.)
Oh, I have no problem with people hating starbucks..I only have a problem when they hate it because they're such a big company. But believe me, they are still that selective. (My dad is a vice president of operations at another company that works with them...he's forced to go on countless tours of the roasting plants)
boukisan6 years ago
This is the coolest instructable I have seen so far. It's bulletproof: saves money, really fun, tastes better, opens you up to a whole new world. My comment is about the grind. If you're making espresso, it turns out that the grind is just as important as the roast. Research it a little, and you'll find that a flat burr grinder is best for a consistent grind. I have to wait for christmas to get something like this, but I wanted a fix that would cover me until then. This technique allows me to have tons of crema and perfect flow every time: If you have a spinning blade type of grinder, you can grind the beans until they have a (ballpark) espresso grind, but there will be large bits in there. Use a fine wire mesh colander (a sieve is too fine), dust the ground coffee into a bowl, and all the chunks are removed. Now it's just a matter of tamping the espresso to a consistent density, which to me seems to be a matter of practice. I am still getting a flat burr grinder. I think I am overgrinding at least 20% of the coffee in order to get the majority of it to an epsresso consistency, and I wonder how this is affecting the taste. At least the espresso flows perfectly now. Maybe I should make an instructable from this - I don't know. If it's a harmful technique, let me know.
sysiphus (author)  boukisan6 years ago
I'll back you up on the importance of the grind. I was blessed to stumble on a cheap burr grinder years ago, accidentally, at Target of all places. Even stranger, it is a Mr. Coffee and only ran $20. I've looked for them again in the years (5? 7? Was it really four houses ago?!?) since, hoping to give them as gifts, but never found any. But mine still kicks out so long as I clean well. I can't say enough about the quality that a consistent grind imparts, though I must admit that I didn't notice till I had to use a blade grinder again. Wow. Espresso comes out richer because all of the pieces are equally minuscule. Drip coffee is better because you don't get those powderized bits from the shattering of the beans on the blades, thus keeping the "mud" out of the cup. And you can also dial in the courser grind for a french press, which is even worse on the mud factor with small pieces. As for your method: I've no idea. I can see how it would work, and can't see a problem to the coffee. Seems a bit tedious to me, but I'm potentially overestimating the actual work involved. So long as you aren't doing days' worth at once; coffee should always be ground at the last practical moment to minimize oxidation. (It's a lot like cutting apples; don't expect the ones from yesterday to still be good.) In other news, I've been hoping to either update this Instructable or create one or two new ones on this. I really want to cover the popcorn popper method better to show how ridiculously easy it is, plus a roasting buddy has yet another popper method, plus I've recently started a heatgun/bread maker method! Should I expand this, or do new ones?
Nann sysiphus6 years ago
Oh please, Sysi, tell us how to roast coffee with the popcorn popper. I have been tempted to toss mine but have held on in case something came up...(or someone).. and there was a real need for it.
Man, that would be awesome if you did one on the popcorn popper method. It would save time for me because I roast two handfuls each night for the next day's espresso. Malabar Gold is my favorite so far...

I found a small cast iron mortar:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009XHDP8
that has a nice interior curve to it which makes it easy to focus the heat on the beans. I place mine on the back of a 2" thick cutting board.

The method for screening out chunks is quite easy, as long as you have a mesh colander as opposed to a sieve. A sieve would take several minutes, leaving you a teaspoon of fine dust, while a mesh colander takes a few seconds and gets all the chunks out.

sysiphus (author)  boukisan6 years ago
In that case, I'll take a few photos when I roast this weekend, and try to get an Instructable up. The popper method is sooo easy. ;-)
Excellent instructable! I'm deffinately going to try this, I think home-roasted coffee (even my first newbie attempts) would make great Christmas gifts for my coffee-loving family. Any suggestions on what to package it in for gifting? I'm thinking 1/4 pound increments sent Priority mail (probably the day after roasting, with hopes that the beans won't go more than a week before they have a chance to be brewed). Little wax-paper or parchment bundles? Brown paper bags? Ziplocks? Vaccume-packing is out of my price range for now, unfortunately. Any suggestion would be appreciated. Thanks!
sysiphus (author)  apartment42b7 years ago
I know that a lot of the green coffee sites I mentioned sell 1# or 1/2# bags that may work for you. I've sent very small batches across the country in Ball jelly jars (from the canning section of your local grocery or mega-store) but I can't guarantee the glass won't break when you get them there. In a pinch, you could actually use ziplock (or whatever branded) sandwich bags. They seal tight, and you can pinch most of the air out first.

Whetever you do, make sure it is airtight, and you might want to let the beans sit 24 to 48 hours before sealing them up. If you don't they will be more pressurized from the CO2 that they release, and if all the CO2 stays around them they can take on a very flat taste.

