Roasting coffee at home can be as easy and fun or as technical as a person wants to make it.
Coffee beans can be roasted in a fancy coffee roasting machine, a re purposed popcorn popper, a skillet, or the oven. Put in simple terms, the process involves using heat to transform green unroasted coffee to coffee that is brown roasted.
Depending on the method used and the size of the batch, roasting can take from ten to 16 minutes. How much money one wants to invest influences the method chosen. A re purposed popcorn popper is recommended because the roast is more even.
Using a cookie sheet for oven roasting, a stove top popper or a skillet requires some technique to obtain good results. Coffee roasting appliances have built-in timers, a way to collect chafe, and possible control over air flow and temperature.
Air roasters can roast coffee in less than ten minutes. They roast evenly without scorching. They are best used for small amounts. Drum roasters roast large amounts of coffee evenly, but generate more smoke and require more attention.
There are samplers available to help select coffees and learn the flavour differences between regions. Understanding the stages of roasting helps control the flavours.
After the first few minutes, the green beans turn to a lighter yellow colour and emit a smell similar to grass. The internal water content dissipates when the beans begin to steam. When the beans crack, the steam becomes fragrant.
An audible cracking sound is heard as real roasting begins. Sugars start to caramelize. The bean structure breaks down as bound-up water escapes. Oils migrate outward from little pockets in the beans. After hearing the first crack, roasting is considered complete when the flavour matches the preference of the roaster.
The audible crack, sight, and smell are used to determine the roasting stage. Caramelisation, oil migration, and bean expansion continues as the roast darkens. A second cracking can occur. Stopping the roast on the verge of a second crack, is considered full roast.
When the roast is very dark, the sugars burn completely and the smoke is pungent. The end of the second crack yields a French roast. If the sugars burn completely; the roast will make the cup of coffee a thin-bodied charcoal water.
There is a lot to figure out about roasting. There is the taste profile, relative humidity, moisture content, altitude, and origin of the coffee. One of the primary components of coffee roasting is the coffee density. There are hard and soft coffee beans.
The density affects how coffee beans are roasted. The range of coffee bean density varies on a scale from strictly hard to strictly soft. Coffee beans that grow at an altitude of 4000 to 4500 feet above sea level are classified as hard beans for the most part.
The scale varies somewhat from country to country. Higher altitudes typically have lower temperatures. Coffee beans need a hot climate to grow. However, the cooler the weather, the longer it takes for the beans to ripen.
The coffee beans that mature more slowly become denser. The flavours and sugar content develop better in beans from high altitudes. The development of sugar and flavour give the beans the desired acidity.
Softer beans from lower altitudes are more porous due to the warmer temperatures. The density also depends on the amount of moisture in the beans. The freshness of the beans, the quality of processing, and the way they are stored affect the density of the coffee beans. Altitude is an easy-to-measure aspect of coffee bean density.
Recognizing Hard and Soft Coffee Beans
Looking at the coffee beans helps to determine whether they are hard of soft. The more open the centre of the bean, the softer it is. When asked for roasting advice, expert roaster, Cesar Magana of Lechuza Cafè El Salvador, said the main difference between hard and soft beans is the ability to absorb heat.
The flavour development of hard beans is better than soft beans, but they are more resistant to heat. The structure of soft beans is less solid. They have air pockets that slow down the inward heat transfer.The surface of soft beans is susceptible to overheating.
There is a risk of scorching beans that get too hot. Cesar Magana's advice is to roast soft beans at a lower temperature than hard beans. Joe Behm is associated with making home bean roasters. He tells us about the importance of roast time.
Soft beans should be roasted longer than hard beans. Behm's home roasters have profiles for different bean densities. There are so many beans. Explaining how to roast beans for the perfect cup of coffee is difficult because of the factors such as age that have an impact on roasting.
The Roaster of Cafè Cultar, Steven Martinez, uses a more scientific approach. Before roasting, he suggests recording density, moisture content, and planned roasting temperature. While the beans roast, keep recording all data.
The information helps understand the resulting quality and narrow down the perfect profile for roasting each type of bean. As the coffee is tasted, the impact of temperature and density can be mapped to understand what makes the best cup of coffee.
It is expected that initial roasts will be less than perfect. The person wanting to roast coffee beans for the perfect cup of coffee must be interested in such things as the region, varietal, and processing method to define a roasting curve.
It is a blend of science and art that takes time to learn all the intricacies. The perfect cup is achieved from roasting coffee beans and recording data, analyzing results, and continuing to learn more. Just like roasting, the results improve with time.
The perfect cup of coffee is a matter of personal taste. Experimenting is the best means of achieving it. A perfect cup of coffee is subject to many variables.