DIY Coffee Roasting and Coffee Setup

Lately I have been roasting my own coffee. I am certainly not the first person to do this nor even document it, but I tend to use my own blog as reference, so here we go!


I like good coffee. My tastes have slowly gotten more and more refined and recently I found myself spending top dollar for beans. I am sortav a cheapskate and generally try to reduce recurring costs. After the initial investment into equipment, coffee can actually be really cheap. Typical good beans cost from $10 to $20 a pound. Green beans are about $5 a pound.

On top of that, if you buy from a small roaster, they may decide to stop roasting some kind of beans just to “mix it up.” I love East African beans, especially Ethiopian beans, and those were suddenly unavailable from my favorite roasters.

Finally, when you roast your own beans, you can get coffee from all over the world, for a consistent price, and you’re able to roast it suit your preference.

Bread Maker Roasting

Roasting with a bread maker is easy! The short version is that you use the bread maker to stir the beans while you hold a heat gun over the beans. The whole process takes from 12 to 15 minutes, in my experience. Here are some good links about coffee roasting:

That first link was my reference when I got started. The quality of your heat gun, electricty, etc will determine how quickly the beans brown. I have never been able to get to the end of the first crack in less than ten to twelve minutes, even though the Sweet Maria’s folks seem to be able to pull that off.

Roasting coffee is pretty smelly and smokey. It’s surprising, because it doesn’t smell like coffee! I actually dislike the smell of roasting coffee, but I do know one person who enjoys it. Unless you have amazingly good ventilation in your kitchen, you should probably roast outside. I had to buy a pretty long extension cord.

In case you’ve never done it before, first crack sounds like the crackling of sticks in a fire. When the bread maker is stirring the beans there is a bit of clicking which I initially thought was first crack. I suspect it sounds similar to the sound of stirring marbles. I would recommend waiting till the end of first crack till you are confident enough to experiment.

I got this breadmaker but it’s kindav a hassle and I may replace it with this one. If you can, just get a bread maker at your local thrift store, check that it has a constant stir mode (often called “knead” or “dough”) that goes for at least 15 minutes. Mine does a five minute stir then rests for a full minute, which is pretty problematic, so I end up turning it off and on every five minutes.

I use this heatgun and as far as I know it’s perfect. Simple to use and works. Basically I put it on high power (two lines, about 1000°F) and hold it about an inch from the beans until first crack starts (typically about eight to ten minutes.) During the crack I either drop it down to low power (one line, about 500°F) or pull it back from the beans to slow down the heating. I definitely do not have it down to a science, but people like my coffee!

After you decide the beans are roasted to your preference, you need to cool them down. I put the beans in a metal colander, point a box fan at them, and stir then with a wooden spoon. I am likely to refine this step next as it doesn’t work great and is a hassle. I might try the dual colander method where you simply pour the beans through the air to cool them down from one colander to the next. Generally this step is simple if you don’t go into second crack.

I personally measure the “roastedness” entirely by eye, with my clock as a backup. If the beans look light brown but it’s been more than fifteen minutes, I assume that my eye has been compromised somehow and that the beans are plenty roasted.

Day-to-Day Coffee Setup

Living with two small children leaves me with very little time to do things like make coffee, breakfast, etc. I can carve out half an hour once a week to roast the beans, but making coffee every morning is hard. What I do instead is use the Toddy Cold Brew System to make a coffee concentrate once a week. The Toddy comes with instructions, but basically it’s seven cups of water in the coarsely ground coffee for 12 to 24 hours, and then when you drink it you add equal parts water to the coffee concentrate. So when I get up to go to work in the morning I combine about a cup of coffee; the same amount of water; a large ice cube, shake, and go.

Note that I grind my coffee beans at work because we have a nice electric grinder there, but I have notes below for how you might extend my travel hand grinder to work for a whole pound.

Travel Setup

When I travel I hate to feel like I’m imposing, but I also dislike getting coffee that is just passable but still expensive at Starbucks. The current setup is as follows:

An AeroPress as a super portable coffee maker. It’s definitely a different kind of coffee compared to the cold brew, but I like it, it travels well, and it’s fast.

I have a hand grinder, specifically the Zassenhaus Panama which is great because it fits inside of the AeroPress, grinds just as much as I could need while travelling, and is an excellent grinder with a well mounted burr. The grinder is a beautiful piece of engineering and feels great to use. The handle can be screwed off to fit well while packed.

I have a theory that if you wanted to grind more than it can fit (just about 20 grams, or a large cup of coffee) you could use a funnel for the beans and an electric drill with flexible extension. I haven’t measured the actual bit that goes into the grinder, but I’m picturing something like this.

Hopefully this motivates you if you have been considering making the jump to home roasting. Or maybe you had never considered that it is an easy option. Either way, good luck and feel free to reach out if you want advice!

All this stuff about coffee makes me want to make a cup.

Posted Mon, Dec 19, 2016