Roast your own coffee - saves money & tastes better

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Mudsharkbytes
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Roast your own coffee - saves money & tastes better

If you drink much coffee and aren't roasting your own beans, you're paying more than twice as much as you need to.

I started roasting my own coffee beans about five years ago and have never gone back.  Green coffee beans are less than half the price of already roasted beans, keep for over a year (longer if vacuum packed) taste better than any you can buy already roasted because they are so fresh, and allow you to have fun experimenting with different roast levels.

The best online resource for green coffee beans and how to roast them is "Sweet Marias"

http://www.sweetmarias.com/index.php

But there are a lot of other online resources.   Many of your local coffee roasters will sell you green beans at a steep discount.

To roast them, you can buy a professional roaster, but a LOT cheaper is to simply use a hot-air popcorn popper which does the trick at a fraction of the cost.  You can roast them with a whirly-pop, an iron skillet, a hot air gun, any number of methods. 

Before the advent of the canned brown powdered stuff, home roasting used to be more popular.  It's coming back into vogue - slowly.

Oh, and the smell of roasting coffee beans is an olfacory treat.  

Happy roasting!

Edited by admin on 11/08/2014 - 06:06
Dr Durden
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I've been pondering this for

I've been pondering this for a long time and I might have to start it up as beans are up 25-50% in some cases.

My question to you Mud is - are you getting a pretty even roast with the popcorn popper? I've read that it spits out quite a few "quakers." 

Heard many good things about Sweet Maria's. Have you ever bought a green and a roast of the same variety and tried to replicate? Just curious how your home roast stacks up.

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Mudsharkbytes
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Roaster

I've sort of graduated from the hot-air popper but when I was using one the roasts were very consistent.  You just have to make sure you get one where the hot air vents are around the circumference of the bottom of the popper, not one that has a single screen covered hole on the bottom, pointing up.  At light roasts, which I favor, the beans will look uneven, but that's normal.

For a couple of years I was using an I-Roast, but have since made what I consider to be the ultimate in home-made home roasters - it's a combination of a stir-crazy popper on the bottom and a galloping gourmet turbo cooker on the top.  The stir-crazy (which has had it's heating elements disabled) keeps the beans moving while the hot air in the turbo does the roasting.  I can roast over a pound at a time in this baby.

As for trying to duplicate roasts, nope, no need to do that really since most of the coffee you buy already roasted is too dark for my taste.  Without getting overly technical here, coffee cracks twice when you roast it - the first crack is the water escaping and the 2nd crack is the sugars caramelizing.  Most coffee you by, especially at places like Starbucks, or as they are referred to by home roasters, 'charbucks', take the coffee beyond the 2nd crack into a really dark Vienna / French roast.  Coffees roasted that dark tend to all taste the same, and they lose strength because some of what you are brewing is charcoal.  When your beans look oily - they've been roasted to the point where they've lost virtually all of their origin flavor and all that remains is the roast flavor (and some charcoal).

One of the things I like the most about home roasting is stopping the coffee right after its finished its FIRST crack - which is referred to as "City" roast.  At this point, the lightest that is considered 'done', coffee has the most of its origin flavor and the least of its roasted flavor.  Most people when they taste coffee roasted lightly like this are amazed at the flavor, had no idea coffee could taste like that.  Bright, fruity, naturally sweet - all depending on the country of origin and how the raw beans were processed.

Best is when you have several pounds to play with, experimenting with different levels of roasting to see which one brings out the flavor you prefer in a particular bean.

It's simple to roast coffee beans and the results are rewarding, not to mention you cut your coffee budget by nearly half!

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Great thread Mudsharkbytes

I've been researching this very thing!  I did not know you could buy green coffee beans and roast them yourself.  My personal preference is the french/darker roast, but of course that is biased by what I can buy off the shelf.  I will consider the lighter roasts before going all in on the darker roasts.

Thank you :)

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Thanks for the insight, Mud.

Thanks for the insight, Mud. I'd love to see a pic of your ultimate machine you created. Still not sure what you did there.

I'm totally with you no the roast. In fact, that's my reservation numero uno  - going too dark. I'm an espresso nut and won't put anything darker than Full City through my machine. If it doesn't smell like graham crackers, cereal or light caramel, then I'm not interested.

A friend of mine is a cupper and has a couple sweet roasters he uses. He also does roast analysis with an Agtron unit. If I fire up my own gig I could always take it to him to tell me how bad is is. :)

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Mudsharkbytes
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Stir crazy roaster

This isn't a picture of mine, but it looks pretty much like this one:

49151796_06bec07beb.jpgscto.jpg

There's a great website that shows you how to build one of these babys:

http://biobug.org/coffee/turbo-crazy/

You don't have to go as crazy as this guy did - I don't have the spacers on my stirring blades, for instance, and it works just fine.

