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Home roasting  - What is your motivation?

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  • Home roasting  - What is your motivation?

    My first post - thanks for reading.

    As someone who is about to try home-roasting, I have been wondering if I can seriously expect to match some of the pre-roasted beans I enjoy or in fact exceed those for quality.

    Obviously, I expect to burn a fair bit and I know theres a learning curve, but is the pleasure derived from the process a big part of what motivates you, or do you believe that you produce something which cannot easily be purchased?

    I would be keen to know how you assess this initial expectation:

    The first few roasts will vary between undrinkable and having bushfire potential.  I will be discouraged initially and waste a few Kilos of coffee.  But then (hopefully quite soon)  I will feel that I have some control over my XU-1 roasting sessions and will produce something which approaches some of my preferred coffees (but will not be as good).  I will persevere and end up thinking that I am roasting something which is better than what I can buy, but will, in fact be fooling myself, but having a great time in the process.

    If youd like to respond, but couldnt be bothered giving a detailed response as its such a large issue, you could give me your answer in code:  
    A = Spot on
    B = No, youll be thrilled with the results if you take the time to learn  and
    C = No -itll be more frustrating than you could ever imagine and youll wonder why you bothered.  

    N.B. I expect no Cs as this would imply that the respondent is a poor roaster and from what Ive read so far, youre all at "RoastMaster Level V" status. ;-)

    Thanks for reading and I look forward to your thoughts.

  • #2
    Re: Home roasting  - What is your motivation?


    but in all honesty, I am yet to roast a horror batch. all of my beans have turned out from good to outstanding (my opinion) and if you can put aside the mess you might make, its awesome fun, and great coffee is not a particular difficult result to obtain.

    The troubles you are concerned about shouldnt really eventuate in any great quantity, as long as you read the advice the gurus have provided.

    good luck mate.


    • #3
      Re: Home roasting  - What is your motivation?

      If you take the time to learn you will find the beans you roast are far superior to anything you can buy pre-roasted. Invariably I find everything sold pre-roasted here to be over-roasted for my tastes. I prefere to taste the bean and not the roast. If I want the roast taste I can get that with a heck of a lot cheaper bean than the high-end SOs I buy and enjoy so much.

      Commercial roasters, including small speciality roasters, tend to roast darker in part to avoid under-roasting and ruining the beans. A bean roasted even significantly past its sweet spot is still drinkable, while a bean under-roasted by the same amount would be undrinkable.

      With my roasting set-up 1st crack is reached around 8-9 minutes with 2nd crack starting at about 15-16 minutes with a rolling 2nd crack starting 20-45 seconds after the first few cracks of 2nd crack are heard. Most of the coffees Ive roasted so far have their sweet spot at 45-90 seconds before the start of 2nd crack.

      The wonderful thing about roasting your own is that you can customize the roast to what tastes best to you, not to some commercial roaster whos in it to make a buck and hence roasts to be safe rather than roasting to be best.

      Another major advantage to roasting your own is having fresh roasted beans. Personal experience has shown me that most beans are at peak flavor at 2-5 days post-roast. By the 6th day there is a noticable decline in taste. This is with beans that have been roasted to their sweet spot. If you roast them darker the decline in taste may not show up until 10-14 days later. But of course if you do that then youre not getting the full flavor of the bean. This is one more reason the commercial roasters roast darker than the peak flavor point. The subtle shadings and nuances of the flavors in coffee are quite delicate and are easily affected by environmental conditions in both roasting and storage as well as brewing. Bringing all these variables together to make that perfect God Shot can be a bit of a pain at first, but the end results more than justify the time and energy spent.

      Once youve got a few roasts under your belt I think youll find it hard to ever go back to buying pre-roasted beans again. A whole new world of coffee nirvana is opening up to you. Enjoy!

      Java "Welcome the the club of the true Coffee Snobs, the Home Roasters!" phile
      Toys! I must have new toys!!!


      • #4
        Re: Home roasting  - What is your motivation?


        My original motivation to roast was simply to have a supply of roasted beans. I had been buying from a source which I was happy with, but I had moved locations and they were no longer close by.

        Since the humble beginnings (and then finding this site), roasting has become more than just a supply issue.

        It is a chance to try stuff you would be very hard pressed to find in the normal marketplace. A chance to learn about Single Origins and blends. To try different roasts of the same bean or blend and tastes the difference. In short.. its great fun for a coffee lover.

        I have done 50+ roasts now. Ive only ever burnt 2.
        Both were user error. First was trying to get more hot air around the roasting apparatus and not paying enough attention to how much it sped up the process.
        The second was with a bean that roasts faster than most others.

        Its not as big a learning curve as you might think to get good roasts (better than 95% of what you can buy pre-roasted).
        It is a bit more involved to get to consistently great roasts. For this, you do need to be a bit creative, a bit scientific and sometimes even lucky.

