Friday, February 19, 2010

How to: Roast Coffee Beans

If you're a coffee fan, you've probably already heard that there are people out there who don't always drink Starbucks. Who don't even drink Folger's. Nothing against these fine established roasted coffee providers, but there are benefits to roasting your own green coffee beans. Of course, there's the obvious - “It's freshly roasted!”, but there's so much more. Here are just a few:

- Roast variability within one bean. Don't like a dark roasted Ethiopian bean? Roast it lighter yourself. Want your Timor bean just a bit darker? Take it there yourself. Like Sumatra, but want to taste more bean than roast? Try it lightly roasted.

- Green beans have a much longer shelf life. Coffee experts can't taste the difference, even after being stored over a year. Beyond that, green beans only lose acidity and increase in body. Some coffees are aged on purpose for that reason!!


- Green beans are CHEAPER! Generally you'll save between 15-20% on your coffee costs.

So now you're thinking, “I don't have a coffee roaster, or a popcorn popper converted into one.” No problem. Grab your frying pan or wok. Ready? This method works best over a gas stove, but you electric users may find it do-able also. Use a wooden spoon that you're not worried about scorching.

Depending on your pan size, pour some beans in so that they're about 3 levels of beans thick. Because of roasting in less than controlled conditions, you'll want to roast slow on medium to give time for the air in and around the beans to heat. Some actually cover the pan, and shake while roasting for more a more controlled/even roast. I choose to stir the beans constantly throughout the roasting process.

As you're stirring, you'll notice the green beans begin to expand. They'll begin emitting an aroma that you probably won't appreciate your first time, but will grow to love. Not stinky-town, but not coffee-shop either. It takes a while, but once the beans “crack” audibly the first time, the color begins to change faster. By the second “crack”, you're usually at a very dark roast, and smokin' up the room a bit.

Here's a great chart of bean coloring. You can roast to your desired color, but remember that roasting continues even after you've taken them off the heat, from the inside of each bean. Kinda like bacon, you have to remove them before they look finished. This may take practice, but you'll get it.

You may notice the beans are a bit more colorful than the ones you buy in the store. This is okay! I've found that a slightly uneven roast allows you to taste more of the actual bean flavor, along with the selected level of roast.

Immediately after roasting, transfer your beans to a colander, and head outside. You'll want to gently shake the beans in the wind, or while softly blowing on them, as this will remove the chaff leftover after the beans have expanded. By this time, they've cooled a bit and are just about finished roasting. But they're still letting a bit of Carbon Dioxide out. Go ahead and put them in a jar of some sort, but don't close the lid for at least 10 hours. You could use the beans immediately, but best results will be at least 4 hours after roasting.

Store the beans in a sealed container, out of sunlight. Do NOT put coffee beans in the fridge or freezer, I don't care whose Grandma told you to. Enjoy your freshly roasted coffee, and don't be discouraged if you ruin some beans along the way. Just try again!!!


For more from Wick, check out Words from the Wick today!

Thanks to my husband, Chadwick for teaching us all how to roast beans!

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