How to Roast Your Own Coffee

Image by Pen Waggener on FlickrVery few of us ever have really fresh coffee.  For all their claims of being “good till the last drop” (to be fair to Maxwell House, this applies to nearly all commercial blends), ground coffee loses some of its best flavor after just a week.  If you think of how long your coffee has been sitting on a store shelf, and before that on a truck, you can imagine that “fresh” coffee is hard to come by.  Why not roast your own?  When you transform green coffee beans into your own fresh brew, you will finally get a chance to taste coffee at its very best.  Commercial blends can be delicious, and they are more than adequate most of the time.  If you want to serve something more special or treat yourself, roast your own coffee.

Does roasting your own coffee require a lot of specialized equipment?  Is it difficult to do?  Many people don’t even consider roasting their coffee because it seems like a complex or time-consuming process that is hard to do at home.  Coffee comes to us as aromatic grounds, but it starts as a small red fruit.  Wet processing removes the outer skin and the pulp, as well as the inner parchment skin.  Then you have the green coffee beans that will become a delicious brew.  You can order green coffee beans from any number of vendors online, and it resembles a dry bean.  It stores beautifully for a long time but when it is roasted, it comes alive with aroma and flavor.

Before the 19th Century, people roasted their own coffee beans at home; today, it is much easier because we have the advantage of modern technology.  You can use a commercial coffee roaster, your stovetop, your oven, or even a popcorn popper.  Whatever method you use, you need to make sure that the beans can be heated to 370 - 540° F.  They must be vented because the beans produce smoke.  A good reason to invest in a coffee roaster may be because the beans have to be rotated and move constantly.  During this process, the outer skin is shed, and this can be messy.

Let’s talk about roasting coffee beans using your gas or conventional oven.  This has to be able to heat up to at least 450°F.  The benefit is that you can roast a larger quantity of beans.  The taste of oven roasted coffee tends to be rich and complex, but it is easy to create an uneven roast.

Here’s what to do:

  • Go to a kitchen supply store and find a flat baking pan with a raised lip.  The pan should have very small holes spaced closely together.  You can also make your own if you are willing to sacrifice a good baking sheet.  You can drill holes about ½ inch apart; make sure the holes are small enough to prevent the beans from falling through.  You will also need a metal colander with holes small enough to prevent the beans from slipping through.
  • Preheat your oven to 500 to 540°F.
  • Put the green coffee beans in the pan.  Arrange the beans so they are in a single layer and close to each other in the pan.  Use enough beans to cover the surface of the pan.
  • Put the pan on the middle oven rack and roast for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • If you want to roast them longer, you will need to bring up the temperature.  You can smell when they are getting close to done because the odor changes from a wet grassy smell to a coffee smell.
  • Once you have roasted the beans, put them into a metal colander.
  • Toss the beans in the colander to remove the chaff.  This also helps the beans cool a bit faster.

Every oven is different, so your roasting time may be less or more, and you should plan on making at least a few batches to experiment.  BrewOrganic has a color chart to help you determine when your beans are done.

Having fresh coffee, real fresh coffee, is worth the time and experimentation it takes to achieve the perfect roast. Not to mention, it's perfect for those gourmet coffee gifts!

Attempting the Air Popper Method