Home Roasting (PT 1 – The Class)

If you missed anything to do with me being in Tennessee last week, head HERE.

To start the class we headed outside and pretty much jumped into roasting. Brice gave up a brief rundown of what’s going during the roasting process and a few safety precautions to take when roasting at home on a popcorn popper.

  1. it gets hot…really hot
  2. it’s messy (chaff going everywhere)
  3. eventually will start smoking
  4. possible fire hazard so stay outside

The poppers we received are the West Bend Poppery II from the 80s/90s. They’re ideal because they have no safety switch (they get hot and stay hot) and they also have a vents on the walls that spin the beans and roast a little more even, considering it’s a popcorn popper…

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For the initial roast he started out with 120g of green coffee. The idea is to get a nice movement of the beans and finding the sweet spot in the amount that gives you the right amount of movement. It can be between 80-120g. You really want to weigh everything out, even if it’s just at home, so you can see how much weight you’re losing during a roast. At home it’s not HUGELY important, but when you’re roasting on a production roaster it’s important to know how much water certain beans lose. For example, start with 120g of green beans, but after a roast you may be left with 100-110g. And when doing it on a larger scale, if you have an order for 15 lbs of coffee, knowing that a particular bean loses X% then you know you’ll need to start with 18-20 lbs of coffee to compensate.

Anyways, the rest happens really quick. While they roast you want to continuously stir the beans to ensure they roast as even as possible. Since you can’t control any variables within the process you have to gauge the roast level by appearance and keeping an ear out for first crack. Roasts average between 4-10 minutes with 6-8 being about right. A ton of variables going into roast lengths, almost none of which you can really control – air temperature, humidity, and the wear/tear of your machine. If your machine is roasting too fast, you can throw in an extension cord and reduce the amount of electricity powering the machine. You can also tweak the amount of coffee you add. That’s about it.

I roasted a batch Friday on an overcast day, took 8 minutes. I roasted the same coffee/amount Sunday on a fairly warm day and it took 4 minutes for the beans to get oily.

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See what I mean by a mess?? After you reach the roast you want, you have to get the beans cooled as quick as possible…otherwise they’ll retain the heat and continue to roast. We were taught to use a strainer and stir for a while. You can also sit the strainer over a box fan.

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After doing two roasts and talking a lot we went back inside for a cupping. We were able to cup a Flores that was done on the production roaster vs two batches of the Laos offering that had been roasted on a popcorn popper.

Dude, the popcorn popper puts out a rather good quality roast considering what you’re doing. It’s pretty hard to keep it really consistent, but over time of trial and error I think you get pretty darn good with one. It definitely allows you to see the process coffee takes through roasting and give you the proper building blocks for moving to a fancier roaster.

So yeah, for the millionth time, HUGE thanks to Brice and Honest Coffee for another great evening. It’s always a crazy drive, but always beyond worth it.


2 thoughts on “Home Roasting (PT 1 – The Class)

    1. I really appreciate it. If there’s ever another roasting class you know I’ll be there. I don’t know how practical a production roasting part 2 class would be to most, but I’d be the first to sign up.


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