Imagine how your perfect day would start.
For coffee lovers, a perfect start to the day would include waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and rewarding your tastebuds with the premium flavor of your favorite roasted coffee beans.
Let’s face it though, premium roasted coffee beans can be expensive and you wonder about the freshness of those you just purchased at your local coffee store or favorite roaster.
There is a growing interest among coffee lovers to take control of the taste and freshness of the coffee they drink by roasting their beans at home. Although the population of home coffee roasters in the United States is small relative to European countries, home roasting has been gaining in popularity.
I know what you are thinking – “I don’t have the time to roast coffee at home” or “I don’t know even know where to begin.”
If you are a coffee lover trying to decide if home coffee roasting is for you, this guide can answer your questions. Or if you have already decided home roasting is for you, this guide will help you move towards becoming an expert home coffee roaster.
What is Green Coffee?
First, let’s take a step back and learn about where coffee beans grow.
Coffee beans grow on evergreen trees or shrubs in warmer climates. The fruit of these trees contain the coffee beans, two flat seeds. Just as apples are red and oranges are orange, coffee beans are green when they are removed from the fruit of the tree.
Let me guess, many of you have never seen green coffee beans.
That’s because most coffee aficionados purchase coffee beans that have already been roasted. It is the roasting process that changes them from green beans to the various shades of brown you find in store-bought coffee. In the coffee industry, Green Coffee refers to raw coffee beans or unroasted coffee beans that have been dried and cleaned and are ready for roasting.
What Varieties of Coffee Beans are Available?
Now that we know where green coffee beans grow, let’s dig a little deeper.
Although varieties of coffee beans vary by region and roasting characteristics, there are two main types of coffee beans. Arabica coffee beans are considered premium coffee beans and grow in smaller batches. Robusta coffee beans grow on trees in larger batches, and therefore, the cost to plant, maintain, and harvest them is more economical than that of Arabica.
So you may be thinking – what does that mean for the taste and caffeine levels of each type of coffee bean?
Arabica beans are known to have a sweet fruity taste with higher acidity. Robusta are known to have a flatter, bitter taste with lower acidity and a higher caffeine concentration compared to Arabica beans.
Let’s take it a step further to learn the differences between the two types:
Because the Arabica variety are considered to be premium coffee beans, they are further classified into five grades primarily based on the number of defects found per pound of beans.
The more economical Robusta beans are used in instant coffees, espresso and as a filler in ground coffee.
Wait, there’s more to consider when considering which green coffee beans to buy.
Besides the variety of coffee beans, growing regions, strains (“cultivars”) and processing methods will affect the ultimate taste of the coffee you brew. The different combinations and resulting flavor profiles give coffee drinkers many options from which to choose.
What are the Advantages to Roasting Coffee Beans at Home?
Listen, I know you probably are thinking, “It’s so much easier to buy my roasted coffee beans than roasting them at home.”
Before deciding that home coffee roasting is not for you, consider the advantages including the convenience.
Home coffee roasting offers the convenience of enjoying a cup of fresh roasted coffee at any time of day without leaving the comforts of home. It enables you to custom-roast a large variety of super premium coffees and enjoy the aromas and flavors of gourmet coffee in your own kitchen whenever the craving strikes. As a coffee lover, nothing compares to the scent created from roasting coffee at home.
What’s more, this convenience doesn’t take away from the cost-friendliness of home roasting coffee beans.
Because green coffee beans can be purchased at nearly wholesale prices, home roasting is an economical choice for coffee drinkers. Purchasing one pound of high premium green coffee beans from a coffee trader will cost less than one pound of garden-variety flavored roasted coffee beans from a coffee roaster or grocery store.
Even better, unroasted (green) coffee beans have a very long shelf life.
Roasted coffee beans stale quickly, dramatically diminishing flavor within days. Green coffee beans have an estimated shelf life of three to four months compared to 15-20 days for roasted beans. Buying green coffee beans and roasting only the amount needed avoids the waste of throwing away stale roasted coffee beans that have lost their flavor. Most importantly, by roasting coffee at home, you don’t have to wonder about the freshness of your roasted coffee beans. Just roast the amount you need for the next week or so.
Think about it:
When roasting your own coffee beans, working with small batches enables you to have several varieties of truly fresh coffee on hand. To purchase a comparable selection from a coffee roaster or grocery store, you would have to pay a premium for small quantities of several varieties. The ability to purchase premium unroasted coffee beans in larger quantities at wholesale prices saves you money without sacrificing variety or freshness.
Most importantly, you can’t beat the taste of produced from home roasted coffee beans.
Many of those experienced with home coffee roasting consider it an art. Perfecting your favorite flavor through bean selection and roast levels takes time and experimentation. Before long, you will learn which region’s beans and what roast level produce your ideal cup of coffee. Brewing coffee with purchased roasted beans may produce a “good” taste, but imagine crafting your own personal flavor, unmatched by anything sold by coffee roasters.
To top it off, home roasting can maximize coffee’s health benefits.
