Sunday, June 22, 2008

Home Roast

One of the presents my wife gave me for my birthday was green coffee beans for me to roast at home. Years ago I'd already made the leap to grind store-bought beans, so this was a neat step up.

Linda bought me a sampler pack from Sweet Maria's. Sadly, because we're so busy, we didn't try it until today. It's hard to say yet if it was a success, but I'll be able to tell tomorrow morning, after I grind & brew my first cups. ;)

In any case, here's what I did.

We followed the directions given at Sweet Maria's website for skillet roasting. While we have a very nicely seasoned cast iron frying pan, we opted for the wok method, as it would be (1) less work, and (2) easier to see what's happening. Maybe next time I'll try the shake & bake version. :P

For this first batch, we started with the "Colombia Huila Valencia" variety. Green beans smell very different than roasted coffee. After all our gardening, I'm rather surprised at the smell. I would have anticipated a smell closer to the green things that grow right outside our window, but coffee beans have a very strange, musty tentor to them. It's not a foul kind of smell, mind...nothing like anything rotting or molding.

However, it doesn't smell fresh, either.

Here's how the beans looked when we started, when we had just poured the green beans into the hot pan.

It was incredibly easy, and took very little time at all. All I had to do was keep stirring the beans while they heated.

As we cooked the beans in the wok, the smell of roasting coffee started to waft over us. It was very subtle at first, but before we knew it, the atmosphere was saturated with it. The smell had a very dark flavor, an aromatic air that quickly filled the entire house.

Within about five minutes or so, we heard the beans start cracking. Right or wrong, I had expected the cracking to follow the same progression as popcorn popping. First one, then a few, then many upon many until the sound started tailing off.

However, that didn't happen with our experience. What did happen was we heard the first crack, and then silence. It was sometime before the next followed, and a while after that until the next one.

One thing that concerned me, though it may have been unavoidable, was that there seemed to be great disparity among the beans. A few of them darkened up very quickly, while most remained green or a very light brown.

Nonetheless, as roasting continued, the overall color of the beans continued to darken. After about fifteen minutes, we took them off the heat and dumped them in a glass bowl to cool.

We took them outside and stirred the beans for another ten or fifteen minutes before finally deciding they had cooled sufficiently. Then we transferred them to a colander to shake the chaff off. Another twenty or thirty minutes, and the coffee was cool enough to put away.

I'll be grinding and brewing it tomorrow. Here's hoping it tastes great. ;)

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