Friday, May 04, 2012


A few years ago, C and I really got into thinking about and coming up with new year's resolutions. I may have even mentioned a few here and there on the blog. Nothing big, just fun hobbies or skills would would like to learn or improve upon {becoming a better violin & ukulele player, perfecting new dishes in the kitchen, etc}. It's silly but nice to set these fun goals and see our life become a little bit richer. Well, funny thing is two weeks ago Calder pulled up the "2012 resolutions" document on his phone and we noticed that we've made very little progress this year. Of course, traveling to Thailand for a cooking class is a serious commitment towards improving my Thai cooking abilities, but I have yet to put together a curry since I've been back. So, after laughing at our lack of commitment to this year's resolutions, we added a new section to the document where we would list our unexpected new skills; the things we happened to learn or spend some time exploring that we didn't even think about on January 1st. So far we've added one item to the list :: coffee roasting. Flossie gave us a primer on Easter Sunday and since then we've been going at it like gang busters.

It's surprisingly simple to roast your own coffee, but the fun begins when you start to think about the wide variety of bean and roast combinations. Flossie gave us a "starter set" of beans to get us going, some from Indonesia, India, and Costa Rica, and both caffeinated and decaf. Her favorite {and ours as it turns out} was the Costa Rican Tarrazu. Once you have your beans, you can start to think about how roasted you want them to be. The beans will have their own distinct flavors depending upon where and how they were grown. By roasting the beans, you begin to override those flavors with the flavor of the bean's sugars that begin to caramelize and the "roast" flavor. Depending upon your bean and the level of roasting, in some cases you can produce chocolaty or nutty flavors, other times it can just taste burned. With very light roasts, a lot of the bean's natural flavor remains, but by the time you get to a French or Double Roast, you loose all of the bean's natural flavor.

The photos below provide a snapshot of our first big roast. Begin by gathering your supplies :: the green beans, a popcorn maker, a large bowl, and a trusty assistant {Ca$h is standing in for Calder at the moment}.

A few supply notes :: You can order your beans online, which is what we planned on doing, but then we stopped by our local roaster and found that he would sell us beans at wholesale price {about $6/lb!}. Having this local source is great while we're still experimenting ~ we can stop by and pick up a few pounds of a few different varieties, and then do some taste tests.

As for the equipment, you read that correctly ~ we're using your basic popcorn popper. BUT as our wise teacher explained, you have to get a popper that has a solid metal cup for the popping, as opposed to one with a screen in the bottom. The beans produce a lot of dried chaff as they're roasting, which could get caught in the screens and catch fire. With the solid bottom, the chaff just flies up and out of the popper. Between the chaff flying around, the smoke, and the carbon dioxide that's released while roasting, this is an activity that should only be done outdoors.

To begin roasting, you just have to add your green beans to the popper and turn it on.

As the beans begin to roast, you'll notice a few things. First, and most obvious, they will begin to darken. Second, they will expand in size, for this reason you don't want to fill your popper to the top {this would also cause problems with even roasting}. Third, you'll eventually begin to hear a popping sound. This is called the "crack", beans have two cracking stages, and these are temperature dependent. With our beans and popper, we found that the first crack occurred somewhere around the 3-4 minute mark, and the second crack occurred around 8 minutes.The timing of the crack is temperature dependent, so your roasting times will vary depending upon the outside temperature, how windy it is, and whether or not you keep the lid on your popper.

C and I tend to favor a darker roast, so we began to experiment with longer roast times. This first batch we roasted beyond the second crack {about 10 minutes}. It would be considered a double or French roast. It was our darkest roast yet, and after a taste test, we realized that this was too dark for our liking. We prefer the full {also called Viennese} roast that occurs towards the end of the second crack.

Green coffee beans can be stored for years and still maintain a high level of quality, roasted beans, on the other hand are at their highest quality for just a few days to weeks after they've been roasted. So we'll be out on the deck again this weekend roasting the beans for next week! And thanks again for the lesson, Flossie ~ you created a couple of roasting monsters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done, Grasshoppers! I'm so proud of my Coffee 101 pupils. And before I forget, Kate let me know when you'll be up at the farm. I will bring the mannequin there as road trips are not do-able with Charlie as of yet. Enjoy your cuppa joe.