Friday, January 22, 2010

Fire Roasting

I mentioned a couple of posts ago about roasting coffee over an open fire with my buddy Pat. He was good enough to share the pictures from this adventure, and so I will too.
You can see by the color that they're pretty early in the roast process above.
I can just barely see that Pat was wearing his Clover t-shirt. Very appropriate.

As Pat said, it was a "fantastic uneven roast."

Not good coffee, but a very good time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Trivia Blog - Trivial Cafe

Every morning that I've opened the coffee shop, for more than five years now, I've come up with a new trivia question for the day. If the customer gets the answer right, they get a peppermint patty... and a lot of satisfaction.

Coming up with a new question day after day is a challenge. I try to gauge the difficulty level of the question so that maybe %10 of the people can get it right. It's no fun if it's so hard that no one can figure it out, and it's no fun if it's too easy. I also try to have looked up at least two sources and some background information in case I'm challenged on the legitimacy of the official answer. (I tend to get at least one challenge every day.)

So I thought that maybe all of this work (and fun) I put into trivia questions might interest some of you enough to enjoy a blog full of them. Right now I open three days a week, so I should have at least three questions a week as well as some favorites from trivia past. I'll post the official answer at the end of the next day's question. I don't have any prizes to give out, but the satisfaction of being the first to comment the correct answer should provide some satisfaction.

So with no further adieu I present to you Trivial Cafe!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Air Popper Home Coffee Roasting

I've been roasting my own coffee at home now for about five months. It all started when my great friend and former roaster Pat and I took a trip to his cabin and couldn't find any decently roasted coffee on the way. The Co-Op in Menomonie sold some green (not roasted) beans, so we decided to take matters into our own hands and see if we could use what tools we had available at his cabin to roast something better than the usual stale and burnt co-up coffee. We had some encouraging success using an oven and baking tray (better than co-op) and some fun failure roasting over a bonfire (very uneven and scorched roast). (btw- Pat, do you have the pictures from that trip? Want to post them on your blog? hint, hint.)

I got home from that trip with almost a pound of green Guatemala and a little bit of boldness. I walked two blocks to a thrift store and spent $2 for a used popcorn air popper that was to become my first roaster.

Gibbie and I roasted at least once a week in the back yard until one day it was too cold for my little popper to achieve proper roast temperature and I ended up with a very sad batch of Kenya French Mission coffee. Since then, we moved into the basement stairway of our house, which isn't heated, but is usually warm enough to roast. More importantly, being out there doesn't get our house all smokey. Much of the roasting process smells pretty good in one way or another, but the lingering smell afterwords is pervasive and not much like good coffee. Smoke detectors don't like it much either.
Here's Gibbie with the green beans. They don't seem much like coffee. They're feel more agricultural and smell of the earth.
Once the popping chamber heats up, Gibbie pours them in.
I've recently outfitted my popper with a candy thermometer. This helps me to monitor the roast more systematically than I previously could. I've gotten a lot of useful information on using and modifying air poppers for roasting from Kenneth Davids' book Home Coffee Roasting: Romance and Revival. There's also a lot of good information at Sweet Maria's on air popper roasting.This is Gibbie's main task in the roasting process. He stirs the finished beans after we pour them out of the popper to ensure that they don't keep roasting themselves with their own heat. He's convinced that the more he stirs, the better the coffee will be. He's a good roasting buddy, and we're both excited to get a first crack on a real machine some day soon.