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Cheaper, richer, tastier coffee: how to roast your own beans at home

The taste of coffee beans that you roast yourself is hard to beat.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

For many, coffee is not only a luxury, but a habit that gives structure and satisfaction to the daily routine . With states requiring you to stay indoors most of the day and even closing Starbucks stores to pedestrians chances are you're making more coffee yourself. This is the chance to hone your skills and consider roasting your own coffee at home.

Raw coffee remains on the shelf for years, but still retains its flavor. It is only when you introduce intense heat while roasting that the powerful coffee essence is unlocked and then slowly begins to fade. But if you roast your own beans, you can stock up on large amounts of raw product and roast as much as you need in the short term. In some ways, it is the perfect quarantine stack .

In addition, freshly roasted coffee is insanely delicious compared to the standard store-bought variety that is usually months old, even whole roasted beans.

Unroasted or green coffee also costs less, so you save money in the long run. In fact, you can get your hands on green coffee for just $ 4 to $ 5 per pound. Of course, the idea of ​​home fires may sound intimidating at first, but the payoffs are huge. Here's how to get started.

These are raw or green coffee beans that have not been roasted.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

From Raw to Roasted Coffee

With enough heat energy applied to green coffee, the hard structure of a bean breaks down to release its complex mixture of contents. This cocktail contains everything from water to sugars, proteins, fats and, yes, caffeine.

The high roasting temperature chemically alters many of these compounds (such as by caramelizing sugars and oxidizing lipids, proteins and starches), ultimately creating what we expect to see, smell and taste in freshly roasted coffee.

Collect the tools and hardware you need for this project.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Build a coffee roaster in the backyard

You can easily build a coffee roaster from inexpensive items that you can buy at a hardware or kitchen supply store. Here is a list of the parts I used.

To begin, drill a hole through the center of the base of each colander with a three-eighth inch metal drill bit. Next, screw one nut and one wing nut onto one end of the threaded rod (go about half way) and slide one washer along the rod from the other side. Then slide one of the colander on the rod through the drilled hole, next to the ring, with the open side up. Follow with another washer and two regular nuts and tighten all nuts so that the colander stays in place.

In the same way, attach the other colander to the rod so that the edges of the bowls face each other. Leave a 6-inch space between the two barrels, keeping the bar vertical and adding your green coffee to the bottom colander. It's a 5-quart model with enough room for the 1-pound batches. Finish by sliding the second colander down to close the opening and tighten the nuts securely.

The burner you built should rest above the burners and turn freely around the threaded rod.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Prepare your barbecue

I suggest using a gas grill to roast coffee. These grills have responsive burners powered by propane. That makes their internal temperature easier to control compared to charcoal grills. Start by removing your grill grates, heat spreader (bars or pan) and warming rack. If your grill has a slot for a rotisserie accessory, use this opening to place the threaded rod over the burners. If not, place the bar with the hood open over the sides of the hood. (Many grill hoods have sections that are cut out on the sides to make way for accessories attachments when closed. Align the rod to fit these openings.)

Your roaster should now be hung and centered over the burners from the barbecue. To run the appliance, connect an electric drill to one end of the roasting rod as if it were a drill and tighten the drill chuck around it.

Use a cordless drill as a motor to turn your coffee roaster.

Brian Bennett / CNET

An adjustable hose clamp wrapped around the drill's trigger is an easy way to apply constant pressure and rotate the roaster at a constant speed. Aim for 120 rpm (I count revolutions for 30 seconds and then double the number).

That's fast for a rotisserie engine (10 to 55 rpm), but easy for a drill (600 to 1,500 rpm). The goal is to mix the beans fast enough that the heat hits them evenly, but slow enough to minimize the load on the drill and prevent nuts and rings from coming off.

Fill your roaster with raw coffee beans.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Roast, Baby, Roast

How long a roast session lasts can vary greatly depending on factors such as the type of coffee, how hot your roaster gets, and whether you want a light, medium, or dark roast. As a general guideline, expect a small batch of beans (1 pound or less) to take about 10 minutes.


Start your grill burners and start roasting.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Start by lighting the grill and setting the burners to maximum. Close the hood to allow the grill cavity to heat up, and when the grill thermometer reaches 400 degrees Fahrenheit, set the burners to medium-high. Then add green coffee to the drum, tighten the two colander halves, gently set the bar in place and start turning.

Now you're ready to close the hood while keeping your ears, nose and eyes open to check what's going on inside. It's okay to take a quick look a few times, but if you open the hood too many times you risk losing vital heat. Ideally, you want to keep the temperatures in the burner consistently between 400 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Since it's difficult to mount a heat sensor in a spinning coffee roaster, use your grill's built-in thermometer instead.

Pay close attention to what you see, hear and smell as the beans roast.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Listen to the doll and don't burn your beans.

The first change takes place visibly when the beans change from a fuzzy green to yellow to a darker shade of gold. As the internal temperature of the beans approaches and exceeds the boiling point of water, steam and trapped water vapor form to escape.

When it finally happens, the coffee beans begin to pop with an audible pop. In what is known as the "first crack", the beans split open in their center and swell in size. At this point, your beans are technically roasted, but they have clear acidity on the verge of sourness. Drinking coffee from this roasted level is fine, but to develop a traditional coffee taste you have to go a little further.

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Roasting coffee beans certainly produces a lot of smoke. Therefore, it is best to do this outdoors.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

As the temperature rises (435 to 445 Fahrenheit), fats, sugars, and proteins are broken down. The beans are now seriously burning. Be careful at this stage, as the rate of these reactions will accelerate. If you don't pay close attention, you'll get burnt beans in no time.

As gases including CO2 (carbon dioxide) are generated, they cause a new round of persistent snaps, the 'second crack'. The beans then release oils, giving them a glossy, shiny appearance. If you roast longer, the beans will darken to dark brown and even black. This creates dark roasts such as French roast.

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Tyler Lizenby / CNET


Once you have reached the desired level of roasting, turn off the grill and gas and quickly transfer the roasted coffee beans from the roaster to a metal oven pan. Do not forget to use heat resistant gloves or oven gloves to handle the appliance.

Set the pan and contents aside for 24 hours to allow the beans to cool. As long as they don't smoke, you can do this indoors. Technically, you can make coffee from these beans. However, it is best to wait another 24 hours. Freshly roasted coffee usually releases CO2 gas that can create funky flavors. Finally, save your roast by storing it in an airtight container, a special flap pocket, or at least a zip-top bag.

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Brewing, sipping and tweaking

Congratulations! You have made raw green coffee the essential ingredient for making a uniquely delicious drink. Of course you need a quality brewer and grinder to use all that coffee flavor. And if the Joe you created is not to your liking, there are a lot of ways to tweak the burn process for a result that suits you better.

Even with the same type of coffee, changing the roast level will greatly change the flavors that end up in your cup. And just wait until you start experimenting with beans and blends from exotic locations. Better hold your mug.

For more tips on how to make better coffee at home or fun projects to pass the time while in self-quarantine, see how to make wine in your Instant Pot how to prevent bread from getting old and clean your oven without harsh chemicals .

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