Sunday, November 10, 2013

Coffee Roasting Adventures

A few years ago my dad started roasting coffee in his air popper.  This was the old-style kind that had a spinner at the bottom, not a grate.  My parents quickly were spoiled and upgraded to a drum roaster.  A couple Christmases I was lucky enough to score coffee as part of my present!

This past summer I finally decided I was ready to start roasting coffee.  We're waiting on a really awesome espresso machine from ZPM Espresso, the Nocturn PID-Controlled Espresso Machine.  So excited!  Thinking we'll be getting it soon I decided to purchase our coffee roaster.  I'm not ready to roast big batches, so I looked for a 'starter' air roasting machine.  After researching at a couple sites and consulting with my dad I picked the Fresh Roast SR500.  I sent it to Utah while we were visiting my parents so my dad could show me the ropes.  My life is changed forever!  I thought I was a coffee snob before, now I am definitely a coffee snob!

On Sweet Maria's website you can look through their current list of green coffee and read the descriptions.  I thought it sounded crazy to describe coffees as having apple, pear, floral, or piney notes.  Chocolates, caramels, and nutty flavors didn't surprise me.  Unsure what I'd really like we ordered their sample pack and were surprised by the origins we enjoyed and how you really could taste the ranges of flavors they promised.  As I suspected, the fruity, floraly ones weren't always my favorite, but I realized I shouldn't be afraid to try them.  Here are some pictures of our fun and our thoughts what works for us with this machine:

This is our third order from Sweet Maria's.  Now that we have an idea of what we like we ordered larger quantities of a couple and then picked four new ones to try.  So far we really enjoyed coffees from Ethiopia, Burundi, and El Salvador (the two large ones are Ethiopia and El Salvador).  We made the Costa Rica from our most recent purchase and I think it's my new favorite, but Ethiopia is still up there!

Here is our set up.  You can see my husband is in the process of building us a thermometer probe to track the temperature of the beans.  Most of the roasting process is based on listening-explanation to come-but this gives us extra information about what stage of roasting the coffee has hit.  Being a programmer, he uses an app on his tablet to view the information more clearly :).  I love my geeky man!

This roaster can handle about 1/4lb of beans at a time.  This lasts us just a few days.  Our coffee intake has increased from one cup to two most days (it's like dessert when you combine it with almond milk and a little brown sugar!).

We have found the process that works best for us (as recommended by Sweet Maria's team) is to start the roasting on low heat/high fan for one minute with a good stir to help the beans get moving, turn to cool for 30 seconds, and then high heat/medium to low fan for the rest of the roast.  We fiddle with the fan during the roast a bit because some beans seem lighter and get moving faster than others and we need to turn it down.  You want good lift, but too much fan and they end up caught in the chaff collector at the top.  Good circulation keeps your beans from burning (which wouldn't taste good).

Once the beans get going you watch the color change and listen for the 'cracks.'  It starts to smell pretty wonderful right around first crack.  It's a lot like a popcorn popping rice sort of sound.  They start to expand and release the chaff.  It'll take a little bit for all of them to crack and then it'll be quiet again.  After a few minutes you'll hear a second crack.  This crack is much quieter and sounds a bit more like a snap.  The coffee is drinkable any time after first crack, but the longer it runs the more you get the chocolatey, caramely, nutty tones.  This is Full City/Full City +.  Here is a great link explaining the different levels of the roast, the temperatures, and an explanation of what is happening at each stage.  I love learning the science of it all!

There's a whole library of articles on roasting, making coffee, and more.  I could spend hours on their site if I didn't have a preschooler to keep up with :).

Here's our coffee cooling and waiting to be my delicious cup of heaven!

1 comment:

  1. Great information you've posted! I think finding out lots of online coffee information is so helpful for roasting the beans and learning nice techniques.

    Finding high quality coffee beans online can be just as difficult as finding them in person. So many times you can't taste ahead of time and I'm at a loss for figuring out how to choose which bean is right for me. If anyone knows how to find the best place to buy coffee online, please let me know!