Home Coffee Roasting: The Ultimate Guide

by Kahlia Meeuwsen, Lifestyle Columnist


Published in Lifestyle on 13th December, 2018


Roasting coffee at home is a great way to gain full control over the process. You can roast fresh beans to a level that suits your tastes perfectly and enjoy truly delicious coffee as a result!

While it might seem like a complicated process, roasting your own coffee beans is actually quite easy once you have the correct equipment. You may even find that it saves you quite a bit of money over buying standard grounds once you get a handle on the process!

home roasting

Let's take a look into how the process works, and why it's worth doing!

Why Is It A Good Idea To Roast At Home?

Although for many of us, the grounds we purchase from a store work perfectly well to suit our needs, some want to take their love of coffee a step further.

Home roasting allows you more control over the process, so that you can make sure the resulting beans suit your tastes every time. You get to take completely uncooked beans and turn them into perfect grounds without having to rely on the hope that someone else has already done so.

We all know that the grounds we purchase from stores may not be perfect. Oftentimes, they are roasted in huge batches using drum roasters that may not always ensure an even result. Because of that, those who are sensitive to coffee flavors may find the resulting grounds to be lacking.

However, when you roast the beans yourself, you can make sure each bean is up to your standards before grinding and brewing them. This will allow you fresher, better tasting coffee that will surely make you never want to go back to buying pre-roasted beans or grounds from a store!

What Kind Of Roaster Should You Use?

You have options when it comes to methods and devices for roasting your coffee. Depending on your tastes, you can also opt for something that easily fits on the kitchen counter, or something much larger for batches to share with others. The whole process is entirely up to you and your unique tastes!

When you're selecting a method for roasting, there are five main methods that people use. These include roasting their beans in the oven, in a skillet, using a popcorn machine or opting for a device made specifically for coffee roasting, such as a drum roaster or an air roaster.

Each of these options is able to provide different pros and cons, based on ease of use, price to obtain and use the method, and how well it actually gets the job done.

Below, we're going to take a look at each method.

Air Roasters

Air roasters are among the most efficient and reliable. They allow for an even flow of temperature that ensures all of the beans reach the same level of roasting at the same time. Because of this, the results can be much better than choices that may not be so even.

air roaster

That said, these options are often smaller and cannot handle the same amount of beans that a drum roaster can. For those who are just roasting beans for themselves, or themselves and a few others, this doesn't tend to be too much of a problem.

Another aspect worth keeping in mind is that air roasters tend to roast more quickly than other options. This is important because a quicker roast allows more of the flavors and benefits to be retained within the beans. On average, air roasters can take somewhere between 6 and 8 minutes for a standard-sized roast.

Pros

  • Can roast more quickly than drum roasters
  • Temperatures are consistent
  • Greater control over the roast

Cons

  • Don't tend to fit larger amounts of beans

Drum Roasters

Drum roasters are an option that many commercial coffee companies use, because they lend themselves much more easily to roasting large amounts. They essentially consist of a large, heated drum that continually spins the beans as they roast to help with getting all the beans roasted well.

While the setup may not reach the same level of even heat as air roasters, it does tend to work well enough for the purposes of roasted beans and grounds we find in the store. By no means are drum roasters an option that produce low quality results.

drum roaster

That said, it is worth keeping in mind that chaff that is removed from the beans can often be stuck in the same container. In an air roaster, the chaff is typically blown into a separate container away from the beans. This means that with a drum roaster, you'll have to separate the beans and chaff after roasting.

Pros

  • Friendlier to commercial-sized bean batches
  • Simple to use

Cons

  • Tend to take longer to roast
  • Results have a higher chance of being uneven

Skillet Roasting

Roasting in a skillet is one of the easier and least expensive options out there. It's essentially just placing your beans in a skillet, hitting the right temperature and roasting them to the extent you want. Because it's so easy, it's one of the options out there that is pretty highly popular.

skilletroaster

Keep in mind that this method can create a lot of smoke, so it may be a good idea to wear some sort of eye protection, as smoke tends to not feel so great when it gets into your eyes! Furthermore, it can be easy to overcook the beans through this method, so be extra careful to avoid that!

