Roast your own coffee

Via on Aug 30, 2008

It’s easy to roast your own coffee. Ever wonder how people did it hundreds of years ago? They didn’t have electricity, fancy roasters, grinders and espresso makers. They just grabbed a handful of beans and went for it. You can, too!

Here’s the short story. Just take a handful and put them in a pot over a high heat. Roast them until brown. It takes five to ten minutes. Then, grind and brew.

Want some details? I hoped you would! I’ll share with you some of my favorite coffee destinations. Then, I’ll describe how you can roast your own coffee.

My love affair with coffee began years ago in Houston, TX. We had a little store called “Pueblo to People” in the Montrose that offered fair-trade coffee beans at low prices. Nicaraguan beans proved to be my favorite. No matter where I looked, the beans from Pueblo to People were always the best.

Later, I went to Costa Rica and visited a coffee finca (farm). These beans were green and red. Beautiful!

Costa Rican coffee plantation
(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

Dublin, Ireland is the home of beloved Bewley’s, known for its tummy warming coffee. Here’s a shot of their Probat roaster. 

Probat coffee roaster at Dublin, Ireland's famous Beweley's
(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

There’s a little coffee shop I love to visit on Florida’s east coast. They have an authentic Ethiopian coffee roaster.

Ethiopian coffee roaster
(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

Beautiful Crested Butte, Colorado is the home of Camp 4 Coffee. Al’s the owner. He loves his work. He’s a former big business guy who decided to chuck the fast pace and live somewhere he loved. He wanted to do something that he could do as an artisan. Camp 4 Coffee was born.

Mike and Al, owner of Camp 4 Coffee www.camp4coffee.com
(photo from www.camp4coffee.com)

Al took me on a tour of his roastery. He showed me the method he uses to roast the finest coffee beans.

Mike (left) with Al of www.camp4coffee.com
(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

That’s the author of his article on the left and Al on the right in the photo above. Al has a huge, commercial roaster. He pointed out that after some time, the beans crack with a loud pop. Camp 4 Coffee is more than just an artisan coffee shop. They employ many local people. Their baristas brew tasty, visually appealing coffee.

Artisan coffee at www.camp4coffee.com
(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

It was a magical tour. I ordered beans from Al’s online store at www.camp4coffee.com in 8lb bulk to save money. But, you don’t need fancy equipment to roast your own coffee.

My first roasting attempt was with a home roaster that resembled a popcorn popper. The result was less than impressive. 

I visited a friend in Sacramento, California. He and I had dinner at a Moroccan restaurant. The coffee they served was among the best I’d ever had. They roasted it themselves, adding spices. I took some home with me. I tried roasting my own beans with the electric roaster again. But, again I was disappointed.

Later, I visited another friend in Berkeley, California. He and I visited one of the Ethiopian restaurants on Telegraph Road near the university. Not only was the food incredible, but the coffee was fantastic. It was my first time to try Ethiopian food. And, I discovered they roasted their own beans, too.

When I came back to Orlando, FL the first chance I got I googled “Ethiopian restaurant Orlando” and found Orlando’s only Ethiopian restaurant, The Nile. The food was spectacular. I was tempted to try the coffee, but the menu said service was for 3-4, so I planned to try it when I came with some friends. Owner Abeba (as in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia) asked me how I liked my meal. She asked if I’d like some coffee. I explained that I had read the menu offerering service for 3-4 people and I intended to come back with my friends. She said she’d love to let me try some on the house, as a treat.

Abeba and Saada of Orlando's Nile restaurant
(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

Abeba used a metal pot with a long handle and an electric heating element. She put the beans in the pot and held it over the hot element. As the temperature rose, she gently moved the pot, keeping the beans in motion. I heard a crack a few minutes later. Then another crack. The beans turned from green to a dark brown in less than five minutes. She crushed the beans with a mortar and pestle and brewed them in another pot. You can see the detail in the picture. The coffee was superb. She served it in a little cup similar to the ones used to drink espresso. All the while, the most exquisite incense was burning. Ethiopian music wafted in from the dining room. Coffee at the Nile restaurant is far from ordinary. It was a true ceremony, Ethiopian style.

Saada of Orlando's Nile Restaurant roasts coffee beans
(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I bought a pound of raw Ethiopian beans from Abeba for $7.00. I asked Abeba about the pot. She said she sold them, too. The were available for $20.00. But, she added honestly, “I’d try it with your own pot, first.” and smiled pleasantly.

Raw Ethiopian Coffee Beans
(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

So, I had to try it myself. I worried that my Teflon (TM) coated pot would be damaged from the heat. I have a gas stove, not an electric one. Days passed. Well, today I decided to give it a go.

I grabbed a handful of beans. About enough for a big pot of coffee, just like Abeba did. I put the beans in my fancy pot. I turned on the gas stove and the overhead vent, remembering how the house smelled last time I tried roasting beans. Nice smell, but it lingered for a long time. I noted the time I started roasting. 

Roasting Ethiopian coffee at home
(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

I gently shook the pot as the beans heated up. About three minutes later, the beans started to smell good and turn brown. About five minutes later, I heard a few cracks as the beans began to pop. I kept the lid on the pot because the chaff from the beans tended to float all over the kitchen without it. I could have stopped at seven or eight minutes, but I like a darker roast. Ten minutes later, I was satisfied that I had a dark roast ready to grind.

Home Roasted Ethiopian Coffee Beans
(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

 

The finished beans were beautiful! They were dark, smelled great, and had a shiny luster just like beans from the pros.

Home Roasted Ethiopian Coffee Beans 
(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

I have an electric bean grinder. But, I wanted to try grinding the beans the old fashioned way. So, with a little elbow grease and a smile on my face, I ground the beans by hand with a mortar and pestle.

