There is really nothing like the smell of freshly roasted coffee. Unless of course you were like me when I was introduced to coffee roasting, seven and a half months pregnant. It was Christmas of 2004, I was in my third trimester of pregnancy, and my mother decided that for my dad’s Christmas gift that year she was going to take his coffee snobbery to a whole other level. She began to scour the Internet and to her delight she discovered green bean coffee roasting. Now let me state first that my mother did not even drink coffee but her undergrad was in chemistry and the whole process of roasting the bean became fascinating to her. My mother had recently retired from her practice and teaching of Obstetrics and Gynecology and was looking to take up a new hobby. Fascination of roasting coffee beans turned to hobby, and hobby turned to distributing green coffee beans in the entire Northeast for her coffee co-op.
Sadly, I was sick my entire pregnancy and at first all of this coffee roasting business sent me directly into the farthest corner of the house for our entire Christmas stay. As most things do between mother and daughter I rolled my eyes at first at her newfound hobby. My father and husband were well pleased with learning about roasting and reaping the benefits of her bounty.
After a few years I built up a tolerance to the smell of coffee roasting. Some where along the way tolerance gave way to old memories and a desire to know more about roasting.
So let’s get to the coffee roasting. Shall we?
What you’ll need:
- Green coffee beans
- Hot air popcorn popper
- Metal bowl or glass jar (for the beans to cool in after roasting)
So around here the hubster likes a dark roasted Sumatran bean while I enjoy a medium roast South American bean or mild taste of Monsoon Malabar. Each region of the world has a different type of bean and believe it or not, a different taste! The type of bean you use and how you roast it can lead to many different combinations of flavors. Being able to buy green beans in bulk is also a monetary advantage for the thrifty coffee connoisseur. Green beans can be stored for long time so don’t worry about waste. Many people enjoy buying a sampling of beans, roasting them, and discovering which bean they love the most before going bulk. Sweet Maria’s is a good place to start for the beginning roaster. You can pick up a sampler from them for $20.50.
You do not need to get fancy with this and maybe that’s what makes me the happiest. Anyone can roast. Hot air popcorn poppers will do the job (about $20 bucks at Target or less elsewhere), especially if you like a medium to dark roast. If you really like a light roast or want to make sure the beans roast more evenly you can get a more costly roaster.
I highly suggest roasting outside, though the coffee smells great after it has been roasted the roasting process is a different story. As the bean chaff and oils burn the smell permeates everything, and the chaff will go everywhere! To begin, take a small handful of your green beans or about 4 oz and put them into the hot air popcorn popper. They will heat up and eventually begin to move in a circular motion pushed by hot air. If you put too many in at once the air will not be able to move the beans and some beans will cook faster than others. You might have to gently shake the popper until the beans begin to circulate. Obviously, handle the popper and beans with care as they will be hot.
Once the beans start moving they start roasting fast. The first thing you will notice is the chaff from the beans being blown from the popper. Once the beans get to a critical temperature the oils in the beans try to escape. This is when you will hear what is known as “1st Crack”. The sound is a concert of snaps as each bean gets to temperature.
After first crack then you will begin to hear a lull in the action as the beans continue to spin. The length of time that you leave your beans in the popper will determine how dark your roast is. I prefer just after 1st crack for a medium roast while my husband prefers a 2nd crack dark roast. If you keep the beans in past 1st crack you might also begin to see the beans begin to smoke a little as the oils begin to burn off. Around this point you will start hearing what is known as “2nd Crack”. This is a slightly different sound from the 1st crack and is reminiscent of someone crinkling plastic wrap in their hands. If you are trying for a darker roast you will want to wait to until you hear this sound. When you see your desired darkness of the bean it’s time to upend the popper and dump the cracking beans into a metal bowl. This will help the beans cool as they begin to release gasses and weep their oils.
Once the beans are cool to the touch you can store them in a mason jar with the top on loosely. We like to let the coffee sit at least 12-24 hours before we grind it as it gives time for the beans to settle and rest. When you pop that top after a few hours, your house will fill with the wonderful smell of fresh roasted coffee. After the first initial resting period for your beans you can store them with the lid on more tightly.
My mother passed away in 2008 after a life long battle with lupus and all of the illnesses that stemmed from her complications of her autoimmune disease. I think of her often when the smell of roasting beans lofts through the yard and wish for nothing more than to sit down with her with a steaming cup of Joe. All too often daughters take for granted the many wise things that their mothers do only to appreciate them when they themselves are much older. I smile when I think about myself, emulating my mother years later, using my reusable totes, cloth diapering my children, and roasting my coffee beans. So roast those beans and brew that Joe and raise a cup to mothers everywhere who pass on their random passions to future generations!
Fresh coffee beans make a fantastic gift during the upcoming holiday season. Throw them in a mason, jar but don’t tighten down that lid the first 24 hours. Pick out your favorite ribbon and a label to make an easy hostess gift or stocking stuffer.