As any experienced coffee drinker will tell you, you can experience different flavors and intensities of coffee with different roasts. A dark roast will, of course, have a stronger and more bitter flavor. While a light roast will have a little more of a lighter, acidic flavor. These flavor differences actually come from how the beans are roasted.
Now, you may be thinking “oh roasting coffee beans is something for the big companies to do. It’s too complicated to do at home.” If you think this, you’re dead wrong. With a little practice, you can easily roast your own coffee beans with common home appliances. With this guide, you can quickly learn to roast and customize the flavor you want out of your coffee beans.
Reasons Why – Roasted vs. Unroasted Coffee Beans
While roasted coffee beans are brown in color, unroasted coffee beans are actually green in color. The coffee beans are stored as green because they do not lose the flavors and oils in this state. The entire goal of the roasting process is to bring out those oils and flavors.
When you buy pre-roasted coffee, you have no control over whether or not the roasting process was done to your preference. Yes, most companies do quality checks and so on, but if you want coffee exactly the way you like it every time, it’s better to just buy unroasted coffee beans.
Not only does buying unroasted coffee give you the ability to roast your coffee the way you want it, but it will also save you money. The average pound of roasted and ground coffee costs around $8.50 a pound. This amount will naturally increase if you want a high-quality coffee. In contrast, you can buy raw coffee beans for as little as 5 bucks a pound!
In addition to saving money, you will also get the satisfaction of enjoying something you made with your own two hands. You may not have been in Cuba or Mexico growing the beans, but everything else from that point is up to you. It’s actually built into our psyche that we value things more that we made ourselves!
Methods of Roasting Your Coffee Beans
Before you begin there are a couple of things to consider. This process can and will create A LOT of smoke. It is best to roast your coffee beans outside. If you can’t, make sure your kitchen is extremely well ventilated. And of course, the beans will be very hot and there are oils coming out of them, so take the proper care, wear oven mitts, all that good stuff.
Also, DO NOT use non-stick or any kind of coated pans or pots (except for ceramic-coated) the high temperatures involved can create toxic fumes from the coatings.
#1 The Grill/Stove
Once you get your coffee beans, there are several methods you can choose from to roast your coffee beans at home. The first is with a cast iron pan on a grill or stove top. The grill would be the best option since it is outside. The cast iron pan holds heat very well and will roast the beans evenly. Ceramic coated or stainless-steel pans also work.
#2 The Oven
If you must, throwing the beans onto a cookie sheet and throwing them into the oven will work. You just need to monitor the smoke levels. You will also need to take them out constantly to stir the beans. Be careful, the beans will be extremely hot and secreting oils.
#3 The Popcorn Poppers
Surprisingly, this is actually an effective method for roasting coffee beans. A lot of in-home coffee roasters started by using popcorn poppers. Most hot air popcorn makers have a built-in stirring arm, and if you have an outlet outside, you can just plug it in out there.
The only drawback to using this method is that popcorn makers aren’t really designed for roasting coffee beans, so you would only get a few roasts out of each machine.
Another option with popcorn makers is to use a manual stovetop popcorn maker. These popcorn makers also have a stirring arm that you turn to keep the roasting process even.
#4 A Coffee Roasting Machine
Naturally, if you want to take the easy option, you can purchase a specialized coffee roasting machine. These machines are beneficial because they are extremely durable and built with several features to take the guesswork out of roasting your own coffee beans.
The only slight drawback to a coffee roasting machine is the cost. As with anything, as you look for higher quality machines, the cost increases. However, this will be offset in the long-term by the money you save roasting your own coffee.
How to Roast Coffee Beans – Steps and Notes
When you get down to eat, the initial process of roasting coffee beans is virtually the same as roasting anything else. To help you get started, here is a quick breakdown of the steps of roasting coffee beans plus a few tips to help you achieve satisfaction.
1) First, preheat your chosen roasting method. (grill, oven, etc.) The ideal temperature should be around 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit. You don’t need to use any kind of oil since the coffee beans will produce their own oil.
2) Prepare and add the coffee beans to your roaster. If you are using the popcorn popper method, use roughly half a cup per roast. For other methods, spread a thin layer of beans onto the pan.
3) Roast the beans for the time period for your desired level of roasting. For light roasts, cook for 4-6 minutes. For medium, 5-8 minutes, and for dark roasts, 8-9 minutes. The key is to listen for the first “crack” of the coffee beans. This indicates you have reached a light roast. The second crack will indicate that you have reached a medium roast.
4) When the beans are done roasting, transfer them to a stainless steel or ceramic colander (strainer). Do NOT use plastic colanders, they will melt. Also, the beans will, of course, be very hot so take the needed precautions.
After transferring the beans, you will need to winnow the chaff off of the beans. Chaff is a protective layer that coffee beans have that becomes dried out during roasting. (If left on, your coffee will taste weird.) You can either toss the beans outside, or you can toss them between two colanders. Either way works.
The Final Step – Storing and Grinding Your Coffee
This step is one of the most important parts of roasting your own coffee. When you roast the beans, there is a gas (carbon dioxide) build-up inside the beans. If left inside, these gases will ruin the flavor of your coffee.
So, after roasting, you will need to let your coffee sit for anywhere from 12-48 hours to de-gas. The time variation comes from the difference between roasts. Darker roasts will de-gas faster than lighter roasts.
To let the beans de-gas, you can use specialized degassing containers or bags. These bags have a special valve that allows carbon dioxide to exit the bag but does not allow ambient air inside the bag. Letting the beans de-gas without them being oxidized (breaking down from oxygen) is crucial to maintaining the freshness of your coffee.
If you want a more low-tech approach, you can simply let the beans sit on your kitchen counter for the time period. Afterward, store the beans in an airtight container.
Lastly, grind and enjoy your coffee. Remember, the sooner you grind the coffee after the degassing process, the fresher your coffee will be. However, since the time is a little variable for degassing, you will want to experiment with the timing of the degassing and grinding.
Final Notes – Just Have Fun with It!
Roasting your own coffee beans is an extremely rewarding process. It’s basic psychology when you do something yourself, you are investing part of you into that project. So, when you roast your own coffee beans, chances are you will enjoy them more than just your regular store-bought coffee.
Another important thing to remember, roasting coffee is a science, and science requires experimentation. Everyone is unique in their coffee preference. Some like it extremely dark, others prefer a lighter blend which actually contains more caffeine. With roasting your beans, just experiment with it.
Try blending beans from different areas. Change the roasting and degassing time. Maybe invest in a coffee roasting machine and compare it to using a pan and a grill. There are so many different possibilities, just keep trying till you find what works for you and enjoy!
Hi my name is Larry, a coffee aficionado and passionate traveler from the US. I have already visited Colombia, Sumatra, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Jamaica in my pursuit of finding the best-tasting coffee beans that make you feel like you are in heaven. I currently write from Bali and enjoy the relaxed life that you can find only in Indonesia. Welcome to my coffee world!