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The very best way to be sure that you’re getting freshly roasted coffee is to roast your own. Somewhere between all the complex how-to-brew instructions and the ads about the painstaking process of making coffee, most of us have brainwashed ourselves into believing that roasting coffee at home is a complex process that requires all sorts of special equipment, the sort of thing that we could never do without a whole lot of expense and trouble.
Nothing could be further from the truth. All you REALLY need to roast your own coffee at home is a heat source (an open flame works better than an electric stove or oven), a heavy, flat-bottomed pan (where DID you put Grandma’s cast iron skillet?), a wooden spoon, a couple of wire mesh strainers and some green coffee beans. Chances are good that you have everything you need except the green coffee beans right in your kitchen.
Before you decide to attempt roasting your own coffee on the stovetop, here’s a few things to know.
Roasting coffee makes a LOT of smoke. You need a well-ventilated area. If your stove has a venting hood, you’re golden. If not, you may find this whole process a bit smoky. Open the windows and be ready to deal with the smoke alarm going off.
Once the beans reach first crack – a process that may take up to ten minutes – things happen FAST. Have everything assembled and laid out before you start roasting so that you can move as fast as the beans.
The beans need to be kept moving to avoid scorching them. Think of it as similar to making a good white sauce. You’ll be standing and stirring for a while.
What you do:
Put your colanders out side by side on a nearby table or countertop.
Turn on the fire and place the pan on it to preheat. You want the pan to be warm, not scorching.
Measure out about 8 ounces of green beans. When the pan is warm, dump them all at once into the pan.
Stir the beans constantly with the wooden spoon while they heat to ensure even heating. You’ll see the green beans change color as they heat up, going from green to pale yellow and then slowly darkening. At this stage, the coffee will have a grainy aroma.
Listen for the first crack
As the beans heat up, the moisture content in them starts to expand. When it reaches about 350 degrees, you’ll start hearing audible popping sounds as the expansion breaks through the bean’s natural seam. This is your cue to start watching very closely, because from here on in, the beans will darken rapidly.
Just before the beans reach your desired darkness, remove the pan from the fire and immediately dump the beans out into one of the metal strainers. The beans will continue to cook until they’re cooled, so you want to cool them down as quickly as possible. One method is to bounce and toss the beans in the colander. The other that works very well is to pour the beans back and forth between two colanders until they are cooled down enough to touch.
Store the cooled beans in an airtight jar to keep them fresh.