5 Reasons I Roast My Own Coffee With a Popcorn Popper
In only one year I have traversed several steps in the coffee process. It’s been a growing process and one in which I find myself most recently in the newest stage… a few weeks ago, I switched over from purchasing roasted beans to roasting my own. While generally when I say this I get lots of impressed looks (either that or the wierded-out looks: "hurry children, get away from the presence of the crazed coffee-madman"), it is time to break the secrecy I was sworn to (in the hooded third-wave coffee secret society meetings) and admit that roasting your own coffee is actually a great option for basically every coffee lover out there. Can I say up front, I am new to this, and this post is not predominately to those already roasting or further along in the coffee process. This post is geared toward the average coffee person on the street who drinks anything from Folgers to Starbucks… depending more upon what’s available than what is good. This post is meant to open eyes to the fact that good coffee is available without mortgaging one’s house or sacrificing family time to another addictive hobby. So for the person wanting to get a better cup of coffee, but not really knowing how to get it or where to start, then may I suggest that you begin at the roasting level. Here are the 5 reasons I now roast my own coffee with a popcorn popper and why you should roast your own coffee as well:
5) Roasting your own coffee is easy. Why is everyone all impressed when people say they roast their own coffee? Because they assume that there is some crazy, time-consumingly difficult process involving bunsen burners, closed doors, safety goggles, and the possibility of death. Hate to ruin the secret but it's actually really easy. Seriously. It involves a very small learning curve (spend some time reading different ideas of how to do it from this Coffeegeek article and this Sweet Marias article/video), and then involves turning a popcorn popper on and stirring it. That's pretty much it.
4) Roasting your own coffee is quick. Once the basics are figured out, it takes me under 10 minutes from the time I say "I think I'm going to roast" to the moment when I pour the finished beans out of the popper. The actual roasting process averages about 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 minutes depending upon the bean/amount/other variables. Of course, you do want to give yourself 2-3 days to let the beans sit so as to get the most flavor from them, however if you keep on top of it and always make sure you are roasting a couple days ahead of when you need to make a cup, you will have an endless supply of beans.
5) Roasting your own coffee is cheap. Here's what finally sold me on trying it. Depending upon where I get my beans, I pay about $5-8 per lb of green beans. High quality. The kind that has been chosen specifically because of its better taste and processing, not just any stuff thrown into a blend from somewhere. The kind that I was paying $16 for when it was roasted. Don't get me wrong, for the quality of beans I was getting, $16 was a great price. But now I can have it for half the price and can control the variables to get the exact roast I prefer. Don't know where to buy green beans from? It's actually easier than you think to find suppliers:
(a) Find a local coffee shop that roasts their own (more abundant then you would think) and ask if they would sell green beans to you. The two local (Louisville, KY) places I get my green beans from are LaGrange Coffee Roasters and Sunergos Coffee. Both have a selection of high quality beans for great prices.
(b) Buy from Sweet Marias. SM is an online company that sells green coffee beans. You will spend about 6-7 bucks on a pound of coffee. There is a minimum order, but honestly, buy 3 lbs of different beans to sample ($20), pay for the shipping ($7) and you have 3 lbs of unbelievable coffee to sample over a period of time for under $10 a lb!
As far as popcorn poppers go, you can get an expensive one for $20. Otherwise, keep an eye out at garage sales or thrift stores and get started on this new hobby for $5. Not a big initial investment (though make sure to get a popper with the air vents in the side and not the one screened-hole at the bottom - read the Coffeegeek link I included above for why this is important).
5) Roasting your own coffee is fresh. The other key factor that got me into roasting is the shelf life of roasted coffee. If you are the kind who keeps your coffee in a can under the counter or in the freezer, you are going to hate me for saying this but, honestly, coffee maintains its complex flavors and taste for about 3-4 weeks (that’s even stretching it some). Once you pass the one month mark, you just can't really taste flavors anymore and all you taste is the roasted "flavor" most people think is what coffee tastes like. Hate to say it, but that's because the Folgers and Sbux out there on the shelf is old by the time you even buy it and take it home. Don't believe me if you don't want, but if you have good coffee roasted a week prior, you will begin to understand that this is not an exaggeration. It's not a subjective "taste" difference. You may like your coffee roasted darker than someone else, and that's fine. That's subjective, but "old" and “stale” are not subjective. Think of it like chocolate chip cookies. The difference between a fresh chocolate chip cookie 15 minutes out of the oven still warm and gooey and the same cookie 3 weeks later- crunchy and flavorless, is vast. They are both cookies, but the freshness makes all the difference in the world.
