Photo by Rod Waddington

A Great Cup of Joe: Roasting Coffee Beans to Perfection

There’s something about a good cup of freshly brewed coffee. Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the United States. And coffee shops, like Starbucks, have making coffee down to both a science and an art. One of the key factors to a good cup of coffee, just like the ones you get at your local coffee shop, is a perfectly roasted coffee bean. Roasting coffee beans brings out a variety of flavors that make a world of difference in your cup of morning Joe. But, how do you roast coffee beans? What type of equipment should you use? We’ll break these questions down and more to explore just how roasting coffee beans at home will help you make your next cup of coffee good to the last drop.

It’s All About the Bean: What is Coffee Bean Roasting?

Roasting coffee beans is a process that uses heat to turn coffee into different shades of brown. This is done to bring out the aroma and flavors of the bean. Believe it or not, coffee beans are actually seeds. But, they are called coffee beans because of they look like a typical bean. There are quite a few varieties of coffee beans too. Each different type of coffee bean will give your roasted coffee beans different flavor profiles that affect the taste of your freshly brewed coffee. You can learn more about the different types of coffee beans in our article on them.

Coffee beans are green in color when they are not roasted. When you roast a coffee bean, you’ll start with green unroasted beans. Coffee beans unroasted are not good for making coffee. So, roasting is an essential part of being able to make your morning coffee. Roasting is actually a chemical process that changes the coffee bean by heating it with very high temperatures. Once coffee beans are roasted, they can be ground to make the coffee we drink everyday. Roasting will turn the beans into that rich, dark color, we know and love too.

Unroasted coffee beans - Roasting coffee beans

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Tools of the Trade: Coffee Roasting Supplies

Roasting coffee beans at home is fairly easy. In fact, you don’t really need a lot of complicated supplies. The supplies you need include: a roasting source, a roasting pot or pan, and coffee beans. Since roasting requires heat, there are several different roasting source options you can use.

1. Oven

The oven is a simple do-it-yourself method for roasting coffee beans. The upside is that it’s easy to use. But, the downside is that it can cause a lot of issues with smoke. That’s because the beans roasted in an oven will produce a lot of smoke. If the oven doesn’t have proper ventilation, you may experience some, or a lot, of smoke too. If you are worried about this issue, we recommend looking for another roasting method. Roasting coffee beans in an oven also tend to take a bit longer than other methods.

2. Grill

If you’re worried about smoke but want to use an oven method, a grill can be the perfect solution. The roasting happens outside, which avoids the issue of indoor smoke. It’s fast and easy and requires very little effort. But, be careful not to over-roast your beans. The high heat on a grill can cause beans to get overcooked easily.

3. Popcorn Popper

One of the best ways to roast coffee beans at home is to use a popcorn popper. That’s right. Your old school popcorn popper can do double-duty and roast coffee beans. It’s super simple. And, it’s easy to get the perfect roast on your coffee beans. That’s because a popcorn popper will automatically rotate or move your coffee beans around, giving them an even roast. One word of caution though. Some popcorn poppers may not hold up to coffee bean roasting. This means that they may break after even a few roasts. Be sure your popcorn popper is sturdy and can hold up to the coffee bean roasting process.

4. Coffee Machine

You can actually roast coffee beans in a traditional coffee maker. Look for machines with these settings and follow the instructions. Since they are built to roast beans, you’ll get good results along with machine clean-up that’s easy. Coffee machines that can roast coffee beans can be quite pricey though.

5. Coffee Bean Roasters

If you are looking for a tried and true method that’s easy to use, look no further than the coffee bean roaster. These are machines made specifically to roast coffee beans at home. If using any of the other methods seem a bit too complicated, consider buying a roaster. Not sure which coffee bean roaster is right for you? Check out our Buying Guide on the 7 Best Coffee Bean Roasters for even more tips.

Coffee Roasting 101: The Basics

Now that we know what roasting coffee beans is and we have our supplies, let’s take a look at how to roast them. Though we won’t get into every detail of the roasting process, here are some things you’ll look for as you roast your coffee beans.

  • SmellThe classic smell of coffee is the what you might expect when you start to roast your beans. But, it takes a bit before you’ll get that classic coffee aroma. When the coffee beans first begin roasting and starting to change colors, they will actually smell a lot like grass. But, don’t be discouraged. The longer the beans roast, the more they will smell like freshly brewed coffee.
  • Smoke: We mentioned smoke earlier. And, this is definitely something you’ll see when you begin roasting coffee beans. Don’t worry. This is normal. Just be sure to keep an eye on the smoke level if you’re smoking indoors.
  • Color of the Beans: We’ve all heard of light, medium, and dark roast coffees. This just means the color of the beans when they are roasted. Lighter color brown means the more mild in flavor. And, darker brown coffee bean colors mean a richer, more robust flavor. If you don’t like big bold flavors, stick with a milder roast. So, keep the color of the roast and flavor profiles in mind as you’re roasting.
  • Sounds: In addition to smell, smoke, and color, your beans will also begin to make popping or crackling sounds as they roast. This is because the water inside the coffee beans are evaporating. When roasting coffee beans, there are two types of crackling stages. You’ll hear each of these stages as the temperature rises and the coffee beans begin to fully roast.

Coffee Tin - Roasting Coffee Beans

Good to the Last Drop: Roasting Coffee Beans to Perfection

Roasting your own coffee beans at home is a fairly easy process. Though it will take some time, patience, and practice, soon you’ll be roasting coffee beans at home like a pro. Once you’ve mastered roasting coffee beans at home, be sure to check out our article on Brewing the Best Tasting Coffee to put your roasting efforts to work.