Home Roasting Kona Coffee
20 November 2009
I was at a meeting with a bunch of Kona coffee farmers the other day.
I had brought some snacks, including some freshly baked sourdough bread
that Valerie had made. One of the other coffee farmers commented that
he hadn't had store bought bread in years. He said his wife owns four
bread makers because apparently she needs a couple extras as backups.
We eat homemade bread as fast as Valerie can make it. Homemade bread
doesn't stay fresh as long as store bought bread but that doesn't matter
because it is eaten so much faster. If you've never had freshly
baked homemade bread, you're missing out.
A similar indulgence is home roasted coffee. Most people have never
had freshly roasted coffee so they don't realize what they're missing.
It seems like roasting your own coffee would be all complex and difficult but
its not. Really, it's about as difficult as making popcorn. In
fact, if you can find an old hot air popcorn popper, they can roast
We recently had a visit from Dr. Shawn Steiman,
our favorite coffee scientist and consultant. He had a small home roaster he
was using for some of his other work so I found some green beans that were just
asking to be roasted. Setting up a table outside and finding an extension
cord were the hardest parts, roasting the coffee was easy. The little machine
(Heathware i-Roast 2, $199)
pretty much does all the work.
We went outside because roasting coffee can create a lot of smoke. If
you want to roast coffee beans in your kitchen, you may want to
disable your smoke detectors first. Just remember to put them back
when you're done. Another clever idea is to use your barbecue as your
The basic concept of roasting is easy: simply heat the beans until
they're the color you want. They get darker as they cook and even go
through two "cracks" kind of like popcorn. The first crack is a medium
roast and the second crack is a dark roast. Wait for the third crack
and you'll need a fire extinguisher.
It's important to keep the beans moving so they cook evenly. Lots of
heat and constant movement is all it takes. I've even seen coffee
roasted in a skillet, it just takes a whole lot of stirring and makes a
whole lot of smoke. A hot air popcorn popper or coffee roaster
is much easier.
Then beans are done when they reach the desired darkness. It's important
to cool them down right away. Shawn's fancy machine has an automatic cooling
cycle. Alternatively, we could have simply dumped out the beans and stirred
them until they cooled. A fan or hair dryer on cool would help.
Once roasted, beans will outgas for several hours. That's why our
coffee bags have a one-way valve on them, otherwise they'd blow up like
a balloon. You could brew the coffee right after it's roasted but
it's best to wait a day.
Roasting coffee does take some practice and it can be a quick way to ruin
your coffee, especially on your first couple tries. Get a little
experience though and you'll soon have a great way to impress your
friends. Imagine how impressed your guests would be when the aroma of
freshly roasted coffee wafts through the house. Instant street cred.
All you have to do now is find a place that sells unroasted
green Kona coffee beans. Preferably a Kona coffee farm with speedy
shipping. I think I know just such a place. You can find it at the
shop button at the top of the page.