Sunday, July 24, 2011

Urban Practicality: Home Coffee Roasting

Popcorn Air-popper = Coffee bean Roaster

I hate coffee snobs.  I can't stand beer snobs.  Wine snobs are the best because deep-down, they know that they are full of crap, whereas coffee and beer snobs ACTUALLY tend to believe the the stuff they say.  Of all of the drinks-based festivals and tastings I've attended, the beer ones were far-and-away the most insufferable.  Tea and Whiskey/Whisky snobs are tolerable unless the conversation moves toward preparation, then you are better off just leaving.  Vodka snobs?  Get real.

People start laying into me all the time about where to get the best coffee, why their supplier is the best, and their supposed mastery and virtuosity of the incalculable variation in the preparation.  Spare me.  If you use a paper filter, you have no business talking nuance of flavor.  I got so sick of it all, that I decided to just do my own roasting and see how it turned out.  Spoiler alert: it turned out brilliantly.

Instead of a $350 grill-top device, I bought a $19 hot-air popcorn popper and some green ("raw") coffee beans from Polcari's in Boston.  As you can see, they have everything, including a selection of Assam-based tea (of which I am particularly fond).


I prefer the more sensible and lower caffeine content of Arabica beans to Supremo.

Once back home, I loaded the air popper with the raw beans and watched them roast.  I monitor the color and smoke in order to prevent burning or even the very dark "French Roast". You have to lean it back so keep the beans from flying out.  In the photo below, one can see how I roasted them to the Full/Full+ City Roast range (linked guide below).

Husks everywhere in the aftermath.

Let the beans cool for two hours in open air (this is very important) and grind them before each use within a week of roasting.  I use a standard electric grinder followed by a French Press, followed by no milk and no sugar.  Also, the popper can be cleaned with a paper towel afterwards with no flavoring to your popcorn.

Here is a crappy video I made of the process:

If you decide to give this a try, let me know how it goes.  Here is an excellent visual guide to when you should literally pull the plug on a roaster (based on your desired degree of roastedness).


  1. Fascinatin' stuff here Whiskey-Papa. Looking through this, though, I think I'll stay with the basic "breakfast blend" I buy at the supermarket. Already ground, of course. But I'll do so admiring those such as you, who have a greater appreciation for such things than I. So, how was it?

  2. Very impressive! I don't drink coffee, so much of the commentary is Greek to me. I appreciate your 'can-do' approach.

  3. Befitting the appellation "Yankee."

  4. What a great idea - can't wait to give it a bash. A dear Ethiopian friend makes it a family affair to roast coffee beans in the backyard with the kids running around and the air smelling heavenly (she adds a wonderful mix of whole spices to the roast). It's a lovely way to while away a sunny afternoon . . . and not a coffee-snob in sight, just lots of giggles and fun!

  5. *Reggie Daahling: The taste is better than imagined... freshly ground per day, there are fewer better. It makes most other styles taste pretty stale.

    *LBF: I imagine that your schools taught a little Greek, no? Latin is no fun without a bit of its precursor to get started. Also, I'd try to dry tea leaves at home if I had a good source.

    *JKG: You're alive! Great to see your moniker again! You were no doubt motorcycling through Chile or some similar adventure? I took the DownEaster up to Portland recently, and thought of you.

    *BB: There is no coffee I like better than Ethiopian. Boston and DC have sizable Ethiopian populations and the restaurants and coffee are beyond belief. A City Roast of Ethiopian coffee beans is the finest flavor around.

  6. Polcari's huh? I think I have to slightly adjust my radius on the search for the cocktail flag........

  7. Bustello...still less than four bucks a brick. I leave the handcrafted artisnal stuff to the third worlders.

  8. Looks like a fun way to spend an hour or so with the kids in the coming 13 month winter (we're all coffee addicts out here). Thanks for sharing.


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