        I think you will be pleasently surprised by your early attempts.


        • #5
          Re: Home roasting  - What is your motivation?

          This is very encouraging. My reading tells me that you almost have to deliberately overdo a few batches in order to understand the process.

          Would you say that it is common practise to check the beans for sticks and stones and other foreign bodies before and after roasting? Had a stick go in a grinder a few years back and it was no joke getting it out!


          • #6
            Re: Home roasting  - What is your motivation?

            I check after. Its a good chance to discard any wierd looking beans as well as foreign objects.

            I dont know that its really that important to check before and after..... I guess maybe thats a little complacent, but if you do a thorough check after cooling, then chances of finding rubbish in the beans is pretty high.


            • #7
              Re: Home roasting  - What is your motivation?

              Originally posted by el espressio link=1113039697/0#4 date=1113043908
              This is very encouraging. My reading tells me that you almost have to deliberately overdo a few batches in order to understand the process.

              Would you say that it is common practise to check the beans for sticks and stones and other foreign bodies before and after roasting? Had a stick go in a grinder a few years back and it was no joke getting it out!
              Ive heard others say you have to take a batch to destruction to understand the process. Personally I think taking it to a rolling 2nd crack is far enough unless you like *really dark coffees.

              A good coffee to start with might be a Sumatra Mandehling or similiar earthy bean. Many of these take roasting well into 2nd crack very nicely. This would also make a nice bean to do comparision roasting with to see how the flavor changes as you roast darker or lighter. All with-out wasting a roast by taking it to destruction.

              If you want to taste the difference of a lighter yet still full body bean you might try some of the Colombians. Most of the Colombian coffees can not be taken into 2nd crack at all with-out destroying most of their flavors. They would also make a good coffee to use to see what an under-roasted bean tastes like if you were so inclined as their flavor more readily allows the under-roasted flavor to come through than a Mandehling type bean does. People often malign Colombian coffee but thats usually because theyre using coffee thats been over-roasted. Most Colombians have their sweet spot *long before 2nd crack and with the good Colombian SOs out there if you can find that sweet spot youre in for a real taste treat!

              As too checking for sticks and stones, every time I touch the beans I look for things that dont belong.

              Java "A roasting fool" phile
              Toys! I must have new toys!!!


              • #8
                Re: Home roasting  - What is your motivation?

                Welcome to the board el espressio.

                I think there are similarties to been be drawn between home roasting and home brewing. A lot of people seem to start it as an experiment and to save some money. I dont know how many times someone has boasted to me that they can brew a 750ml bottle for under a dollar... It seems that those that are inclined, end up going further into it and discovering that the journey is half the fun.
                I wouldnt be so bold as to suggest that what I am able to produce with my ad hoc methods by any means surpasses what is available from any halfway decent commercial roastery, but on the odd occasion it comes close. I certainly think that if you are used to vacuum packed supermarket coffee then good home roasted is a great deal better.
                I had a local commercial roaster put 3 kilos of my green beans through his Diedrich drum. I roasted the same green beans at home and to my unsophisticated palate there wasnt a big difference. To be fair, a commercial roaster would need to work with a bean for a while and establish a roast profile to get the best out of a bean.

                This is a long winded way of saying B


                • #9
                  Re: Home roasting  - What is your motivation?

                  El espressio

                  Once you have your tester roasts out of the way, you should expect coffee better than a commercial roaster just purely thanks to freshness. Second once you develop your technique you can roast to your own specifications rather than the best fit the commercial roaster perceives. These two benefits far outweigh the small deficiencies with the home roasting process.

                  Often it is not viable for commercial roasters to supply boutique or rare beans which limits the options available, so by participating in this co-op and roasting yourself opens doors to speciality coffees not readably available elsewhere.

                  The road to coffee nirvana is long and many are of the view that by controlling as many variables as possible brings you one step closer.



                  • #10
                    Re: Home roasting  - What is your motivation?

                    welcome to CoffeeSnobs el espressio, thats a mighty first post!

                    My answer is B+

                    B+ = No, youll be thrilled with the results, even your worst efforts.

                    I have to say that my worst efforts in a popper or my home brew gas roaster are far better than anything I have bought.


                    Part of it might be perception, because I "made it myself" but I think most of it is the freshnesss.

                    It is damn hard for a roaster to bake the beans and get it to market in under a week.

                    Week old beans are stale IMHO.

                    I would guess that half of the quality is down to freshness, the other half is the fact that we are using specialty grades of SO beans (a far higher grade than most commercial blends)

                    Give it a try and let us know YOUR thoughts!


                    • #11
                      Re: Home roasting  - What is your motivation?

                      Thanks for the informative, thoughtful and honest responses. Now my problem is that I will have to live up to my revised expectations!!
                      Will certainly report on my first efforts when the fire brigade has left. :-/


                      • #12
                        Re: Home roasting  - What is your motivation?

