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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 coffee too.

Steiman 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 roasting platform.

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.

Home Roast

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