Green Columbian coffee beans
That's it. I'm an official cottage industry. In the very least I've hoisted myself unto an impressive level of frugality. When you're monetarily challenged, you have to turn artful if you want to keep fed and sufficiently caffeinated. I mark the point of dire when I start pillaging metropolitan hives to make candles because I can't make the electric bill.
Newly roasted at 5 minutes, 6 minutes, & 8.5 minutes
This all started with bread, remember, because I needed a wheelbarrow full of lincolns to buy a walnut loaf from La Brea Bakery just down the road. Almond milk was not far off in the wings, and while I don't grow my own produce (no space), I do steal lemons, rosemary and the occasional floral arrangement from my neighbors, so I think that may qualify as 'farming', or urban foraging if you please. It does, admittedly, sound a wee more chic.
All that aside, dear Reader, today I've begun roasting my own coffee which officially seals the deal.
Cottage industry me.
Roasting coffee has more perks than you realize. For one thing it's much cheaper to buy green beans from Sweet Maria's, five bucks a pound vs. thirteen. You get the added security of superiority over the plebians who still buy theirs from Trader J's, and it tastes like bring-you-to-your-knees-and-make-you-weep heaven.
I realize that I frequent the dramatic intermittently, but this time the goods warrant the euphoric description. I imagine that my matinal joe, newly roasted and completely sublime, is what the Universe had in mind when it planted the world's first bean.
This is a messy, hot venture, albeit brief, and you will probably smell like coffee all the livelong day after you roast a few batches, but once you take the first sip, you will grieve for not having done so sooner. You're no plebe, to be sure. That's why you're reading this post.
Here's what you will need:
A West Bend Poppery II air popcorn popper.
It's ugly as sin, but this little gizmo is what will elevate your coffee experience to one ambrosial. There is a veritable heap on eBay, but sellers are hip to the urbanites using them for roasting beans, so don't expect to get one for a buck. They generally fetch $25 - $29 plus shipping. Just be certain that it's the Poppery II, evidently some of the snazzier models will burn your house down.
You will need green coffee beans...
I'm using Mocha Java and Columbian. Sweet Maria's sells sampler packs so you can try beans from all over the world. Well, from those places that grow beans anyway.
Small = Mocha Java Big = Columbian
You will also need a wooden spoon and half measure.
And finally, a metal colander and some canning jars or other containers to store your beans. Please, dispense with the plastic because they absorb flavors and smells. In the case of storing coffee in plastic, the oils will get trapped in the walls of your container and go rancid, thus spoiling every subsequent batch you pour in. Glass jars are best. Just be sure that whatever vessel you use, they come with tight fitting lids.
Here's how this goes.
1) Position the machine so that the spout is over the sink or a bowl that has been lined with a wet towel so that the chaff gets directed there or it will fly over the whole of the kitchen. It's sort of a messy affair, but nothing a quick sweep won't ameliorate when you're done, and certainly not one so large as to abandon the whole idea of roasting beans altogether.
2) plug in the machine to heat it up.
3) Measure out a scant 1/2 cup of green beans. Do not use more, or your roast will be uneven. If you want a larger stash, roast in batches. But the point of roasting coffee is not frugality, really, it's about always having fresh beans on hand. You should use the beans within a week, anything after that seriously degrades the quality of the cup. Now you can imagine what sort of swill is derived from those elderly beans you've been buying all these years.
4) Dump them into the machine.
5) Stir them as they spin every 30 seconds or so, to ensure an even roast. Yes, the chaff will fly out of the top when you stir, but who cares. It's a teeny sacrifice for what goodness awaits.
5) The beans will begin to turn yellow, then gold, then light brown, then get darker and darker.
You will hear them start to crackle, this is what is called 'first crack', and happens around four minutes in. You are supposed to be able to time the roasting around these 'cracks'. Around 6 minutes is when I heard 'second crack', but I could be wrong. I pretty much heard crackling through the whole experiment, and it was hard to differentiate between first, second, and the (evidently dreaded) third. I think 'third crack' was around 8 minutes, which was my darkest roast, and which turned out to be remarkable.
6) When you want to stop the roasting process, it is crucial to cool the beans down quickly so they don't over roast. You can do this simply by pouring them into your awaiting metal colander (be careful, the top of the machine will be blazing hot. The sides will be warm, but you can handle it), and swirling them around over a fan.
