3 Steps

Choose a roaster

Choose green coffee

Understand the
roast process

How to Get Started Roasting Coffee

Home coffee roasting is as fun and easy, or as exacting and technical, as you want to make it. You can be a barbarian and roast in a skillet (as I used to do), or buy a fancy professional sample roaster. Don't be afraid of crackling coffee beans and pay attention to the process, especially toward the end of the roast. Either way you will make friends and influence people (maybe).

The basic process is simple: take green (unroasted) coffee and turn it brown. There are many ways to roast coffee, from custom made home appliances, to simple pan roasting, or re-purposing a hot air popcorn popper.

Roasting time varies depending on the method: convection roasting (a hot air popcorn popper or a small dedicated home roaster) takes about 8 to 12 minutes. Conduction roasting (a skillet or cookie sheet in an oven, or a small drum roaster) takes about 14 to 18 minutes. Read more about the roasting process here...


Step 1: Choose a roaster

There are many ways to roast coffee. The method you choose should be influenced 1) how much roasted coffee you need and 2) how much money you want to spend. Whether you choose a D.I.Y. approach or a small appliance matters depends mostly on how you like to approach things, and if you want more or less automation.

<td >Ye olde Skillet / Wok Instructions

Do-It-Yourself Methods
The D.I.Y. approach is a great way to get started, especially if you can re-purpose an electric hot air Popcorn Popper that you have in a cupboard, or can find second-hand. You can even find them cheaply in a hardware store, Target or Wal-Mart usually. You can also use a skillet, a stovetop popper, or a cookie sheet in the oven. These latter methods roast less evenly and require some technique to get good results, that is why we recommend the air popper method.

   
Hot Air Popcorn Popper Instructions (Recommended)
Stovetop Popcorn Instructions Oven Roasting Instructions
   

Home Coffee Roasting Appliances
An appliance gives you a built-in timer, a way to collect chaff, and (depending on the model) some control over the temperature and air flow. Some models have smoke suppression. Air roasters takes less than10 minutes, roast very evenly without scorching, and are better for small amounts of coffee. The advantages of drum roasting are a larger batch size and an even roast, but these machines require more attention and generate more smoke.

See our Home Roasting FAQ for more help finding the right roaster for you.

     

 

Step 2: Choose green coffee

We suggest the 4 lb. Sampler as a starting place. We select coffees that help you learn the major differences in flavor between regions and provide a relatively even roast. From there, browse our region information and coffee offerings to narrow down which coffees you'd like to try next. If you need more help, our Green Coffee FAQ will help take the mystery out of selecting.


Step 3: The Roast Process

Understanding the different stages of the roast will help you control the flavor of your cup and appreciate how different roasts result in different cup flavors.

  • Yellowing: For the first few minutes the bean remains greenish, then turn lighter yellowish and emit a grassy smell.
  • Steam: The beans start to steam as their internal water content dissipates.
  • First Crack: The steam becomes fragrant. Soon you will hear the "first crack," an audible cracking sound as the real roasting starts to occur: sugars begin to caramelize, bound-up water escapes, the structure of the bean breaks down and oils migrate from their little pockets outward.
  • First Roasted Stage: After the first crack, the roast can be considered complete any time according to your taste. The cracking is an audible cue, and, along with sight and smell, tells you what stage the roast is at. This is what is call a City roast.
  • Caramelization: Caramelization continues, oils migrate, and the bean expands in size as the roast becomes dark. As the roast progresses, this is a City + roast. Most of our roast recommendations stop at this point. When you are the verge of second crack, that is a Full City roast.
  • Second Crack: At this point a "second crack" can be heard, often more volatile than the first. The roast character starts to eclipse the origin character of the beans at this point and is also known as a Vienna roast. A few pops into second crack is a Full City + roast. Roasting all the way through second crack may result in small pieces of bean being blown away like shrapnel!
  • Darkening Roast: As the roast becomes very dark, the smoke is more pungent as sugars burn completely, and the bean structure breaks down more and more. As the end of second crack approaches you will achieve a French roast.
  • Ack!! Too Late! Eventually, the sugars burn completely, and the roast will only result in thin-bodied cup of "charcoal water."

    Also see our Use All Five Senses to Determine Roast Level page with lots more detail.

Storage:

After cooling, allow the coffee to rest for 4-8 hours in a loosly closed container or valve bag. Then seal the container tight, or store in valve bag for up to a week. Of course you can drink your coffee at any time after you have roasted it but for peak flavor and body resting, letting the coffee off gas CO2, is bestl. A lot of folks ask about the freezer, you can store roasted coffee in the freezer if you will not be using it for a week or more, after you start using it keep it at room temperature. Green coffee is best stored in the plastic bags they we ship them in, in a cool dry place.


For more information on these topics and more, check out the
Sweet Maria's Coffee Library