How to Use Coffee Roasting to Create the Perfect Bean

antique aroma beans

Have you ever ground your coffee beans and smelled that aroma? Coffee roasting takes that delicious smell to a whole other level. Since the actual roasting unlocks the scent, imagine the smell inside your house. Roasting coffee beans is easier than you might think.

I remember when I first smelled coffee. It was a rich, smokey chocolate scent that wafted through the air. My family had a slow drip Mr. Coffee, and nobody could talk to my mom until she had her first cup. In my late teens, I decided to see what the fuss was all about and have been a coffee fan ever since. Whether you drink it black, with sugar, with creamer or some other combination, coffee is now an everyday drink. There are an estimated 2 billion cups of coffee consumed every single day around the world.

Smell is a strong memory trigger. Do you remember smelling your first freshly brewed cup o' joe?

What is Coffee Roasting

Coffee roasting is the process of roasting a green coffee bean to release the flavor and ready the bean for brewing and drinking. Roasting coffee beans is a not only a technique necessary for coffee but is an art form.

The coffee bean is a seed buried inside the coffee cherry which grows on the coffee plant. Once the workers pick the cherries, they process the fruit in one of two ways, which separates the beans from the berries. The beans then have to dry to about 11 percent moisture before storing them for milling. This stage of the bean is parchment coffee.

The parchment coffee is milled, which removes the hull and polishes the beans, getting them ready for examination. If they pass the grading test, they're sorted and bagged as green coffee and are ready for roasting.

The roasting process takes very little time, and although it's an easy thing to do, the timing can make or break a coffee bean. Coffee roasting is simply cooking the green coffee bean until it's reached the desired roasting flavor. The roasts run from light to dark and is a matter of personal taste. The time difference between a light and a dark roast can be a matter of minutes.

It takes trial and error to roast coffee to your specifications, but it can be done at home using some simple equipment.

white ceramic mug filled with coffee beside coffee beans


Coffee Roasting Origins

No one knows for sure where the idea to drink coffee originated. After all, the bean is hidden inside a fruit and drinking its yummy goodness has been around for centuries. The believed start of this beloved worldwide drink begins with some Ethiopian goats.

The legend goes that an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi found his goats running and jumping full of energy and excitement after eating the cherries from a coffee bush. When he ate the fruit, he was full of energy from the caffeine. A local monk saw what happened to Kaldi and brought some of the fruit back to his monk friends. They, of course, experienced the same effects after consuming the fruit.

From that time until the 13th century, people created many drinks from the coffee cherry including wine and an unprocessed version of the coffee drink we enjoy today. In the 13th century, people discovered coffee roasting made the steeped drink more palatable. Once word got out about the roasted coffee taste and the stimulation that ensued upon drinking, the coffee bean made its way around the globe.

The beginning may have started in Ethiopia, but the next stop was the Arabian Peninsula where coffee houses became a favorite meeting place. The coffee bean's next stop was Europe in the 17th century and, upon the approval of Pope Clement VIII, coffee houses took over the cities.

When British settlers brought coffee to the new world, they never imagined it would surpass tea as the preferred beverage. If it weren't for the high tax from King George III on tea and the resulting Boston Tea Party, coffee might have remained second-chair in popularity. As it was, the settlers threw the tea into the harbor, and coffee roasting made a home in America.


Why Roast the Beans?

As mentioned, before roasting became standard practice in the 13th century, people drank or ate the green coffee. Although you can consume it the same way, the taste is nothing like the coffee to which you've become accustomed. The flavor of green coffee is bitter because coffee roasting changes the chemical components of the bean itself. When roasting coffee beans, the sugars inside the bean convert into carbon dioxide and caramelize. This chemical reaction brings out the coffee flavor inside the green coffee bean.

So, while you don't need to roast coffee beans, you'll want to. If you don't, you won't get a traditional coffee flavor, and the aroma will resemble the plant it grows on.


The Benefits of Coffee Roasting

Coffee roasting can result in benefits you wouldn't get by consuming an un-roasted bean. When you roast a coffee bean, the chemical reaction mentioned above produces an earthy smell. It's not until you ground the roasted coffee that the traditionally roasted coffee smell is released. The closer you grind and drink your brew to the roasting time, the better the scent and the higher benefits you'll gain.

Coffee studies conducted show promising health benefits from drinking coffee. These include:

Also, the National Institute of Health released a statement saying people who drink coffee were less likely to die from:

  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory disease
  • Stroke
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    Injuries and accidents
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    Diabetes
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    Infections

The New England Journal of Medicine published the study backing up these claims on May 17, 2012. The most apparent benefit of roasting coffee is the flavor. Freshly roasting beans to your specifications, ground, brewed and consumed doesn't compare to any other drink.

brown coffee beans on white plastic container


Coffee Roasting at Home

By roasting your coffee, you can create a personalized coffee flavor. It will take some practice and a bit of experimenting, but controlling the roasting process could be the answer to your perfect caffeinated cup.