Olive Wood Mortar and Pestle
(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

I used the little stove top coffee pot shown in the picture below to brew my freshly roasted Ethiopian coffee beans.

Stove top coffee pot
(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

The brewing process is three phased. You put in a little coffee and some water. If you like, you can add some sugar and even pepper, cardamom or other spices. Watch the coffee as it boils. Before it boils over, you remove it from the heat. Do this two more times. Then, it’s ready to serve.

The finished product - home roasted Ethiopian coffee
(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

That’s the finished cup of coffee in the picture above. Best coffee I ever tasted. Why? Because it’s fresh, it’s pure and I did it myself.

I loved roasting the coffee myself. It tastes fantastic. The process is not difficult. It takes only a few minutes. The bit of extra effort is well worth it. The result is a delicious, fresher than normal, satisfying brew that you and your guests will enjoy. I hope you have as much fun preparing your own coffee as I did. And, please post your comments if you have tips to share. By the way, I’m Michael Levin and this is my first article on Elephant Journal. Thanks for dropping by!

 

 

About Michael Levin

Michael loves sharing what he's learned about organic lifestyles like living off the grid and bicycle commuting. He calls it "lifestyle entrepreneurship". He's into organic gardening, mindful living, and realizes that we only have this life and each other. His favorite quote is "The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both." (James A. Michener)

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14 Responses to “Roast your own coffee”

  1. sh'mal says:

    Michael: I’m impressed with your presentation. You really have it all down with the copy and the pix. No wonder you spend so much time at your art. It is after all an art. I’m pleased that coming to the garden and meeting a new group of folks has impacted your life so positively. Each our turn moved along to where are to go. I had a great day with my grandson; all day with my son working and mama at a Dave Mathews concert. I’m going to write about my day with grandson tomorrow. It’s like manifesting the world they way I want it to be. you know something about that also. It’ll be good o see you around here once in a while when that happens. Sh’mal

  2. John says:

    fascinating stuff! anyone know where to get raw coffee beans? my friend ordered some a few years back and we all noticed rather quickly that if you eat green coffee beans you get an incredible energy burst from just a few. I’ve been trying to find them ever since :)

  3. [...] And, it tastes great. My Ethiopian friends at The Nile amazed the guests I brought to their restaurant on another visit. My friends couldn’t believe I had only been there once before. We were [...]

  4. Joshua See says:

    Hey there,

    What a nice little write up. I enjoyed your endearing talk of your local Ethiopian restaurant and Abeba.

    I was looking for info on the net for how to roast my own coffee… Actually, how to roast it when out on camping trips (the word camping brought up this site). I thought that would be just great…. I’ve seen videos of the more “ceremonial” Ethiopian way and it just seems to appealing… to sit around, listen to and smell the coffee roast before enjoying it…

    Lets take our time and enjoy our coffee, friends and environment :)

    Cheers

  5. Michael Levin Michael says:

    Thanks, Joshua. What a great idea. I’ll try roasting coffee next time I camp out.

  6. Cathy jacob says:

    I really enjoyed your description of roasting the coffee – wondering – do you have to strain it at all?

    I would love to try it – there really is a pleasure in creating!

  7. Kathy, Thanks! When I use the little coffee pot in the article to brew coffee, I am careful to let the grounds settle before I pour. I leave a little coffee behind to keep the grounds from going into the cup.

  8. I was contemplating purchasing a coffee bean grinder, but there's so many different things to consider, many of which I've never even heard of before, things like: How long does it take to grind the coffee beans? How much can I grind at one time? Is the coffee bean grinder electric or manual? Is the grinder a space saver? How many coarness levels does the grinder have, ie; fine, ultrafine or coarse, medium coarseness. How was the cost of a grinder? What is difference in the most expensive grinder to the less expensive grinders? Can you use any flavor of coffee to grind? Does the coffee bean grinder come attached to a coffee maker? Will the coffee grinder have a any type of timer- along with some type of auto shut off?

  9. [...] second dish is one I recognize from my local Ethiopian restaurant, The Nile. It’s called [...]

  10. [...] also include other livestock. And while we’re at it, we can all participate in beef shares, roast our own coffee, brew our own beer, grow our own fruit trees, build our own furniture and knit for each other. I [...]

  11. [...] you raise your voice to my co-worker and tell her you obviously don’t have to be smart to make coffee, you’re overreaching my bounds of customer service and two seconds away from second-degree milk [...]

  12. I believe that is among the most vital information for me. And i am satisfied reading your article. But wanna observation on some general things, The web site taste is wonderful, the articles is actually great : D. Excellent process, cheers

  13. Asher Yaron says:

    Michael, thanks for sharing your discoveries! More and more are experimenting at home which is also the way I started. Like you I also published my first installment for Elephant Journal,
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/07/coffee-tal

    I have been roasting coffee for several years and have discovered quite a bit. I recently gave a TEDx talk about it: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxUbud-Asher-Yar

    A couple of suggestions. Next time stop the roasting and start the cooling just after the second crack. The beans should be a nice chocolate brown color with no visible oils on the surface. This retains many of the flavors that are destroyed when the beans are roasted very dark and oils are showing (this is called a French roast, or Espresso roast). Also, let the beans settle for a few hours after roasting them. You can even roast the coffee before going to bed and then try them the next morning, I think you will find the beans will have a lot more flavors and be more full bodied.

    For a resource for green coffee from around the world, and also for home roasting information and equipment, Sweet Maria's is by far the best online resource there is: http://www.sweetmarias.com

    Happy roasting and experimenting!

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