A toast to the home roast

Coffee roast, that is.  I think it has been about two years now since my original blog post (back when I was using Tumblr) on roasting my own coffee, and I thought it would be fun to write an update on how things are going.

How much coffee, sir?  Since I’m the only one who drinks coffee in the house, and I try really hard to keep my intake to one French Press a day, I go through about a pound of green beans every two weeks or less.  That’s roughly twenty-six pounds a year, times two years, or about fifty-something pounds of coffee.

Amazingly, I still have the original Nostalgia brand roaster (actually hot air popcorn popper), although it certainly has a lot more character now, just like the beans that it roasts.  I’m happy to report that it’s still working as well today as it did on Day 1, although I have this great knack for jinxing things.

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One of the things that has changed, I’m not proud to say, is where I get my beans from these days.  It used to be that every few weeks we would trudge down to our local green bean supplier and buy a couple pounds of something new, but lately I’ve been buying from an outfit in the SF Bay Area.  The economics still work out great even when you factor in the shipping, and I never get into a situation where I might run out in the middle of the week, and now with baby there’s less time in general for these kinds of things.  Ok, ok, I admit I still struggle with not supporting local business.

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Above is a photo of my latest thirteen-pound shipment which just arrived.  After trying beans from all over the world, I find that I always come back to the Ethiopian (and African) beans in general.  The Ethiopian Yirga Cheffe is probably my absolute fave and a consistent performer, with its fragrant nose and strong blueberry notes.

Anyway it’s still a fun and tasty endeavour, and I’ve even been thinking about designing and building my own roaster before my little $30 popcorn popper goes to the big popper in the sky.  Sure there are plenty of commercial units out there, but what’s the fun in buying one of those?  Meanwhile, the roast continues.

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Roasted

Originally published on tumblr, around March 2013.

So I recently thought about roasting my own coffee beans.  I’ve always been a big fan of cooking from scratch, so naturally the idea of roasting my own beans appeals to me, and I don’t know why I didn’t think about doing it earlier. Up until now, I have been content to buy my roasted beans from one of the local small coffee chains, but it was always a pain to have to drive downtown to get them, and if I ran out in the middle of the week, then my mornings were just not the same.  Coffee drinkers will understand what I’m talking about.

There are several ways to do it, from the old-school method of roasting them on a frying pan, to fancy-dancy shiny European-made devices that cost way more than I care to pay.  Now while I didn’t try the frying pan method, I did opt for a the hot-air method, one which uses a hot air popcorn popper.

The popper model my trusty wife came home with for me is a Nostalgia brand unit.  I’m not sure where she found it, but a quick search of the internet showed that other people were using the model with some success.

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The basic idea is exceedingly simple: Put green coffee beans into the bottom of the popper, turn it on, and after about 5-8 minutes, your beans are roasted.  Let them hang out for 4-24 hrs to allow some CO2 to escape, then grind and brew, or store in sealed containers.

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The economics of home roasting aren’t that important to me, but the fact that I can get fresher beans AND save money is naturally appealing.  The popper cost $30, and a 1 lb bag of green beans from a local coffee place costs on average $7.00 (they do vary from about $6-$9 per lb, depending on origin).  A bag of Stumptown costs $16, but every 11th one is free, so that comes out to $14.55 a lb.  I’m saving roughly $7 /lb, so after 5 lbs, the popper will have paid for itself.
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It’s a small-batch process, but it’s fun, and you can experiment with different roast strengths.  I’m enjoying the fact that my beans are now roasted only the night before.