Intro: Coffee Roasting With a Hot Air Popper
I'm well on my way to complete coffee snobbery. Essential to achieving this is being able to roast your own coffee from green coffee beans, which gives the most amazing fresh flavor and scent. Not to mention the ability to casually mention you roasted this particular cup of coffee yourself...
Here's my inventory for home roasting:
Hot air popcorn popper
Green coffee beans
1/4 cup measuring cup
round bottom stainless steel bowl
flat bottom stainless steel bowls (I use 2 of them)
The popcorn popper is an "Air Crazy" by West Bend - I got mine at Target for about $20. Ignore the terrible reviews - you aren't using it for popcorn.
I got the strainer and round bowl from the kitchen aisle at Smart N Final - any big retailer should have them.
The flat bottom bowls came from Petco - yes, they are dog food bowls.
I get my Green Coffee Beans from Sweet Maria's in Oakland California - they have a great mail order website. I recommend a 4 lb sampler to get started - that's plenty of coffee to learn how to roast.
Step 1: Set Up Your Roasting Station
I do my coffee roasting outside for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the hot air method expels a lot of chaff, and secondly, She Who Must Be Obeyed doesn't like the interim smell (which resembles either grass or charcoal, depending upon who you ask).
I have a bistro table outside, right next to a power outlet.
Step 2: Add the Green Coffee Beans, and Start the Roast
I usually roast in small batches, and I have found that a quarter cup or a little more is a good starting point for this machine. Your mileage may vary, due to ambient temperature and (more importantly) the voltage at your outlet.
Pour the beans into the popper, and turn on the switch. It will be noisy -- another good reason to be outside.
Step 3: Monitor the Roast
We are listening for the beans to crack -- it is a popping sound, and is a bit like popcorn. You need to continue the roast until all the beans have cracked once - if you don't roast long enough, your coffee will taste like hay or dry grass. (Bleah!)
Depending upon how dark you want your roast, you can stop after the first crack is done or you can continue the roast a while longer, waiting for a second, more subtle crack.
Here's a very short youtube video of the process -- the ambient noise level is high, but the cracking is audible as clicks. Notice the flying chaff as well.
Step 4: Dump the Roasted Beans, Cool Them and Remove the Chaff
Once you are satisfied that the beans are fully roasted, turn off the popper and dump the beans into a bowl. Pour them back and forth between the bowl and strainer to cool the beans and to allow any remaining chaff to blow away. Don't stress about the chaff - it doesn't affect the flavor too much is you don't get it all out.
Once the beans are mostly cool I dump them into one of the dog food bowls to further cool. I usually roast about four batches at one session, and having two spare bowls allows me to fully cool two batches while a third is roasting.
Step 5: Store the Beans, and All Your Roasting Supplies.
Pour the cooled beans into an air-tight storage container. Sweet Maria's labels come off the ziploc bags easily, making it simple to label your beans. And you should label them - imagine the horror some morning if you are expecting a nice light Costa Rica blend and you accidentally grind up some Dark Roasted Java! Shudder the thought....
All my supplies fit neatly into a flip-top storage box, making it easy to store between roasting sessions.
Now, go have a cup of good coffee, eh?