Roasting Coffee at Home: Do or Don’t?

In the old time roasting coffee at home was pretty normal.

It was not so easy to find it, so families had to do it themselves. 

Now times have changed and so the coffee industry. 

roasting coffee at home

The ranges of coffee beans we find in shops could make us believe we need the help of experts to enjoy the best brews.

But the question still remains: is roasting coffee at home a do or a don’t?

Ready for the next step in being a coffee lover?

Is it Possible to Roast Quality Coffee at Home?

Here’s the point: If you roast it right, your own roasted beans can taste every bit as good as the ones you find in branded sachets.

So it is roasting coffee at home is definitely something to try, particularly if you love having your coffee and want to have exactly the way you want.

Like all the good things it take some practice but it you are willing to give it a go you may even discover your new favorite hobby in the process.

What You Need

Firstly you must realize the importance of the preparation stage.

Coffee roasting can be a fun experience but it’s essential you follow a systematic process if you want beans that are worth sharing with your friends.

Make sure you have all your utensils ready so you don’t have to panic in the middle of your roasting.

Because timing plays such an important role in roasting you can’t risk leaving your beans alone for too long during any of the steps we discuss below and figure out what tool to use.

Get Your Gear

You’ll need:

  • A scale to measure your beans to the exact weight
  • A timer so you know how long each step takes. (You’re collecting data for future roasts as well)
  • A kitchen thermometer. This item must be able to measure up to 500°F and therefore can’t be made of glass. (This is an optional item as heat is not the only method of measuring progress)
  • Colander
  • Airtight container for storage afterwards
  • Funnel to easily transfer beans between containers
  • Paper and pen. You need to keep record of everything you do. When you’ve discovered the timing and process that lead to the perfect bean for your palate you’ll want to recreate it. (Optional but strongly recommended)
  • Oven mitts to protect your hands when handling beans or utensils. (Optional but strongly recommended)
  • Cooling rack
roasting coffee at home

Source Your Beans

Here’s an important fact: your roasted beans can only be as high in quality as the beans you use.

Yes, that is intuitive: keep in mind that your roasting process is important, but a low quality bean will never taste as great as the more expensive ones. 

If you actually want to enjoy your brews you need to invest in a quality product.

You can purchase green coffee beans which you’ll find from local sellers or even online.

An interesting fact is that while your roasted beans quickly start losing their flavor green coffee beans can actually last longer.

Store them in a cool, dark place and you’ll be able to keep them for some time.

So buy in bigger quantities and save some cash and then you’re guaranteed to always have beans on hand for your next batch.

How to Know When It’s Ready

What if you’re not a great cook or you simply don’t like spending time in the kitchen?

When you follow the easy steps below you’ll discover coffee roasting can actually be loads of fun.

The roasting process takes about 30 minutes and then you just have to wait for the beans to cool down.

The fascinating part of roasting coffee at home is monitoring the stages the beans go through. These help you gauge when your beans are ready.

What do You Hear?

Basically you’ll listen for two things:

  • The first crack: A bean that has given a first crack is ideal for white coffee and this is what’s called a light roast. The crack usually happens three to five minutes into roasting when the beans reach +/- 380°F in temperature. After this point the changes will happen quickly so it’s imperative you keep a close eye on your beans going forward. You don’t want them to burn.
  • The second crack: When you hear this you’ve reached the medium roast mark. Your beans have reached +/- 435°F and now it’s almost time to take them off the heat before hey burn. An additional 30 seconds is usually enough. This crack should sound similar to what you hear when pouring milk over cereal, not a continuous intense crackling. The latter means your heat setting is too high.

Important note: You can’t return your beans to the heat if you realize you took them off too early. As they’re already cooled off they won’t simply continue roasting. You need to learn when is the best time and it will get easier to discern with every batch.

What do You See?

The first few batches of beans will be your learning curve, but we’ll help you get good results faster.

When you know what each shade of colour means, you’ll quickly gauge when to remove the beans from the heat.

Here’s a list of bean colours and what you can expect from each:

  • Green: This is how your beans start out and you shouldn’t use this for brewing. They will smell grassy as they heat up.
  • Light brown: This is not ideal as it’s bound to taste sour, with little body or sweetness.
  • Light-medium brown: This is a favorite of many who like full body and some sweetness.
  • Full medium brown: This is where the strong aroma starts to come out.
  • Medium dark brown: It’s also called Light French or Viennese roast. You’ll taste strong sweet flavors and enjoy a lot of body with strong aromas.
  • Dark brown: The French or Espresso roast has a medium aroma but a full body and loads of sweetness.
  • Almost black: Here the characteristics start to deteriorate although some people still love the mild aroma mixed with some sweetness. It does have a weak body though and it’s often called Spanish or Dark French roasts.
roasting coffee at home

These changes are possible because of the 800 plus compounds inside the coffee bean that change during roasting.

