DIY: coffee

roasted beans

moving from pittsburgh to ohio concluded some important things in our lives, gastronomically speaking. first of all, we no longer have access to the grocery store that spoiled us unabashedly with whole and organic foods 12 hours a day (whole foods & trader joe’s). we now have to plan (meticulously) our weekly menu in order to make only one weekly trip to the fancy grocery store (i love you, anderson’s food market).

second on our list of gastronomic disruptions: coffee. we used to have unlimited access to fresh roasted, direct trade, single origin coffees. we no longer have any such access to fresh beans. we have unreasonably high standards now, and can not match what we were getting in pittsburgh with any cafe here. solution? no complaining, just do it yourself. brian bought an air-popper, some green (raw) beans online, and a thermometer. the rest is elbow grease. brian spends his wednesday mornings roasting enough coffee to get us through a week.

one thing we have to keep in mind when roasting is the 2 days that you have to let the coffee sit in order to fully develop it’s flavor. so it does take a little planning, and you do have to get to know how much coffee you go through in a week.

so far, i am impressed with brian’s roasting capabilities. i think he is amazing and possesses a patience i can only dream of. he gets up early on his days off, sits on the back porch over his air-popper, and waits. all so that we can have tasty coffee. he’s not nearly as impressed with the flavor as i am, and he knows he hasn’t perfected his method yet, but he is more than satisfied with the results… -enough to wake up early on his days off to keep doing it.

i’ll let brian explain the process, since i know nothing about it:

There are a few important facts before you begin roasting coffee in a popcorn popper:

One, you need to use a specific kind of popper (explained here).

Two, you need to buy green coffee beans. These are beans after processing, but before roasting. Sweet Maria’s is the premiere site for purchasing green coffee beans, but you might find green beans at a local roaster. They are usually willing to sell you the pre-roasted beans at a hefty discount.

I have yet to decide on the best method for roasting coffee in a popcorn popper. The main issue with the process is that you have very little control over the temperature, which happens to be the most important part of coffee roasting. There are established methods of modifying popcorn poppers, but I’m not there yet. For now, I attempt to control temperature by taking off the butter tray and pulling the popper in and out of a cardboard box.

To begin, weigh out a batch of 2 1/2 ounces of green beans. Place the beans in the popper chamber and plug in your popper. At the beginning I keep the butter tray off the popper top. This slows down the temperature increase. You’ll also need to stir the beans for the first 2-3 minutes. This helps keep the beans evenly roasted (although the popper method is not great for consistency). At around 4 minutes you’ll want to put the butter lid on and put the popper in a cardboard box for about 30 seconds. This ramps up the temperature. Pull the popper back out and keep an eye on the beans until 5-5.5 minutes.

As soon as you think the beans are done unplug the popper and dump the beans into a colander or sieve and agitate the beans until they have cooled. It is important to get the beans cooled quickly because they will continue to roast as long as their core temperature holds. Some people use a fan to add cool air, but our area is fairly windy and that works for me. After the beans are roasted you’ll want to wait at least two days before you use them. Some people have said the beans are good after 24 hours, but I’ve found they are better after 2-3 days.

shakin' the beans

That is a very basic explanation to a very complicated process. I still don’t have it figured out, but I’m trying to make it work for us. I would also recommend the alt.coffee forum and Sweet Maria’s articles for more information.

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