Guide To Roasting Coffee at Home

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Guide-To-Roasting-Coffee-at-Home

Are you becoming increasingly interested in making the perfect cup of coffee at home?

Well, we are all so accustomed to getting first-rate coffee in commercial coffee shops that it’s only natural to want that same taste sensation at home.

We’ll let you into a secret, though…

That elusive golden cup of coffee will only ever be as good as the beans you use to make it with.

So, great beans are an essential starting point but there’s a potential problem. Coffee beans degrade remarkably quickly. You’ll only experience optimum flavor for about a week after the beans have been roasted.

Luckily, here at La Mano, we’re solution-focused. We view any problems as something to solve rather than complain about.

And this problem with the speed at which coffee beans degrade can be easily overcome.

How?

It’s simple: you can roast your own beans. Take this small but important step and you’ll notice a dramatic difference in the quality of the coffee in your cup.

Today, we’ll walk you through roasting coffee in 5 different ways:

  1. Roasting Coffee Beans with a Roasting Machine
  2. Roasting Coffee Beans with a Pan or Skillet
  3. Roasting Coffee Beans with an Oven
  4. Roasting Coffee Beans with a Hot Air Popcorn Maker
  5. Roasting Coffee Beans with a Stovetop Popcorn Maker

This is more than a basic guide to roasting coffee at home, though.

In addition to a simple summary of roasting beans using these methods, we’ll also give you a brief breakdown of the various stages of roasting. We’ll highlight the main roast types and we’ll even show you how to source raw green coffee beans.

To get started, a bit more detail on why coffee beans spoil so quickly and why roasting coffee beans at home is worthwhile.


I. Why Do You Need to Roast Coffee?

Coffee starts life as a small red fruit and requires many stages of preparation before ending up in your morning espresso or Americano.

The initial stage of processing involves stripping the skin – both inner and outer – then removing the pulp. This phase leaves the inner seed exposed. It’s this seed that we know as the coffee bean.

The next step in proceedings is to dry the coffee beans. It’s this green coffee bean that’s then shipped worldwide for roasting.

Now, the nature of the coffee bean means it can be stored in this green form for lengthy stretches while still remaining fresh. It’s much like a dry pinto bean in this respect.

Why bother roasting the beans at all, then?

If you skipped this stage, the coffee would be far too acidic and also much too bitter. It would, in fact, be fundamentally undrinkable.

When coffee beans are roasted, the distinctive aromas and flavors of each bean come fully to the fore while that acidity and bitterness is tamped right down.

So, you’re off to a strong start. You should now know:

  • Why you need to roast green coffee beans
  • The way in which coffee beans spoil quickly once roasted

With that knowledge in place, it’s not hard to understand how you can remove this problem by roasting your own green beans.

Now, before you even think about grabbing some equipment and taking matters into your own hands, you should be clear that not all roasts are equal. While we know you’re impatient for the main event, it pays to double down on the various stages of roasting first…


II. Different Stages of Coffee Roasting

The following list shows you how beans progress from green to burning point.

  • Stage 1 – Green: Beans are still termed green even during the initial stages of heating.
  • Stage 2 – Yellow: At this stage, you notice the beans taking on a yellow tinge while also giving off an smell reminiscent of grass.
  • Stage 3 – Steam: A steam starts rising from the beans, you’re witnessing the water inside those beans evaporating.
  • Stage 4 – First Crack: Sometimes referred to as a cinnamon roast, the first crack is where roasting proper begins. The sugars inside start caramelize. You’ll hear a distinct cracking sound much like popcorn opening up. The first crack is named for this sound.
  • Stage 5 – City Roast: City Roast is the stage immediately following the first crack.
  • Stage 6 – City Plus Roast: As the sugars caramelize further and oils start moving around, you’ll see the beans grow in size. This point is classified as City Plus Roast. Medium roasts like this are one of the most popular.
  • Stage 7 – Full City Roast: Darker than City Plus, a Full City roast takes you right up to the second crack.
  • Stage 8 – Second Crack: After a second and more intense cracking, your beans will be in Full City Plus territory. If you’re adventurous enough to give this a try, you’ll experience new layers of flavor and aroma.
  • Stage 9 – Dark Roast: Commonly known as French Roast, dark roasts occur after the beans start kicking off pungent smoke. Sugars burn away without ruining the flavor. The smoke will become pungent, the sugars will burn as much as they can without ruining the flavor, and structure of the beans starts breaking down.
  • Stage 10 – Burn: Beyond a dark roast, your beans will be burned and spoiled. Don’t go here!