Your green bean may not smell like anything tasty, but a dark brown is a completely different thing.

What do You Smell?

The aromas you pick up while the beans roast will most likely be in your coffee brews too.

When you smell flavors you know you’ll love to drink it’s a good time to take the beans off the heat, before those details disappear.

The beans will keep on changing as long as they’re roasting.

Roasting Methods

You may imagine this process will require a huge capital expense to get all the equipment in your kitchen. Not so!

Of course you can invest in fancy coffee roasting gadgets but you can also use the utensils already in your cupboards.

Have you ever thought of using these:

  • Roasting beans in a pan on the stove: stove roasting tends to give beans very deep notes but you’ll lose some aroma.
  • Place beans in an air roaster: this makes for even roasting and you have the benefit of viewing the beans all the time through the glass container.
  • Roasting beans in the oven: note that this method is limiting as there’s very low air flow. The beans won’t all enjoy the same exposure to heat and the roast will be uneven. The benefit of this method is that it can lead to a very rich flavor.
  • Using a popcorn machine: this simulates a very similar process to coffee roasting.
roasting coffee at home

Try these methods first.

If the process sparks a new passion in you or if you want to be more meticulous in your roasting you can invest in a purpose built home roasting machine.

Important notes:

  • Using your microwave is not advisable for roasting coffee at home as it often results in inconsistent roasting.
  • When using machines such as popcorn makers you must ensure the device heats from the sides and not the bottom. The latter won’t be very effective, but it’s also dangerous as the chaff will most probably collect at the bottom. As it heats up it can ignite.
  • When roasting in devices such as popcorn machines you’ll most likely void the warranty as it’s not designed for this task.

If you’ve picked your appliance you can follow one of the 6-Step plans below.

Your 6 Step Coffee Roasting Plans

1 - Pan Roasting

This is a winning method because it’s convenient:

Everyone owns pans, right? Just note that it’s more difficult to measure and maintain the temperature. Gas stoves usually work better.

The thicker your pan the better, but make sure it’s steel or uncoated.

Here’s what you do:

  • Step 1: Make sure there will be as much ventilation as possible. Switch on a fan or use your stove’s exhaust fan.
  • Step 2: Put the pan on medium heat and wait for it to reach around 450°F. This is where you can use your thermometer, although it’s not essential. After a few batches you’ll realize which stove settings work best.
  • Step 3: Place your green beans inside the pan. It must be a thin layer that you can easily stir.
  • Step 4: You need to stir constantly. With this method your beans can’t rest for a moment as you don’t want them to burn.
  • Step 5: You’ll hear the first crack after about 5 minutes and the second crack after 7 minutes. Wait half a minute and then take off the beans. Remember: This should be according to how you like your beans to taste and smell.
  • Step 6: Place the beans in a colander to easily separate the chaff from the beans. Shaking the colander usually works. Do this outside so these particles don’t blow all over your kitchen.

As stated, this isn’t the most accurate method in terms of temperature, but it’s very easy to follow.

roasting coffee at home

2 - Oven Roasting

Here’s another favorite option of roasting coffee at home but this one’s unfortunate side effect is a lot of smoke.

When you open the oven door you need to make sure there’s enough ventilation.

This method also won’t work in all ovens: If your oven’s fan blows very forcefully the chaff won’t stay in the pan and the moment you open that door it will be all over your kitchen.

Other than that it’s an easy method requiring little effort or action from your side, different to pan roasting which requires you to stand in front of the stove the whole time.

From start to finish it can take more or less 20 minutes, depending on when you decide to take them out of the oven.

You can use a normal tray with a sheet of baking paper in the bottom, or a perforated oven dish with holes small enough not to let the beans through.

Here’s what you do:

  • Step 1: Your oven must be preheated to 500°F for your first batch of beans. With this method you can experiment with different temperatures (a few degrees less or more) to find what will bring out the flavors you prefer most.
  • Step 2: As stated, ensure there’s ventilation in the room.
  • Step 3: Green beans can be placed one layer deep in the pan. It’s important not to stack or heap them.
  • Step 4: Place the tray in the middle of the oven. Note that you only do one tray at a time.
  • Step 5: Wait until you hear the second crack after which you can almost take them out. In the oven you can wait 30 to 60 seconds before removing them.
  • Step 6: Open the oven while guarding your eyes against the smoke and place the beans in a colander to sift out the chaff.

Did you know beans expand up to two times while going through the roasting process?

