A Guide to Roasting Coffee

If you are interested in getting started roasting your own coffee, you have come to the right place. Having been roasting my own coffee for years now, I have developed a full understanding of the art.

The first step is to buy the unroasted beans. There are plenty of places to purchase them online. Here is a link to 1 pound of unroasted Ethiopian Sidamo, one of my all-time favorite types of coffee. When you get them, they will be much smaller and greener than the roasted beans you are used to seeing them.

Next you want to find a place to roast and get the equipment together. Keep in mind that coffee roasting produces quite a bit of smoke, so if you are not willing to do it in your kitchen, find another place with a stove, such as your garage or anywhere else. When it comes to the equipment, my preference when roasting in small batches is to use a cast iron skillet. These are excellent at dispersing heat across every part of the pan so as to get an even cook. I also have a whisk, which I use for stirring, and a large strainer for cooling the beans after I finish roasting.

Now it’s time to start roasting. When you pour the beans into the pan, you want to make sure not to do too much at a time. 1lb is a reasonable amount. The beans should fill the bottom of the pan, and more is allowed, but when there are too many, the beans will roast faster and could potentially burn.

With the beans in the pan and the heat on (you can turn it on pretty high, but you’ll want to adjust it later on), stir every few seconds, keeping an eye on dark spots forming on the bottom of the beans. Once you see these, increase your stirring, making sure you keep them always moving around. The goal is to get an even roast.

After a few minutes, you will hear what is called the “first crack.” There are two sets of cracks that happen in the roasting process. Once each bean has reached this first crack, you are on the low end of a light roast. Once they’ve all cracked and are evenly-roasted at this level, you can stop if you prefer very light roasts. However, if it is your first time, I advise you keep on, and be sure to continue stirring thoroughly. You do not want any beans to sit still on the bottom for too long or you risk them burning.

For this introduction, we will go for a general medium roast. This article has more precise temperatures for each individual roast. Keep roasting them, watching the color. They will start getting darker and will produce more smoke.

If you roast it long enough, you will get to the second crack. The second crack means you have reached a dark roast. It is okay to reach this point. For this tutorial, you will want to take the beans off the heat once the second crack begins. If you are willing to try for a darker roast on your first time, go for it, but this post is for a medium or medium-dark roast.

When you are satisfied with your roasting, take it off the heat and pour the beans into a strainer or on a baking sheet to cool. They will be extremely hot, so this is the time to let them cool down. The thin outer husk will have detached from the bean, and there will be a lot of them around. They do not add or take away from the coffee, and you can easily blow or shake them off the beans if you want to.

You are now done. To get the best out of your fresh roasted coffee, brew the coffee within a week of roasting. After that first week, the beans will begin to lose their freshness. They will still be good but nowhere near as good as they are fresh. Enjoy!

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