Another Quick Guide to First Time Home Roasting: Fry Pans, Ovens, and other Smokey Favorites!
Frying Pan Method
There was a time when the ‘chore’ of roasting coffee was replaced by the ubiquitous can. In a world where clothes were still scrubbed by hand, anything that lessened the labors of life was seen as an improvement. But today we have the luxury to choose to make our own pasta, bake our own bread, or roast our own coffee. Realizing that though it is often a lot of work, it is well worth the effort to revisit the days of the home-grown, the hand-made, and the home-roasted. And pan roasting is the classic method!
Let’s start by saying that if you favor the light roasts you will find it very difficult to approximate their flavors using the pan method. If you favor the darker styles, you stand a good chance of success simply by using a common skillet or even a wok.
Okay, start by selecting your green beans. Then take a common skillet and place it on a burner set to high. You need a temperature of approximately 500ºF to roast coffee. When the skillet has heated sufficiently, pour the beans in and begin shaking. This is the first key: never let the beans come to rest on the pan surface! If you do they will burn. As you shake you will begin to notice the beans changing color, from an olive green to a yellow-green hue. The second key is wrist strength: you will have to keep the beans moving in the skillet for at least six, up to approximately nine minutes, and perhaps much longer (depending on the roast style you prefer). If you can keep the pan shaking at the 6-9 minute mark you will hear the beans begin to pop. This is what the roasters call “First Crack”. Once this crackling stops the beans should have turned a light, golden brown and you may stop. If you do, you have what many call a New England Roast. If you’re experimenting go ahead and stop and, when they’ve cooled (ideally over night), grind these fresh roasted beans and sample the results. Be exact. Precisely measure the amount of ground coffee and water you use, and then take notes on the flavors you perceive in the cup. If you know you want a darker roast when that first crackling stops keep shaking. The longer you go the easier it is to burn the beans so shake it baby, shake it (a stovetop exhaust fan can be a good thing!) The beans will be getting darker and darker and at some point you will hear the “Second Crack”. Get ready now, when the crackling stops this time you will be at what is called “Full City Roast”. There are darker roasts, including the level of roast used for creating beans for Espresso, but you may not want to go there yet. Then again, coffee lovers seem to have a sense of adventure. Roast on!
Home Roasting Coffee in an Electric Oven
Although a gas oven is preferred, it can be done in an electric oven.
What You Need
- An oven that can hit 500ºF/260ºC (anything less will be problematic)
- If the oven doesn’t a have a window and light, have a flashlight ready
- A perforated baking pan. Target et al. sell circular pizza pans that meet this requirement
- Metal colander (or two!), or cooling tray
- Oven mitts
- Water bottle with mist spray
- Green coffee beans, amount will depend on size of pan (1/3 – 1/2 pound is a good start)
More On The Oven
The amount of time it takes to roast can vary from oven to oven and bean to bean. An ideal oven will also have excellent ventilation. Roasting coffee produces smoke, especially at darker roasts. Your house may fill with smoke, so prior to roasting disable your smoke detector and get that oven vent fan going (if you can create a nice cross breeze out your kitchen window, so much the better).
Electric Oven Roasting Step-by-Step:
- Disable the smoke detector and alert family of impending smoke.
- Preheat the oven to 500ºF/260ºC.
- Spread the beans over the perforated baking pan so that they are no more than one bean deep. Make sure they are close together/touching. Don’t stack the beans on top of each other.
- Place pan into oven once it reaches 500ºF/260ºC.
- Set up metal colander nearby or cooling tray.
- Have spray bottle on mist ready to go. You just want a light mist. Test spray bottle before using.
- Monitor the roast. The beans will take about 10-20 minutes to roast.
About 3 minutes into the roast you will want to start watching the beans at one minute intervals. Keep your oven light on. As the roast progresses, you will notice the beans going from green to yellow and eventually to brown. Continue roasting and they will approach a very dark brown or black.
In addition to visually monitoring the roast, one should listen for the cracks. The first crack hits around the 8 minute mark and the second about 11 minutes (times will vary depending upon oven strength and type of bean). You don’t need to take it to a 2nd crack: this is up to the individual tastes of the roaster. At 12 minutes the beans are covered with a shiny oil.
- Once the beans achieve your desired roast, stop the oven, remove the pan and place the beans into the metal colander or cooling tray. Be prepared to be face to face with a cloud of smoke. Also, don’t forget that this is a very hot oven. Use oven mitts.
- The immediate goal once the beans have been roasted is to cool them. Transferring the beans from the perforated pan into a metal colander or flat cooling tray will help. Also by using a water bottle to apply a fine mist you can accelerate the cooling. Don’t drench the beans; just lightly mist the cold water over them. It should evaporate immediately and cool the coffee beans in the process. If your squirt bottle can’t mist, don’t use it. Anything more than a mist will do more harm than good.
- Once beans are cool, begin chaff removal. See below
- Let house clear of smoke.
- Apologize to any firefighters that may have arrived to your home and enable your smoke detector.
- Allow 24 hours for beans to de-gas before grinding and brewing.
Removing the Chaff
A big disadvantage to oven roasting is that unlike the popcorn popper, you will need to remove the chaff by hand. Chaff is the leaf-like shell that peels off of coffee beans during the roasting process. Using a colander or something with holes will help a little. Still, most of the chaff will need to be removed by hand. Don’t be obsessive about removing every bit of chaff. Your coffee is already far better than 99% of the beans available to the public.
Here is one chaff removal technique: Use two colanders. Pour the beans (and chaff) between them. Position a fan so that it is blowing on the beans as they fall from colander to colander. The beans will fall, and the chaff will get blown away!
If your oven has poor ventilation, you may conclude that roasting coffee in an electric oven is no fun, but it can still make for an excellent roast, though oven roasting isn’t best for very light or very dark roasts, as, like your cookies, the electric oven will not roast the beans as evenly as other methods.
We are happy to give you detailed instructions on other home roasting methods, as well as help you track down more “serious” home roasting equipment. Please, just ask! We offer these instructions only as an entrée to the wonders of home roasting for first-time gourmets.
Submitted by Amy & Cole of High Country Coffee