Coffee Cup
"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2002 - All rights reserved

Coffee Cup
Yes, You Can Roast! Who Knew?
      It should be obvious to you that brewing espresso, or any fine coffee food for that matter, at home can be an detailed and if you are not careful, expensive procedure. It doesn't have to be- expensive that is, and for cup coffee it is fairly simple. Any coffee drinker, for a nominal investment, can enjoy home roasted and home ground coffee. Starting at around $35 or so are manual roasters. These sit on the stove-top and have a whirly-bird propeller inside which slowly rotates by turning a crank at the end of the handle. For as little as around $80 there are automatic, home electric roasters available. One bean supplier gives a manual roaster free with a bean purchase of $150. and for as little as around $40 there are home grinders that would be more than sufficient for drip, french press, vacuum or percolator brewers. Depending on how you want to go, that means that for a minimal investment of between $40 and $190 you can enjoy fresh roasted and ground coffee at home.

      What does that get you? Mainly, the ability to purchase green coffee beans. Green beans for home use are superior because:

* They keep for long periods without losing taste or going stale. Green beans can be kept in a cloth bag in a cool cabinet for six months with no problem. If kept beyond that they will be good as long as a year or two in sealed containers.

* Green beans are available in far more varieties. There are dozens and dozens to choose from and that doesn't even count the blends.

* It's fast. A roast only takes about 6 to 8 minutes plus a few more minutes for the beans to cool (they continue to roast if not cooled down as the beans are dense and hold a lot of heat). Figure less than fifteen minutes per batch.

* Roasting in small batches means that your roasted coffee beans will not go stale before you get a chance to use them. No more throwing out "old" coffee that wasn't brewed before turning to industrial waste.

* Blending to taste is easy when buying your own green beans. Find some varieties you like and develop your own "house blend."

* It is far less expensive. Roasted beans cost around $11 to $25 a pound. Green beans cost from $4.50 to $10 a pound. It doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to see that at those prices it would not take long to pay for your roaster and grinder investment and all the while you are enjoying better, fresher coffee.

* You can vary the roast for different purposes- a dark roast for espresso and a lighter roast for the percolator.

* Since roasted beans should be used well before they are three weeks old (best within five days), and ground coffee used almost immediately for the best taste, pre-processed coffee would certainly seem to be a dramatic compromise- trading a few minutes of convenience for taste.

      It is also quite easy. Coffee bean roasters today are light years ahead of what was used at the turn of the century. Back then, you knew the roast had gone too far when the house smelled like burning dungarees or flames were coming out of the roaster. Today, many home roasters are electronically controlled with precise timers and temperature monitors built in. Once you find the roast time and degree that suites your taste and the beans, repeatability in the roast is fairly simple.

      Even though most modern home roasters are easy to use, there are a few things to remember:

* These roaster tend to create some smoke, particularly near the end of the roast as the oils come to the surface of the bean and the temperature of the roast reaches its peak. To avoid smoking up the house simply use them under a stove hood that is turned on to exhaust the smoke.

* Beans should be left for about a day after roasting so plan your roasts ahead of time.

* Because there are high temperatures involved (around 500-550 degrees), a coffee roaster should never be left unattended. You don't have to actually stand over it (although the bouncing of the beans in the airflow is quite hypnotic) but you should be in the same room while roasting. The danger comes from the oil in the beans which can become quite flammable if over-roasted and the chaff which comes off the beans in the roasting process. Even though coffee roasters do have chaff collectors which should be carefully cleaned after each roast, it is still a slight fire hazard. I suppose it is the same way that a toaster should not be left unattended for safety reasons.

      So whether you drink coffee by the cup or enjoy home brewed espresso (or anything in between) home roasting is a wonderful way to go.

      For more information on roasting details, take a look at Kennith Davids' chapter on Roasting Styles part of his excellent article on Home Roasting at Lucidcafe. Additionally, take a look at the Coffee Glossary for a complete listing of terms used to describe coffee. It's all probably more than you need, but makes a great reference. Finally, there is a lot of good information at Sweet Maria's.

      So, we ended up spending less on a grinder than we originally planned, getting a good deal on the Saeco MC2002 and using the savings to purchase the Hearthware Precision home roaster. This compact unit roasts about three ounces of beans at a time.

      Is that it? Are we done? Be serious! Like the weather in the Rockies, if you don't like it, wait ten minutes. The next day after ordering "my system," and at the prompting of a poster, I called Whole Latte Love again (for the forth time) and after discussing my choices with the sales person I changed my order from the Saeco grinder to the Rocky grinder. When the nice person picked up the call and I told her she said, "Oh, yes. I have your order right here." I assumed that it must have been easy to spot with the bright red writing across the top what stated, "Problem customer- will call daily with stupid questions." So the bottom line continues to rise. Where will it end? I don't know the "where" but I know it better end soon!

Coffee Cup
  -   -   - Silvia
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