Research has shown that coffee is rich in antioxidants. Freshly roasting your coffee beans ensures you are getting the optimal level of antioxidants from your cup of coffee. Because grinding coffee beans accelerates the loss of antioxidants, brewing with freshly roasted coffee beans and grinding only the amount you need that day will produce the healthiest cup of coffee.
What is the Best Home Coffee Roaster?
If you are ready to take the leap and make the investment, there are two types of home coffee roasters to consider – Fluid Bed and Drum. Fluid Bed Roasters are similar in design to hot-air popcorn poppers, roast small batches, and are easy to clean. Drum Roasters have a rotating screen drum allowing larger batches of coffee beans to roast more evenly. These coffee roasters give you a bit more control over the roasting process, but require a larger investment.
Let’s take a closer look at a few of the favorite home coffee roaster models.
The Fresh Roast SR540 is a more cost efficient model with features similar to the FR SR700, but without the option to connect to a PC. Fresh Roast models are an excellent value for the money with adjustable fan speed, temperature, and timer and a compact space-saving design that produces freshly roasted coffee beans in anywhere from seven to ten minutes.
On the other hand, if you are looking to roast larger batches, Drum coffee roasters may better suit your needs.
Gene Café and Behmor are two reliable brands of Drum home coffee roasters. Although it’s one of the most expensive, the Gene Café Home Coffee Roaster is easy to use and powerful. It provides the ability to control the time and temperature of your roast, while the innovative cooling system allows you to roast multiple batches in one day. Gene Café Roasting Tips will help you create the perfectly roasted beans using this home roaster.
You’re probably wondering if there are other Drum roaster options that are easier on the wallet. The answer is yes.
The Behmor 1600 Plus Home Coffee Roaster is a cost effective alternative to the Gene Café. This model has improved over its predecessor with a double paned window in the door for increased insulation and a new motor giving you more control over drum speed. Despite the updated features, the general operation of the newer model remains the same. The Behmor 1600 Plus is for the true home roasting coffee connoisseur with its power and versatility. Learn roasting tips using this guide or view videos outlining roasting tips and demonstrating the operation of the Behmor 1600 Plus Home Coffee Roaster.
Is using a Home Coffee Roaster the only way I can roast coffee at home?
Okay, some of you may be interested in home coffee roasting but are not quite ready to purchase a roaster.
If you are not ready to make a huge investment, there are methods you can try before investing in a home coffee bean roaster. Stovetop pans and popcorn poppers are two more cost effective tools to use if you want to try your hand at home coffee roasting. Learn more details about the economical home roasting options available.
What are the Basic Steps to Coffee Roasting with a Home Coffee Roaster?
So when you decide to take the plunge and purchase a home coffee roaster, what’s next?
Detailed instructions on how to roast coffee will vary by roaster brand and model. The basic steps to roasting coffee at home is outlined below:
- Fill the Roaster:
Measure out the green coffee beans you are looking to roast in one batch. In general, this should be in the range of 2.5 to 6 ounces (weight) for fluid bed roasters and 8 to 16 ounces for drum roasters. Stay within the manufacturer’s guidelines to avoid uneven roasting or the roaster overheating.
Now here is where your personal preferences come in.
- Set the Time or Pick a Profile:
And here’s the fun part:
- Watch and Listen:
- The beans start as a pale green color (except for the decafs, which are already brown).
- As they begin to roast, the beans change to a straw color (tan) and begin to smell similar to wet straw.
- As the roasting continues, the coffee gradually darkens in color, progressing from light brown to black. The smell will change from a light roasted coffee smell to a pungent smell with visible smoke.
- Coffee can “pop” or “crack” twice during roasting. The first pop or crack is when the coffee expands and breaks its husk.
- The second pop is when the collected moisture, expands and cracks the bean. The pops are audible, like when popcorn pops, but a bit quieter.
- If you begin noticing smoke and a pungent smell, terminate the roast by advancing to the cool setting.
Before long, you will be able to judge roasting times by sight and smell alone.
Don’t forget this important step as you enjoy the amazing smell of your home roasted coffee.
- Roaster Cool Down:
Home Coffee Roasters have a built in cooling period. This allows the beans to cool down for handling, and allows the equipment to cool and prepare for the next batch.Once the built in cooling period is complete, the roasted beans are ready to rest for 12-24 hours before grinding or storing.
What Are the Different Kinds of Coffee Roasts?
Let’s start out by recognizing there is some confusion over the different coffee roasts available, often caused by the lack of standardization used when categorizing them. Many coffee drinkers settle with the basic knowledge of knowing the difference between light and dark roast. Understanding the terminology used to describe coffee characteristics will help you choose the best roasting level based on your preferences.
Things to consider when choosing a type of coffee roast include Body and Acidity.
Body refers to the feeling on your tongue when drinking the coffee and is an imprecise measure of dissolved solids. Full-bodied coffee has a heavy, rich feel with an overlapping or complex variety of tastes. It will retain more of its flavor when diluted relative to a lighter body coffee. Lighter-bodied coffee is more diluted with little to no texture or residue left on your tongue.
Acidity, also known as brightness, helps describe the wide ranging flavors of different coffees. Lively, tangy, sharp, bright, and fruity are some words used to describe what some coffee enthusiasts refer to as “perceived acidity”.
