A Simpeltons Guide to Roasting Coffee

By Nick Chaussee

400 Million. That is a staggering number. Even more staggering? 2.25 Billion. Americans consume nearly 400 million cups of coffee per day, making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world. The world as a whole consumes nearly 2.25 billion cups of coffee in a day. (Streetdirectory.com) The world and especially Americans are hooked on coffee. The addiction is so real that consumers are willing to spend on average $1.38 per cup of coffee, that is over a half of a Billion dollars a day on coffee! I’ll let you in on a little secret though, most of that coffee isn’t worth the money spent to make it.


Fantastic quality coffee can be produced at home for a fraction of the price of a can of stale Foldgers found on the back of the shelf at your local supermarket. If you are like me and are in a quest for better coffee, you have come to the right place. This a guide on how to roast amazing quality coffee for cheaper than you can buy at the store, but it all starts with the beans.


Got the Beans?

There are four main types of coffee beans grown in the world; almost all of them are grown in what is called the “coffee bean belt.” The coffee belt is essentially a band along the equator and produces the best environment for coffee plants to grow. The climate in this belt maintains a year-round temperature of 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit along with sufficient amounts of rain favorable to the conditions required needed for coffee plants to grow.

Arabica Coffee Beans

Arabica beans comprise most of the world’s coffee consumption. Arabica beans are almost exclusively found in Latin America, but depending where they are grown can have very different flavor profiles. Arabicas are also the most fragile type of coffee bean and must be grown in a cooler subtropical climate. Arabica beans are widely considered higher quality and therefore demand a higher price. Familiar flavor profiles include a range from sweet and mellow to tangy sharpness. Unroasted “green” beans often have a berry-like smell similar to that of blueberries. Visually, Arabica beans are slightly larger than the other bean variants distinguished by a more oval shape and lighter color. (theroasterie.com

Robusta Coffee Beans

Robusta coffee beans are second in line behind the Arabica beans with regard to the quantity of consumption. Robusta beans are also a lot more “robust” than Arabica beans lending to a more resilient plant that can be grown in harsher lower attitude environments. Robusta beans also yield a lot more beans per acre than Arabica beans, ultimately resulting in a lower production cost. Visually, Robusta beans are smaller and rounder than Arabica beans. The flavor profile tends to be harsher than that of the Arabica with a taste resembling oatmeal and peanutty smell. (coffee-channel.com) Robusta coffee beans also contain the most caffeine of all of the coffee types, with twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans.


Liberica Coffee Beans

Liberica Coffee beans are primarily grown in the Philippines but are native to western and central Africa. Liberia’s are unique in the coffee heritage of the world as the United States started importing the beans in the 1890s from the Philippines due to a global shortage of Arabica beans. (coffee-channel.com) Visually, the beans are almond-shaped and can be described as having a “floral and fruity aroma.” The Liberica flavor profile is full-bodied with a slightly smokey accent.
Farming of Liberica beans has been decreasing in exchange for heartier hybrid beans that are better suited to grow in varying climates causing Liberica beans to be quite rare and demand a premium price when they can be sourced.


Excelsa Coffee Beans

Excelsa coffee beans are not commonly used at all and only makeup around 7% of the coffee bean consumption around the world. Excelsa beans have been re-classified as a genus of Liberica beans. This is due in part to the climate in which they grow and tall coffee plant that produces the beans in conjunction with their almond shape. Almost entirely grown in Southeast Asia, Exclesa beans are often added to different blends to heighten the flavor of the blend. Exclesa beans have a flavor profile that has been described as “tart, but with a fruity body.” (club.atlascoffeeclub.com)


Roasting 101 – “You suck Beans!!”


So now that I have bored you out of your mind with the different types of beans and the potential flavor profiles you can achieve, you need green coffee beans! I highly recommend either Sweetmarias.com, coffeebeancoral.com, or sonofresco.com. I have had success and received a quality product from each of these companies, although there are tons and tons of coffee importers out there, take your pick.


How are you going to roast your beans?

There are numerous different methods and equipment for roasting coffee beans, ranging from free to thousands upon thousands of dollars. The cheapest is an oven or cast iron pan, and the expensive end being a drum style roaster similar to this for $2,800. For all intents and purposes I recommend using a popcorn air popper for beginners and veterans alike, they can be had for extremely cheap, I have found them for less than $20. Here is a link to the one I have been using for over six months.

Beans? Check…..Green Coffee? Check

The Method

There are many different methods out there that all achieve great results. This method is tailored to using a hot air popcorn popper. It is straightforward, and in no time at all, you will be producing amazing quality coffee that is sure to ruin you from going to the big chain coffee shops ever again!

  1.  Setup your roaster in a well ventilated and well-lit area such as your stove vent hood, or next to an open window. The light will help you judge the color of the beans, and the vent of the window will help with the smoke. (There will be a lot of smoke and coffee smoke doesn’t smell terrible, but it can be overpowering)
  2.  Measure out coffee beans the same way the manufacture suggests for popcorn, usually ½ cup or 3.0± ounces. Roasters vary and so do the size of beans, so some guess and check may need to take place in order to get the perfect amount for your current setup.
  3. Pour beans into popcorn maker. Place lid on maker and position chute over sink or chaff container and turn on popcorn maker. NEVER LEAVE THE ROSTER ALONE! They pose a fire danger to your coffee beans and house.
  4.  Variables come into play, ambient temperature, humidity, roaster type, beans, etc, but as a rule of thumb, one should have roasted coffee in about 5-10 minutes. The first couple of batches may need supervision throughout the entire process, allowing for the different stages to be learned and the different smells, colors, and sounds. After a few batches the roast indicators will become easy to recognize.
  5.  Listen for cracks. First crack should occur around the 3-5 minute mark, second crack occurs after, which is a softer less audible crack in shorter intervals. The beans are perfectly suitable to use for coffee anywhere in between the cracks and little beyond. The level of roast and corresponding time needed to achieve is entirely based on preference, so play around until you find what you like.
  6.  A few seconds before you think the roast is done, pour the beans out into a metal colander. CAREFUL HOT! Stir, shake, mix, whatever you can to cool the beans down as quick as possible. I like to use an aluminum cooking sheet to pour the beans out onto after stirring them in the colander. This helps pull the last little bit of heat out of the beans.

**Note that coffee can be brewed right after roasting. However, better results can be achieved by placing beans in a non-air tight container for 24-36 hours. This will allow for the CO2 to off-gas and the beans will fully develop that pleasant coffee smell we all love.

It should also be noted that when stored in an air-tight container after the first 24-36 hours, roasted coffee tends to remain fresh for up to 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, there is a noticeable loss in quality and taste. I do have a sneaking suspicion that the coffee won’t last that long and will require that you have a fresh batch pretty regularly.

Now what?

That is it; that is how fantastic quality coffee can be produced at home with a little effort and desire for a better morning cup. I have consistently been able to make coffee for around $.033 a cup, with often far superior results than what can be purchased in the supermarket. Regardless of your preferred brewing method, pour-over, Aeropress, traditional coffee pot, or espresso, the most important thing to achieving a quality cup is to store the beans whole and grind them right before brewing. With that consideration, you are destined to brew fantastic coffee each and every time successfully.



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