Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Roasting Coffee

The first time I roasted coffee, I waited until my wife had gone away on business for the weekend. My wife hates the smell of coffee and roasting coffee would be even worse.  I used a cast iron pan, turned the exhaust fan on high and opened a bunch of doors.  This method yielded an uneven roast when I was getting tired with shuffling the pan.  Chaff would light up and spark like a campfire. It took over ten minutes for the beans to crack. The goal was a cinnamon roast which is a really light roast but instead I got a mostly light roast with a few darkened beans.  I supposed that makes it a medium roast.  It did make for an interesting coffee that had the brightness of a light roast mixed with the smoky and bitter flavours of darker roasts.  Not what I wanted. I didn't do that again.

Flash forward to a few years down the road.  I bought a roaster (Fresh Roast SR 500 for those who care) with the intention of roasting out in our shed.  The first time I finally had the compunction to roast it was quite cold outside and I wanted to avoid standing in the shed for any prolonged time. This roaster is kind of like a popcorn maker.  Green beans are put into container with a metal grill on the bottom. Hot air is blown through moving the beans around for a period of time that is set on a timer.

So, I set it up just inside the door and opened it, hoping the smell would be drawn outside. Placed four ounces of the beans and turned it on for a four and half minute roast. Within about a minute, the house started to smell like burning coffee.  It wasn't the beans but the chaff. Soon, the fire alarm went. To be fair, my son had set off the fire alarm earlier in the week with a cap gun.  The fire alarm may be a little sensitive. I was preparing the same bean, Harrar Longberry, at three roasts (4.5, 5.9 and 6.5 minutes) for a taste test for a friend.  After the first roast, I resigned myself to doing it outside in the shed.

I am happy with the results.  There is some variation within the roast so maybe the fan has to be turned higher and turn the heat down.  Another option may be to roast less than four ounces at a time.  All in all, I think home roasting is the way to go.  I'll write about the results of the taste test in a later post.


  1. Nice blog. Learned a lot.

    Which is better? Beer vs coffee?

  2. Wow. Great question but it reminds me of having to choose which child I should save from a burning building. I may follow up with a reply on your blog or even figure out a post of my own.