Roasting coffee at home might be a daunting process but in best-possible cases, it can give you surprisingly delicious and perfectly roasted coffee beans, your tastebuds will surely be thankful for.
Have you been thinking of roasting your own coffee beans at home? If yes, I assure you, you are not alone.
Once I could get the hang of it… I never looked back.
Roasting your own beans not only gives you proper control over the results you get but also makes your house engulfed with the smell of soul-touching aroma of coffee beans.
If this is something you're doing for the first time, of course, there would be some sad burnt coffee beans that are thrown in the trash, BUT eventually, you'll be able to grind your beans like a pro and drink as if you never had a real cup of coffee before.
I know when I first started roasted beans, it was difficult to find one guide that could tell me everything I must needed to know.
So, I decided to jump ahead and develop a beginner friendly guide to coffee roasting so you won't make most common mistakes while roasting your coffee beans at the ease of home.
This guide will tell you about the basics of the coffee bean and the benefits to roasting your own beans.
(Spoiler alert! Coffee beans don’t actually start off brown!).
I will dive into the different levels of roasting beans, as well as touch on the differences between light, medium, and dark roasts.
Finally, we will look at the actual step by step process that is involved in roasting your coffee beans.
This is a journey, so grab a cup of the coffee and get ready to dive into the world of coffee beans.
Why would you want to roast coffee at home?
For a true coffee connoisseur, roasting your own coffee beans is a beautiful pairing of science and art.
When beans are roasted, they retain the freshness only for a week and then begin to fade slowly, as time passes.
The beauty of roasting your own beans means you can completely control overall the taste of your little nuggets.
Learning to roast your own beans means the roast type, the aroma, the subtle nuances of flavors like licorice, blueberry, and caramel…are all created by you.
That is something no store bought coffee can really achieve, at least not to the same level.
What actually is coffee?
Coffee beans don’t start off as little brown caffeinated beans. They actually began their life as a red fruit that's processed by removing the outer layers to get to the inner seed, well-known as coffee bean (1).
Think of a coffee bean as a dry pinto bean which are green in color at first stage. These are what shipped around the world to different companies and local roasters to turn them into the roasted beans, we know and love.
They can be stored for long periods of time and retain their freshness (even for years) before undertaking the roasting process.
And, just in case you might be thinking about, just NEVER drink coffee that has been made from green coffee bean grounds. It tastes acidic, bitter, and outright undrinkable.
So don’t waste your little green pinto beans on anything other than the roasting process.
Why do we roast coffee?
We roast coffee beans to extract their natural flavors.
Green coffee beans undergo some pretty massive changes when they are roasted.
At the first stage, coffee beans release moisture from inside the beans which cause them to dry and expand.
The process further changes green coffee beans by converting some of their natural sugars into carbon dioxide (CO2) gas, some into caramelized flavors, and others into more complex flavors that may produce subtle hints of malts, chocolates, fruits and berries.
One interesting fact: Once the roasting process ends (if done in a right way), the green coffee beans transform into brown beans that are both lighter and larger.
Shortly after the roasting process, your little brown beans will began to do something called ‘degassing’ (the release of gasses from within your coffee beans).
To slow down degassing, and ensuring your beans retain their freshness and unique flavors for longer than a week or two, it is recommended to store your coffee beans in a special (one way valve) container. CO2 will be able to leave the container, but oxygen won’t be able to get in and cause your beans to go flat.
Means you can have fresh ground beans for longer! Who doesn’t want that?
The 10 levels of roasting coffee
From a brand new green bean to a yucky burnt brown thing, knowing the levels of roasting coffee is essential for developing the perfect type of roast for you.
The following list showcases the stages a coffee bean can go through and highlights the essential components of each stage:
1. Unroasted Green Coffee Beans
Basic coffee bean color. It will stay this way until you begin the roasting process.
2. Cinnamon Roast - ~ 385 °F, 196 °C
The sugars inside each coffee bean began to caramelize and there is the sound of a first crack. This type of roast gives you the maximum caffeine level.
3. Light Roast
First stage where browning starts to occur. Complex acidic flavors began to develop and are released. This roasting level also gives relatively higher caffeine level just like cinnamon roast.
4. American Roast (Medium Roast)
A touch less acidic than the light roast.
5. City Roast (Medium Roast)
Acidity is still apparent and flavors are more complex. Popular roast among coffee shops and specialty roasters. It is also the minimum level of roast that is acceptable for most people’s coffee tastes.
6. Full City Roast (Medium Dark Roast)
The roast flavors start to become apparent in the flavors and there is the sound of a second crack.
7. Vienna Roast (Medium Dark Roast)
The acidity becomes less apparent and the roast flavor reaches the middle of the stage. This is generally a hint of a caramel flavor.
8. French Roast (Dark Roast)
The beans become shiny with oils and you can taste a bit of a burnt tone. The unique and distinct aromas become less noticeable - an indication of French Roasted beans!