Note that the acidity being referred to is not to be confused with the chemical acidity (pH), although they are directly linked with one another.
“Perceived acidity” is the first impression of a cup of coffee – the crisp sensation hitting the tip of your tongue. Coffee beans’ growing regions, processing methods, and roast levels will affect the “perceived acidity” of the coffee, with darker roasts having a lower level, resulting in a flatter taste.
Learn about other characteristics that affect the taste and quality of coffee.
The roasting time required to produce coffee beans at each level will depend on the roasting method used. Specified temperatures are estimates and roasting styles should be achieved by color and sounds (cracking).
Let’s start with the roasting style achieved with the shortest amount of time.
Light Roast (also known as Half City, Blonde, Cinnamon, New England, Light City)
Approximate roasting temperatures: 356°F – 401°F
Color/Appearance: Light Roast coffee beans are roasted a few minutes and become a brighter orange-brown color, dry with no visible oils.
Time: Green coffee beans are roasted until the “first crack” is heard. Some of the lighter roasts in this category may have some beans remain uncracked.
Taste: Despite the raw taste of light roast coffee beans, some coffee drinkers may choose this level of roasting for the higher level of antioxidants. Generally, coffees roasted to this level are higher in acidity and lighter in body, and may taste harsh and underdeveloped.
And if Light Roast coffee is not for you, you can continue roasting to reach the roast level generally preferred in the United States.
Medium Roast (also known as City, American, City Plus, Regular, Breakfast)
Approximate roasting temperatures: 410°F – 428°F
Color/Appearance: These coffee beans are medium brown and still exhibit a dry surface, though they may appear to have a slightly more velvety texture.
Time: Green coffee beans roasted until after the “first crack” but before the “second crack” are categorized as Medium Roast coffees.
Taste: Relative to Light Roast coffees, they have sweeter tones and a more balanced body of acidity, aroma, and flavor.
To create a flavorful cup of coffee with new, unfamiliar beans, Medium Roast levels are a good place to start experimenting.
Moving on, slightly longer roast times and higher temperatures result in coffee beans producing a stronger aroma.
Medium-Dark Roast (also known as Full City, Viennese or Vienna, Full City Plus, Continental, European, After Dinner)
Approximate roasting temperatures: 437°F – 446°F
Color/Appearance: Medium-Dark Roast coffee beans will be a rich, dark color and appear slightly shiny.
Taste: Roasting to this level produces flavors leaning more toward spicy, chocolate, and dark berries. Coffee brewed with these beans will have a lower-acidity and a fuller body with abundant aromas and a drier finish, similar to baker’s chocolate or fine wine.
Time: To achieve a lighter roast in this category, your green coffee beans will not quite have reached the “second crack”, while darker roasts will require roasting beyond the “second crack”.
And finally, this roast style will require careful monitoring to avoid burning the coffee beans.
Dark Roast (also known as French, Italian, Turkish, Neapolitan, New Orleans, Spanish, High, Double)
Approximate roasting temperatures: 464°F – 482°F
Color/Appearance: Spanish Roast coffee (far right above) will be charcoal black in color and oily to the touch. You will notice that the coffee beans will begin to smoke in the roaster as the sugars carbonize.
Time: After the “second crack”, coffee beans will begin to darken very quickly.
Taste: Brewing with Dark Roast beans will produce a sweet smoky tasting coffee with a lighter body, less acidity and the least caffeine of all roasts.
How Long Do Green (Raw) Coffee Beans Last? How Should Green Coffee Beans Be Stored?
You may be wondering how you can ensure your green coffee bean supply remains fresh.
Compared to roasted coffee beans, green or raw coffee beans last much longer when stored properly. When stored in a cool, dry place in a sealed container, green coffee beans can last at least a year before losing any noticeable quality.
The trick is to store it at the right temperature and humidity level.
The ideal temperature is approximately 60°F at 60% humidity, and no higher than 80°F. Higher humidity levels may lead to mold, while lower levels could cause the beans to dry out.
Don’t forget to periodically open the storage container and give the green coffee beans a shake to let air circulate over them.
And remember, it is not necessary to freeze or refrigerate green coffee beans.
Best of all, the longer shelf life of green coffee beans allows you to purchase them in bulk at wholesale prices.
How Long Do Home Roasted Coffee Beans Last? How Should Home Roasted Coffee Beans be Stored?
By now, you probably realize home coffee roasting allows you the flexibility to roast only the amount you need.
This is an important benefit as roasted coffee beans begin to deteriorate and lose its flavor in about six weeks.
To maximize flavor, freshly roasted coffee should rest or “set up” at least overnight and up to two to three days in an uncovered bowl or glass jar. This should be done at room temperature with low humidity before preparing for longer-term storage.
Similar to raw coffee beans, roasted beans should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place in a sealed container for longer-term storage. Avoid refrigerating or freezing your freshly roasted coffee beans as they can become too moist in the refrigerator or too dry in the freezer. In addition, there is the risk the beans will absorb the smells of foods that may share the same space in a refrigerator or freezer, thereby affecting the ultimate taste of the brewed coffee.