It all started when my friend Rosalie told me she’s going to start roasting her own coffee beans in her kitchen. In a popcorn popper. The motivation? First quality and taste, but also to cut the high cost of quality coffee by at least half. That was enough to get my attention.

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Turns out Rosalie’s co-worker, Dax Wilson, has taken up this hobby of home roasting in a serious way. A conversation with Dax together with a visit to a strategic website was all I needed to become equally enthusiastic.

I learned I could roast green coffee beans (half the price of commercially roasted beans) in a frying pan although that is not the most desirable. There are two methods of roasting: with hot air or on a hot surface. Hot surface allows for a darker roast, which for many tastes is preferable. 

4153Z0G472L._SX450_At Dax’s suggestion, I purchased an old-fashioned style popcorn popper, a  Whirley Pop, a high-temp candy thermometer, a simple food scale and a couple of pounds of green coffee beans (about $4.50 a pound). My total investment including beans was less than $40.

I preheated the popper to 400 F then dumped the green coffee beans into the roast chamber (popcorn popper) with the kitchen exhaust fan on high. I began to turn the crank immediately and continued at a steady pace (one revolution per second) until the roasting was complete. The roasting chamber cooled as the green coffee beans absorbed the heat. When it reached 350 F I turned the heat down to medium-low and continued to roast until I achieved my desired roast color (light, medium or dark). Dax said a dark roast would take from 9 to 11 minutes and through the “first crack.” Coffee beans “pop” as the moisture is released and sound a lot like popping corn.

I dumped the hot beans into a metal colander and swirled them gently to allow the heat to escape and to allow them to cool quickly. That’s it! Roasting complete.

It took me a couple of tries to achieve a roast color that met my particular preference (I like it dark). I was too overly cautious in the beginning and ended up with a very light roast. But practice does make perfect, and I’m happy to say I am enjoying the best coffee of my life. My only regret is that I may have turned into a coffee snob, finding ordinary coffee to be woefully unacceptable. Freshly roasted coffee is to store-bought what vine-ripened garden grown tomatoes are to grocery or Wonderbread is to homemade bread.

For detailed information on every possible question I recommend Home Coffee Roasting: Romance & Revival, by Kenneth Davids (St. Martin’s Press, 1996, $15.95).

By the way, for surface heat roasting, a popcorn popper is a great option (like the one linked to above or an old air-popper that plugs into an electrical outlet, NOT used in the microwave oven). But check the garage first. You might already have one.


RESOURCE LINKS

Whirly-Pop (like) Popcorn Popper 

High-temp candy thermometer

Green coffee beans 

Book: Home Coffee Roasting: Romance & Revival

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