How to roast coffee

How to roast coffee at home

How to roast coffee at home

Put fresh coffee beans in your Zenroast, and hold it over an open flame. Shake it, to avoid burning the beans. Beans turn light brown, begin to smoke slightly, and start smelling more like coffee.

After about 5 minutes, your beans should begin to produce a rather loud popping or crackling sound. This is the onset of the first crack, as the moment of roast transformation begins. Soon, beans will turn to light, and then to medium brown as the popping sound crescendos.

At this point, your own preference can decide how long to roast. Find your favorite. Please see right column.


Stop the roast at the middle of the first crack, for a cup that is acidic and sweet, with flavors of grain or tea.


Popping gradually becomes quieter. Beans turn to a medium brown. As the popping stops completely, the smoke may begin to darken slightly, giving off a sweeter, fuller smell. Stop the roast here, in the lull at the end of the first crack, if you want a bright, acidic, hightoned, and classic “breakfast” style mediumroast cup.


A new, more subdued, crackling begins. If the first crack sounds like corn popping, the second crack sounds more like paper being crinkled. Immediately before the second crack begins the smoke may increase in volume, and become sweeter and more pungent. Stop the roast here, just at the beginning of the second crack, if you prefer a round, sweet, but still bright cup of the kind roasters often call “full city” or “Viennese.”


From here on, we enter the realm of the “dark” roasts. The crackling of the second crack becomes almost continuous. The smoke thickens, becoming dark with an intensely pungent smell. The beans turn darkbrown in color. Stop the roast here, just as the second crack rises to a crescendo, if you enjoy a balanced darkroast cup: without acidity, pungent yet sweet, fullbodied, with a roasty but not burned flavor.


As the second crack reaches a frenzied climax and a dark, heavy, sweetsmelling smoke fills the air, we reach the end of the roast story. Go no further. Stop the roast here if you enjoy the ultimate dark roast, the kind often called “dark French”: burned tasting, thinbodied, with only a vague overlay of sweetness and little nuance.


You may find chaff, the dried skin on a coffee bean, peeling off during the roasting process. To remove the chaff, simply blow through the hollow handle a few times. We recommend blowing chaff out a window or into a container, to keep chaff from spreading across your kitchen.

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