Master the essentials of a solid brew. let's talk about the process of "roasting".
Roasting coffee is the process behind the characteristic flavour of coffee. Roasting causes physical and chemical changes to the green coffee beans, which alter the properties of the beans, thus causing a change in taste.
Normally, we would order a bag of pre roasted coffee beans from the local store, grind it up and brew our coffee. That would be fine, if the coffee was roasted 2-3 days ago. However, most of the bagged beans were weeks even months old before they wound up on the shelf.
Once coffee has been roasted it begins to ‘degass’, which mean the carbon dioxide that was locked into the bean while roasting, slowly starts to seep out into the atmosphere. This process also brings out the delicious oils and compounds which make your brew taste wonderful.
The best window to have your coffee would be between 2 to 10 days after roasting. According to many aficionados, coffee beans stay delicious for upto 2 weeks after roasting. The store bought coffee is already stale by the time it reaches your market, which makes for a vapid cup of coffee.
We recommend, buying green unroasted coffee beans which are cheaper by the pound, and roast them in the comfort of your own home. This ensures you always have the freshest cup of joe every day. For novice roasters, you would like the well balanced flavour of the Colombian coffee, and then move on to the wide variety of different Arabica beans such as Costa Rican, Ethiopian, Tanzanian, Sumatran, African, etc.
Roasting can be done in a simple frying pan over the stove, with a hot popcorn popper machine, a manual/ automatic drum roller roaster or a hot air automatic roaster. You may have seen tons of blogs where people recommend using a popcorn popper machine to roast their beans, however, there is more than meets the eye.
Popcorn machines have a fixed temperature, so that means, your coffee beans might be unevenly or improperly roasted which does not help in extracting the best level of flavour and aroma from your exotic beans.
The machine is not designed for coffee and will get bad after 5-7 rounds of usage.
The chaff which comes out the coffee beans while roasting will cause problems with the machine and is a lot of hassle to clean after a batch.
The quality of roast will be sub-par when compared to a roaster.
Therefore, it is better to go with the trusty old frying pan, or a dedicated coffee roaster. Let us start with the most simple one – The Frying Pan Method.
Roasting with a Frying Pan:
Measure a healthy amount of unroasted green coffee beans (100 – 200 grams) and pour it into a heated frying pan.
Pro Tip: You want the pan to be heated to 230C-250C or 450F-500F which is perfect for roasting. Initially, it takes a while for the beans to become slightly pale and then start browning. It is advisable to keep the heat on medium till it just starts to brown and then put it on simmer for a slower and even roast.
Stir the beans constantly. Keep a wooden flat spatula ready because this method is very hands on and you need to keep stirring constantly to provide an even roast.
It takes around 10-15 minutes till it browns a bit and you start hearing an audible pop. This is called the first crack. This signals that your coffee beans have been lightly roasted and can be used to make white coffee, which is a very fresh flavoured coffee known for it’s delicious acidic undertones. This coffee roast is also called the City Roast.
Now, here is where the tricky part comes to play. Till now, the roasting process took some time, maybe 15 – 25 minutes just to get to city roast levels. After this, the roasting levels come much quicker and it is easy to overdo it and end up with a very dark roast if you’re not careful.
Few minutes after the first crack, you get city plus roast which a very good lively roast, but not quite suitable for stronger coffee brews like espresso or americano. You want to roast a little bit longer and go into the second crack. Your beans are now medium roasted.
Now you may choose to stop roasting your beans, because after the second crack, your coffee beans are golden for almost every type of brew including drip coffee. For espressos, however, you want to go a bit further and get a nice smooth darker roast which helps obtaining the delightful flavours that you can only get in a concentrated brew like the espresso and the ristretto.
Keep roasting after the second crack for 30 seconds or less to dark and very dark roasts which are espresso ready. Your coffee beans might get burnt and unusable if you let it roast too long, so allow around 30 seconds for the medium roast to turn to dark roast and observe carefully so that you don’t burn your coffee. Turn off the heat and let the beans cool before storing it in a air tight jar.
