Coffee

Yes, I roast coffee. It's not for re-sale, just personal consumption.

I have a brother who got into home-roasting for reasons unknown to me. He directed me to a web site (sweetmarias.com) that not only sells specialty green beans, but also has lots of advice and other information for the home-roaster.

Although home-roasting machines are available online from $80 to maybe thousands, I started with a $15 hot-air popcorn popper from Target.  But such machines are increasingly more difficult to find in the big-box stores. I assume that's because of the ubiquitous microwave popcorn. I can't say I save any money by buying $6-a-pound gourmet coffee and roasting it myself. But, boy, I sure have a satisfying cup or two (OK...a quart) in the morning.

While the popper gives its heat to the green coffee beans in the first few minutes there's a lovely, warm grassy smell. Then the beans turn yellow as they head toward brown. That's a critical transition: lose heat or otherwise delay the roast at this point and the coffee might end up tasting like oatmeal. As the sugars in the bean caramelize, and the maillard effect presents itself, the dry roast aroma comes into play. The heat forces moisture out of the bean, causing the bean to audibly "crack". That cracking noise subsides eventually. If the bean continues to receive enough heat, it will crack again, but with a slightly different sound. Do you understand now how sensually playful is roasting coffee? We see the color of the bean change. We smell its transformation. We hear what the heat does to the beans.

But it's more than play. We use those senses to impart roasting style to the coffee. The hot-air popper's detriment is that only small amounts can be roasted at a time (maybe two ounces). Plus, it's necessary to let the popper cool down in between roasts. My brother prefers to roast two or three pounds at a time. For that, he uses a drum attached to a rotisserie device on his gas grill.

I prefer a more-interactive approach: watching, smelling, listening. At sweetmarias, I read about the "dog bowl - heat gun" method.  I bought the cheapest Wagner heat gun I could find, and stole the stainless-steel Kitchen Aid mixing bowl from my lovely woman. I can roast seven ounces at a time, enough for about a week's worth of drip coffee for the two of us.

To test my roasting expertise, I'll pick up the gourmet, whole-bean whatever from the supermarket, and make a pot of that for my woman. I'll ask her opinion, and she'll reply with the polite "Yes, it's good."  But a day or two later, I'll make a pot of "my" coffee, hand her a cup, and wait for her first sip. There's no need to ask for any opinion as she sinks back into her pillow with a smile and dreamy eyes.