The best part is, you can usually find everything you need to build one at your local thrift store!

As far as screwing up a roast is concerned - that's almost impossible to do as long as you don't overdo it.  I say as soon as you hear the 2nd crack stop or slow down - that's the darkest you want to take it.  After that point, you're just turning the sugars into charcoal - yuck.

Happy roasting!

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Thanks for this post/links...

Been thinking about this too.......given the amount of the stuff I consume.

A fellow in our neighborhood is trying to turn his home roasting into a little biz.....still fledgling, but will be interesting to see where it goes.

Mudshark....have you experimented with flavoring the beans or you just go straight up?

Has anyone broken down at what point you break even after some of the initial expenses in equipment, etc.?  Doesn't seem like it'd be too long, depending upon what you have to roast (especially if you build it yourself).

Mudsharkbytes
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Flavoring & cost

No, I don't flavor my coffee.  Most of your flavors are oils applied after the coffee has been roasted anyway.

As to cost breakdown, that depends on whether you want to buy a new fancy coffee roaster or just make something simple.

The stir-crazy / aero-chef roaster I posted about above has maybe $15 put into it.  I found both appliances at thrift stores and all that remained to purchase was the aluminum band I bent in a circle, and a couple of screws to hold it together.  Whole thing took MAYBE 15 minutes to put together and it's way better than the fancy i-Roast roaster I purchased previously (which wasn't cheap).

But there's so many ways to roast coffee, you probably already have something at home you can use.  A whirly-pop will do the trick, or even easier, go to a thrift store and find an old hot-air popcorn popper.  Make sure the hot air is blown in through vents in the side of the tube instead of a screened hole on the bottom - and you're off.  You can roast about a 1/2 cup at a time in it, which is plenty to last for a while.

Or you could stir them on top of your stove in an iron skillet.  I once roasted some in a steel dog food bowl using a hot air gun and a wooden spoon.  Worked great.

Roasting coffee is like brewing beer, but a lot faster.  You DO have to let the beans rest for about a day before you use them - gives them time to vent some CO2 - but that's about it.

Cheap - fun & delicious!

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I'm Gonna Give This A Shot...

Thanks for the info.....and some good ideas too....constructing something from found items is definitely more appealing, cost-wise.....

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Nice chat lads!I was in

Nice chat lads!

I was in Vietnam recently and couldnt get over how good the coffee tasted, so I asked one of the cafe owners what the secret was...

She told me that, like practically everything in Vietnam, the beans are fried in a wok rather than roasted.

She said that was the reason for the different taste. I never thought of doing this myself as I doubt I could get raw beans here in Finland, but who knows!

Im worried if this catches on for me, Id have to invest in a grinder and Ive heard that they are very expensive as quality counts.

Anyway, let me know if anyone is aware of the wok fried coffee bean technique!

Edit... Now you have me looking into growing my own coffee tree at home! Anyone doing this at the mo?

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Fried Beans?

That I have NEVER heard of, but it makes sense that it would work.  However, you would really have to be particular as to what kind of oil you used to fry them in.  I would imagine sesame oil or something similar.

And I would also think that you would have to make sure to really drain them good afterward, maybe even wash them.  Wouldn't want oil slicks floating on the top of my cup.

Unless you live in the right place - altitude and climate wise both, I don't know about growing your own.  Most people don't realize how much work goes into a pound of beans.  I have heard it takes approximately one plant per pound, but that would be the arabica bush-like plants.  Then you have to process the beans (they are cherries after all) - either dry process or wet process them - before they can then be roasted.  Sounds like a LOT of work to me, but if you have the land and don't mind the work, why not?

As for grinders - this may sound snobbish, but ONLY use burr grinders - never those whirling blade contraptions.  With a burr the coffee drops out as soon as it's been reduced to the right size.  The friction heat of a whirling blade continuing to bash small particles of coffee actually 'cooks' it some.  I never would have believed it but coffee from a burr grinder tastes better - noticeably better - than coffee from a whirling blade grinder.  As to cost, I'm a BIG believer in thrift stores and if you keep your eye out, you'll eventually find one for under $5.

Best grinder I have is an antique hand crank one I got on eBay a few years ago and fixed up.  I can adjust the grind on it so fine that it effectively becomes instant 'Turkish' style coffee - basically the consistency of dust.  It'll totally plug up my espresso machine at that fineness.