Now we’ll make things even easier for you…


III. The 3 Most Common Roast Profiles: Light Roast, Medium Roast, and Dark Roast

While we wanted to walk you through all the stages so you have a sound understanding of what’s involved during every step of the roasting process. We’ve also showed you that dark roasts represent the upper drinkable limit.

The main roast types most people are familiar with can be roughly cleaved into three:

  • Light Roast
  • Medium Roast
  • Dark Roast

Light Roast

light-roast-coffee-beans

Lightly-roasted beans need to have an internal temperature from 356F to 401F.

A light roast is sometimes called half city, light city, or cinnamon roast.

You stop roasting somewhere near the start of the first crack. The surface of the beans will still be dry. The beans are likely to be pretty hard and dense still. This will be very much the case if you remove the beans before the first crack so be careful of this.

  • Who should choose light roasts: If you want a drink without too much body and you prefer higher levels of acidity, light roasts are ideal. Light roasts also work well when you’re just starting to roast coffee beans at home. Not only will you need less time, you won’t require such a high temperature either.

Medium Roast

Medium-Roast

City Roast and City Plus are both medium roasts in the temperature band between 410F and 428F.

Although the surface of the beans remains dry, you’ll see a clear difference between these and the beans in their original green form.

Medium roasts appear toward the end of the first crack.

  • Who should choose medium roasts: With lower levels of acidity and a fuller body along with a manageable temperature when roasting, it’s not hard to see why medium roast is the most popular type.

Dark Roast

 Dark-Roast
Close-up and top view of hot black coffee in white coffee cup and roasted Thai coffee beans on wooden background. Photo filtered in vintage style.

Dark roasts are also commonly called French, Italian, or espresso roasts.

Roasted to 464F but below 482F, roasting beans to this point at home can be dangerous without the right equipment – more on that below.

Dark roast beans have an oily surface with very little acidity evident. You pull these beans out during the second crack.

  • Who should choose dark roasts: Counterintuitively, dark roasts don’t have more caffeine but they are easier on the stomach. They also have a unique and smoky aroma. You could also benefit more from the antioxidant potential of coffee beans when they’re darkly roasted.

Now, even though you might be eager to find out how to roast coffee beans at home, first you’ll need some beans!


IV. What You Need Before You Start Roasting Coffee

Before you can experiment with home roasting, you’ll need the following:

  • Green coffee beans: This is probably the hardest part. Stumptown Coffee sell green beans at various outlets if you prefer shopping physically. The best and most convenient way to buy green coffee beans is to source them online.
  • Storage for the beans: Once you’ve roasted your beans, you’ll need somewhere suitable to store them. You need an airtight container and you should store it in a cool, dry place. Remember that even stored in the best container, roasted coffee won’t stay fresh for much more than a week.
  • A coffee roaster or alternative: We’ll touch on a variety of different coffee roasting machines right below. You could also use a pan, skillet, or popcorn maker. We’ll walk you through using all of these the easy way.

V. A Word of Caution Before You Start

One final word of warning before you dive in…

You’ll need to heat the beans from 370F to a 540F during the roasting process. Take all sensible precautions when you’re dealing with temperatures this high. Expect a fair amount of smoke.

Also, make sure the beans are always moving. Fail to ensure constant motion and you’ll end up with scorched beans.

When you roast, be sure the beans remain in constant motion so none of them become scorched. You should also be aware that the roasting process produces quite a bit of smoke, so be sure the area you are roasting is well ventilated or your house will quickly become quite smoky.

OK, you’re ready to choose your weapon!


VI. Different Methods of Roasting Coffee at Home

We’ll now detail 5 of the best ways to roast coffee at home:

  1. Roasting Coffee Beans with a Roasting Machine
  2. Roasting Coffee Beans with a Pan or Skillet
  3. Roasting Coffee Beans with an Oven
  4. Roasting Coffee Beans with a Hot Air Popcorn Maker
  5. Roasting Coffee Beans with a Stovetop Popcorn Maker

1) Roasting Coffee Beans with a Roasting Machine

You can find a wide range of coffee roasting machines with plenty for complete beginners right up to machines suitable baristas and commercial roasters.

The principle of roasting machines is straightforward. They work in a similar fashion to popcorn poppers. The beans are roasted with hot air circulating rapidly. The beans are also kept in perpetual motion.

