If you’ve ever been buying beans at your favorite local coffee shop and come across a bag of pale green, unroasted coffee beans and asked yourself, “What in the world am I supposed to do with these?”—you’re not alone. Roasting coffee at home may be on the rise, but unroasted, green beans are still a fairly niche product. And of course, home-roasting coffee may be a daunting task for some—after all, most of the coffee we consume comes to us already roasted, just the way we like.
Sure, there’s lots of room for error when you’re roasting your own coffee, but we think it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Not only does it give you a small piece of insight into the work that your favorite coffee roasters do to get that perfect blend on the markets (and into your mug), but it’s also a fun and gratifying way to customize your next cup of coffee. Not to mention, coffee is best when it’s freshly roasted, and roasting at home is the most effective way to minimize the time spent in between roasting and brewing your coffee.
Home-roasting your coffee is certain to take a bit of trial and error, but we’re here to help demystify the process for you a bit so that you can take your brewing skills to the next level as you embark on your own coffee roasting journey.
Where can I get green beans?
Of course, you may not have seen green coffee beans on sale before—while they’ve been popping up on the shelves of more and more coffee shops these days, they’re still not exactly the hottest commodity right now (which is a shame!). If you’re lucky enough to find some high quality, green coffee beans at your favorite café, get out there and grab yourself a bag and move on down to the next section of this blog post.
But if you can’t seem to find any of those off-white, pale beans wherever you’re located, fear not! There are plenty of places where you can buy unroasted beans online—a quick Google search for “green coffee beans” and you’ll find plenty of web stores that stock up on beans from all across the world.
Photography: Sweet Maria's Green Coffee Sample Set
Perhaps the most exciting thing about roasting your own coffee at home? Green beans are far less expensive than roasted ones. At the website Coffee Bean Corral, for example, you can grab a pound of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans for just $7.25. On the other hand, a pound of roasted specialty coffee from the same origin will likely cost upwards of $15, as this also accounts for other expenses professional roasters have to put into their products, such as packaging, equipment and the time and energy it takes to develop a distinctive roast.
What kind of equipment do I need?
All that said, home-roasting your coffee is still likely to turn out to be a rather expensive hobby, especially if you’re looking to make a cup of coffee that rivals the quality and flavor of professionally roasted beans. That’s because home-roasting equipment can be pricey. Like, really pricey. If you’re first starting out, and don’t necessarily want to drop a ton of money on purpose-built coffee roasting gear just yet, you can always roast your coffee using a cast iron pan. For a more in-depth guide to using a skillet to roast your coffee, Bay Area-based green coffee bean vendor Sweet Maria's has a guide to this up on their website that can walk you through the process. Beware that using a skillet to roast your coffee will inevitably result in a somewhat uneven roast, so serious home-roasters will eventually want to upgrade their coffee roasting gear when they get the chance.
When it comes time to make that upgrade, home-roasters have plenty of trendy options available to them—if you’re only roasting your coffee in small, single-serving batches, you can find a handful of smaller, handheld roasters that won’t break the bank, like the Univegrow Handy Roaster and the Nesco Coffee Roaster, at around $60 and $90 respectively. But if you want to roast your coffee in larger quantities, the Behmor AB Roaster is a bigger and reliable (but much more expensive, at $400) option that many home-roasters swear by.
How do I actually do it?
Roasting coffee requires a lot of heat. Light roasts are typically heated up to an internal temperature of more than 350 degrees Fahrenheit, while dark roasts often call for upwards of 450 degrees. As a result, the whole process can create a bit of smoke in the kitchen (especially if you’re using a cast-iron skillet roasting method), so you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a couple windows open and a ventilation fan on.
During the roasting process, it’s important to keep the beans moving, to ensure that you’re getting an even roast—while most purpose-made machines will keep your beans rotating, handheld roasters might be operated with a hand-crank that will require you to keep a steady watch on your beans and really get involved in the process. As the beans’ internal temperature grows hotter and hotter, you’ll begin to hear them make a cracking sound—this is what roasters call “first crack,” and it generally occurs at around 350 degrees.
Go a little bit past this stage and you’ll have a nice light roast. However, you’ll want to make sure the first crack is completed before stopping the roast to avoid ending up with a slightly “baked” or doughy flavor. If you want a slightly darker roast, keep it going for a little while longer—anywhere between 15-90 seconds. You’ll eventually hit “second crack” which signals that the roast has reached a dark quality. Be careful to remove coffee from heat very soon after second crack or you may wind up with burnt beans!
Once the beans have reached their desired roast level, it is important to draw heat away from the beans as quickly as possible to stop the roasting process. This is done with a cooling tray on commercial roasters but can be replicated by continuing to circulate the beans until they are cool with a spoon or by swirling them in a colander! The colander also doubles as a tool to remove all of the chaff. Some machines do this on their own, but if you're using a cheaper model or a cast-iron skillet, you'll have to do it yourselves. Finally, let the beans rest for at least 24 hours before brewing.
And be sure to remember that just like any craft, it’ll take a bit to get the roasting process down pat, but once you’ve got your roasting device all figured out, the opportunities for experimentation are limitless.
Featured image credit: https://coffeegeek.tv/
About The Author: Practically raised in his family’s kitchen, Andrew Warner's love of food and cooking goes all the way back to his early childhood in Sacramento, California. When he headed off to Los Angeles for college, he began writing about his experiences crafting simple, cheap meals using a three-cup rice cooker, for his award-winning column Dorm Dining at UCLA’s school newspaper, the Daily Bruin. Since then, he’s fallen in love with reporting and blogging about food, serving as a managing editor for the fashionfruit blog. You can usually find him catching up on work at one of his favorite local coffee shops – Temple Coffee in Sacramento or Espresso Profeta in Los Angeles.