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Hey Mud - How much smoke does

Hey Mud - How much smoke does your stir-crazy contraption produce? Does the addition of the convection fan help kill any of it at all?

I'm looking at the Behmor 1600 because I will be roasting indoors and it has a catalytic converter type thing in it to kill most of the smoke. Any experience with it?

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Smoke

Roasting coffee does produce smoke and it you do it indoors likely your smoke detectors will go off.

My contraption doesn't filter smoke at all.

Usually I set it out on the back deck when I roast.  Even if it's below freezing I can roast - I just turn the thermostat up on it a bit.  If it's too cold to do that, I roast in the garage and just appreciate the smell when I get in and out of the car (the smell of roasting / roasted coffee is wonderful).

Before that, when I used my iRoast, it had an attachment where you could stick a flexible dryer hose on the top of it and port that out a door or window, when worked but was a hassle.

I've heart those Behmors are really nice - you can roast several pounds and program roasting profiles & the whole shebang.  If you have the bucks to put into one, go for it, but if the only reason you're buying one is for the catalytic converter, I don't know.  The iRoast is a lot cheaper, does profiles and lets you vent the smoke out a window, but only roasts about a 1/2 cup at a time.

If you have a garage or a back deck, roast there.  When I roast in the garage, we love the smell whenever we are leaving or returning.

One other thing people don't realize when they roast coffee beans is all the chaff that blows off of 'em - looks like handfuls of shredded tissue paper.  Some beans produce a lot, some very little, but they all produce some.  When I roast on the deck, I just let it blow all over the place - no problem.  In the garage, I catch the chaff in a bowl (the aluminum band has an opening for all the chaff to blow out).  The iRoast has a filter to catch the chaff, as I presume the Behmor does.

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Thanks, Mud. I found a

Thanks, Mud.

I found a Poppery II circa 1985 at my grandparents house and roasted three 70-80 gram batches yesterday. I put a cheese cloth over the mouth of the popper and it caught all the chaff, but also all the heat and I ended up melting the top at the end.

http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l173/barnz008/IMG_0078.jpg

The roast was a bit under done and not as consistent as it should be. Just need more practice.

http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l173/barnz008/IMG_0079.jpg

So, on my third batch, I took the top off, got the cloth almost soaking wet and laid it over the top of it. The trick is to keep it moving around as it gets hotter and hotter. My roast time dropped a little and it helped kill a little more of the smoke at the end. I was roasting on the top of my stove under the hood vent. 

Going to try a few batches out in the garage today to just say screw it to the chaff and the smoke. 

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Hot air poppers

Those work great, but you gotta let the air circulate.  I'd put a big cardboard box under the chute that normally flings popcorn out and catch all the chaff that way.

As noisy as those are, it's difficult to hear the cracking, but listen carefully, after it finishes cracking once, it's technically done.  If you let it go until it just STARTS to crack again, that's about as done as I like it.  If you want it dark & oily like Starbucks, let it finish cracking the 2nd time.  Don't leave it in any longer than that though unless you like brewing charcoal.

After it finishes, I like to put it in a colander and rest it on top of a fan turned ceiling-ward to cool faster - otherwise it will continue to roast for a bit.

Oh, and be sure to let it rest at least 24 hours before you brew any or else you'll be disappointed.

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Yea, I got a little anxious

Yea, I got a little anxious and tried some this morning after it sat for less than 12 hrs. It should be better in a few days.

I can hear the first crack(s) as plain as day no prob. The second I can hear also, but clearly identifying it will take practice. One issue is I had it covered and should be watching the color and consistency as a guide also. 

Does Starburnts serve "coffee."??? I always thought it was some coffee-flavored byproduct of the tire recycling and charcoal industry. "Here's your ginormous coffee, sir. We ran it through our patented cigar ashtray filter just for you." ;)

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Man, I tried to roast outside

Man, I tried to roast outside today and it took forever! I was getting fist crack at 3:30 or so and it took over 40 min and it was only 38*F. 

So I brought it back inside and all was well. 

Mud: what are your favorite varietals from Sweet Maria's? Ever buy any El Salvador beans?

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Faves from Sweet Marias

You don't want it to take forever to roast some beans out in the cold.  If you're using a hot air popper, it might not be up to the task.  My stir-crazy doesn't seem to care until you get down to around 10°, but at that temp, I don't want to be outside messing with it anyway!