It's also worth keeping in mind that non-stick or other coated pans can effect the flavor of your beans in a negative way, so it's best to avoid them. Something like a cast iron skillet is a good idea.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to do
  • Beans roast quite quickly

Cons

  • Can create a lot of smoke
  • Temperature may not be even

Oven Roasting

Another easy method for roasting coffee beans includes roasting them in the oven. Many like this method because it doesn't tend to require any added purchases. For those who don't want to spend much money on the roasting process, this or skillet roasting are good ways to go.

This is another method that can be rather smoky, so make sure you have some good ventilation to make it easy to get through the process. Furthermore, if your oven tends to blow hot air, it's not a good idea to roast coffee beans in it. This is because it can create a mess due to the chaff getting blown around.

over roaster

In addition, this is a method that can also take longer and be somewhat difficult to get the perfect roast, but it is possible with some trial and error. Doing plenty of research on this method beforehand can be very helpful in getting the results you want.

Pros

  • Simple and easy
  • Uses the oven you already own
  • Budget-friendly

Cons

  • Creates high amounts of smoke
  • Can take more time to roast than other methods
  • Getting the perfect roast can be difficult

Roasting In A Popcorn Popper

If you own a popcorn popper, then you may find that it's a perfect low-cost solution to your roasting needs. It tends to be a method that is rather simple, easy and can create an ideal roast once you get the hang of it.

However, keep in mind that there are some safety concerns worth noting, so make sure to do some research on the guidelines to ensure you can safely get quality results. In addition, the process can be rough on some popcorn makers since they aren't made for roasting coffee, causing some devices to break pretty quickly.

If you already have a popcorn popper, and aren't too concerned about it being broken in the process, then it's worth taking a look to see if it's a model that will lend itself well to roasting coffee beans. Otherwise, there are resources online that you can use to find the best one!

Pros

  • Very easy to get the ideal roast
  • Inexpensive
  • Moves beans around automatically

Cons

  • Some popcorn poppers can break easily
  • These devices aren't made for roasting coffee beans

Benefits Of Home Roasting

As mentioned earlier, roasting your beans at home can give you a lot of control over the process, from start to finish. You select where your beans come from, choose the best ones for roasting, roast them to the ideal level and then enjoy them in any way that you please.

over roaster

In addition, you get to save some money over buying beans that are pre-roasted. Oftentimes, green coffee beans are quite a bit less expensive than grounds you may buy at a store or online. Depending on what beans you buy and where they are from, you can get 3lbs of unroasted beans for around $20, sometimes less.

As a result of the high levels of control, you will be able to drink coffee you really enjoy rather than grabbing what you can to get that caffeine boost. If you enjoy the flavor more, then you may even find that you use fewer sweeteners, which is also great for your health!

There are really few reasons not to try out home roasting, even if you just attempt a small amount of skillet or oven-roasted beans to see how they turn out!

Downfalls Of Home Roasting

When it comes to downfalls, there are only a few. Oftentimes, they also tend to be outweighed by the results for most coffee lovers. This is worth keeping in mind when you're considering whether or not you want to adventure into the world of home coffee roasting.

One of the downfalls can include the smoke created when you roast beans. While there seems to be less smoke when you use a drum or air roaster, other methods like oven, skillet and popcorn popper roasting can create a lot of it, which can be an annoyance to those who are trying to roast the beans.

In addition, it can certainly be a trial-and-error process. It can take some time to reach the right roasting level and be able to replicate it. That can result in beans that are wasted, or just aren't enjoyed as much as they could be. If you're okay with these downfalls, it's certainly worth a shot!

Steps For Roasting Coffee Beans

For those who are interested in learning about the process of roasting beans, we're going to give a brief look into the steps. That way, you'll get a clearer idea of what to do, how to do it and what tips might help to create the best results.

Getting Your Beans

Your first step is in getting your hands on some beans. The good news is that green coffee beans are available pretty freely online, and you may be able to get some from local coffee shops as well if you're lucky! Make sure that you compare to get what you need at a price you're happy with.

