Savor: Adventures in Home Coffee Roasting

Coffee Beans on a Spoon

So Snobby

My first experience with coffee that wasn’t from a chain was at a local coffee shop run by a church.

I walked into the shop and looked up at the cute chalkboard menu expecting to see your typical coffee shop menu. Vanilla Mocha Latte, Orange Mocha Frappuchino, Pumpkin Spice Peppermint Apple Caffeine Hyper-blast. You know, those sorts of things.

Instead, there were only three items written in flourishing chalk letters. And I had no clue what any of them were. They looked like the names of cities in tropical countries. Guatemala Huehuetenango, Ethiopia Yirga Cheffe, El Salvador Majahual…names like that.

“What can I get for you?” asked the barista behind the counter as I anxiously scanned the menu looking for some sort of key or directions or something familiar. I had no clue what to order.

Obviously I wasn’t about to reveal to the barista that I was a lowly coffee newb so I pretended I knew what I was talking about. Each name had flavors written underneath them so I just went with the one that had chocolate listed as one of its flavors. You can’t go wrong with chocolate.

“Do you want that iced or regular?” she said.

Dang it, I didn’t know this was a two part question. I wish she would quit with the third degree and just hand me a coffee.
Ground Coffee in a Hario v60
It was a balmy 90 degrees outside that day so I went with iced. I then watched in fascination as the barista ground my beans right there, put a triangular filter into some sort of cone contraption, put the grounds in the filter, placed a cup underneath the cone, and started pouring water over the grounds with some shiny teapot thing that looked like it had come straight out of Aladdin.

I’d later learn that this is known as the pour over method and is one of the preferred ways of brewing coffee among coffee connoisseurs.

Finally, what seemed like 20 minutes later, I was handed what would be the cup of coffee that would ruin all other coffee for me.

Alysia drinking coffee

Until that day I could never really taste a difference between coffees. Yeah, I could tell if one was stronger than the other, if the coffee had been sitting in the pot for a few hours, or if it was just downright bad. But to me, a decent cup of coffee was just a decent cup of coffee that tasted like…well…coffee.

That cup wasn’t just coffee. I could actually taste the flavors listed on the chalkboard. It was sweet without being sweetened. It tasted good even when it was partially watered down from the ice.

After that day, I became slightly obsessed with finding the perfect cup of coffee. I tried to visit every artisan coffee shop within a thirty mile radius. I acquired basically every type of coffee brewing device known to man. A French Press*, an Aeropress*, and as of Christmas, a Hario v60* for pour over coffee.

I started buying my beans from local roasters. Places like Chazzano, Great Lakes Coffee, and Anthology. Only one problem, that stuff is expensive! Compared the the crappy Meijer coffee I was buying before, I was paying four times the price for better beans.

Don’t get me wrong, I will gladly pay more for quality and to support a local company but sometimes….that’s just a lot of money. Especially when you’re cheap like me.

Green Coffee Beans

If You Want to Do It Right…

One day, I read online that you can roast your own coffee beans in an air popcorn popper*. Of course, being obsessed with coffee, I had to try it. I immediately added an air popper to my Christmas list (I mentioned I was cheap, right?) and waited anxiously.
Coffee Roasting in Popcorn Popper
Lucky for me, my family is really awesome and I got the popcorn popper for Christmas. I went out as soon as I could to a local store that sells green coffee beans and bought a half pound.

Before I started my roasting experiment, I watched about five YouTube videos on how to do it…just to make sure I didn’t burn my apartment building down. What would I do without YouTube?

After I was confident I could safely roast up the beans, I put them in the popper and turned it on.
Coffee Beans Cooking in the Popcorn Popper
My whole apartment started to smell weird. Not like coffee, it never once smelled like coffee. I can’t explain the scent but it’s not a good smell. It’s not horrible, just not pleasant. The coffee beans (mostly) stayed in the popper and some flaky stuff which is apparently called “chaff” came out of the chute where the popcorn normally comes out.
Chaff from Coffee Beans

After a couple minutes the beans began to crack as though they were actually popping. From what I had read, I knew that there would be two pops and the beans are usually done cooking some time between the second and first pop. I let the beans get to the second pop just so I knew how long it took between pops. As soon as I started to hear the second pop about three minutes after the first, I dumped the beans into a metal strainer and shook them around to cool them down so they would stop cooking.
Ready to pour over coffee
Obviously I wanted to grind them up right away but decided to look into it a little bit first because the beans didn’t smell at all like coffee normally smells. Maybe I had done something wrong…or maybe these beans were just funky.

Eventually I read online that you should wait at least four hours after roasting to make coffee from the beans. I guess they need time to sit and do their thing before they turn into full-fledged roasted beans.