This is important for oven roasting because a bean that falls into a small hole, e.g. in a perforated dish, may get stuck in there while it roasts.

Make sure you get all of them out before doing your second batch. The forgotten beans will get burnt during their second time in the oven and any bad aromas could affect the other beans.

You also need to ensure there’s enough space in the oven dish so the beans won’t get pushed up against each other.

This will prevent even roasting so make sure the amount of beans you use leaves space for them to swell.

roasting coffee at home

3 - Coffee Bean Roasting in a Popcorn Machine

This is a dynamic approach because these appliances are designed to distribute heat evenly among the items inside.

This is essential to get an even roast.

Your popcorn machine should at least be a 1200W model and if there are slots and grooves on the sides, rather than at the bottom, it’s ideal.

Fewer beans will burn because they fall into those holes.

Note: The traditional crank style poppers are very dynamic for this task, which you can place on the stove for a more effective stove top roasting method.

The steps are simple:

  • Step 1: Coffee bean roasting almost always results in smoke so even with a popcorn machine you need ventilation. Place the appliance near a window if the cord will reach.
  • Step 2: If your popcorn machine gives you the option of preheating, always do this first. About half a minute is enough time.
  • Step 3: Measure ½ cup of beans and throw inside. Your amount of beans may vary; you need to ensure the machine can still rotate them easily. For smaller machines you may need to use fewer beans, otherwise the appliance won’t agitate them because of the weight.
  • Step 4: With the machine switched on you can agitate the beans with a wooden spoon. This kick starts the process. Keep doing this until you see there’s consistent movement and then close the lid.
  • Step 5: The machine should channel the chaff through the spout so collect it in a bowl so you can easily throw it away.
  • Step 6: In the popcorn machine your second crack will be heard between 6 and 8 minutes into roasting. Wait another minute and then open the lid & transfer the beans to your colander.

Note: This same method can be followed with an air roaster. It’s a more expensive appliance, but if you already own one it’s an effective tool and there’s very little chance of damaging it in the process. Some of these appliances may even have special settings for coffee roasting, so always read the manual first.

What Happens Now?

Unfortunately you can’t use your beans the moment you’re done roasting.

Therefore you should keep an eye on your stock of coffee beans so you don’t run out one morning.

Beans need to mature for about a day before you grind them up if you want to enjoy the full body that will come to the fore.

Remember to roast only enough beans for a short period of time. They can quickly go stale so making weekly batches is ideal.

How to Optimize Your Coffee Roasting

How particular are you about the coffee you drink?

If you want to be as satisfied with your own brews as the ones you get at the local coffee house you’ll need to learn a few habits the pros have.

Here are some of their secrets.

Be Meticulous

Here’s what you need to know: coffee roasting and brewing is basically a science. You need to be meticulous in:

  • Measuring all ingredients
  • Taking notes of what you do
  • Consider the weather conditions of the day since moisture in the air or the temperature can affect how the beans taste
  • Take pictures so you can remember the color of the beans you love most
  • Noting how long each step takes
  • Write down exactly at what temperatures each step (such as the first crack) takes place
  • Make notes of what you see as well
  • When you taste the coffee for the first time, write down what you would change so you can incorporate it in your next roasting

Why is this necessary? Because when you’ve created the perfect brew you’ll want to recreate it.

How can you do that if you don’t have a record of what you did?

For this you need quality measuring instruments such as spoons, scales and jugs.

Get the Right Beans

We already mentioned beans, but it can’t be over emphasized how important this aspect is.

Your beans determine the flavor you’ll have and the quality of the brew.

This is one aspect worth investing a little bit of money in. We will not go deeper into the coffee bean here as it is not the scope of this article.

Keep Everything Clean

If you plan on roasting a large batch of beans you’ll probably use the pan, oven or appliance a few times over on one day.

Always make sure you removed all the chaff and beans before starting the following set.

apart from ruining the taste of the beans, these particles can catch fire if they get too hot.

Conclusion

It’s much easier than you think, right? As a matter of fact the processes are easy, but they require practice to be mastered.

Roasting coffee at home can give you tastier coffee than you find in specialty stores at the moment.

Why? Because your coffee will taste the way YOU want it to taste, and all you need is already in your kitchen. Now time to get your roast done!

In the old time roasting coffee at home was pretty normal. It was not so easy to find it, so families had to do it themselves. Now times have changed and so the coffee industry. The ranges of coffee beans we find in shops could make us believe we need the help of experts to enjoy the best brews. But the question still remains: is roasting coffee at home a do or a don’t? Here is why you may even discover your new favorite hobby in the process of roasting coffee at home.

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