Looking for a fun adventure in flavor, roast your own coffee for a delicious cup. We are learning about the world while enjoying a new hobby; roasting coffee.
Judy and I have been trying new things over the last year. We have visited wineries and explored the taste of different wines. One day, I had the idea that it would be fun to explore some different coffee flavors, too.
While I have tried many ways to brew coffee, I have pretty much stuck to my favorite dark roast coffee. It was good. And then I came across an article about people who roast coffee in their RV. I started thinking about if I could roast my own coffee, too. Maybe that could be something fun to do on our camping trips.
My First Try at Roasting Coffee
I found out that the basics of roasting coffee are pretty easy. You can start without a huge investment. At the start of November, I bought a two-pound bag of Columbian green coffee beans from Amazon and dove in.
My first attempt was kind of like how coffee might have been roasted in generations past. I added a few ounces of coffee beans to a hot Lodge iron skillet. You need to keep the beans moving so they don’t burn. So, I shook the pan and stirred the beans with a wooden spoon. After about 10 minutes, the beans had turned from tan to dark brown. I put them in a colander to cool. The next day, I ground them using an inexpensive blade grinder and brewed them into a pot of coffee. Not bad. It was a good start but the consistency of the roast could probably be better.
By our Thanksgiving in the Woods camping trip, I was looking forward to doing some more roasting. But, the weather was cooler. It turns out that the temperature outside can have a big impact on your ability to roast effectively.
Gear to Roast Your Own Coffee
You can roast inside. For example, you could put green coffee beans on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven. However, turning them for an even roast would be a challenge. And, roasting beans tend to smoke. It didn’t seem like this would be the best way to go.
To my surprise, Judy bought me a home coffee roaster as a present. After doing her research, she picked the Fresh Roast SR800. It’s great. The SR800 looks like a cross between a blender and an old-school popcorn popper. It has a base with controls for heat and fan speed, a glass pitcher, and a lid with a screen. You can roast up to eight ounces of green beans at a time.
I needed to learn how to use it. On to YouTube. There are some great videos on how to roast coffee. The best ones I found for roasting with the SR800 were from Captains Coffee. They demonstrate how to get a good roast with different kinds of beans. Check out the Fresh Roast SR800 ULTIMATE Beginner’s Guide! Home Coffee Roaster Tutorial – YouTube
Learning About Coffee
Wait, there are different kinds of beans and they roast differently? It turns out that there are hundreds of varieties of coffee beans. Just like wine, the variety, altitude, and processing all matter in how your cup of coffee will taste. I’m not going to go deep here. The basics are that there are three main coffee growing regions: Africa, Americas, and Indonesia. Within each region, there are large variations in the coffee produced.
After the beans are harvested, there are different approaches to processing it into beans that can be roasted. In some cases, the beans are left inside the coffee fruit to dry. In other cases, the beans are removed from the fruit and then dried. This difference along can have a huge impact on the flavor you get.
If you want to learn a lot more, you may want to check out the Roast and Reason podcast. In 2018, Andrew Boyer produced a series of 40 podcast episodes that cover all of the basics of coffee. He discussed coffee regions & varieties and how to roast coffee at home. This is a great introduction to all things coffee.
Andrew also touched on some of the interesting history lessons from the origins of coffee. Ever wonder where coffee beans originated or how coffee growing spread around the world? Check out Roast and Reason to find out.
It’s interesting to learn about this history of coffee and also about how it is grown now. When buying beans, you can find out about the country where it is produced and the farmers who grew it. To make better coffee, there are projects all around the world to improve the farms and farming communities where it is grown.
In reading the description for a Ugandan coffee I was roasting, I learned that the farmers coop Mountain Harvest was started as a part of a Lutheran World Relief project to assist coffee farmers. Working together, the farmers raised the quality of the coffee they deliver. You may come across beans from that coop when you shop for green coffee beans. Or, maybe you’ll discover another interesting story about coffee growing that helps you appreciate your coffee even more.
Where to Buy Green Coffee Beans
I have now had the chance to roast and taste beans from many countries including Bali, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Flores, Guatemala, Java, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Sulawesi, Sumatra, and Timor. It is amazing how different coffee can taste. Flavors can range from acidic to smooth. Some are fruity while others have more of a cocoa taste. The same beans roasted to light vs dark can taste completely different.
To start your coffee roasting journey, I recommend you buy a sampler. You can get sets of beans based on origin like Americas or based on potential flavor profile like chocolate.
There are several good places to buy green, or unroasted, coffee beans. Here are a few of the top places to buy green coffee beans.
The Captain’s Coffee has a great selection of coffee beans. You can buy a pound from a specific location, get their top picks in the Captain’s Gold Sampler, or try three coffees like the Americas Sampler. The descriptions on the Captains Coffee site adds context to the beans you are buying. They also provide a review and roasting recommendations.
Dean’s Beans is another good source for unroasted coffee beans. Their Green Bean Sampler Pack of six eight-ounce packages is a good way to sample coffee from different locations. The sampler I got included beans from Timor, which you may not find everywhere.
Another popular place to buy green coffee beans is Sweet Maria’s which has a great selection.
After You Roast Your Coffee Beans
I learned another lesson, beans need to rest. Since you are going for the freshest coffee, you might think you want to grind and brew it right away. However, after roasting, coffee beans need to rest for a day or two before you use them. They give off carbon dioxide which can impact the taste of your coffee.
Coffee needs to be stored in an airtight container. Yet, it needs to release gas. I discovered that there are special coffee storage containers that allow a tight seal but have a valve to allow the release of carbon dioxide. I have purchased two and they seem to work very well.
Another thing I learned is that how you grind your coffee beans makes a huge difference on how the coffee tastes. The blade grinder I started using couldn’t grind the beans evenly. The grind was fairly large, not really good for most brewing methods.
So the next step in this adventure was to get a better grinder. A burr grinder can provide more control and consistency, ensuring you get exactly the grind you want for the type of brewing method you use. The first pot I made after using the new grinder was completely different. It was the best tasting pot of coffee yet.
Roasting Your Own Coffee is a Fun Hobby
Now that I have had a few months to explore coffee roasting, this is a fun hobby. As someone who enjoys learning about the world through travel, this has provided a new lens and a new journey of discovery. And, I get to enjoy great tasting coffee. Freshly roasted and ground coffee really is better.
Is roasting your own coffee less expensive than a coffee shop? The beans are less expensive that buying coffee at a coffee shop. However, there is an investment of time and equipment. In the long run, I might come out ahead. While it isn’t an expensive hobby, it may take a while to save money by roasting my own coffee.
Have you ever tried roasting your own coffee? How did it go? Have you discovered a favorite roast or origin? We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment.
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I have been using the Fresh Roast SR800. It works great. I can roast up to 8 ounces of beans. However, I usually do smaller 4 ounces batches so I can experiment and learn what roast level I like for each bean.
I recently upgraded to the Baratza Encore coffee grinder. It makes a huge difference in the quality of the coffee I can brew. This grinder was the top rated one by many reviewers. So far, it is working great.
You need a way to store your beans in an airtight container and yet let the carbon dioxide escape. I am trying a 16 ounce Veken coffee canister. It works well. I’d like some smaller canisters, too, and will be adding them soon. I have a larger Zulay Kitchen container which also works well. Both seem to be well built.
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