Tuesday, March 24, 2009


The search is finally over. After months of looking, Lindsay was able to locate an old popcorn popper to the correct specifications for roasting coffee beans. Yesterday I roasted my very first batch of beans and it was so fun to watch them turn from green to a beautiful, rich brown.

I've been interested in roasting at home for a while, sparked mostly by a slew of friends who do it and trade beans, and roasting tips and techniques. But also, my slight coffee preoccupation has evolved into a pretty significant interest. Coffee is like my little buddy. Its delicious. Warm. It makes me feel happy. It's fun to pick-up on your way out of town heading snowboarding, camping or any scheduled adventure. I relax to it. I sip it. And I just think its the Bomb.

After reading Unbowed by Wangari Maathai, I learned a few things about coffee farming and as a result, some of the destruction that takes place within the surrounding ecosystems. We can easily sip on a cup at the expense of so much. Here's a little piece of info:

Cost: Coffee is the second most traded commodity on the world market after crude oil. With 7 billion dollars exchanged in coffee every year, some people will say and do anything to promote their product. The issue isn't only a narcissistic concern for the quality of our morning coffee, it is the way this hot commodity undermines sound ecological practice worldwide. The demand for lower quality coffees has resulted in massive coffee agribusiness, clearing huge parcels of biodiverse forest to plant coffee. The small fincas, co-ops, estates and traditional "shade-grown" coffees that we sell must compete against the ultra-productive coffee farms and their machine-picked, disease-resistant hybrid coffee products.

And as far as your pocketbook goes, why buy 2+ week-old coffee for $10/pound when you can roast your own for much less? It's as easy as making popcorn, and the green coffee from Sweet Maria's costs half the price of roasted beans. If you use the air popcorn popper method, you can usually find the appropriate type in thrift stores for $2. That's all you need to start roasting coffee at home!

So, the key is to buy from smaller, fair trade farmers and roast from home! Fresh.


  • Set up the popper in a ventilated place near a kitchen exhaust fan or window, if possible. It's nice to have strong overhead light so you can look down into the popper chamber to accurately judge the roast as it progresses. Have all your supplies within reach.
  • Put the same amount of coffee in the popper that the manufacturer recommends for popcorn. For the West Bend Poppery II, 4 oz. is the maximum, or 2/3 to 3/4 cup.
  • Put the plastic hood (including butter dish) in place, and a large bowl under the chute. We put our popper by the sink so it blows chaff right into the basin. Turn the thing on.
  • Watch for fragrant smoke and the "first crack" of the beans in about 3 minutes. Wait another minute, then start to monitor beans closely for desired roast color by lifting out butter dish and looking into popping chamber, or, better yet, by smelling the smoke and listening to the crackling.
  • Total time for a lighter roast should be around 4 minutes, full city roast around 5, and darker roasts closer to 6.5 minutes. Roasts develop quickly, so be vigilant. You want to pour the beans out of the popper when they are a tad lighter than the color you desire, since roasting continues until beans are cool.
  • Agitate beans in metal collander with a big spoon or toss between 2 collanders until they are warm to your touch. You may need oven mitts for this. You may want to walk out to a porch to aid cooling.
  • Coffee should be stored out of direct light (and not in a fridge or freezer) in an airtight glass jar, but with a fresh roast, wait 12 hours to seal the jar tightly; it needs to vent off C02.
  • Warm, fresh roasted beans are wonderful, but the coffee attains its peak 4 to 24 hours after roasting. If you store it as recommended, we'll call it fresh for 5 days. When you open that jar in the morning, you will know what fresh coffee truly is.


Anonymous said...
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hales02 said...

Yum and AWESOME. Period!