Frontier Psychiatrist

Coffee Roasting 101

Posted on: January 11, 2012

I like to consider myself something of a coffee snob.  But the good kind of snob, if that exists.  Mine is a snobbery based on an earnest quest for excellence.  Similar to my feelings about bagels (it’s not worth it if it’s from a Thomas’ bag), I won’t just settle for most deli/convenience store varietals.  I like strong, rich, smooth coffee, and I’m not opposed to walking blocks out of my way to get it.

Luckily, I have some pretty excellent coffee in my own kitchen.  For a while we were importing beans from Drew’s Brews in Nashville (Lost Weekend!), and then we had a nice seasonal blend from Joe, and now we’re on to some pretty fancy (pricey) stuff from Dallis Bros.  I also happen to have a variety of coffee-making devices: an electric drip coffee maker with a self-start timer, a French press, a ceramic pour-over, and a partially defunct espresso maker (you might get a shot of espresso out of it, but don’t count on enough steam for a latte).  And, for all you skeptics out there, yes, they do all make slightly different tasting cups of joe, and I believe each has its purpose.

So, any of this tickling your inner coffee snob’s fancy?  Please, read on.

Back in October I went to a lecture at the Brooklyn Brewery, where coffee experts shared brewing methods, espresso-shot pulling techniques, and roasting tips for home baristas.  It was this last bit that really intrigued me.  Last year I made the jump from buying ground coffee to buying whole beans, and it seemed only logical (of course) that I start roasting my own.  Well, fine, perhaps not logical, but at least a fun thing to try.  The lovely folks at Gorilla Coffee in Brooklyn were handing out bags of unroasted “green beans” to follow up their discussion on how to roast beans at home, so I grabbed a bag for future experimentation.  Here are some of the takeaways:

  • – The darker you roast your beans, the smokier the coffee will be
  • – You can roast beans in a saucepan, a popcorn air popper, or a fancy gadget
  • – The beans should never stay in prolonged contact with hot metal
  • – This website will be your bible: Sweet Maria’s
  • – Beans will crack twice in the roasting process.  Crack 1 should be at about 4 minutes; crack 2, shortly after.  Stop after the 2nd crack.

  

  

I was on the verge of buying an air popper (worse comes to worse, I make popcorn) when a couple of friends, in moving to a new home, unearthed their home coffee roaster and lent it to us for our great coffee experiment.  It’s a Fresh Roast Plus 8.  The thing is not so big, about the size of a blender, and pretty unassuming, as far as powerful kitchen appliances go.  You just pour in the beans, select a time setting, watch and listen.  We selected 5 minutes as a starting point, based on some preliminary research.  The machine blows the beans around in hot air, and they slowly turn from green to yellow to tan to brown.  We had been warned of much smoke and great mess due to the chaff that comes off the beans, but thankfully there was little of either.  I took the liberty of filming the process.

The result?  “It looks like real coffee!” I squealed.  It looked just like a dark French roast.  The beans were a bit brittle, but ground up normally.  Smell?  Like, um… bad.  Real bad.  Taste?  “Not terrible!” were the words I believe we used.  Frankly, my expectations were pretty low, considering it was the first go-around and this stuff smelled like a pig pen, but this coffee was truly not terrible!  And it grew on me as I sipped.  The final assessment was that it tasted better than many average coffee places, although it’s possible that our pride also left a nice taste in our mouths.  I’m looking forward to trying again with fresher green beans (ours were at least several months old).  Home roasting may not be the most efficient path to fresh coffee, but it sure is cheaper than buying roasted beans, and a whole lot more fun.  Anyone out there have great success?

Freya Bellin writes alternate Wednesdays for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include A Dinner Party for New Year’s EveTop 10 Kitchen Gifts for a Foodie, and A Meal Fit for a Peasant, 

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3 Responses to "Coffee Roasting 101"

[…] Bellin writes alternate Wednesdays for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include Coffee Roasting 101, A Dinner Party for New Year’s Eve, Top 10 Kitchen Gifts for a Foodie.  Share […]

[…] Wednesdays for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include The Ultimate Roasted Chicken, Coffee Roasting 101, and A Dinner Party for New Year’s Eve.  Share […]

[…] Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include Rooted in Winter, The Ultimate Roasted Chicken, and Coffee Roasting 101. Share this:ShareEmailTwitterFacebookRedditStumbleUponYahoo BuzzDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to […]

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