How to Roast Your Own Coffee for an Amazing Cup

If you’ve wondered how to roast your own coffee, we have all the techniques you’ll need.

| April/May 2014

When I went to work on a coffee farm in the Kona Coffee Belt of Hawaii’s Big Island, I already knew how great freshly ground coffee could be. What I didn’t know until I learned how to roast coffee on the farm was how much more interesting freshly roasted coffee could be.

Coffee tastes best 12 to 24 hours after the beans are roasted — numerous flavor compounds begin to dissipate just a few days after roasting. Your entry to roasting your own can be as low-tech (a cast-iron pot) or as sophisticated (roasting machines start at $100) as you like.

Judging the Java

Determining coffee doneness strictly by timing is difficult, because many factors, such as humidity, affect how long these stages take. As the beans roast, they transform from pale green to light brown to dark brown to almost black. The green coffee beans make the telltale popping sounds of the “first crack” that comes just before a light roast, as well as the “second crack” that comes near the dark-roast stage.

Some roasters have thermostats to set for each roast. Each stage of the roast has its own name: Cinnamon Roast (385 degrees Fahrenheit), New England Roast (401 degrees), American Roast (410 degrees, at the beginning of first crack), City Roast (426 degrees), Full City Roast (437 degrees, at the beginning of second crack), Vienna Roast (446 degrees), French Roast (464 degrees), Italian Roast (473 degrees) and Spanish Roast (482 degrees). Many coffee connoisseurs agree that varietal character is lost in roasts darker than City Roast.

As you become proficient in home coffee roasting, you’ll trust your senses and learn when the roast you prefer is reached, smell the right aroma, hear the first crack and, depending on how dark you want the roast, the second crack. Best of all, roasting your own joe gives you a deliciously sippable end product.

Roasting Requirements

Heat: To caramelize sugars and release flavorful oils, roast coffee beans at high temperatures. Beans can be roasted through convection (circulating hot air), conduction (touching a hot surface), radiation (being bathed in heat from a radiating source) or a combination of the three. To get an even roast, keep either the beans or the air around the beans moving.

4/14/2014 1:13:09 PM

I began as a home roaster about ten years ago, and I have used about every inexpensive method I could find. Experimenting with the method is as much fun as experimenting with beans from around the world. I highly recommend giving it a try. It's a very tasty hobby!

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