As far as what I like from Sweet Maria's, that's a tough one, because crops change and so does the quality of the coffee every year.  I remember a professional roaster one time told me that he had great respect for the people that work for companies like Folgers or Maxwell House because every year they have to figure out how to blend and roast wildly different cultivars of coffee and yet arrive at the exact same flavor year after year and manage to do it as cheaply as possible.  No simple task.

However, hands down my favorite when they have it is Indian Monsooned Malibar.  I love that stuff.  They take the beans and leave them out in big open shelters throughout the monsoon season.  The beans don't get rained on, but they absorb all that tropical moisture, along with tropical fruit and flower flavors, which gives the coffee a really unique taste as you can imagine.  The beans are huge when you get 'em because of all the absorbed moisture.

I also like Yemen mocha when they have it.  A really primitive coffee - the beans are usually really uneven in size.  Works great when blended with the Monsooned Malibar if making an espresso blend.

Speaking of which, Sweet Marias has an espresso blend they sell called "Amber blend".  If you like espresso (and I love it) load up on that stuff - I don't know what they use to blend it, but it's truly 'amber-ish' in color and makes a huge foamy crema every time.  They have other espresso blends, and they're good too, but none of 'em is as good as the amber blend if you ask me.

They haven't had it for a long time, but if you ever see them offering Indian Anokhi coffee - definitely grab a pound or two, even at the high price.  Anokhi is a liberica coffee, not an arabica or robusta.  Very rare.  Liberica grows on true trees so you have to climb ladders to pick it.  It has a VERY distinct blueberry aroma to it.  Use it in blends or straight.

Side note - I always have to chuckle when I see coffee advertised as "100% Arabica" - it's ALL arabica with the exception of small quantities of robusta used in espresso blends.  BTW, you can buy robusta from SM's too if you want to experiment with your own espresso blends.

Going to Sweet Marias can be a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you have no real idea what you prefer.  They have great deals on samplers.  For as cheap as it gets they'll send you samplers of four or eight pounds of different coffees with recomendations on roasting levels.  I'd consider trying one of those to get your feet wet.

Whenever I place an order with them, I always maximize it - I try to get at LEAST eight - ten pounds since shipping is the same cost up to 30 lbs.

Lastly, if you really start getting into it, check out the green coffee cooperative:

http://www.greencoffee.coop/

Individuals selling large quantities of green beans for dirt cheap.  The trick is checking in frequently 'cause whenever beans are offered, they're usually snapped up in less than a day!

Happy roasting!

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Good decaf (oxymoron?)

Home roasting is something that really appeals to me, but I am trying to transition to 100% decaf due to high BP.

Have any of you ever tried roasting decaf, and were the results worth the effort? I am very sensitive to that chemical-like off flavor I seem to taste with every commercial decaf I've tried (and I've tried many). Reading on Sweet Marias makes it sound like theirs is good when roasted correctly, but would appreciate a real review if anyone has experience.

Cheers
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Mudsharkbytes wrote: Speaking

Mudsharkbytes wrote:

Speaking of which, Sweet Marias has an espresso blend they sell called "Amber blend".  If you like espresso (and I love it) load up on that stuff - I don't know what they use to blend it, but it's truly 'amber-ish' in color and makes a huge foamy crema every time.  They have other espresso blends, and they're good too, but none of 'em is as good as the amber blend if you ask me.

Excellent! I'm on it. A friend also recommended the Monkey Blend for espresso from SM's.

I roasted today again in the garage but put the popper in a cardboard box this time and it worked like a charm. I was going to do it last time to help it get up to heat, but sort of wanted to see how long till first crack without it. Suffice it to say based on the end result, roasting longer at a cooler temp (at least for me) was no bueno!

And yep, I'm definitely a budding espresso snob. Just upgraded to a Ms Silvia with a PID and will be doing some other mods to it to really pimp it out. 

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@winemaker RE: Good Decaf

No, I have never roasted any of their decaf - I pretty much stick with the 'leaded' stuff.

I've thought about getting some though and trying it for those nights when a cup late in the evening sounds appealing but I don't want to be up all night as a result.

My understanding is if the coffee is grown at a high enough altitude, then it will be naturally decaffeinated, since the only reason the plant produces caffeine in the first place is as a natural insect repellant - higher altitudes have less insects, hence, less caffeine in the coffee.  I think most of what SM's sells is naturally decaffeinated, but I don't really know that for a certainty.

I can tell you from experience dealing with Sweet Marias that they simply do not sell coffee that isn't up to their high standards.  If they say its good you can take that to the bank.

Well, maybe that's the wrong expression.  Anyway, it'll be good - trust me on it.

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