There was a time when all coffee was home-roasted. People bought green coffee beans at the store, brought them home and roasted them in skillets over the stove. Though it’s now the norm to buy your coffee already roasted, there are still some advantages to roasting at home. Green beans stay good for years but once they’re roasted, it’s best to use them within a week. If it’s hard to get fresh-roasted beans where you live, roasting your own is a good solution. And of course, many people start roasting beans just because they’re fascinated by the process.
You can buy table-top roasters for residential use, but it’s more fun, as well as cheaper, to try a more hands-on approach at first. That way you will get a chance to develop an understanding of the process before you invest a lot of money in a proper roaster. Some people roast over a gas element using an iron skillet or Whirly Pop, while others toast the beans on cookie sheets in the oven. But most beginning home roasters prefer to use a hot air popcorn popper. This is the easiest way for beginners to get an even roast and consistent results.
Here is a quick guide to roasting beans in a hot air popper.
Roasting coffee is hard on a popper, so don’t use an expensive one. You can usually find them at thrift stores for just a few dollars. Look for one that has side vents inside and that doesn’t have a grate on the bottom. An added advantage of older poppers is that they don’t have a safety feature that shuts them off if they get too hot. “Too hot” for popcorn is just right for roasting coffee.
You will also need a large bowl to catch the chaff, or light outer layer of the bean, that flies out of the popper as the coffee roasts. Place this beside the popper as if you were making popcorn, and put a wet paper towel inside it to catch the chaff.
You will also need a way to cool the coffee. The easiest method is to use two stainless steel mesh colanders.
How to Roast Beans At Home
Turn on the popper and add a little less than ½ cup of green beans. You’ll know the amount is correct if the beans turn slowly inside the machine. Don’t leave the popper unattended: this process only takes 4 to 8 minutes in total.
After about 3 minutes, you should hear a sound like popcorn popping. This is called “first crack” and it means your beans are almost roasted. The lightest roasts stop as soon as first crack is finished, but you’ll probably want to keep going a bit longer.
After another 3 or 4 minutes you’ll hear a slightly different kind of popping noise, known as “second crack.” At this point, your beans are probably ready. Take a look at them (easiest if your popper has a removable butter dish) and watch them closely if you are going for a darker roast. They will keep roasting after you remove them, so err on the side of caution.
Cooling and Storing Beans
Turn off the popper and immediately dump the beans into one of the colanders. It’s best to use oven mitts as the popper will be quite hot. Toss the beans back and forth between the two colanders to cool them and remove the remaining chaff (best done outdoors.)
When the beans are completely cool, store them in a Mason jar with a loose lid to allow off-gassing of carbon dioxide. We’ve discussed more about how to store beans previously. The next morning, your beans are ready for you to enjoy the freshest coffee you’ve ever tasted.