August 31, 2008

Roast your own coffee

It’s easy to roast your own coffee. Ever wonder how people did it hundreds of years ago? They didn’t have electricity, fancy roasters, grinders and espresso makers. They just grabbed a handful of beans and went for it. You can, too!

Here’s the short story. Just take a handful and put them in a pot over a high heat. Roast them until brown. It takes five to ten minutes. Then, grind and brew.

Want some details? I hoped you would! I’ll share with you some of my favorite coffee destinations. Then, I’ll describe how you can roast your own coffee.

My love affair with coffee began years ago in Houston, TX. We had a little store called “Pueblo to People” in the Montrose that offered fair-trade coffee beans at low prices. Nicaraguan beans proved to be my favorite. No matter where I looked, the beans from Pueblo to People were always the best.

Later, I went to Costa Rica and visited a coffee finca (farm). These beans were green and red. Beautiful!

(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

Dublin, Ireland is the home of beloved Bewley’s, known for its tummy warming coffee. Here’s a shot of their Probat roaster.

(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

There’s a little coffee shop I love to visit on Florida’s east coast. They have an authentic Ethiopian coffee roaster.

(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

Beautiful Crested Butte, Colorado is the home of Camp 4 Coffee. Al’s the owner. He loves his work. He’s a former big business guy who decided to chuck the fast pace and live somewhere he loved. He wanted to do something that he could do as an artisan. Camp 4 Coffee was born.

(photo from www.camp4coffee.com)

Al took me on a tour of his roastery. He showed me the method he uses to roast the finest coffee beans.

(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

That’s the author of his article on the left and Al on the right in the photo above. Al has a huge, commercial roaster. He pointed out that after some time, the beans crack with a loud pop. Camp 4 Coffee is more than just an artisan coffee shop. They employ many local people. Their baristas brew tasty, visually appealing coffee.

(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

It was a magical tour. I ordered beans from Al’s online store at www.camp4coffee.com in 8lb bulk to save money. But, you don’t need fancy equipment to roast your own coffee.

My first roasting attempt was with a home roaster that resembled a popcorn popper. The result was less than impressive.

I visited a friend in Sacramento, California. He and I had dinner at a Moroccan restaurant. The coffee they served was among the best I’d ever had. They roasted it themselves, adding spices. I took some home with me. I tried roasting my own beans with the electric roaster again. But, again I was disappointed.

Later, I visited another friend in Berkeley, California. He and I visited one of the Ethiopian restaurants on Telegraph Road near the university. Not only was the food incredible, but the coffee was fantastic. It was my first time to try Ethiopian food. And, I discovered they roasted their own beans, too.

When I came back to Orlando, FL the first chance I got I googled “Ethiopian restaurant Orlando” and found Orlando’s only Ethiopian restaurant, The Nile. The food was spectacular. I was tempted to try the coffee, but the menu said service was for 3-4, so I planned to try it when I came with some friends. Owner Abeba (as in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia) asked me how I liked my meal. She asked if I’d like some coffee. I explained that I had read the menu offerering service for 3-4 people and I intended to come back with my friends. She said she’d love to let me try some on the house, as a treat.

(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

Abeba used a metal pot with a long handle and an electric heating element. She put the beans in the pot and held it over the hot element. As the temperature rose, she gently moved the pot, keeping the beans in motion. I heard a crack a few minutes later. Then another crack. The beans turned from green to a dark brown in less than five minutes. She crushed the beans with a mortar and pestle and brewed them in another pot. You can see the detail in the picture. The coffee was superb. She served it in a little cup similar to the ones used to drink espresso. All the while, the most exquisite incense was burning. Ethiopian music wafted in from the dining room. Coffee at the Nile restaurant is far from ordinary. It was a true ceremony, Ethiopian style.

(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I bought a pound of raw Ethiopian beans from Abeba for $7.00. I asked Abeba about the pot. She said she sold them, too. The were available for $20.00. But, she added honestly, “I’d try it with your own pot, first.” and smiled pleasantly.

(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

So, I had to try it myself. I worried that my Teflon (TM) coated pot would be damaged from the heat. I have a gas stove, not an electric one. Days passed. Well, today I decided to give it a go.

I grabbed a handful of beans. About enough for a big pot of coffee, just like Abeba did. I put the beans in my fancy pot. I turned on the gas stove and the overhead vent, remembering how the house smelled last time I tried roasting beans. Nice smell, but it lingered for a long time. I noted the time I started roasting.

(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

I gently shook the pot as the beans heated up. About three minutes later, the beans started to smell good and turn brown. About five minutes later, I heard a few cracks as the beans began to pop. I kept the lid on the pot because the chaff from the beans tended to float all over the kitchen without it. I could have stopped at seven or eight minutes, but I like a darker roast. Ten minutes later, I was satisfied that I had a dark roast ready to grind.

(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

The finished beans were beautiful! They were dark, smelled great, and had a shiny luster just like beans from the pros.

(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

I have an electric bean grinder. But, I wanted to try grinding the beans the old fashioned way. So, with a little elbow grease and a smile on my face, I ground the beans by hand with a mortar and pestle.

(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

I used the little stove top coffee pot shown in the picture below to brew my freshly roasted Ethiopian coffee beans.

(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

The brewing process is three phased. You put in a little coffee and some water. If you like, you can add some sugar and even pepper, cardamom or other spices. Watch the coffee as it boils. Before it boils over, you remove it from the heat. Do this two more times. Then, it’s ready to serve.

(photo by Michael Levin www.zoobird.com)

That’s the finished cup of coffee in the picture above. Best coffee I ever tasted. Why? Because it’s fresh, it’s pure and I did it myself.

I loved roasting the coffee myself. It tastes fantastic. The process is not difficult. It takes only a few minutes. The bit of extra effort is well worth it. The result is a delicious, fresher than normal, satisfying brew that you and your guests will enjoy. I hope you have as much fun preparing your own coffee as I did. And, please post your comments if you have tips to share. By the way, I’m Michael Levin and this is my first article on Elephant Journal. Thanks for dropping by!

Read 14 Comments and Reply

Read 14 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Michael Levin  |  Contribution: 8,240