Today you can buy several different types of roasting machines that will take care of your coffee roasting process for you. These machines operate much like a popcorn popper by using fast-moving hot air to roast the beans and keep them agitated while they are roasting.

This is by far the easiest method of all of them as the roaster handles most of the heavy lifting for you.

What You Need

  • Green coffee beans
  • Coffee roasting machine

What To Do

  1. Add the desired quantity of green beans to your roaster. The instruction manual should specify how many beans you need
  2. Close the roaster
  3. Fire up the power
  4. Let the machine do the work until your beans reach your preferred color – refer to our roast types above for more detail on coloring
  5. Decant the roasted beans into a sieve or colander. Stir until warm
  6. Store your roasted coffee beans at room temperature away from direct sunlight

Here’s a look at our favorite roasting machines:

  • Kaldi Wide Coffee Roaster: You’ll need to dig deep for this machine and you’ll need a gas burner. Gas provides the heat while the drum is rotated electrically. If you can afford it, this is a fine piece of kit.
  • Electric Coffee Roaster: Now available at an aggressive discount, you’ll get consistent temperatures and a non-stick body with this powerful but affordable roaster.
  • Coffee Bean Roaster: While the Bocaboca 250 isn’t exactly beginner-friendly, if you’re an experienced coffee hound, why not treat yourself to something special? You can also upgrade to the 500 model capable of roasting a full pound of green beans
  • Dyvee Coffee Bean Roaster: Ideal for roasting 7oz to 10oz of beans, this pocket-friendly roaster is also easy on the eye
  • Mixfin Coffee Bean Roasting Machine: A simple but effective roasting machine giving you the ability to roast rice and nuts as well as green coffee beans, this is a functional workhorse at a price you’ll love

2) Roasting Coffee Beans in a Pan or Skillet

If you don’t fancy investing in a coffee roaster, why not transform your green beans on the stovetop – gas works best – using a regular pan or skillet?

What You Need

  • Green coffee beans
  • Thick cast iron or steel pan (uncoated)
  • Gas stovetop
  • 2 colanders
  • Wooden spoon
  • Oven gloves
  • Airtight storage container

What To Do

  1. Before you start, open all the windows and make sure the exhaust fan is activated. Smoke is an inevitable by-product of roasting beans. Indeed, if you can grill outside, it’s even better. If not, maximize ventilation instead
  2. Pop a heavy-duty, uncoated pan onto a medium heat (450F). You might need to tinker around with temperature when you’re just starting out. Every step of the process involves experimentation then you can dial things in. Gas works best as you’ll find it easier to adjust the temperature swiftly
  3. Add a thin layer of green pans to the pan. Leave enough room between the beans so you can easily stir them
  4. Keep the beans in motion at all times to ensure that they’re heated evenly and don’t get scorched
  5. After 4 to 5 minutes, you’ll hear the unmistakable sound of the first crack. This represents a light roast
  6. After 6 to 7 minutes, the second crack occurs. You’re now in the territory of a medium roast
  7. 30 seconds after the second crack, remove the beans from the heat
  8. Decant the beans into a colander. Stir everything up and give it a good shake
  9. Allow beans to cool. It’s advisable to leave them in the sink since the roasting process leaves behind a fair amount of messy residue
  10. Leave the beans exposed to the elements for 12 hours. This allows them to degas

This method is not suitable if you want a dark roast. You can use other methods to get an effective dark roast whether a machine or one of the methods you’ll find if you keep reading…

3) Roasting Coffee Beans in an Oven

Roasting green beans in the oven is highly effective but you won’t be faced with quite the same amount of smoke as when you’re using a pan or skillet. It still gets smoky, though!

What You Need

  • Green coffee beans
  • Perforated tray or roasting oven utensil
  • Oven
  • 2 metal colanders
  • Oven gloves mitts
  • Air-tight container

What To Do

  1. Preheat your oven to 500F. You can fine-tune the temperature from this baseline as you experiment with roasting
  2. Open the windows and turn on the exhaust fan
  3. A perforated oven tray works well but you could also use a roasting pan designed for coffee beans. Spread your green beans evenly over the tray or pan. Do not stack beans in multiple layers
  4. Pop the tray onto the middle shelf of your oven. This will promote the most consistent temperature
  5. After 4 to 5 minutes, you get the first crack and a light roast
  6. 6 to 7 minutes is when the second crack takes place. This indicates a medium roast
  7. 30 seconds after the second crack, remove your tray from the oven
  8. As when using a pan or skillet on the stovetop, transfer the beans to your colander
  9. Stir the beans again and agitate them
  10. Allow the beans to cool in the sink
  11. Expose the roasted beans for 12 hours which allows them to degas

4) Roasting Coffee Beans In a Hot Air Popcorn Popper

If you’ve never tried roasting beans before, why not roll with a hot air popcorn popper?

