Tuesday, August 21, 2007

DIY Coffee Roasting

I stumbled across an interesting article in a recent Utne magazine. It referenced an article in ReadyMade magazine about roasting your own coffee.

What peaked my interest was that beans that are fair-trade, organic, shade-grown, can supposedly be found cheaper if you are willing to buy them green and roast them yourself. I'm usually willing to roll my own sleeves up, and lately, I've been striving to be more of a Renaissance man [*] and do more DIY stuff, so this shouldn't be too much of a challenge.

Roasting my own coffee sounds like an intriguing idea - especially if I can avoid an assload of pesticides, and do it cheaply. Turns out that you can do it with an air popcorn popper. Okay, that was interesting...turns out we have the very popper model that some people recommend, so I ordered some sampler set from a company I found - I got about 5 pounds for about $30-some after shipping. I could probably find it cheaper, but wanted to try out the different types.

So the shipment came last week. I was going to wait until the weekend, but I couldn't hold out more than a day or two, so on the way home, I went to Costco to get a coffee machine (for the past few years, I've only had an espresso machine) and I tried it out when I got home. No one else was at the house yet, so if I created a stink, no one would complain. I followed these directions. All one does is plop about 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup of beans in the popper, put the top on, set the timer on the microwave to keep an eye on the time. Listen for the first crack, wait until most of the chaff has blown out, then take the top off and watch the beans closely. The timer is probably your friend, too, as it's probably a good thing to use as an upper bound. One tip I didn't see anyone else give was that you want to get ready to dump those beans out as soon as you turn off the popper - I think they get much more heat transfer from the surrounding metal in there after the air stops blowing and they stop moving and press against the sides and bottom. Pour them out into a metal collander and stir until they are cool enough to touch. Leave them out about 12 hours, then seal in a glass jar. Best used ASAP.

They smell unbelievably good. The coffee tastes awesome - I'm trying different roasts next - most of them so far have been just a bit lighter than a city roast. It's also much easier than I thought, and if you're careful, not very much cleanup at all to do. The first time, I was blowing the chaff into the collander, saw the beans getting very hot after turning off the air, and dumped the beans in the same container. Took a bit of doing to get all that chaff out of my beans...

[*] Without sounding too pompous - what I mean by that is not focusing on any one skill to the exclusion of all others - taking the specialization is for insects attitude. I've taken this attitude with my car ever since I bought it (used) - the only thing I haven't done with it is replace the serpentine belt and regular oil changes.

All other stuff that happens, I try to fix myself - so far, I've swapped out front rotors and brake pads, replaced the ignition coils, replaced the MAF sensor, as well as swap the rims and tires between all season and winter each fall and spring. Not only have I learned a bit here and there, I've saved unbelievable amounts of money (I figure doing the ignition coils myself saved me at least $600, and possibly more. The parts cost about $260 and I've had someone tell me the dealer charged them $1000+ to do that for their Maxima) and avoided the raise in blood pressure one gets from getting ripped off at the mechanic.

As for the serpentine belt, I'm glad I didn't try to tackle that one myself. I took it to a Sears, and the mechanic there apparently had a bit of a time getting it done. The guy looked like a seasoned guy, too, not just some kid in high school doing it as a summer job.

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