9. Italian/Spanish Roast (Dark Roast)
Very dark and shiny beans that have burnt tones and no acidic or distinct flavor profiles.
You don’t need to reach this level otherwise, your coffee beans will be completely undrinkable.
Differences between most common type of roasts
Light roasts are achieved when there is an internal temperature of 356-401 F. They are sometimes referred to as cinnamon roast, light city, or half city and they are developed around the bean’s first crack.
They have the highest level of caffeine and are considered to be “brighter” with a higher acidity and light flavored body.
Medium roasts are achieved when temperatures are 410-428 F. This is generally towards the end of the first crack. They are sometimes referred to as City or City+.
The flavors are most prominent in a medium roast and they often have a mid-level acidity and a fuller body flavor.
Medium-dark roasts are achieved when temperatures reach 437-446 F. This is often when the second crack begins to happen. Medium-dark roasts are sometimes referred to as Full City or Vienna Roasts. Their flavors are usually spicier with a heavier body.
Dark roasts are achieved when temperatures reach up to 464 F. They are often referred to as French Roasts, Italian Roasts, or even Espresso Roasts.
This is a sensitive level of roast because going over 482 F will likely result in burnt beans. Dark roasts have the lowest level of caffeine and are very oily in appearance.
Stages involved in coffee roasting process
1. Buying your raw coffee of choice
Before you can take the journey of roasting your own beans, you need to get your hands on some green, unroasted ones. Something like Grand Parade’s coffee would do the trick. You could also try Colombian Supremo’s raw coffee beans as well.
2. Choose roasting method
1) Roasting machine
Roasting machines essentially do everything for you. You can generally bake 300-500g at a time. You basically throw your beans in, set the temperature, and let the machine do its thing. An electric coffee roaster machine would work well here.
2) Stove top popcorn maker
If you’ve ever made stove top popcorn, this is the same deal. You put your coffee beans in some kind of stovetop popcorn maker and get to roasting. The trick here is you need to use a thermometer to make sure your beans are reaching the right temperature. Also, make sure not to wander off or your beans may turn into awful burnt things.
3) Hot air popcorn popper
This is generally the method a beginner would want to use. It doesn’t require much and lets you test out what roasting your own beans is like before you really dive in. A Hot Air Popper is really all you need. You stick the beans in, let the machine do its thing, and then give your freshly popped (roasted!?) beans a go.
3. Select your perfect type of roast
After you have bought your green coffee beans and picked your method of choice for roasting them, you are going to want to decide on what your target coffee bean roast is. You can refer back to the 10 levels of roasting coffee section in this guide to pick the right coffee bean roast for you
4. Dry and brown those beans
Drying beans means sticking them on a baking sheet and putting them in the oven (at about 250 F) until they start to turn light brown. You may have to play around with your oven times/settings, but the point of this is, you'll have to make sure your coffee beans have some heat to them before you begin the roasting stage.
5. Listen for that sweet, sweet first crack
Once the beans have heated up enough, they will start to crack. This is when the beans will start to develop their flavors. Once your first crack happens, you'll to keep a close eye on the temperature and the color of the beans.
Remember, there are different roast degrees that happen between the bean being green and the bean being oily and black.
6. Settle on a roast degree
This is where your target roasting level comes in. You'll have to make sure your coffee beans are hitting the right temperature needed to create a Light Roast, a Vienna Roast, an Italian Roast, etc.
7. Choose your roast time
Roast time is definitely something you coffee connoisseurs can have some fun with. In general though, the faster you roast, the more likely you are to get the desired aromatics from your beans.
But remember, this could be a stage for trial and error, if you're performing this for the first time. So don’t be afraid to try roasting fast, slow, or somewhere in between.
8. Cooling those babies off
This is the most important step of the roasting process. When you hit the right temperature for your roast degree, you need to stop the heating process completely, or the beans will continue on to the next level of roasting.
Something like a Coffee Bean Cooler can be a really cool and helpful tool to cool your beans down with.
9. Taste your creation
It is now time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Use your fancy coffee grinder (I hope it’s a burr!) and give your beautiful and unique beans a try. Whether it’s about using your French press maker, pour over coffee device, or drip coffee machine, this is a coffee experience that will be unlike any other.
A Few Final Words
Once you start roasting your own beans, there is no chance, you'll look behind.
Not only you'll be able to roast completely unique-to-you coffee beans, but it's also cheaper than to buy pre-roasted ones from the store. Totally a perk, right?
And, for any true coffee connoisseur, you should be thinking of adopting this as your #1 hobby. It can give you bragging rights to friends and coworkers, and you'll also feel delightful with your creations every single time you drink a cup of coffee brewed from your roasted beans.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of steps involved. The most important part of learning to roast beans is just to have fun with it. Science meets art, remember?
Play around with temperatures, times, even different options of raw green beans. In best possible-cases, you will be able to come up with your desired roast types, flavor nuances and aromatics you love the most.
If still anything goes wrong, at least, your house will smell like coffee. For us coffee enthusiasts (addicts?) out there, is there really anything better?
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