Keep in mind that when you roast the beans, they will become lighter. Depending on the extent you roast them to, they can end up at about half the weight they began at.

If you're completely new to roasting coffee beans, it may be worth getting a few pounds so that you have plenty to experiment with. It's also helpful to adjust your expectations, because it is likely that the first few batches may not turn out perfectly. While this can be frustrating, it provides valuable coffee roasting experience!

What Will You Need?

This is really going to depend on the method of roasting you choose to use. If you're selecting something like skillet or oven roasting and already have the equipment, then you may just need your green coffee beans to get started.

coffe

However, if you're planning to use a popcorn popper then you may or may not own one already, or you may find that the model you have isn't ideal for roasting coffee. Don't worry! There are plenty of great options out there, such as Hamilton Beach's Popaire 2, or the West Bend Poppery 2.

Otherwise, it can be worth making some comparisons on air or drum roasters to determine which option is going to provide what you need. There are a lot of fantastic choices on the market, like the Behmor and Nesco. With a bit of research, you'll surely find the perfect choice for your needs!

Getting Started

Your first step will be in selecting the amount of beans you want to roast and get started. It can be worth starting with smaller batches, just so that you aren't wasting as many beans during the learning process. However, the amount you use is entirely up to you.

If the method you're using has a way of agitating the beans by itself, then you won't need to worry too much about it. However, if it doesn't then you'll want to make sure to stir the beans regularly to help them get more even heating. Try to take it slowly if you can at first, and just use that experience to learn how to perfect the roast.

One of the important aspects is knowing what levels of darkness the beans can reach. This can help greatly in knowing when to stop the roasting process, and what level is your favorite.

Reaching The Ideal Darkness

From green to burnt, there are several levels of roasting that you can choose to aim for. This also includes two "cracks" where beans reach certain points. For those who want the lightest possible beans, you'll want to stop not long after the first crack, known as a "city roast". Meanwhile, if you want them as dark as possible then you'll wait until after the second crack to achieve a dark roast.

Between these two roasts are two others, which allow you to enjoy beans that are right in the middle of the roasting process.

It's going to be important that you stop the roasting right away once the beans have reached the ideal point. Otherwise, you can risk them being too dark or becoming burnt. In the next step, you'll learn how to cool them quickly and efficiently, keeping them at just the level of darkness you want.

Cooling Your Beans

When it comes to cooling the beans, there is a pretty simple method you can use that will work rather quickly. It also doesn't include anything expensive, which is great for those who are working on a tighter budget. For this, simply placing the beans onto a cool strainer, or a baking pan can be useful.

coffee beans

What many like about using strainers is that they can take a pair of them and shift the beans back and forth between the two. This allows them to cool more quickly and helps to remove any of the remaining chaff.

Still others can create their own methods for cooling beans as quickly as possible. This is important to be able to do because you want beans to stay at the level of darkness they were at when you stopped roasting them. If you use the strainers, make sure to do it outside or over a sink or garbage can!

The Breathing Period

After the beans have been roasted, they're going to need some time to de-gas before they'll be ready to enjoy. To allow for this, what you can to is place the beans into the container that they are going to be kept in and either leave the lid off for a while, or at least leave it cracked open. That way, the gasses can safely escape.

The container should remain open for a day or two, just to be safe. During this time, it's also a good idea to avoid brewing or grinding them, as they aren't ready yet. After that period is up, they should remain fresh for about 5 days.

Because of this, it's a good idea to make sure to use them as quickly as possible. That might mean only brewing small batches at a time, or sharing them with other coffee lovers!

Enjoy!

After the roasting process is finished, you get to enjoy fresh, perfectly roasted beans. If you're never had coffee made from fresh beans before, then you're likely to find quite a pleasant surprise! There are many coffee lovers who swear by the taste that fresh beans can provide.

Furthermore, make sure that you plan your roasting so that you can get through the beans while they are still fresh and have more before you run out. That way, the de-gassing period won't be a problem, causing you to have to wait a couple of days before you can enjoy the beans.

Aside from that, grind the beans as you please and enjoy them in your favorite ways! Once you get the hang of roasting, the benefits are definitely worth the effort!

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