Home Roasting 101

Welcome to the wonderful world of home roasting!  I like to tell people that if you can make fried eggs, you can roast your own coffee. It is a great way to enjoy incredible fresh roasted beans, control the roast color and method, and gain a sense of pride knowing that you are drinking your own handiwork. Roasting your own coffee is easy to get into. Please do not be intimated by all the information out there. Relax, enjoy your time, and most importantly, drink that coffee! I’ll provide some basic steps below:

Step One: Buy Awesome Unroasted Coffee (Green Beans)

The first and arguably the most important step is finding the right green beans. Look for responsibly-sourced coffee. If you have any questions about what that means check out our blog on it. Here is a link to the green beans that we sell. Just remember, your coffee will lose weight during the roasting process, sometimes as much as 15 percent.

Step Two: Get Familiar with Roasting Coffee

Coffee is roasted to temperatures of anywhere from 350-450 degrees Farenheit, or more! It can take from 10-30+ minutes per batch. Below are the different stages in the roasting process.  This information can be found in Home Coffee Roasting by Kenneth Davids. I highly recommend this book!

Home Coffee Roasting: Romance & Revival

These roasting stages are:

  • Unroasted (Green Coffee): Hasn’t even touched the roaster. Very hard and dense. Chewing could lead to chipped teeth and grinding will ruin grinder. Be patient Jedi, you’re almost there!
  • Light Roasted (yellowish in color): Hard, crunchy, just beginning to roast.
  • First Crack (light brown in color): Toasted Grain flavors, high acidity, tea-like in character. Builds complexity as it roasts.  This first crack sounds like popcorn popping. 375+ degrees.
  • Beginning of Caramelization: Oils begin to move from inside to outside the bean, bean expands dramatically in size. 400+ degrees.
  • Just Before Second Crack: The brightness, nut and fruit notes of coffee are found here. 400-420+ degrees.
  • Second Crack: The second crack sounds much more tinny than the first, yet it can still be heard. Pay close attention here.  Chocolate notes and smokey aspects begin to develop. 425+ degrees–think Full City roasts.
  • Dark Roast: High tobacco notes, high smoke flavor and smoke can be seen. Roasting much more will result in a fire. 440+ degrees–think French Roast.
  • Fire! Fire! Burnt and crispy. Not recommended. 460+ degrees. Fire extinguishers may be required.

Notes:

  • As soon as you are finishing roasting, COOL the coffee as fast as you can! Not cooling will bake the coffee. Baked coffee, unlike Baked Alaska, is not pleasant!
  • Smoke, smoke, smoke. There is lots of smoke when roasting. Unfortunately, the smoke does not smell like delicious coffee. For the sake of your friends and family, find a way to manage the smoke such as roasting outside. My first roasting experience resulted in my wife banning me from roasting in the kitchen!

Some other places to find good information on roasting coffee is Sweet Maria’s and Instructables. Paul Allen’s blog on roast color is found HERE (entitled “Into the Light”), and my blog on the different styles and waves of coffee is found HERE (entitled “Who’s on First”).

Step Three: Get The Gear

There are many different kinds of roasting equipment, everything from the simple cast-iron skillet to expensive professional home roasting equipment. Here, I will list a few of those along with a link to a place to buy them. Just remember, there are many more out there then what you see here. Feel free to do some further research.

Whirley Pop

Whirley Pop


West Bend Air

West Bend Air Crazy

Fresh Roast

Fresh Roast SR500


Behmor 1600

Behmor 1600

Behmor 1600


Hot Top Roaster

Hot Top Coffee Roaster


Cast Iron Skillet

Cast Iron Skillet



Step Four: Wait, Enjoy, Repeat!

As with all good things, there is a small waiting period. After the roasting process, your fine coffee is releasing crazy amounts of CO2. This impedes your ability to really taste your new delicious creation. By waiting 24 hours you will begin to fully smell and taste the glorious riches of fresh-roasted coffee. And if you are anything like us over here at Caravan, once you taste fresh roasted coffee you’ll never go back!

Final Note

Messed up? Didn’t get to first crack? Baked your coffee? Burnt your coffee to a crisp? Caught it on fire? Blew a fuse? Smoked up your house? Caught your roaster on fire?

It’s OK! If you’ve done it, chances are I’ve done it… at least twice! Keep trying. The first time I roasted coffee I ended up baking it the first three times. Making mistakes is totally natural and happens to all of us. However, give it a few more chances and you could be in for a real treat!

If you have any questions feel free to contact us HERE at Caravan Coffee. Happy Home roasting!

-Marcus

One thought on “Home Roasting 101

  1. Andrew H says:

    Thank you for your information. Comical yet informative. I’m looking into starting roasting my own coffee to make some extra income so this information was invaluable to me. Keep it up!

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