All you’ll need is a few minutes and you’ll still be free to experiment with roasting from light through to dark.

What You Need

  • Hot air popcorn popper
  • Green coffee beans
  • Bowl
  • Baking tray
  • Airtight container
  • Thermometer – this is optional

What To Do

  1. Turn on the popcorn popper and preheat for 30 seconds
  2. Add ½ cup of green beans
  3. Watch as the beans change color and pass through the roasting stages. Do not leave the popper unattended. This gives you the chance to pay close attention to how things progress. You’ll become confident in no time
  4. When the beans have reached your desired roast type – see above for guidance on coloring – turn off the popper
  5. Decant the roasted coffee beans onto your baking tray so they cool quickly. Shake them from time to time to speed things up further
  6. Once completely cool, pour the beans into an airtight container like a mason jar

Remember that if you go up to a dark roast, you’ll need to let the beans degas for up to 12 hours for best effects.

You’ll now have all the ingredients you need for the best coffee so whip out your grinder and then fire up your espresso machine. It’s time for your reward!

5) Roasting Coffee Beans With a Stovetop Popcorn Maker

Last but certainly not least, you could go old-school with a classic stovetop popcorn maker.

What You Need

  • Stovetop popcorn maker
  • Outdoor grill or burner
  • Green coffee beans
  • Baking tray
  • Airtight container
  • Optional thermometer

What To Do

  1. Set up the popper, burner, and baking tray outside in the yard
  2. Preheat your popper to 400F. If you don’t have a thermometer, aim for 7 to 8 minutes
  3. Add your green beans and start turning the handle on the popper. Make sure you keep the beans moving at all times
  4. Watch as the raw green seeds transform through various stages. Watch closely at all times. Refer to the stages of roasting above for more detailed information
  5. When the beans are roasted to your liking, pour them onto the baking tray. Shake the contents and allow the roasted beans to cool naturally
  6. Store the cool beans in an airtight container
  7. For darker roasts, allow the beans to degas for 12 hours before storage

Note: Our personal favorite is the Great Northern Popcorn Company Stovetop Popcorn Spinner which will give you years of faithful service without costing a fortune.

Bonus method: Why not try something completely different with the Nuvo Echo Ceramic Bean Roaster? Use this innovative little roaster on the stovetop for a unique way to roast coffee at home.

Now, we’ve thrown a huge amount of information at you today so we’ll round out with a collection of the most frequently asked questions about roasting coffee at home.


VII. FAQs

1) Do I need a coffee roasting machine?

You don’t, no. We’ve shown you how to use a pan, a skillet, or different types of popcorn popper to achieve the same effect. The benefit of a bona fide roasting machine is the extra control you’ll get. If you’re a true coffee lover, this investment will be the smartest one you make this year. If you’re not fully committed, experiment with a pan or skillet first.

2) Why do roasting beans make a cracking sound?

The crack occurs when the sugars inside those beans starts caramelizing. There are two cracks during the roasting process.

3) Which type of roast has the most caffeine?

While you might imagine darker roasts have more caffeine, that’s not the case. If you want a serious kick, choose lighter roasts.

4) Are oily coffee beans good?

Absolutely not! Oil on the outside of the beans will spoil them.

5) What is degassing?

This is when the gases inside coffee beans – including carbon dioxide – are released after roasting.


VIII. Conclusion

Well, we hope by now you have a comprehensive overview of how to roast coffee at home using a variety of methods.

As with all aspects of making coffee, you should personalize the process so you end up with your ideal drink. The roast type your friend likes might very well turn your stomach so focus on what works for you.

Whatever method you choose, we’d suggest you take your time. After all, if speed is off the essence, you could use a single-serve machine instead. So be patient, enjoy the process and before long, you’ll be racking up a coffee you could only previously have dreamed of.

Before you go, we’d urge you to bookmark La Mano and to head back any time you want the lowdown on making the best coffee. From advising you on which equipment to buy through to information-packed guides like our study of home roasting, you’re in safe hands. We love coffee just as much as you do and we’re here to share that knowledge to make your lives easier and to improve the quality of the coffee in your cup!

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