I’m more of a tea drinker personally, but per Amy’s request I am adding her recipe for and thoughts on fresh roasted coffee beans. It does smell rather delicious while she’s down in the kitchen working her coffee magic and the aroma is now as familiar to me as the sound of the coffee grinder going off in the early morning.
Why should I roast my own coffee beans? First, there is a substantial cost savings. Green beans can be purchased for 50% less than roasted beans, even more if you buy in bulk. Since green beans do not have a shelf life they can be purchased in bulk. Once they are roasted however, the clock starts to tick and they lose that wonderful earthy, nutty, smooth flavor. Second, I often have a hard time finding fresh roasted beans that I truly enjoy. The bins in the stores usually have that oily residue which is a sign of rancid, old, or burnt beans. There are some great small roasters that I love but I cannot always get there on a regular basis
Why do I roast in cast iron? There are a few great home roasting devices out there ranging from $50 to into the thousands but the least expensive way is using the stove top method with a cast iron skillet. Since we already have a wonderful assortment of seasoned cast iron and I am a thrifty New Englander, this is my method of choice. This method takes some time (almost an hour to roast a full pound), close attention, and the results are not precise but if you like a blend of dark, light, and medium roast this will work fine.
Quick tip: be sure to open a window and/or turn on a ceiling fan and oven vent as the beans will smoke up the kitchen quite a bit as they roast.
Fresh Roasted Coffee Beans
Green coffee beans, recommend Mexican beans from Dean’s Beans out of Orange, MA
Cast iron skillet
bamboo spatula (or any spatula that will not scrape or melt)
mason jar w/ lid or storage container of choice
Over a high flame, heat the dry cast iron skillet. Turn vent hood on high. Measure out approximately 1/2 cup of green beans and pour into skillet. Shake skillet so beans are in a single layer. It is important to keep the beans constantly moving by shaking the pan and stirring with the spatula. The beans will gradually change color from green, yellow, tan, light brown, to brown as they roast. The chaff of the bean will start to separate just before the light brown color. Aside from the color change you will need to listen for the beans to “crack”. There are 2 distinctive cracks: a light roast is done shortly after the first crack and a dark roast is at the second crack. I like to shoot for a light to medium roast so as soon as I hear the first crack I turn the flame off while continuing to shake and stir the beans around until I am sure that all the beans have at least hit the first crack (about 30 seconds). Immediately transfer the beans to the metal colander as they will continue to roast and must be cooled down quickly. Take the colander outside and stir using the spatula for about 2 minutes. As you stir the chaff will float off and the beans will cool to stop the roasting process. Doing this outside is a must as the chaff is extremely messy! Transfer the beans to the glass bowl to free up the colander for the next batch. Repeat roasting of about a half cup of beans at a time until you have what you need. Remember, green beans last forever but once roasted they lose flavor. I have my eye on a vacuum sealer so that I can do more at a time but until then I usually do a weeks worth at a time. Make sure the beans are completely cooled off before storing, I usually let them sit in the glass bowl for a few hours before pouring them into the mason jar.
Note: If you like a dark roast this method may take practice as the line between second crack and burnt is very thin. Going for a light/medium roast usually produces some beans that are dark roast while others are light. Keep in mind that even after you remove the beans from the heat they will continue to roast until completely cooled. Here is a site that does a nice job of explaning the different roast and color stages: http://legacy.sweetmarias.com/library/content/using-sight-determine-degree-roast