The ideal waiting period after roasting to get the best coffee is at least 12 hours, but we recommend storing it a little longer, like 24 or 48 hours. This time is required for the coffee beans to slowly release the oils from within the beans during the degassing process.
Pro tip: You will notice the beans directly after roasting are quite dull and not shiny like the ones you see in barista shops. This is because the oils are yet to be extracted during the degassing process. Allowing the beans to wait for 1 or 2 days, will let the oils come up to the surface and the beans will look very shiny and delicious. Now you can start grinding and making your own brew. Your roasted beans will stay fresh if you store them properly for up-to 14 days, although it is best if you finish your batch within the 7-10 day mark because after a week, the oxidation effect will be significant enough to affect the flavour, and the beans start to become stale.
There are over 800 different compounds inside your coffee beans that give you it’s significant aroma, flavour and health benefits. In a green unroasted coffee bean, the chemicals are not activated and that is why that coffee tastes really bad. To extract all the good stuff, your coffee beans need to be roasted, and there’s nothing better than a batch of freshly roasted coffee that’s been allowed to degass for 24 hours.
Roasting with a coffee roaster
You may like the hands on experience and the coffee aroma that spreads throughout your kitchen while roasting coffee beans with a flat frying pan, unfortunately, a lot of us don’t have the time or patience to sit and stir for half an hour. Since the popcorn popper is more hassle than profit in the long run, it’s much better to go with a coffee roaster. The roasting time depends on the model, and on the first try, you should observe carefully the different stages of the roasting process so you have a decent idea about the time interval required to obtained the roasting quality you need. Usually, it takes any where between 15-25 minutes on the roasters we suggest.
Coffee roasters come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, heating mechanism, et cetra. There are drum roasters, which rotate the beans inside a heated drum which is usually heated by gas or electricity. There are roasters which use hot air to levitate and mix the beans by the force of hot air alone, which can be automatic and give a very good roast.
The experts will often talk about a ‘roast curve’, which means that the beans during the process of roasting should have the temperature varied at certain points and intervals in order to get the optimum roast. However, this is something that requires tremendous dedication and skill, and not something I would recommend to a less-than-ultra-purist coffee drinker. The regular drum or hot air roaster does the job well. The difference between the coffee obtained from a carefully designed roast curve and a regular gas/electrical drum or hot air roaster, is not about ‘good and bad’ but it has more nuanced flavours which are more readily detectable if the beans have gone through a roast curve.
Bottom line : Your standard frying pan, or gas/electric roaster will make a very good cup of coffee.
There are loads of roasters available online and in stores that you can purchase. There are drum roasters which are gas fuelled like the KALDI Manual or Motorised versions, and a hot air type FreshRoast SR500 which also works brilliantly for home usage.These are quite expensive with the most inexpensive being the FreshRoast, luckily there’s Nuvo Classic Handy Roaster that can make small batches (up to 60 grams) of very well roasted coffee within 15 – 20 minutes, depending of the heat and intensity of the flame.
Green unroasted beans are a lot cheaper than pre roasted beans and can be bought in bulk.
Green beans have a very long shelf life of around 3 – 6 months,even a year and require an air-tight bag, stored away in a dark area, not too cold or hot, nor very humid or dry. Also, storing them in the fridge will ruin a lot of the bean’s essential qualities.
Roasting ensures you get the best cup of home made espresso, french press, Americano, et cetra and at a fraction of the cost it would take to go to a cafe.
The house smells amazing after a good roast.
Roasting your own coffee beans is cheaper in the long run, and you wouldn’t have to run to the cafes or stores when you want an extremely satisfying cup of joe.
There is high initial cost, where you need to buy the roasters and equipment, however in the long run, roasting your coffee is cheaper.
Roasted beans aren’t ready for immediate consumption and have to sit for 12 – 24 hours to be suitable for brewing. For espressos, it can take up to 48 hours. Hence roasting will require planning.
If you are into blending coffee, you need to separately roast the different types of coffee beans and then mix the roasted beans and grind them or mix the grinds. This is because, after roasting, there is a lot of weight change in your beans and the composition to be mixed will change mid-roasting.
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