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First attempt at coffee roasting

After seeing @Mick post about roasting coffee at home, I decided to give it a try. I ordered a three pound bad of Nicaraguan green coffee beans and started to read up on coffee roasting on the cheap. I decided the best way to begin was to use the gas grill so I wouldn't get in trouble with my wife (the coffee smokes while roasting). I used a cast iron skillet and heated the grill to 450, and kept it between 400 and 450 even with opening the top to stir the beans. It seemed to go fairly well, but not perfect. However, I learned a lot from the first experience.

First, I found I was over zealous with the amount of beans I tried to roast. It made it impossible to roast the beans evenly. Next time I will only put enough in to cover the bottom of the skillet.

Second, I needed to have a baking sheet or similar item to dump the beans when done. I had to run back in the house to grab one, allowing the beans to cook more.

Third, there's got to be a better way to get rid of the chaff. I used a colander and tossed the beans until the chaff was gone. This worked, but every now and then a couple beans wouldn't land in the colander.

I have to wait until tomorrow before I will truly know if this has been successful. If it is, I will likely start roasting on a regular basis. If the flavor is significantly better than freshly ground whole beans, I may invest in a home roaster in the future.

If anyone has any tips, I would love to hear them.


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Brompton

Contributor
Aside from stir constantly, I have no other tips. Those beans look good. I'm guessing they will taste amazing. Where did you get the beans?
 

ajkel64

Moderator
Looks good to me for the first attempt. As mentioned before the proof is in the tasting. I have never roasted beans before so I can't add much more other than well done.
 
I use a Whirly Pop popcorn maker on the stove top. With the hood fan on, it isn't too bad. I go outside to shake off the chaff. I haven't found a better way for it yet. Maybe a salad spinner?

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Nice to see that you are experimenting with home roasting. Looks like a decent and hopefully drinkable start.

As for cooling and getting rid of the chaff I would use a metal colander positioned over a box fan. So that the fan can quickly cool down the beans as it blows away the chaff.

You are probably aware of this but if you want to get more serious and roast larger amounts you could buy metal/wire drum specifically intended to roast coffee over your gas grill. Where the drum is rotated by the hand or by an electric powered rotisserie.
 
I found that I had much more control with a heat gun. About 12 oz of green beans in a medium cast skillet. Probably a 12-14 minutes cycle to second crack.
 
Thanks, everyone. The beans were purchased from Amazon, although I may look around for the next order, especially after the "where do you get your coffee beans online" thread. There's no local place that I am aware of. The colander and fan sound like a great idea. I will report back on the taste tonight.

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Thanks, everyone. The beans were purchased from Amazon, although I may look around for the next order, especially after the "where do you get your coffee beans online" thread. There's no local place that I am aware of. The colander and fan sound like a great idea. I will report back on the taste tonight.

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I use a Paton fan pointed up and a metal colander. Low speed is all you need.



Part of coffee roasting is cooling. You should stop the roasting as quickly as possible and cool the beans to the touch within 5 min (3-5 should be your target).

Roast smaller lots for more consistency using the "pan on grill" method you are working with. You should stir during the process to get more even results. Your pic of finish appears to range between cinnamon and Vienna. It might be flavorful but consistency will help you reproduce your results.

How I source green coffee.

First I decided what I want based on what I already have.

Then I check the inventory of the businesses I have dealt with in the past to see what they have in stock.

If I can't find the green in inventory, I google.
 
I ground a bit of the first batch. It's not bad, but not great. I used my regular amount of grounds for the first cup, which makes a distinct cup of coffee when I use freshly ground beans from the local shop. It came out rather weak. I added about 40% more grounds for the second cup. It was better, but still not as strong as I like. The Nicaraguan beans were smaller than I expected and didn't have the oiliness of the beans I usually purchase, so I am wondering if that has something to do with it. I will order some Ethiopian and perhaps Columbian next to see what the differences are in the different types of coffee.

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I ground a bit of the first batch. It's not bad, but not great. I used my regular amount of grounds for the first cup, which makes a distinct cup of coffee when I use freshly ground beans from the local shop. It came out rather weak. I added about 40% more grounds for the second cup. It was better, but still not as strong as I like. The Nicaraguan beans were smaller than I expected and didn't have the oiliness of the beans I usually purchase, so I am wondering if that has something to do with it. I will order some Ethiopian and perhaps Columbian next to see what the differences are in the different types of coffee.

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I am a huge fan of Ethiopian coffees and I order them usually from Sweet Maria's.

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Thanks for all the tips. I will definitely order Ethiopian coffee next time. It is really a great adventure.

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Ethiopian/African coffee is great to drink. But for learning to roast I would recommend getting 5-10 pounds of Colombian, Brazilian, or some other South American coffee (your Nicaraguan is also fine). Because these are usually some of the most affordable. So you can burn or under roast a few batches without economic worry interfering with your experimentation. And because these coffees are close to the grocery store coffee that most are familiar with allowing one to gauge their roasting results.
 
I'm with @StillShaving on this one.

Stick with the easy beans before branching out into the world of exotics.

It does not get more exotic than Ethiopian or Yemen coffee.

There are hundreds of small producers grown scores of verities, some of which are hundreds of years old and not seen very often outside of the native country.

Stick with some Colombian supremo (supremo are sorted as the largest beans in the crop). They are easy to roast and very forgiving (make a good roast over a larger range of finish temp)

Your small beans are known as pea berry which are single not double which is why they are smaller. Pea berry are considered premium as they need to be hand picked out of the crop during drying.

The oil you see on "commercial" beans means they were over roasted (taken above 425 degrees). While this is nice for robusta in espresso, it makes for a strong, bitter cup of coffee with most single origins.

Work on getting a consistent roast (all of the beans looking the same color). You may want to get a direct read reflective thermometer as you need to know the temp of the beans before you can tell what you are getting. These can be found very inexpensively. You don't need a scientific level instrument, just something that well tell you how hot things are.

 
OK, so no Ethiopian yet. Got it. And here I thought that was regular coffee. I will take a look at Columbian for the next order. I will have several small batches with the current beans so I can experiment with the roasting times and darkness to see how the flavor changes.

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If you stick to what people refer to "strong" coffee, you will have to go beyond the recommended heat levels as Mick/Turtle(?) said. On the other hand, if you are willing to give up some of that punch you might find a new world of flavours fine coffee has to offer. The beauty of home roasting is you have the hand on the lever. ps: stir a little more.
 
A lot of how you roast depends on how you brew.

Moka pots like darker coffee. Pour over likes lighter coffee. Espresso can go either way.
 
Another update. I had picked out the beans that I thought were too roasted. I figured I would try them when I was making coffee just for myself, in case it was awful. It turned out to be a fantastic cup. I shared it with my wife and one son and they both loved it. Today is another roasting day and I think I will try for a second crack.

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