                        Disappointment with whats out there in the shops. The supermarket beans which have a use-by date about a year ahead are unsuitable. Some come in opaque plastic packs so the roast colour cant be seen. They are described only as "the finest blend of Arabica" coffee, with no indication of whats really in there. Some are so over-done, drenched in stale surface oil. May as well grind some charcoal and brew that. I despair at some cafes which also sell beans. You may have seen them in shopping centres, giving the false impression theyre some sort of specialist, quality, know what theyre doing boutique supplier. The pretence is betrayed when you see open bags with kilos of exposed beans. How long have they been sitting there? None of these bought roasted coffees produce a dark crema. You can almost hear the Silvia sigh in disappointment when her portafilter is filled with these stale things.

                        Much of my enjoyment of coffee comes from the anticipation of making and drinking an espresso. With my own roasts, seeing the rusty-coloured stream gurgling from the portafilter, bubbling with freshness, gathering thickness in that short little spout before it dives and leaves a deep, deep splash in the transparent shot glass.....Ah, what pleasure. And it has yet to reach my lips.

                        Roasting is also fun. The gut-wrenching anxiety as you wonder whether its going to be a disaster... Count down the precious minutes looking for telltale signs that all is OK within the mystery confines of that spinning, hot, BBQ drum. Was that a crack I just heard? No, couldnt be. Wasnt sharp enough. Was too quiet for popping coffee. Too early anyway. Let me check the notes for the last 10 roasts. Yep, too early. And the satisfaction when the smoking beans finally spill into the cooling colander, revealing the right shade of brown after all. (Sort of like seeing a newborn baby for the first time and relieed its got 1 head, 10 fingers and toes).

                        No amount of modesty can then preclude your conclusion: home roast produces superior coffee than bought beans. :-*


                        • #13
                          Re: Home roasting  - What is your motivation?

                          I can certainly relate to what youre saying, Robusto. A few years back I got some beans from (what was then) the only roaster here in Newcastle.  It had a great reputation, (because no one had anything to compare it to) part of a national chain, I think, rhymes with "sell Caroma" but starts with a B. Anyway, got the beans home (roasted that day)  and when I opened the bag there was ABSOLUTELY NO AROMA. Nothing. Totally odourless. I took them back and they were replaced, but I was made to feel like a punter at an RSL sending back a bottle of Summer Wine.  It was appalling - to the point where I really doubted myself and wondered if beans were actually SUPPOSED to smell of something!!  Another place down the road no longer sells anything in the way of espresso machines, just Bodum style and Bialetti stuff - all good - and spice choppers as grinders. Their stuff is tasteless too, although they do have a beautiful logo. 
                          But in the Hunter valley, at a coffee roaster (Which I cant name, I guess) they make an excellent roast and make the best ristretto Ive ever had. Consistently.


                          • #14
                            Re: Home roasting  - What is your motivation?

                            Short answer - B.
                            After moving on from dirt to brewed drip filter (stale preground I ahd no idea :-[ and it was one up from dirt), to a moka pot ( more stale preground then later with a herb/ bean chopper I progressed to stale beans), I finally arrived at the home espresso machine. Why couldnt I get a consistently good shot? I had the machine and beans are beans right, I thought, bought them from a deli where they are displayed in flourescent glory..

                            After thinking I was getting a consistent product from the supermarket, forums like this encouraged me to try home roasting. Unless you live near, or pass by a local roaster, the only way to get a consistently roasted product is to DIY.

                            And the difference is remarkable. You cant go back, you can only hope the local cafe can come somewhere close to your new level of acceptable coffee.

                            I think I wasted more commercially roasted coffee beans trying to reproduce the taste with stale beans before I realised the only option was to do it myself. I wont say I have the hang of it yet, but Ive never had to throw out a roast. Yep some went too far, some not far enough, but thats how you work it out.

                            Good luck



                            • #15
                              Re: Home roasting  - What is your motivation?

                              I think A to B

                              I have done 3 batches now, with 7 roasts all up. The first batch was too light but this was due to excitment and it being really dark outside and I just couldnt wait any longer to roast. The second and third batches have been AWESOME better than any coffee that I have ever bought! and all who have smelt and tasted couldnt beleive how smooth, sweet with no bitterness or aftertaste (? what was my dad drinking?). I defn dont think I have "perfected" the process yet, but I definately think that you can make awesome coffee your first go. I dont think you need to char your first batch, just watch listen and smell. And dont be scared get scared, just go with the flow. The beans will change from a creamy to a cooked smell. and if you stop to early you can always put them back in and continue on... in a popper anyway.
                              I found that once you get the roast right if you pay attention it is sooo easy the next time. I was scared to, but I am a big beleiver in if you think somethings hard it is