Thursday, January 25, 2007

You Too Can Roast a Great Cup of Coffee

Many ages ago, I worked as a barista for a local coffee roaster and restaurant, learning a few tricks of the trade that just may be worth sharing. For decades, coffee houses are striving to make the claim of brewing the world's best cup of joe, but most seem to come up short and make the average tasting brew. Quite a few will just come up with creative concoctions of flavor to pour into your cup, top it with a few sprinkles of cinnamon and some whipped cream, and charge $5 a cup. Quite a scam when you consider that you can buy a whole pound of fresh coffee beans for about the same price. But isn't it expensive to buy a roaster? In reality, coffee can be roasted on a small scale without expensive machinery.

One of the best tips that I was able to get from our master roaster during that time was that the giant roasting machine was simply for volume - in other words, the bigger the roasting equipment, the quicker you can roast a large amount of beans. This works out well for a business that supplies a growing population of coffee drinkers in the area, but how can you go about creating your own roasted coffee beans right in your kitchen? Fairly simply. . . and it's a lot of fun as well. If you've never walked into a room full of the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans, you're in for quite a pleasant treat.

To keep things simple, you basically need only three things to create your very own special roast, all of which can be acquired or purchased very cheaply: Coffee beans, a roaster (don't panic - we've got you covered,) and an air-tight container to keep your fresh roasted beans in. For true experimenting coffee drinkers, you may even want to keep a few containers handy, for the different flavors you create. You may already have everything you need right in your kitchen cupboards. But you'll first need some fresh green coffee beans to roast, and your choices are abundant! There is shade grown, mountain grown, organic, etc.

The Cheap Version of a Home Coffee Roaster

There are quite a few ways to roast your own coffee right in your home, but by far one of the easiest would be the air-popped popcorn popper. (For tips on purchasing the right kind of popper for roasting coffee, take a look at Sweet Maria's tips!) There are also quite a few people who roast their beans in a cast iron skillet, which can also add trace amounts of iron to your diet, which is a nutritional plus for your caffeinated drink! Oven roasting is a method that is used as well, but can also lead to unevenly roasted beans, and harder to hear the "crack" that lets you know how close to done your beans are. Since most commercially roasted beans are air roasted, your best bet for a cheap version of the coffee roaster would be the popcorn popper. But make sure you follow Sweet Maria's advice on purchasing the right popper, or your coffee could go up in flames!

So now that you know you can roast coffee at home, you're probably getting excited about the ideas running through your head, flavored coffees, light roasts, french roasts, dark roasts, and even ways to grind and make your own espresso! Here are a few sites you can learn some very special and unique techniques to developing your own roasts, brews, and blends: