7 At Home Roasting Tips

Unroasted coffee beans are actually the dried seeds of cherries picked from coffee trees or shrubs. To transition the raw seeds, or “green beans” as we call them, to roasted coffee beans, they must be heated to an internal temperature of at least 400°F. At this point “first crack” occurs as the simple sugars and carbohydrates inside the beans begin to caramelize and expand, producing lightly roasted coffee beans. Further roasting will produce a medium roast, often identified by the “second crack”, which occurs when the internal temperature of the bean reachs 435°F. Continue roasting and the internal temperature of the beans will increase very quickly. At 460° a dark, or espresso roast is achieved, after 470°F the beans are pretty much burnt! The whole roasting process can take anywhere from 4 to 20 minutes, depending on the method used and temperature generated by your roasting appliance. With the common FreshRoast 500 home roaster, the average roasting time is only 4 to 8 minutes.

Never leave your beans unattended while they are roasting!

We believe that the best flavour is achieved with a medium to medium/dark range of roast. Too light and the coffee may taste sour or “grassy”. Too dark and it can taste burnt and will lose it’s subtle flavours. A light roast will also have less body and, contrary to popular opinion, more caffeine! A medium to dark roast, like espresso will have more body and less caffeine. So, yes, espresso has less caffeine, not more!

After cooling, store your roasted coffee beans in an air-tight glass or ceramic container. Do not store in the refridgerator as it will dry out the delicious oils. Any location out of direct sunlight is best. For optimal freshness, roast only enough coffee that it will be consumed within 3 to 5 days.

For home roasting, we like the FreshRoast 500 home coffee roaster, manufactured by Fresh Bean Inc. We would like to offer those who use this common roaster a few tips for successful roasting. The FreshRoast 500 is designed to roast green beans based on their weight, not volume, and the manufacturer’s instructions were written to accommodate green Colombian coffee beans. Since you will likely be roasting a variety of different beans, which have different weights and therefor roast at different rates, you will need to adjust for this fact.

Here’s how:

  1. Position the glass roasting chamber on top of the base unit, plug in the unit and turn the timer dial to the maximum;
  2. Slowly pour the green beans into the glass roasting chamber. Fill the chamber to the point where only the top layer of the beans are being bounced by the hot air from below. This is the only part that is different from the included instructions, so be careful. If the top layer is not moving enough, take some beans out. If the top layer is bouncing too much, put a little more in. Do not overfill. Keep in mind that the more beans that are in the chamber, the more heat that is retained and they will roast faster. The less beans, the more the hot air escapes and the longer it will take for the beans to reach the required internal temperature.
  3. Place the lid and chaff collector on top of the glass roasting chamber.
  4. After a few minutes you will start to hear the “first crack” as the beans begin to roast. Watch carefully as the beans transition from a light to medium roast. Make sure the beans are always moving to prevent scorching and fire.
  5. As the timer approaches the cooling point and your beans are not quite roasted as dark as you would like them to be, simply turn the dial back a couple of minutes, but do not stop watching! It is at this point that “second crack” occurs, which you’ll recognize as a rapid-firing noise, and the beans can go from dark to burnt very quickly. Be prepared to act fast!
  6. Once the beans are roasted to the degree that you prefer, turn the timer to cool. The FreshRoast roaster will then cool the beans and automatically shut itself off. At this point, remove the chaff collector and roasting chamber and pour the beans into a metal colander to cool. Be careful because the roaster is very hot. Stir the beans with a wooden spoon to help the cooling process and to remove any excess chaff. Store in an air-tight container.
  7. Be sure to let the roaster cool down before roasting another batch. Each batch makes approximately 24 cups of coffee.

Remember, great coffee begins with great beans. Be sure to experiment with different varieties from all over the world. The coffee we drink derives it flavour from the oils extracted out of the roasted coffee bean after we grind and brew it. There are over 800 different subtle flavours depending on where the bean was grown, the conditions, the soil, the nearby crops, etc. Coffee is twice as complex as wine! So be adventurous!