Introduction: Coffee Roasting Over an Open Fire
I have recently taken up coffee snobbery, well not really.
I have loved coffee for years, (since I was 5yrs old.) And I have found the fresher the better. So I naturally progressed from basic coffee made with basic canned store bought coffee, then occasionally bought more expensive coffee, then to whole bean. When I got married, a generous soul bought us an espresso machine.
I was hooked, and my journey really began, and life happened, I had kids, and I realized that "good" coffee is expensive, and I got bills to pay... And so I settled for "ok" coffee.
Now, I am an avid DIYer, and one day I came across an article on home roasting and thought, "I can do that"
You can research online about home roasting and find a lot of fancy equipment and differing opinions on how to go about it. But in the end you can make it as simple or as complicated as you like. I have plans for an automated "arduinoized" roaster, but this method is as simple as it gets.
The above contraption is my coffee roaster. It is a campfire popcorn popper. I typically roast outside over a Coleman camp stove, but it is cold and icy outside so we are gonna do this inside over our gas stove. This works just as well, just messier...
Besides the popper, you need at least 2 stainless steel bowls to cool beans. I use a small blower and a stainless steel strainer.
Step 1: Buying Your Beans
As I eluded to, this obsession came about due to my love of good coffee and the unfortunate fact that excellent coffee is over priced for my budget.
So... Where do you buy green coffee beans?
Many reviews and online sources will suggest sweet marias. Very good coffee, no arguments here, and an excellent place to start. They offer small batches at a fair price. I would even advise getting the 4lb sampler pack to start. There is plenty of coffee to practice roasting to get a feel for it, and lots of information.
But... for true money savings go to eBay and just search for green coffee. You have a bit of research and math to do, (cause if you know eBay, you know the price isn't always as it seems.) but you can find green coffee at or less than what you buy Folgers for in the store, but will taste so much better when you're done.
Here are a couple of my last buys,
10lb Mexico Organic Chiapas Unroasted Green Coffee $48.99 ($4.89/lb)
10lb Organic Green Coffee Beans from Honduras $42.99 ($4.29/lb)
And if you buy in larger quantities it gets cheaper.
Recently I have also stumbled onto Copan trade. There coffees look excellent and prices are good, along with free shipping to the continental US.
The only drawback I can see is that the smallest quantity you can typically buy is a 25 lb bag, which will minimally run about $95.00. but if you can afford that up front, or know another home roaster to share it with, that's $3.80/lb!
Sweet coffee lovin'!!! Ok, lets move on.......
Step 2: Measure, Roast, Shake, Shake, Shake...
In my popcorn popper, I typically roast 1/2 lb at a time. Might be able to do more but you must have room to agitate the beans.
If you are doing this over an adjustable flame, i.e. Gas/ Propane stove, start the fire out on high. You will want to fire up the range hood on high at this time.
Hold the beans over the flame and shake, shake, shake.
Seriously, keep those beans moving. Don't let them sit and scorch.
You will see some chaff begin to flake off and make a bit of a mess. once this begins turn your fire down to medium to medium high. (you'll have to get a feel for exactly where on your particular appliance.)
Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake.
Several minutes in you will hear the first crack. it sounds a bit like popcorn.
At this point you have a city roast which is a very light roast. It may still smell and taste slightly grassy and green still. Give it a bit longer and you will begin to see some smoke from the beans. you can stop the roast at this point. you will have a full city roast here, sort of a blond roast. the flavor will strongly represent the origin of your beans, the spicy, fruity, or earthy flavors will really shine.
Now, if you like the Starbucks, dark roast type of flavor, or you don't care for the origin flavor of a particular bean you have, keep roasting!
About a minute or two after the 1st crack occurs, you will begin to hear the 2nd crack. It is a more subtle sound. More like rice krispies popping. You have entered dark roast territory.
If you roast this dark indoors be prepared to open some windows. Unless you have a huge range hood and a massive fan, it will not keep up with the amount of smoke this will produce.
Stop 30 seconds or so into 2nd crack, no more, or you run the risk of burnt beans, and that tastes terrible.
Step 3: Cool the Beans
At this point you need the bowls.
Dump the beans from one bowl to the other, swishing and swirling them as you do so. This is to cool off the beans rapidly. The internal temp of the beans will continue to "roast" the beans, so you want to cool quickly to stop the process. It may even be advantageous to place the bowls in the freezer before you begin the roast.
With my setup, I use a small blower and a strainer, or a colander. With the blower on I place the strainer on the intake side of the blower and dump in the hot beans, stir with a spoon until their cool.
Step 4: YUM
Now there are lots of opinions of what to do with your beans after the roast. Do you let them rest covered or uncovered, in a glass container or metal, and for how long.
Personally, I place them right into a mason jar and put a lid on it. I usually grind some right off the bat, typically still warm. I don't notice a difference at all.
So do whatever you like at this point, just enjoy your fresh roasted coffee