I hate being a beginner, a newbie, at anything such as home coffee roasting. But, as the great philosopher Popeye The Sailor man said “I ‘yam what I ‘yam”. Sooo…
I decided to acquire some knowledge.
Home roasting coffee beans is my new hobby. I’ve always enjoyed a good cup of coffee, been insatiably curious, and a good researcher. So if we put that all together we have a coffee enthusiast was rapidly trying to learn a whole lot of things, all at once and get good results.
What follows is real-life practical experience of what I’ve learned along the way as I’ve stumbled and bumbled my way to a better cup of coffee.
I hope that all coffee enthusiasts might find something useful in one of the 13 tips are outlined below. Just a word of warning, if you are an experienced roaster and connoisseur you might be rolling your eyes at how basic some of these tips are.
Or, alternatively, you may slap yourself up the side of the head and say “Why didn’t I think of that.” Either way, I hope you enjoy the fruits of my efforts, successes, and failures.
We’re going to lead off with what I consider to be “the best tip ever”. I was floundering around my kitchen and my approach was hit or miss. Prior to using this tip, I didn’t have a clue.
Since employing this tip I’ve now made some steady progress in my ability to roast drinkable coffee. I’m not a master roaster, blunder, or connoisseur. But at least I’m not poisoning myself.
If you’re getting truly inconsistent results in your coffee roast this tip may help you set up a framework for you to work with.
Best Coffee Roasting Tips
# 1. Best Tip Ever For Home Coffee Roasters:
Use this formula to time your roasts. Experienced roasters may roll their eyes and say there is no formula to time coffee being roasting. It is a matter of having a good eye, a good nose and lots of experience. All that may be true, but hey I’m a beginner. My first couple of roasts were overwhelming I need to get a handle on how to put myself in the ballpark and enter the range of possibilities of having a successful roast.
Here is the formula given to me by the owner of a very successful local coffee roasting business when I chatted them up. (I think he took pity on me).
The variance in the time frame between 12% and 25% depends on personal taste, and the coffee being characteristics. As a newbie, I was looking for something to put me in the ballpark. This formula works for me. Do I hit a home run every single time? No, but my batting averages gone up in at least am in the ballpark swinging the bat.
Let me explain the calculation and time frame and clarify with a couple of examples. It sounds a lot more complicated that there really is. I worked for many years as a waiter and can calculate 15% of any number with deadly speed and accuracy. LOL.
- First crack 8 minutes. If you are timing your roast and find first crack occurs at the 8 minute mark, calculate 15% of eight minutes and that’s how much time is left after first crack. Stop the roast. Eight minutes is 480 seconds. 15% of that is 72 seconds which is 1 minute +12 seconds – go that much further and stop. Total roasting time between 8:58 and 10:00 with 9:12 being a great number to shoot for.
- First crack – 9 minutes (540 Seconds) stop the roast between 54 more seconds (10%) 9:54, and 135 seconds (2 minutes 15 seconds) (25%) 11:15 ideally at 15% 10:21.
- First crack – 10 minutes – stop roast between 72 more seconds (1:12), at 11:12 and 150 more seconds (2:30), 12:30 – with an ideal 11:30 – (15%)
# 2. Know And Understand Green Coffee Beans.
Use really good beans to start with. In my reading and research I came upon something that is really stuck with me and I’ll paraphrase it. Coffee roasting doesn’t “create” flavor. It simply reveals and exposes the flavor that is within the bean.”
It reminded me of that old story of Michelangelo. When asked how he could sculpt such things of beauty he said something to the effect of “the beauty is within the stone I simply remove the excess.”
The moral of the story is you have to start with really good green coffee beans. Educate yourself a bit on the different grades of coffee and the processes used to dry the beans. You’re not going to get really great coffee out of substandard beans. Here is a great way to get ‘samples’ of properly roasted coffee beans:
# 3. Pick A Roasting Method And Stick With It.
Don’t be a jack of all trades master of none. I have to call myself out on this one. As a novice home coffee roaster starting a blog which I hoped would educate people right alongside me in my trials and tribulations I flitted and fluttered from one method to another.
I started with the most basic way to roast coffee beans, in a frying pan. I never really gave it a chance and moved on to a popcorn popper. That was a hilarious experience I wrote a post about the spectacular failure of that.
I then invested in a FreshRoast SR 500 home hot air roaster. Finally, THIS is what it’s all about. So in a really roundabout way I found my little roasting method that works for me. I had developing skills and getting better at the use of it because I’m sticking with it. Whether it’s pan, Popper, or roaster, stick with it.