Most people pick up a bag of ground coffee from the grocery store or a bag of roasted beans they grind at home. Would it surprise you to know you can purchase green coffee beans and roast them yourself? In about 15 minutes with the equipment you likely have in your kitchen, you can roast your coffee beans to perfection.

If you can pop popcorn, you can roast coffee beans.

Equipment

There are a few ways to do your coffee roasting. Depending on which method you choose will determine the equipment you'll need. You can roast coffee beans on your stove top, in a popcorn popper or over an open fire. You'll need green coffee beans and a pot with a lid or a cast iron skillet at a minimum if you're going the stove top method. If you decide to use a popcorn popper, you'll need a popcorn popper, of course.

Other items that are nice to have on hand when roasting your coffee beans are:

  • Kitchen scale
  • Timer
  • Thermometer
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    Cooling rack or colander
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    Wooden Spoon
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    Pen and paper to record your roasts and results
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    Small fan

Picking the beans

There are two main species of commercially grown coffee plants. The plants are Arabica and Robusta coffee shrubs.

Robusta coffee grows in low elevations and is slightly taller than the arabica coffee shrub. The plant requires more rainfall and produces more coffee beans than arabica. Because the robusta coffee plant produces more coffee beans and uses its higher caffeine and chlorogenic acid to keep insects away, robusta beans are less expensive than arabica. The plant's proliferation in the wild is what lends to its name, as it's a robust plant. Robusta beans are the beans you would typically find in commercial coffees, like those you find in a can.

In addition to the reasons stated above for the arabica bean's higher cost, the bean is also higher in fats and sugars. Arabica beans have about 60 percent more lipids and about two times the amount of sugar as robusta beans. The higher sugar content allows the arabica bean to create a better tasting and higher quality roasted coffee bean.

Arabica plants thrive in higher elevations and mature slower than robusta coffee plants. Roasted Arabica beans are the beans brewed in coffee shops and expensive bagged coffees in your grocery store.

person holding mug filled with coffee beans

Get roasting

No matter what method you use for your coffee roasting, the process is the same. You can use a pan, pot or popcorn popper, but to roast your coffee beans, you must follow the same steps. You'll heat your device, add your beans, wait for the first crack, possibly wait for the second crack, and cool your beans down.

First, you need to decide what type of roast you want: light, medium, medium-dark, or dark. Your decision will determine your roasting temperature and roasting times. If you're using a pan on a stove, you'll heat the pan on medium and add your green coffee. Use your wooden spoon and stir your beans, so they heat evenly.

When the beans heat to about 380 degrees Fahrenheit (F), you'll hear the first crack. The sound is like snapping wooden toothpicks and can take anywhere between 3 to 15 minutes to begin. The crack happens because of the chemicals changes in the bean, and if you're looking for a light roast, remove them at this point.

The second crack happens at about 435 degrees F and sounds like snap, crackle, and pop from your milky Rice Krispies cereal. The second crack occurs between 15 seconds to 2 minutes after the first crack and will give your roasting coffee a dark roast.

Leaving your beans on the heat beyond that will burn them, and you'll have to start the process over again. You can remove the beans from the heat at any time after the first crack, but if you take them off, you can't put them back on again. The chemical process is complete.


Things to Remember

Remember to watch the color of your beans which will go from green to yellow to light brown. Darker and darker browns follow the light brown. If the coffee bean turns black, you've gone too far. Keep in mind, the longer you leave the beans on the heat, the darker the roast. After you roast your beans, remove them from the heat and pour them into a colander or roasting pan to cool. Use a small fan to blow the chaff off the bean.

When the beans are cooling, they'll expand, so you want to store your freshly roasted beans in something that's airtight, but will let the CO2 escape. A plastic baggie works well. Keep your roasted coffee out of the air for four to eight hours and let them rest for three days.

Store your coffee in foil pouches and don't put them in the refrigerator or freezer. Storing them this way will age your coffee faster and it will lose its flavor. Also, between roastings, be sure to remove all the chaffs for the next batch. Since you're experimenting for the perfect roast, take notes of sounds, smells, temperatures, weight, and results after each coffee roasting.


Enjoy Your Fresh Hot Brew

Roasting your coffee beans can be a fun way to personalize your experience with coffee. Since it's so easy to do, you might wonder why you haven't done so in the past. Well, when you simply buy the roast in the bag, it might not occur to you to roast your own.

Instead of heading out to your local coffee shop and spending four dollars for 16 ounces of coffee, try roasting and brewing your own. You might find that your coffee can rival any of the big names. Better still, your personally designed roast matches your taste buds. Enjoy that hot cup of roasted goodness. You've earned it.

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