"He Wears Black and Has a Beard"

Coffee: Home Roasting

Toby Roworth

Oct 28, 2013

For years I've been wanting to roast my own coffee, but have never got round to ordering green beans from the internet. Until a couple of weeks ago, when +Mark Daniel was putting in a large order to Garraways. After budget cuts led me to Sainsburys Basics ground coffee, Mark was insistent I get in on the coffee order, to benefit from not-buying-coffee-from-Sainsburys-type discounts.
For the record, the Basics coffee wasn't that bad through my espresso machine - it was by no means amazing, but made the large amount of coffee I drink far more affordable, which helped sweeten the taste slightly.
On the Garraways website, I went straight to the cheapest coffee beans - I needed to hit about £6/kg for the beans to be cheap enough. And from the dropdown menu I saw that they not only sold green beans, but they were cheaper than roasted beans, unlike the fancy websites I found in the past.
And so I had a kilogram of coffee beans to try and roast. The green beans are quite hard, smell funny (kind of like grass) and taste pretty bland.

Given that I'm a poor student, I don't own any coffee roasting equipment. However, the internet has taught me that a stovetop popcorn maker does a pretty good job of roasting the beans.
Given that I'm a poor student, I also don't own a popcorn maker. However, I'm a resourceful guy (for proof, read some more of the blog...) and saw the key parts of a popcorn maker are a pan-type thing and a stirrer-type thing, similar to a salad spinning.
Just to clarify, I don't own a salad spinner - does anyone under the age of 50?
So I put my saucepan on the hob (electric, because of halls), turned it to 6 and let it warm up. I then threw in the beans, and decided to turn the hob down. Later experiments have shown that 4 is a good starting point.
The uni cookers go from 1-6, but in practice only have two temperatures, like any electric cooker: too hot and too cold.

I then stirred the beans for a while. As I was trying to be gentle, this ended up at about 12 minutes, but Wikipedia suggests 6 for a dark roast, from memory.
After a few minutes the beans turned yellow. A few brown spots appeared on some of the beans where I'd got distracted from stirring.

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Then a little later they went brown, started cracking, and emitted a lot of smoke. Anyone who's lived in halls will know that smoke is bad, and so a quick rush to close the kitchen door ensued before I set the fire alarm off.

Then comes the next key stage - get the heat out of the beans to stop the roasting process. Between a sieve, my hand and the wooden spoon, the beans cooled down within a few minutes, ready for tasting.

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A fairly fine grind on my pretty rubbish grinder (not a burr grinder - yet...) and a run through the coffee machine left me with my first home roasted shot of espresso. The video below is pretty bad, but the keen-eyed viewer may notice the mead bubbling away nicely.

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The verdict? Better than coffee I've bought from real shops before, but with definite room for improvement.