Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Gourmet Coffee Bean Roasting in Oklahoma

I'm sorry to say I have been neglecting all of my blogs lately to pursue the aquisition of a travel trailer for our family (more on that later). Also, Dianne and I have been having fun with a new hobby - roasting our own coffee beans!

Home Coffee Roasting Supplies Used in our 'Cafe Driveway Gourmet Blend'

1. Old Hot Air Popcorn Popper from the 80's. Didn't think they still made these? They do. If there was ever a piece of eightees technology that needed a complete makeover, it has to be the hot air popcorn popper. Instantly stale popcorn in only minutes! Luckily it makes a great little coffee roaster and the price is SO right.

2. Gourmet Green Coffee Beans - We used Guatemalan Beans and Costa Rican Beans because we love them and we were getting tired of driving all the way to Tulsa to get them!

Did you know that Tulsa, Oklahoma is the headquarters for Java Dave's Coffee? I know we must not be the only Oklahoma home coffee bean roasters.

3. A Wooden Spoon, a couple cereal bowls and something to store the roasted beans in after they cool.

4. Advanced Accessories Optional - Power strip, extension cord, Bean Can.
(more home coffee roasting pictures on our Flickr Photostream)

The Coffee Bean Home Roasting Process

The roasting process is simple but fun. Take the measuring cup that comes with the popcorn popper and grab a scoop (1/3 to 1/2 a cup) of green unroasted coffee beans and dump them in the top of the popper. Throw away the plastic cover that came with the popper, you won't need it and it will get in the way. We replaced our plastic cover with a cleaned out Ranch Style beans can opened at both ends. It creates a little chimney that keeps the beans from flying out of the top of the popper...mostly.

DO NOT ADD OIL. Coffee beans are loaded with oils of their own.

Don't go crazy looking for the On/Off button on an old 80's model popcorn popper - you just pull the plug when finished or invest in a power strip.

Keep stirring your beans often as they heat up, this whole roasting operation won't take but about 5 minutes and they can easily burn if not stirred frequently. I just shake the whole roaster occassionally to get the beans heating evenly.

Listen carefully as you roast your beans. As soon as you turn on the popper the beans will start floating around in the popper and rattling. Within in a minute or three you will here a different kind of 'cracking' sound and the beans will be rather light to medium brown. Coffee Roasters call this the 'First Crack'. You can stop the roasting process now and cool them beans for a light to medium roast.

If you keep stirring, heating and listening to them for a minute or two more you will hear a more pronounced 'crackling'... almost 'sizzleing' sound and the beans will be dark brown or blackish. This is the 'Second crack' or Dark Roast that is very popular among coffee buyers these days. After a good dark roast the beans will look wet as the oils have risen right up to the surface of the bean. I think it looks pretty cool.

Cool your beans as quickly as possible. Like bacon just out of the pan, the beans will continue to roast until they are cooled. If you don't cool your beans quickly enough you may over-roast them accidently. I cool our beans by pouring them from cereal bowl to cereal bowl slowly. This also helps allow the wind to blow away the chaff.

Oh Yeah the Chaff!

Don't roast the beans inside your house. The machine constantly blows out whispy bits of chaff the will make you home a mess if you roast inside. Also, expect to smell like coffee roasting afterwards.

Why Roast Your Own Coffee Beans?

Quality - Old hot air poppers are now pouring out of the garage sales to begin new lives as home coffee roasting machines. After reading about it in several sources, Dianne and I decided to give it a try. The short story: we love it! It simply produces the best tasting cup of coffee you can find anywhere!

Time Together - We find that our son sleeps much better at night if we don't stay up watching TV. In our small house, it is probably the noise that keeps him up. Recognizing this, we Dianne and I try to use the time for grown-up talk in the driveway. Now he sleeps more and we talk more.

Fun - My folks used to use quiet time like this to pick out pecans, shell elderberries or shuck corn, but we don't garden much. Roasting our own coffee beans in the driveway has become our nightly ritual.

Savings - Drinking the best coffee EVER costs us about $5 per pound, now that we buy the green beans 25lbs at a time. There is no telling how much gas we save. The coffee is still not as cheap as Folgers, but much cheaper than any boutique coffee bean retailer.

Blending Your Own Home Roasted Gourmet Coffee

We like to blend about 2/3 medium roast with 1/3 dark roasted beans for our 'Driveway Blend'. We rarely blend the different coffee bean varieties together, but one blend we like is 1/3 dark roasted Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Beans and 2/3 light roasted Costa Rican Beans.

We store our coffee beans for two days in disposable Ziplock Containers and then we grind them up, let 'em rest overnight and rave over the results the next morning.

There are loads of places to buy your Green Coffee Beans for home roasting and the rest of the stuff needed is usually free. I hope you give home roasting a try, it is a great way to save a little money on gourmet coffee and have some fun learning about the coffees of the world. It is also a nice way to spend the evening with your family that will give you something to look forward to in the morning!

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