Have you ever wondered when or where, or even how, the coffee that you are drinking was roasted? This is something that has always been a bit of a curiosity to me, but up until recently, I’ve never actually researched it. If you buy brands like Folgers or Maxwell House, even Starbucks, you are not drinking freshly roasted coffee, which means that you are missing out on that incredible fresh coffee experience.
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Home Roasted Coffee
If you read my first post ever, you already know that someday I want to have my own line of coffee, which I plan to roast myself. I’ve done a little research, and learned that you can easily roast coffee beans using an air popcorn popper. It’s so simple, and if you already own one, you have everything you already need. Well, except for the beans, but those are easy and inexpensive to acquire. A quick Google search will give you plenty of websites where you can buy them.
Since I already have an air popper, I went online to look for some beans to roast. It took me a little while to pick out the right stuff, mostly because I can be a little indecisive sometimes (just ask my wife), but I eventually ended up with some direct trade Nicaraguan coffee beans. I was so eager to try my hand in the roasting business, I could hardly stand the 2 short days wait that it took for the beans to arrive in my mailbox. These beans are grown on a family farm by Primos Coffee Company. They are a true direct trade coffee bean. And this is a really great deal. I am all about supporting a family company AND convenience!
A Few Things to Do First!
The hardest part of the process was waiting to roast my first batch until after dinner (the beans were delivered around lunch time, so this was a long wait for me). I needed to put my lawn mower back together, and my son wanted to go on a wild adventure to the creek in our backyard, so we ventured off for the afternoon. After dinner, I went into coffee mode, and I quickly had everything I needed set up on the back deck. The roasting process can get very smokey, so I don’t recommend doing this inside the house.
There are a few things you’ll need when roasting with an air popper.
1. An air popper – I used my Orville Redenbacher popcorn popper. It’s been good to me for the last 5 years. If you don’t have one, and want to try this out, the older poppers work better, and you can usually find them for very cheap at thrift stores. It is recommended to use one with a minimum of 1200 watts
2. Green coffee beans (I used these & they are excellent)
3. A measuring cup
4. Colander for cooling the beans
5. Something with a long handle for stirring, such as a wooden spoon
6. Oven mitts – the plastic cover will be hot when the beans are finished
7. Soup can (optional – if you’re beans keep jumping out of the popper, place the can, with both ends open, directly on top of the popper with the plastic cover off. This will help prevent that from happening.)
8. Glass jar with lid to store the roasted beans
A Step By Step Guide
When you have everything you need and you’re all set up, you are ready to start roasting. Don’t forget to make sure you are somewhere with good ventilation since this can get smokey. Simply follow these easy steps below:
1. Measure out about 1/3 cup of green coffee beans.
2. Turn on the air popper and pour the beans into the popper. Evaluate to see if you’ve added too much or if you need to add more beans. You want them to move freely inside the popper, but not get too crazy.
3. Stir occasionally to ensure an even roast.
4. Listen for the first crack. Evaluate the color of the beans to your desired roast. Use a flashlight or lamp to look down into the popper.
5. When the beans are roasted to your liking, turn off the popper and pour the beans into the metal colander and let them cool them off.
How Long Do I Roast Them?
Let’s break those steps down into a little more detail to make sure you know how to do this!
First, let’s talk about the roasting time. When raw coffee beans are roasted, they crack. You can hear this cracking sound and it’s pretty cool – it almost sounds like tiny popcorn popping. It should take only about 3 minutes for them to be considered roasted and ready to make coffee. This is when you should start hearing the first crack.
If you like a light roast, this is where you’ll want to stop. If you let them roast longer, you will eventually hear a second crack. The total time for each roast is as follows…
Light roast (city roast) – 3-4 minutes
Medium roast (full city roast) – 5 minutes
Dark roast – 6 to 6.5 minutes
Keep in mind that this is all dependent on the power level of your air popper. If your beans are roasting too fast, you probably have a higher wattage popper. The simplest way to fix this problem is to use an extension cord. The cord will reduce the wattage just a little bit, and it should be just enough to keep the beans from roasting to quickly.
Let the Roasting Begin
Once you have everything set up and within reach, measure out about one third cup of coffee beans and pour them into the popper. Turn it on and evaluate. If your coffee is spinning in circles, you don’t have enough so you’ll need to add a little more. If it isn’t moving at all, you’ve added too much. But don’t worry, this just means that you’ll have to stir occasionally. If your beans are jumping around randomly, then you’ve added the right amount.
I got scared of burning the beans, so I only roasted them for about 4-5 minutes. I also used a wooden spoon handle to stir the beans to prevent any burning, and to ensure that I got an even roast. Once you hear the first crack, you can start watching the beans so you get your desired roast level. When they are slightly lighter than the roast level you are wanting, take them out and pour them into the colander to cool. They will continue to roast a bit longer since they are still very hot. Shake them around or stir them in the colander for a few minutes to help them cool.
You’ll notice in the picture below that some of the beans are a lot darker than the others. Those were the second roasting I did. I was a little nervous that I’d over roast the first batch so I didn’t let them roast very long.
If your popper isn’t roasting the beans at all, then you don’t have enough wattage power.
The Freshest Coffee You’ll Drink
Once they are cool enough, you can move them to a glass jar, but don’t tighten the lid for at least four hours. After the beans are roasted, they contain a large amount of carbon dioxide, which will expel in the hours after roasting. This degassing period varies from bean to bean and can also change with how light or dark your roast is. A safe rule would be to let the beans degas overnight, or around 12 hours, before brewing.
When you are finally ready to use the beans and make a cup of coffee, open up the lid on the jar, and see just what coffee is supposed to smell like. You will find a whole new meaning to the phrase “wake up and smell the coffee”.
Grind those beans and brew yourself a cup! My two current favorite brewing methods are here and here!
Not only will you discover that roasting your own coffee makes for the freshest, best tasting coffee, but that it is also a very rewarding process. I can’t wait to roast more! After you try this, come back and tell me what your experience was like! And if you need any help along the way, don’t hesitate to comment below or shoot me an email.