Seems like the topic of coffee comes up fairly often around here so I thought I would start a new thread on the topic. To get the topic rolling I'll continue a thread started on roasting.
I've mentioned before that I have been roasting my own beans for a while now and I have to say that it makes a big difference. I found a place (in Calif I think) that has tons of online information and has online ordering. I don't want to over hype the store so I won't post a link again but I do think they're nice folks.
I started with a basic roaster that was really nothing more than an old air popcorn popper with a few changes. I think it was cheap at around $70 so I felt it was a safe entry level purchase. I then got an upgraded roaster as a gift that has the ability to program your own times but I have yet to do that. But my new one is a bit bigger so it cuts down on how much I have to roast.
Nice things about roasting your own? Well the taste has to top the list. You will need to explore beans to find ones you like but I think it's easy to spot a quality improvement. Price is also very good compared to buying beans. Also the raw green beans will last for a very long time so you can order a large amount and then roast as you need them. I will admit that I could probably get better taste if I did more to clean my water but I have yet to take that step yet.
Anyway, enough for now. If anyone has any questions let me know.
I've followed your coffee posts closely in the other topics as well. I have long considered breaking into home-roasting... but partly due to time constraints and my wife's threats of "starting up one more hobby" I have not moved forward.
From 0-->10 (10 being a roasting "expert")... how would you rate the learning curve over time to producing quality roasted beans? I'm just trying to understand the process a little more closely and also the commitment.
PS--I know a guy who roasts the most amazing beans, and he does it with a cast iron skillet. I have no idea how long it took him to develop that talent, but I admire it.
When I started I bought the Fresh Roast Plus because at around $80 it was the cheapest unit you could buy. I think that worked out well because IIRC almost all batches I roasted ended up in the 6 to 8 range on the dial and nothing ever came close to burning. When I got the iRoast2 as a present I suddenly had to monitor my roasts because burning was an issue.
The only gripe on the Fresh Roast Plus is that it's a very wobbly design for those like me who are clumsy and lazy. We did end up breaking the glass part in our house because it wobbled and fell out to the floor.
I'd say with the Fresh Roast Plus it's really easy so maybe like a 2 on the scale of 1 to 10.
So what's the catch you ask? Well, it all depends on how much you obsess on the details. If you research roasting a bit you will find that each bean can have a preferred roast. I am unsure if the terms are universal but where I buy them they use terms like City+, Full City, and Full City+. You can see images here if you want.
Why is this bad? Well, if you are the type to pay attention to details then you may be frustrated with trying to get a specific roast with an entry level machine. If you read into the topic you will see that time and temp aren't static factors but some will say that altering the temp at specific times is also a huge factor. You can't do that with an entry level machine. The temp can't be changed on that Fresh Roast Plus and it's barely possible to set the dial for something like 6.5 because it's just not that accurate. I did get some roasts that ended up darker than normal because of outside temp due to the inability to fine tune the dial too. This never really bothered me too much and eventually I stopped trying to hit a certain roast for a certain bean but I wanted to mention it just in case.
One last thing, the skillet method is perfectly fine (I never tried it) but there are some big considerations. First I would say that a stove vent that goes to the outside of the house is a must. The smell of roasting beans will just stick to your house and if you don't vent it all out you will most likely regret it. Not to mention that dark roasts make smoke and that will set off any alarms you have. Also, the beans will pop and shed their skin or chaff which needs to be contained or managed somehow.
I think you can easily get a big improvement in quality with just the entry level roaster (or even a air popcorn popper) and little effort. You won't be able to tweak or fine tune without more expensive equipment but if another hobby isn't going over well in the house then maybe that's a good thing. IIRC when I had that first roaster I would set it between 6 to 8 and let it run (outside) until it stopped. Then I'd wait for it to cool and do another batch. This probably last 3 days for two people with 1 cup each at the house and a thermos with maybe 2 more for work.
Whew. I'm long winded today.
I find this incredibly helpful and insightful... you have also inspired me to look into whether or not my local boutique roaster (Metropolis) offers roasting and tasting classes.
My problem is I tend to get into hobbies and then get a bit carried away with them (building electronics, brewing beer, cooking, etc...) and I could see roasting headed that same direction.
I definitely want to look into this further... and there are a few sources for green beans in my area. I want to learn more about the popcorn air popper as well... there's a guy at my local farmer's market who sells fresh roasted beans, and I'm pretty sure that is his tool of choice.
I can see roasting being similar to brewing beer except with much fewer variables and much less equipment and time. I have to admit there are times when I stumble into a batch that shocks me with how good it tastes because I ended up hitting the correct combo of roast time and bean by accident. If I were more methodical with my approach I'm sure I could really make some awesome roasts.
There is a big potential to get sucked into the hobby because of the methods and all the DIY options. At one point I had to really ask myself what I was doing when I found myself browsing various DIY roasting kits that entailed using an outdoor grill and rotisserie contraption to do an entire pound at once. But the flip side is that you can do decently well by going cheap with just a thrift store purchase of an air popcorn popper.
AFAIK there aren't any local places where I can get my beans. The only one I ever saw went out of business long ago. I wonder if I am spoiled by the quality of beans I get via the internet. I haven't tried many sources yet so I'm not sure what else is out there or how it compares. If you have a local place and they have good quality beans then you sure are in luck.
Saw this, and thought of the post:
I wonder how it stacks up?
I have that one now and it works well. I still end up roasting a few times a week but it holds a bit more than my first roaster. I have yet to try the custom settings and only use the presets but it does have that ability. Not a bad unit really.
Originally Posted by brantroz
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