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...In which we learn how to roast our own coffee!
Turns out, roasting your own coffee beans isn't all that difficult! Last weekend, I had an awesome time learning how at Mr. Green Beans here in PDX.
If you're local, do visit the store on NE Mississippi. It's lovely, and well-stocked with raw coffee beans from various parts of the world. There are several coffee-roasting classes each week, held in their comfortable upstairs classroom. (They also sell raw coffee beans in their online store.)
The class was super well laid-out, with sample beans at different stages of roasting, and a sample of the "chaff" that peels off the beans during the roasting process.
Fun Fact: Coffee beans grow in size and get lighter in weight as they roast.
Co-owner Trevin Miller does a very thorough job explaining three methods of home coffee roasting: with a commercial roasting machine like this one; with an air popcorn popper; and with a simple skillet or wok. Each one has pros and cons, but surprisingly, each one takes only a few minutes.
Fun Fact: Raw coffee beans are shelf-stable, and will keep for a very long time at the right temperature and humidity. Once it's roasted, though, coffee loses its freshness quickly, despite all the little tricks we do to keep it fresh longer.
K. even got to participate, and roast a batch of beans in an air popcorn popper. (I always knew that getting rid of the one I had in college would someday come back to haunt me!)
This nice guide on the Mr. Green Beans website talks about what happens during the roasting process.
Fun Fact: You might think it spells amazing while you're roasting the beans. Actually, what you smell is smoke, as that "chaff" flakes off and burns. (Ventilation is super important.) And freshly-roasted beans smell nothing like coffee! They're busy outgassing carbon dioxide for the first few hours. The lovely coffee aroma emerges later.
We tried the skillet method at home, and found it really educational. (Yup, I know that's not a skillet.)
It's important to keep the beans moving at all times, so they have equal heat exposure on all sides. This can be somewhat challenging to do in a flat skillet, which is why the air-popper method is so nice - as that hot air blows through the beans, it keeps them in motion.
See what I mean? Our skillet-roasted beans came out rather uneven. They still developed a lovely aroma, but ultimately the brewed coffee lacked some complexity.
Even so, you cannot believe the difference in flavor when your beans have been roasted within the last 12 hours or so. Unbelievably delicious coffee! We're now stalking air poppers on eBay.
Incidentally, Locals – Mr. Green Beans also has classes and equipment for at-home cheese making and soap-making!