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.


Eric said...

Wow, thats pretty cool. Any taste test comparisons to local coffee roasters like J & S or Kopplins?

paul said...

It's somewhere in between those two. Just about everything I've roasted tastes better than J & S, but that's not too hard in my opinion. Kopplins, on the other hand uses Terrior, one of the best roasters in the US. I can't claim to do nearly as well as they do. Lots of factors go into taste. One of the most important is starting with really good green beans. You can't roast good taste into bad coffee, but you can screw-up good coffee with bad roasting... If I use good beans and don't mess them up in my popper, then I can get some pretty tasty results.

dave said...

So that's how you did it. That's a real nice hack : )