# 4. Get An Organizational System That Works For You.
Don’t work in chaos. In my first week of home roasting I created a huge disorganized mass. I was very enthusiastic and raring to go but not pointed in a specific direction. I had containers, glassware, and bowls filled with different coffee beans successful and failed roasts etc. I finally realized I needed some organization.
I developed a coffee roasting log which works for me. You can download the coffee logI use, free, just click on the “advertisement” in the sidebar.
I made a quick trip to the dollar store and I bought a bunch of containers in two sizes. I also bought some small sticky notes. (for me, I hate trying to peel off labels, so sticky notes work better). Also, you REALLY need to get a scale and weigh everything. Be precise with your measurements
I got a handy little ‘Best Seller’ digital diet scale from Amazon that does a great job (it was ridiculously cheap too. I use a French press to make my coffee in need to accurately way the number of grams of coffee I am using for various amounts of water. The diet scale allows me to do it.
# 5. Keep A Coffee Roasting Log.
You want to duplicate your results. Whether you keep records on your computer or do it the old-fashioned way in a notebook, I strongly suggest that you keep notes on your coffee roasting efforts.
One of the major purposes of roasting coffee at home is to produce a great cup coffee you and your friends will thoroughly enjoy. You’ll certainly want to be able to duplicate the results once you hit that gold standard cup.
If you do not keep accurate records of how you did it, trying to duplicated will be like throwing darts at a dartboard, praying for bull’s-eye. Personally, I do it the old-school way with pen and paper because I want to have it handy right near my roasting operation.
# 6. Keep Samples To Help Develop Your Eye.
Get some small Tupperware. One of the most frustrating experiences was talking to local coffee roasters and have that’s have them (somewhat smugly I thought) tell me their success depended on their eye, nose, and experience.
Great, that’s wonderful for experts. But as a new be how do I develop my eye? I asked around and did a lot of research to try to find a color chart that I could just hold up against my beans and determine what type of roast I had. I was willing to send away for something because computer monitors and printers are notorious for not being that accurate with colors.
The only thing I found was professional color kit the cost thousands of dollars. Enter the low-tech solution. Now, when I have a successful roast I take some of the beans and store them in the really small tuppwrware container shown in the picture. I am creating my own set of samples. I can use these beans from successful roasts for eyeball comparisons. These containers work well and are deep cheap.
# 7. Talk To Local Experts In Person.
Face-to-face contact is the most meaningful. This tip might sound really obvious, but I think a lot of people are used to getting all the information through the Internet or forums. Nothing beats person-to-person contact.
I got my ‘best tip ever’ due to a commitment I made to myself. I vowed to get off my butt go out and visit to local coffee roasters or coffee shops per week and talk to the owners; just chat them up. It is soooo………. Easy to tell whether you’re talking to someone with passion or someone who is just “doing a job”. Find the passionate people. Ask questions. Learn. Take notes and apply your learning.
Ask for recommendations and by bag of beans you’ll soon start to develop a network of knowledgeable passionate people.
# 8. Babysit Your Roast-Don’t Burn Your House Down
Don’t walk away. I learned my lesson after a completely incinerating a batch of coffee. Don’t walk away from your roast while it’s in progress.
It’s not like a microwave and set the timer for 10 minutes push the button forget about it for a while and come back in your food will still be warm and ready.
There is a un-mutable law coffee roasting, something that is blindingly obvious. If it goes too long it burns up.
Also, the time roasting and the degree of doneness is not a linear progression. After first crack the Browning process accelerates dramatically if you don’t catch it you can lose it. If you go back to myfirst tip about timing your roast you can see how narrow that window is between a good roast and garbage.
# 9. Roast In A Spot With Good Ventilation.
Don’t stink up your house. If you paid attention to Tip number eight, you did not burn your house down. But, if you don’t pay attention to this tip it will smell like you burn your house down.
On my very first roast I heeded the caution of others and roasted out on my porch. I didn’t think the smoke or the smell was that bad. So being the boy genius that I am I decided to roast my next batch inside. Although my coffee roaster does a good job of dissipating the smoke, it was one of those things that crept up on me.
I had to run out to the store after I finished my roast and when I came back the smells were extremely noticeable. While it wasn’t bad enough to have me choking and gagging in my eyes watering, it wasn’t exactly the warm comfy smell of baking bread either. Roast indoors at your own nose’s risk. If you’re going to do that at least be smart enough to roast under the exhaust fan on your stove.
