It’s nearly spring, and here in the Eastern U.S., that means switching up your...
Coffee Roasting Equipment:
The first thing you need is the means to roast beans. You can use a simple frying pan or even better, a wok but such methods do tend to see more burning and scorching of the beans themselves, as it’s difficult to keep an even heat. These methods can also create a problem with ventilation in small homes or apartments, leaving your home smelling of burning coffee. The darker you roast, the worse the smell, and an oily roast will produce visible clouds of fumes.
A simple accessory for the wok is the stove-top corn popper, otherwise defined as a saucepan with a lid that contains a stirring paddle turned by a handle. The better versions of these are fitted with a thermometer, but the process can become a real drag since you’re continually stirring the beans as they cook.
If you’re prepared to spend a little more, you can use an electric popcorn popper. These machines are readily available for a small financial investment, and were until recently the preferred option of the home roaster. Essentially, all you need to do with these machines is add half a cup of coffee beans and switch it on. Soon they will go yellow, then make a fairly loud cracking sound, which will continue for a minute or so. The chaff, or white silver skin covering of the bean, will soon be blown off, and continuing the heat will gradually get them to a nice brown color.
Factory-built, commercial coffee roasting machines for the home are the next step up for the dedicated roasting hobbyist. These machines are basically the same as the popcorn poppers because they blow hot air up through the beans – but they also have a built-in timer, a cooling cycle, and a chaff collection device. The roasting process takes between 5 and 20 minutes, depending on the machine and level of roasting you prefer. For the home roaster who wants a larger capacity, several companies produce gas grill drums that can handle 1-2 pound batches of beans at a time.
Please note: The chaff can catch fire if it touches the heating element, so keeping an eye on the roasting process is essential, although most popcorn poppers will simply blow the chaff out the side chute of the popper.
BUYING COFFEE BEANS:
If you choose to roast your own coffee, you can normally buy green beans from a local roaster company listed in the Yellow Pages, or from accompany selling beans online. Prices generally come in at about 15% less than you would pay for pre-roasted beans, and if you go through a provider that specializes in green coffee beans, you can pay a lot less. Generally, the price difference between top quality beans and average beans is negligible in small amounts, so you might as well pay for quality.
When purchasing, you should know that a price list of standard bean types, such as Colombian or Kenyan, is not the sort of thing you want to be dealing with. A dealer with such vague descriptions is not so worried about quality for the most part. On the other hand, a list that includes such bean varieties as Colombian Huila San Augustin, or Kenya AA Kathangariri Estate, indicate that the seller cares about his or her product.
Roasted beans give off a good amount of carbon dioxide over a period of weeks following the roasting process. Thankfully, approximately 40% of that is emitted in the first 24 hours, so you only need to let the beans sit for 1-2 days. If you don’t wait, and instead just grind the beans and brew them immediately, then the carbon dioxide will dissolve in water and give an acidic taste. In a French press, the carbon dioxide affected beans will froth. Another reason to let the beans sit for a few days is that the flavors of some beans take 2 or 3 days to really develop.
To prevent staleness caused by oxygen getting to the roasted bean you can purchase one-way valve bags that let the carbon dioxide out but stop oxygen coming in. Failing that, glass Mason jars are a good alternative.
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