There are many variables that contribute to your favorite cup of coffee, from tree to cup. One of the most crucial variables is the roasting process. Roasting can either celebrate the nuances of the bean or it can completely obliterate them. But that doesn't mean that roasting your own coffee is out of reach for the average person. If you've ever wondered how to roast your own coffee at home, this one's for you! You don't have to be an expert to try, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind while you make your first tentative steps down the rabbit hole. To help explain how a home roasting novice can get started, I've interviewed our very own Andrew, himself, a home roaster for 14 years.
You may have met Andrew at Central Market as he demoed ACR coffee, or perhaps you've come across his laid-back, jovial personality while visiting our retail store. He's been with ACR for 2 years now, and has quickly become a pillar in our small crew of 10 people. Andrew started with a tiny roaster to get his feet wet over a decade ago, and quickly realized that he would need a larger roaster to accommodate his passion for roasting. His favorite coffees to roast are Colombian dry process microlots and lively African coffees.
So what are the pros and cons of home roasting?
Well, the pros are it's really fun! It's a hobby that you can enjoy on the side, but it also provides a lot of satisfaction to more geeky and advanced roasters. It can be really inexpensive or very expensive, depending on how deep you want to go. You can craft your own specialty coffee at a lower cost. Of course, it's great for gift giving!
Some cons are it gets really smoky. You're going to need a lot of ventilation. And if you roast outside, be prepared to bribe your neighbors with some of your custom roasts. Another issue you could run into is the potential to ruin some expensive green beans. There is a wide variety of beans on the market, some cost a pretty penny. If you aren't paying attention or if you aren't very skilled, you could end up ruining your investment. Also, this hobby takes a fair amount of research and experimentation. To really get the enjoyment out of roasting your own coffee, you really need to be interested in it.
Where should one start?
Do tons of research! Research roasting devices. You could roast in a cast iron skillet or an old popcorn popper. You could also spend thousands of dollars on a state-of-the-art home roaster. Only by researching and weighing the cost/benefits of each method will you save yourself some time and possibly money. You don't need to spend tons of money to get great results.
One incredibly valuable resource is Sweet Maria's. They have loads of products, instructionals, tips and tricks, and trustworthy information about roasting and brewing coffee. This one's definitely a keeper!
Start with forgiving green beans. Just like some wines have delicate nuances and some robust, coffee is the same way. Some of them lend better to a wide variety of roasts, while others have a much smaller window to achieve perfection. Some of the more robust coffees would be Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Sumatra, and Costa Rica.
What are some general tips and tricks to get started?
I can' stress good ventilation enough. Your stove's hood vent probably won't be enough on its own. Roast outside if you can and get a few fans.
There is a science to this process, especially when you're learning. Write down everything: Where does the coffee come from?; How was the coffee processed (dry processed/washed processed)?; What temperature did you choose to roast this coffee?; How did your test run go?-- at what time did you hear the first crack and second crack?; How did the coffee taste?-- Bitter? Sweet? Like paper?
Roasting delicious coffee is definitely an achievable pastime for most. You just have to approach it like a scientist. Do your research, ask questions, watch YouTube videos, and write everything down.
Interested in attending a home roasting class at ACR with Andrew?
If you are interested in attending a home roasting class at ACR with Andrew, please let us know! The classes will be geared towards beginning roasters and hobbyists, going over the basics and using your senses to roast, followed by Q/A discussions. The goal for these meet-ups is to bring together folks who enjoy sharing information about coffee roasting and to provide some guidance for those just starting out with roasting. If you're interested in attending a class, please email Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.