# 10. Use Your Scale Wisely.
Weigh your beans before AND after the roast. My particular home coffee roaster, the FreshRoast SR500 is a bit finicky on the amount of beans it will successfully roast. So measuring the initial weight of the beans is critical.
Then, one day just for kicks, I measured the after roast we the beans. It was kind of interesting to see how much weight loss was generated by the moisture dissipating from the beans. Get in the habit of weighing your roast coffee beans, and comparing the before and after weights of the green unroasted beans and the roasted coffee beans.
You can learn a lot from this, and it will help to keep your roasting style more consistent. This should be entered in your coffee roasting log. If you notice a big discrepancy, you might want to do some Sherlock Holmes detective work to identify what could cause the abnormal measurements.
f you have a batch where there is a notable difference in the weight loss, this indicates the likelihood that something has changed — either the beans themselves or something that you did in the process.
# 11. Learn about timing. It’s all about timing.
There are different procedures in coffee roasting that have to be timed. Arguably, one of the most critical elements of timing and home coffee roasting is the timing of the roast itself, that one is obvious. Are you aware the fact that coffee needs to rest and develop for certain amount of time for it is ready to be used? (Several hours to a day).
But, have you educate yourself about the proper window of time that roasted coffee beans will stay at their freshest? (Few days to a week) Have you educate yourself about the effects of timing on grinding coffee beans? (Use immediately).
The fascinating thing about the relationship between time and coffee beans is that there is no absolute. Even the little teaser answers I gave above are general approximations.
There are, however, some guidelines that must be followed to ensure peak coffee flavors.
# 12. Become Knowledgeable About Proper Coffee Storage.
This goes hand-in-hand with time. Coffeevac 1 lb – The Ultimate Vacuum Sealed Coffee Container, Black Cap & BodyUnroasted green beans should be stored away from moisture and light. They will last for a few months to a couple of years. Coffee beans that are roasted should be kept away from sunlight he moisture.
Ideally they should be stored in a container keeps oxygen out and allows CO2 to escape.
Always look for the one-way valves on bags of coffee beans in stores. I purchased special coffee canister from Amazon (pictured) that stores the beans securely and handles the CO2. Most people say that roasted coffee beans’ flavor peaks about 72 hours after the roast start to decline after that. Proper storage seizures can extend that window of good flavor opportunity.
# 13. Develop A Coffee Roasting Reference Library.
Read a good book. In some ways I am very old school. I enjoy sitting down with a good book just as much as I do working on the computer. Look for some specialty book titles on coffee roasting. One such great book is “Home Coffee Roasting – Romance and Revival” by Kenneth Davids. It is a definitive work on home coffee roasting. By the same author Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing, and Enjoying.
There you have it. This is the list of ftips that are really helping me out in my journey to acquire some skill at home coffee roasting.
I hope this article was inspired you to implement some of my own tips or to start thinking about your own.create your own
Coffee Lover’s Accessories:
Here are some gift ideas to help make your coffee experiences richer. We selected these gifts based on practicality and usefulness any coffee lover would appreciate.
Zevro Indispensable Coffee Dispenser, Silver – 1/2 PoundOzeri Pronto Digital Kitchen and Food Scale, Elegant BlackZoku Grey Iced Coffee Maker, Travel Mug – Hot Coffee In – Iced Coffee OutCup Holder Desk Clip Silver – Durable, Portable, and Foldable!
1. Ground Coffee Dispenser. No need to measure every time.Designed to measure one tablespoon at a time, the dispenser can be used to place ground coffee directly into coffee makers or espresso machines. It is constructed to keep ground coffee fresh for maximum flavor, and the included base keeps counter tops clean of ground coffee spills. Holds up to half a pound of ground coffee. Click & Check it out here.
2. Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale An accurate scale is a must for precision coffee making and coffee bean roasting. This is a top seller. Precision Tare Button calculates the net weight of your ingredients by automatically subtracting the weight of any bowl or container.Runs on 2 AAA batteries (included) that automatically power-off after 2-minutes to preserve battery life. Click & Check it out here.
3. Grey Iced Coffee Maker – Travel Mug Pour hot coffee in – get iced coffee out. Make chilled iced coffee or tea in as little as 5 minutes, no ice needed and it works with any brewing method, including single cup machines, drip, and pour over methods 4 designer colors to choose from. Click & Check it out here.
4. Portable Cup Holder With Clamp – Durable, Portable, and Foldable! This is not cheap plastic – it is aluminum with great clamping power. It fits many sizes of cups and appears safe and secure when holding a 32oz filled cup, a mug (up to 3″ in diameter), a thermos, a water bottle, or a soda can. Click & Check it out here.