I just used a regular old house fan and angled it so that it was blowing upward. I stood over it and swirled my beans for a couple of minutes. They cool really quickly.
These are my 5 minute/10 second beans
7) Let them cool further in little dishes, where they can also be admired in all their splendor.
8) When they are completely cool, get them into your canning jars. But don't put the lids on just yet.
The coffee needs to cure for 8 - 24 hours because it gives off CO2. If you seal them up, this gas will spoil the beans. I lidded mine at 12 hours with lovely results.
Further, do not brew the beans for 4 - 24 hours after you roast them. The flavor is not fully actualized until then. I had a cup after 4, sublime, and the next morning, ambrosial even still.
Just as important, use the beans within 7 days of roasting, or what's the point of home roasting at all?
On Degrees Of Roast
I did experiment with a few degrees of roast. I do love the dreaded darker roasts for which 'true' coffee connoisseurs would flog me. I did not go as far as French or Italian. My darker roast turned out smoky and chocolatey and fabulous. But I must say, having roasted my own beans, the lighter roast was fantastic. Here is a link to sweet Maria's full popcorn popper tutorial, with a YouTube video showing the experts do what I pretty much outlined above. And here is a visual guide with video that explains degrees of roast, the detriments and qualities of each thereof.
Who loves watery coffee? No one. That's who. Use the appropriate ratio of coffee beans to water, and you will be ensured a rich cup every time. The rule of brewing is as follows:
FOR THE PRESS
5g, or 1 LEVEL TB whole beans per 4 oz water. Grind your beans, get them into your beaker. Let them bloom for one minute and for Pete's sake, DO NOT STIR. To 'bloom' means to coax the fullest flavor from the ground beans, which is what we want, no? Max flave from out little friends? This little method of blooming without stirring, then stirring before brewing also helps avoid the dreaded explosion that occurs when you stir the beans right away and try to plunge the pot. If you let the beans bloom, when you are ready to plunge, you will find that the plunger goes down with mind-boggling ease.
After one minute, stir. Insert the plunger so that it rests about a half-inch above the beans. Let it brew for 3 - 4 minutes.
For those of you who use an electric coffee maker, stop now, go to Walgreens and buy yourself a can of Yuban because that's the quality of bean you should employ for such ungodly contraptions, none greater. What's more, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.
For those of you who have a filter cone, bravo!
The ratio of beans to water is 8g beans, or one ROUNDED TB, to 5 oz water. You can make coffee for a crowd and use a larger vessel as above, or you can fly solo and make one cup like this.
The measurements for each still apply.
Grind your beans. Fit a cone with an unbleached filter of appropriate shape and size. Wet the filter, pouring out any excess water if there is any. Get the ground beans into the cone. Now, using a circular motion, wet the beans with an ever so slight amount of water. You only want to use enough water so that all the beans are just hydrated. Let it 'bloom' for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, slowly pour the remainder of the water in a circular motion over the beans. Repeating until you've reached the appropriate volume of water for the amount of ground beans.
Or not to cream.
That is ye question. Don't you loathe when others try to outline requirements how you should imbibe your joe? The enjoyment of coffee is a very specific thing. Everyone has their qualified preference. That's not to say that we should be cantankerously stuck in our ways. My suggestion is this: If you've gone through the trouble of roasting your own beans, why not have a cup without any enhancements at all, just for the thrill of it? That way you get to taste the glory of the cup in all its nakedness. Perhaps it will allow you to see exactly how you might experiment next time round.
Raw cocoa nibs
I occasionally like to add some cocoa nibs to my beans for a cup with hints of chocolate (you can get them in bulk at Whole Foods). This does not add up to the horrid and sickly sweet 'mocha' that you can get at Starbucks. Adding a small amount of cocoa nibs to the grind (yes, you will grind them along with your beans), about a teaspoon for every two TB of coffee, will add a pleasant 'oooooh, what's that?' appeal to your cuppa. Don't go overboard. This is an enhancement to your joe, not a cup of cocoa.
Roasting your own coffee is not scary or time consuming at all my self-sufficient cohorts. The whole dealeo took about 30 exhilarating minutes to roast three batches done.
Here's hoping you elevate your coffee experience by roasting your own beans. Frankly, if it's something you drink every day as do I, there is hardly a reason not to.
Bere bene, vivi felice!