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Move over, hand-dripped coffee and pourover brewers. The newest trend among coffee aficionados is hot — really hot. Home coffee roasting is nudging its way out of the geek-hobby category and into the foodie lists of things-you-gotta-try. If you’ve never really considered roasting your own coffee, here are 10 great reasons that you should give it some serious thought.
1. You’ll always have fresh-roasted coffee on hand. When you roast at home, you set your roasting schedule. That means you’re not at the mercy of specialty roasters who only roast on alternate Tuesdays and apparently ship their beans around the world before they make it to your door. As an added plus, you can roast just as much as you’ll use up in a few days, so your coffee never has a chance to go stale.
2. You can stock up on green coffee beans when you see a great price — or a special bean. Granted, green beans are at their best in the season they’re harvested, but you can reasonably buy 5 or 10 pounds of a great green coffee and not worry that it won’t be drinkable by the time you get around to roasting it all. Try that with roasted coffee, and you’ll be sorry.
3. It’s really, really cheap to get started. Ridiculously cheap. Contrary to what you might believe, you don’t really need to spend thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars on coffee roasting equipment — though you can if you want to. In fact, you probably have everything you need to roast your first batch of coffee beans – minus the coffee beans — right in your kitchen right now. All you need is a heat source, a pan, a wooden spoon and a pair of wire strainers or colanders.
4. You get to repurpose old (or brand new) appliances and equipment. Okay, so let’s be blunt. A big part of the fun of coffee roasting at home is that you can really get creative with it. Like we said in #3, all you REALLY need is a heat source, a pan, a stirring implement and something to cool your beans in. Of course, that doesn’t mean you HAVE to use a pan and a wooden spoon on the stove. In fact, you can use anything that makes concentrated heat — a hair dryer, a heat gun, a barbecue smoker — even a popcorn popper. In fact, popcorn poppers are way up on the list of popular first roasters. So are steel dog food bowls (aim a heat gun into it) and bread machines.
5. You get to lose yourself in DIY heaven. While you can use a lot of repurposed appliances as-is to roast coffee, you can also have a whole lot of fun gimmicking them up with temperature probes, chaff collectors, thermometer switches and more. Sweet Maria’s — one of the most popular purveyors of green coffee beans to the home market — has a whole page of coffee roaster modification tutorials and a page of hot rod coffee roasters that might give you some ideas on just how much fun you can have with your home coffee roasting habit.
6. You can appreciate coffee in a whole different way. Roasting at home is a great way to familiarize yourself with the various flavors and cup qualities of a wide range of origin coffees. It also allows you to play with roast profiles and learn more about what you really like in coffee.
7. You really can have your coffee any way you like it. Roasting coffee at home lets you control one more aspect of your coffee. Want to try that Sumatran coffee roasted light but everyone is roasting it to at least Full City? Not an issue when you roast your own. You can roast to exactly the degree you want — and probably find out why everyone is roasting it darker.
7a. As a corrollary to roasting to your desired roast level, you also can create your own coffee blends. Been wondering how well Ethiopian Yirgacheffe would blend with a sweet bean from Bali? Buy a pound of each and test it out! You have the control.
8. Green beans are more available than they have been for decades. As little as 10 years ago, you had to do a deep dive to find import houses that were willing to sell in small batches to home roasters. As interest grows in roasting at home, more and more players are jumping into the market. Sweet Maria’s is a personal favorite, but there are lots of other choices. You can even find green coffee beans for sale on Amazon — and your favorite coffee roaster may even sell green coffee to home roasters on the side.
9. Home coffee roasting machines are better and cheaper than ever. Okay, so you’ve taken your air popper as far as it will go and you want something that was MEANT to roast coffee beans. Just a few years ago, your choices were pretty spare — there were only one or two companies making home roasters. You still won’t find the same selection of coffee roasting appliances as you will of coffee makers, but you’ve got a whole lot more choice these days — and some of them cost less than $150.
10. You can taste really great coffees for a lot cheaper. We left this one for last because it really is among the least important factors in your decision. For the most part, though, prices for unroasted coffee beans are considerably lower than buying the same beans roasted. It won’t cost you less than supermarket coffee, especially when you add in the price of shipping, but it will definitely take off a couple of dollars if you’re buying from specialty roasters.
With all that said, however, keep in mind that you pay that premium for roasted coffee for a reason: professional roasters have the skill, knowledge, equipment and experience to turn out a consistent and consistently excellent product. There’s very little chance that you’ll get results as good as your favorite specialty roasters — but that’s not really the point of roasting coffee at home. It’s all about having fun and taking control of your own coffee.