Also, you might not have to worry so much about super freshness. While many people are very particular about the coffee, most people still drink Folgers and the like. To them, 2 month old home roasted coffee is still gourmet.
Cool, thanks! I found some 1/4 pound bags at Sweet Maria's (I think) that look nice for presents, but I might end up using sandwich bags.
I never noticed the burnt-ish flavor of SB until I started working at a local coffee shop called Volcanoes, where we actually roast the beans in-house. There really IS a big difference. The nicest part is the fact that I get free coffee/etc on the clock :D Because I love coffee.
I agree that Starbucks beans are mostly over roasted. Doesn't matter what the bean is if it's not roasted correctly.
The best coffee I've found is a little group called coffeefool.com. They've traveled the world and found growers and buy directly from them. They have every roast and bean you want. From American(light), Italian(medium), French(dark) and Seattle (burnt). Their Fools FireStarter is the closest to Starbucks without the burnt taste. Perfect for expresso. Their Velvet Hammer is probably the smoothest coffee I've every drank.........
Check them out.Coffee Fool
They roast everyday and send your coffee out overnight. Freshest unless you roast your own.
tomtriglone7 years ago
I'm not sure how roasting your own coffee beans will "help 3rd world farmers escape the tyrannical thumb of big-business coffee". The price paid for green "fair-trade" coffee beans is the same whether they are on-sold as green beans or roasted, packaged and sold by the cup. Current prices for fair-trade green coffee beans are about US$10 per 100 pounds more than the market price. Therefore if you buy "fair-trade" green beans and roast them yourself you will be contributing the same to the farmers as if you buy "fair-trade" starbucks coffee. A real way to contribute to these farmers is to buy coffee beans that have been grown, roasted and packaged in the community itself that grows them. It means not only does more of your purchase go to the producers, but you are all supporting the continuation of technical and business development in the community, and especifically to those involved in the value-adding process.
sysiphus (author)  tomtriglone7 years ago
Starbucks has been known to fight against regional raise the value of regional coffees that would (hopefully) provide farmers with a higher portion of the retail price. They also have been strongly rumored to strongarm their way to lower prices (a la Walmart,) but I have yet to find a substantiated report of that.

But they are actually not the big business I am referring to. The problem is with the Big Four (Kraft, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Sara Lee) who together buy over 50% of the annual production. They have switched in recent years to buying dirt-cheap, low grade Robusta coffees, mostly from Vietnam. This has in turn brought down the price of coffee worldwide by lowering the demand significantly. (Read more here.) By switching from buying store brand coffees made by the Big Four to buying (and roasting) green coffees from the specialty market, we begin to buy more coffee from the farmers who need help. Buying Fair Trade and buying through cooperatives will also help.

Is it a perfect, complete solution for the farmers? No. Is it better than buying from the Big Four? Definitely. Is it better than buying from Starbucks? Probably. Is it good enough? Sorry, but that's a value judgment one has to make for oneself.

For me, it is good enough, when balanced with the fact that I can get a far fresher roast by doing it myself.

I would, however, buy direct from any farmer who would sell direct on http://greencoffeebuyingclub.com ...
My point was that simply roasting your own coffee doesn't contribute in any way to helping 3rd-world farmers "escape the tyrannical thumb of big-business". If you are roasting responsibly-bought, fair-trade green coffee beans, then you are contributing in some way to better prices for 3rd-world farmers. In the same way, if you are buying "fair-trade" green coffee you contribute the same amount to the farmer as by buying "fair-trade" Starbucks coffee, packaged or in a brewed cup. That's the way the pricing of fair-trade green coffee is structured. To be able to put the FLO "Fair-trade" label, you need to pay the fair-trade premium on top of the market price, which is used by the cooperative or community in community or business development. As you say, making the choice is a start. But that start you can also make by buying the numerous amount of fair-trade coffees now on the market. The roasting really has little to do with it.
wingbatwu7 years ago
Another side effect of roasting your own beans is that your coffee, if consumed during the peak flavor period, will have a lot more caffeine and be a lot more addictive (on top of tasting way better)
While a darker roast will have slightly less caffeine than lighter roasts, I have not come across research that claims there is a loss of caffeine inherent in the staling process of coffee. Where do you get such information?
I guess it's just an assumption based on my own experience... my home-roasted coffee was a lot harder to quit than regular coffeeshop coffee. it's possible that by roasting small batches, some beans didn't roast as much and therefore keep more of their caffeine content.
That's understandable but I think its more difficult because it is right there in the home as opposed to having to go out to get it! Of course, the real question is why would anyone want to quit? Let alone, I didn't think it was possible to turn back once someone crosses the path into roasting their own coffee. May this be a warning to everyone!
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