A Novice Coffee Roaster’s Adventure, Part Two
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Part One concluded after three minutes of roasting, with the beans taking on some color. Next, or so we had read, would come the first of two “cracks.” The heat causes the beans to expand, crack and shed a papery chaff. Sure enough, at about 4:30, we hear the first crack and begin to see some smoke and steam. Time to crank up those hood fans.
Now this is starting to look and smell like coffee:
Mistake number two, though not on the magnitude of the Whirly Pop fiasco, is that I should be wearing a glove on my stirring hand. That, or I need a longer spoon. The heat is intense.
With the beans now cracking steadily, I’m noticing that chaff is raining down on everything within a three foot radius of the pan. Nothing the vacuum attachment won’t take care of with minimal effort, but I now see why some suggest roasting outdoors over a hot grill.
At this juncture, the only disappointment is the uneven color. I begin to stir with more urgency, hoping to even them out.
The first crack subsides at about 6:00 but picks up again a minute later. This must be the second crack we’d read about. Again, right on schedule. At this point, the beans are a solid medium roast with an odd darker bean sprinkled in. The color is evening out and the beans have taken on an oily sheen. Not bad.
Paranoid as we are about scorching them and ending up with a wretched “Starbucks roast,” we decide to pull the plug after about eight minutes.
At this point the idea is to cool the beans as quickly as possible. Two metal strainers do the trick, as we pour the beans back and forth between them to expose them to as much air as possible for even cooling, shaking off remaining chaff in the process. We discover that the beans carry-over cook for minutes after being removed from the pan. The good news is that the color is much more even than when we took them off; the bad news is that you will end up with a slightly darker roast than you thought you expected. I’ll take that into account by pulling the beans off a bit early in the future.
As soon as the beans are cool enough to handle, I insist on grinding and brewing them. Mistake number three. It is recommended that the beans rest for 24 hours before brewing. While I don’t know much about the science, they continue to emit gas and moisture during this rest period. For this reason, it’s also recommended that your beans be stored overnight in a brown paper sack which will allow them to breathe. By sticking your nose in the bag you can smell a difference after only a couple hours. The aroma is noticeably deeper and richer.
Naturally, my impatience led to disappointment. The first brew tasted a thin and sharp with a short finish. Not bad, mind you, but not nearly what it would be the following day. Lesson learned.
After a proper day’s rest, this coffee is as good as any I’ve tasted and far superior to most. Maybe that was because my labor was invested in the project? Not that it matters.
For B/SOTLs who prefer to pair their favorite smokes with a fresh cup of joe, you have to give this a shot. In the end, you’ll have better, cheaper coffee, custom roasted to your taste. With a glove or a long wooden spoon (and minus the heinous Whirly Pop) the process is painless. Trust your eyes and nose and you’ll fare well. And it’ll make your house smell awesome for a good eight hours. Enjoy!