Homeroasting from a beginner's perspective
Homeroasting for the beginner, by "moccafaux"
A little while ago, "HughF" and I sent "moccafaux" some samples of home roasted coffee, intending that he get the opportunity to taste some different flavours. Little did we know what we were starting! This is the result ....
So why do it?
With less than one year of experience under my belt I am still a newbie myself. After years of using a "Zanzibar" coffee maker I acquired a simple Gaggia second hand and discovered real espresso. A grinder followed. This was a huge step forward in terms of quality. I would never go back to pre-ground coffee. I lusted for bigger and better machines to improve the product.
Instead, quite by chance, I was given some samples of fresh home-roasted coffee. This made me discover the most important factor in preparing an espresso so far: the freshness of the roast.
Roasting at home has several advantages:
- Green beans are much cheaper than roasted ones. You can get 1kg for around 8 Euro (half the price of a kilogram of decent beans roasted goodness knows how many months ago) and they can be stored for at least a year.
- One can prepare and drink many different kinds of coffee at short notice.
- 40 to 60 minutes twice a week are all the time needed. If one is into good food, this is nothing compared to shopping around for and preparing one good meal.
- No special and expensive equipment is needed.
- It makes for great bragging!
Fortunately, nearly all of the stuff needed can be found already around the house. One needs:
- Beans, obviously. The easiest way of buying them is by mail order. My source of choice in Euro-based continental europe is www.berliner-kaffeeroesterei.de. Not only do they stock about thirty different sorts of beans, they also go as low as 250gr per sort. Ideal for the beginner, because one can try many different coffees without having to stock huge amounts.
- A small pot to roast in. One with a base of 15 to 18cm in diameter is plenty for a batch size of 100g.
- Two mesh colanders or pots to swap the beans between for air-cooling them
- Alternatively (or in the summer) a spray bottle to spray the beans with a mist of water
- A clock
- A wooden spoon
- A stove (in the kitchen) or a portable heat source when roasting outdoors
- A heatgun. If you don't have one in the shed and you can't borrow one from a friend, they can be bought quite cheaply (30-50 euro) in department stores
- A vaccuum cleaner
Actually doing it
If you can prepare pasta "al dente" you can roast coffee. It's that easy!
A warning first. Don't do it if you can't stand a bit of smell or dirt. Also don't do it if you want everything to be perfect and 100% repeatable right from the beginning. Remember, you do this for fun.
All the instructions here are mere guidelines. Experiment with your own equipment, write everything down and learn to trust your senses. Beans are cheap and if you waste one roast of 100gr, so what? Chuck them away, or better, grind them and give them to someone who thinks Lavazza Red is drinkable stuff!
- Start by pre-heating the pot. The roasting itself is done with hot air, but the pot should be warm (just hand-warm, mind) from the beginning. Also preheat the airgun for a couple of minutes.
- Measure around 100g of beans by weight or volume (one large cup) into the pot and immediately start stirring with the wooden spoon and hold the muzzle of the airgun 5-19cm away from the beans, moving it around as well.
- Look at the clock and note the start time of the roast.
- Soon chaff (the beans skins) will start flying around. Ignore it or have someone hold the muzzle of the vaccuum cleaner's tube about 50cm over the pot. The vacuum cleaner should be on its lowest setting and far away from the pot One only needs a little bit of air suction to get rid of the chaff.
- After several minutes you hear a series of cracks, called "1st crack". Note the time and continue.
- The beans will begin to darken and a second series of cracks (2nd crack) may be heard (note the time). If not, don't worry and continue to roast.
- As soon as the beans have turned chocolate-brown, stop (again, note the time). You will want to stop roasting before the beans are too dark, since it takes a couple of minutes to cool them down. The process of roasting inside the beans will continue for some time, so you want to stop early enough and cool down fast.
- Put the beans into a colander and then let them fall from one colander into the other, cooling them with air. This only works in relatively cold air, so in the heat of the summer you may prefer to moisten them with a fine mist of cold water in addition. I haven't tried this yet, however. After several minutes, when the beans are just warm to the touch, the roast is finished.
- Put the beans in an airtight container and let them rest for 12hours. Upon opening them first you may notice a hissing sound: the beans having out-gassed a bit in the time between.
- Grind them (each sort will require a different setting, so take notes), brew and enjoy!
Try five, ten, fifteen different kinds of coffee. Each cup will be different - and you haven't even started trying different roast levels, let alone blending!
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