I waited. Then waited some more. Looked at the clock about every twenty minutes, until finally it had been four hours.
ground coffee beans
I ground up the beans in my new hand grinder* which I also got for Christmas (thanks everyone, by the way!!) and brewed up a cup using the pour over method.
Pour over Brewing
OMG IT WAS SO GOOD.

Just kidding, it was pretty bad, actually. Haha. Okay maybe not bad…probably on par with gas station coffee. But, hey…it was my first try! Plus, I let it go past the second pop which probably over-cooked the beans.

Since then, I’ve cooked the rest of the beans and actually managed to get a few cups that didn’t taste like gas station sludge. I don’t think I’ve reached $13 bag of coffee beans level yet…but I’m getting there.
Coffee in a Cup
I just ordered a sampler of four different types of beans from Sweet Maria’s and I can’t wait to experiment and hopefully get some even better batches.

In case you’re wondering, the green coffee I ordered was about 46 cents an ounce (including shipping) compared to the coffee I was buying before which was at least 94 cents an ounce, I’m saving about half of my money by roasting my own! I do have to take the time to roast it myself but it’s kind of fun and only takes a few minutes so I’m pretty sure I got the better end of this deal.
Roasted Coffee Beans on a Spoon

Coffee Addicts Anonymous

Are you a coffee drinker? What’s your favorite way to drink coffee? Have you ever even thought about roasting your own coffee beans or brewing with something like an aeropress or pour over? Let me know in the comments!

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8 Comments

  1. Danielle Bingham   •  

    Debbie, Rice pasta tastes just like wheat pasta. You really can’t tell the difference in taste. I suggest you undercook it a little or it has a tendency to break apart more than wheat pasta but it really tastes good. Try it! Another thing I like to use instead of pasta is spaghetti squash. That isn’t as much like wheat pasta as rice is, but it’s way healthier!

    Alysia,
    Where do you come up with this stuff? I don’t know how you got so creative. I never in a million years would even think of roasting coffee. How cool though! I want to try it!
    I have a popcorn popper. Now to get the beans. Dad would love that too!
    Very cool!

    • Alysia Caringi   •     Author

      I just read about it in an article online and I had to try it! I’m getting a shipment of 4 lbs of beans today, I’ll try to bring some on Saturday for you guys to try!

  2. Debbie   •  

    Wow! Sounds like too much trouble for me for a cup of coffee! I give you kudos, though, for always trying this stuff and actually succeeding at it! Give me my Keurig any day! :) I love the coffee it puts out, but I have also had a cup of coffee like you describe and you can’t beat them. But they are hard to come by and I doubt I’d ever be able to duplicate it. Nice job at brewing your own, though!! I think that is pretty cool!

    By the way, I made a couple of your cookie recipes for Christmas and they came out awesome! I loved them. I made the Cowboy ones and the Mudslide ones. They were both really good.

    • Alysia Caringi   •     Author

      Haha, to me it’s worth the trouble! Although, when I have to make a lot of coffee and I’m feeling super lazy I’ll just use a normal coffee maker. Or if I’m at work I’ll use the french press. We had a Keurig at work for a while, that was pretty cool but the price of those little cups is silly.

      I’m glad you liked them! Are you doing a Whole30, now?

      • Debbie   •  

        Ummmm, no… I just can’t commit. I thought I could but it’s just too hard. I have cut way back on sugar, gluten and dairy so I’m doing ok, but there is no way I can stay away from pasta. My mom just made me some soup and it’s loaded with pasta. I can’t just throw it away plus it’s so good.

        I am actually going to get a couple Paleo recipe books and see what I can do. Whole 30 is so strict.

        • Alysia Caringi   •     Author

          Yeah, I’d just suggest slowly cutting things out then. Once you start eliminating it gets easier. Have you seen an improvement in your headaches since cutting back?

          Have you ever tried noodles made from rice? My mom got these brown rice noodles that she put in her pasta and I couldn’t even tell the difference. They were great. Rice isn’t exactly Paleo because it’s a grain but most people agree that it usually doesn’t cause much of an allergic reaction so they include it in their diet.

          • Debbie   •  

            My step daughter told me about the rice pasta but she said it was awful. I plan on buying some to try anyways, her tastes are usually really different than mine. I just can’t believe how expensive stuff like that is. If you had a gluten issue, you’d go broke eating the way you need to eat. It’s ridiculous.

          • Alysia Caringi   •     Author

            Maybe she just got a bad brand? Check with my mom to see which kind she buys. She made her spaghetti with all rice pasta for Thanksgiving and no one in our family noticed a difference.

            Well, I’m not sure that’s entirely true. I’ve eaten gluten free (aside for special occasions) for over a year now and I don’t really spend that much more on groceries than I used to! I do think it can get very expensive if you buy pre-made gluten free foods but if you focus on fresh vegetables, fruits, and gluten free grains like rice, it’s not that expensive!

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