While roasted coffee has a generous shelf life of 4 weeks, green coffee has a shelf life of over 1 year. Buy a few pounds of green coffee and then only roast the amount you will use for the next week/week and a half. This means you are only roasting 3-4 times a month, but your beans are always as fresh as possible. Do this for 3 months and it will be relatively difficult to go back to the canned coffee :) As you try other kinds or get more deals on green coffee, just keep adding to your collection and know that it won't go bad. This was a major selling point for me because I don't actually drink that much coffee (maybe a half cup a day)… I just really like enjoying my great cup of coffee. I found that I was purchasing a pound of roasted coffee but then wouldn't finish it in the allotted time. By the time I got to the end of it, it was already getting old and had lost flavor. Roasting my own beans solved that issue. Now I only roast up what I will drink and always have great, fresh coffee.
5) Roasting your own coffee is rewarding. One of the best things about roasting your own is when you buy good grean beans, roast them well, wait 3 days, brew them up well (another topic for another time, please don't spend time to roast your own and then ruin the brew by making it incorrectly) and then serve it to guests visiting your house. It is extremely rewarding and just plain fun to watch the looks on peoples' faces when they taste it. It is like an art form. When you put time and creativity into something with variables and get a good result you are gaining the fruit of your labor. Also, coffee that you have roasted on your own makes a great gift for people. It is cheap and most people like coffee. Give them a coffee that tastes great and that they know you roasted and the result will be a pleased individual who appreciates the time, effort, and result that was put into the gift you gave them.
So, there are my thoughts on why it is actually cost-effective, productive, rewarding, and quality enhancing to roast your own beans. Go ahead, step out on a limb and give it a try. If you like coffee, I assure you that it will be well worth your efforts.
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We've looked long and hard for a scale that we can recommend for our avid manual brewing friends. The scale needed to have a high weight capacity, fast response time and precision calculations, and the ability to disable the auto-off feature to ensure the scale would not shut off mid-brew. The Jennings CJ4000 is the first scale we have offered that meets all of these requirements. With a 4000 gram capacity, accuracy to .5 gram, and the ability to disable the auto-off feature, the Jennings scale is the perfect companion to manual brewing.
Hario Skerton grinder is handy for manual home and travel grinding, it can also be slightly more cumbersome for an extended road trip where only a small amount of grinding will be done (for a more detailed comparison of the two grinders, check out this blog post: Hario Skerton vs. Mini Mill). For those trips (or homes) where a minimal amount of grinding is needed, the Hario Mini Mill Slim is the perfect grinding solution. The Mini Mill employs adjustable conical ceramic burrs for grinding any of the wide range of grinds employed in today’s coffee market. It can effortlessly handle 24 grams of anything from fine espresso to a coarse French Press setting. Because of its lightweight (0.5 lbs) and sleek plastic body, the Mini Mill easily fits into small carrying bags and suitcases without adding a lot of extra weight. This, in conjunction with the Aerobie AeroPress coffee maker, has the propensity to make excellent coffee anywhere hot water and fresh beans are available.
The Hario Mini Mill is a traveling coffee enthusiast’s dream come true.... and with its ability to grind to the fine quality needed for espresso, it can be paired with a hand-held travel espresso maker such as the mypressi TWIST (and an excellent choice of beans) to achieve a quality rivaling the product found in many high-end espresso machines. Whether the need is grinding beans for a french press, Aeropress, or mypressi, the Mini Mill Slim is the perfect travel solution.
$81.98It can be difficult in the world of specialty coffee to find a brewer that not only looks fantastic but also produces a fantastic product. Eva Solo has done an exceptional job of combining both elements into the Cafe Solo. The Solo seems a little strange upon first glance for the very reason that it may be the first coffee brewer of its kind: one that is clothed. The designers at Eva Solo had the ingenious idea of using the same material that keeps divers warm (neoprene) and wrapping it around the glass carafe... thus keeping the coffee hot during the 4 minute brewing period.
Not only are its looks something to take seriously, but the Solo's coffee is not to be underestimated. Because of its use of "total immersion" brewing (similar to that of a french press), the grounds are evenly and completely submersed in water. This provides extraction that is difficult to achieve by other methods of brewing. It is advisable, however, that once the 4 minutes of extraction is complete, the coffee should be immediately served or transferred into a thermal pot (we recommend one of the Zojirushi carafes). This will prevent over-extraction from taking place which results in a bitter tasting coffee.
The Cafe Solo is unquestionably a unique and exceptional specialty coffee manual brewer. Because of its simple usability and superior design, the Cafe Solo is a force to be reckoned with in the specialty coffee world.