How to roast your own coffee

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Did you know that you can roast your own coffee? Here’s what you need to know (including a handy roasting hack!).

Raw coffee beans, left, are transformed into aromatic, dark beans ready for grinding and brewing, right, when roasted. | Julia Bayly

These days it seems you can DIY just about anything. Blogs, videos and articles abound with instructions on how to do everything from building a square foot garden to sewing your clothes.

But coffee has long been an elusive beast, limited to roasters with expensive machinery and access to raw coffee beans from far off places like Brazil or Ethiopia.

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However, thanks to increasing interest and access to green, or “raw” coffee beans, DIY home roasting is growing in popularity — and for good reason. All you really need is a few uncooked beans, a source of heat and a good ear.

The uncooked green coffee beans are not actually beans, but rather a seed found at the center of the fruit resembling a cherry, produced by the coffee plant. When roasted properly, the green seed turns brown and oily, eventually smelling and tasting like the beans you may buy in bulk at the supermarket.

Green Tree Coffee and Tea in Lincolnville, Maine sells raw beans for home roasting. 

“I think it’s always been a thing, but there are definitely more people doing it,” said Green Tree owner John Ostrand.

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He recommends people do plenty of research before roasting their own beans. While it is possible to make coffee at home in the oven or in a popcorn machine, it’s not entirely efficient.

“If someone really wants to get into it they are going to need the right equipment and it’s tough because small roasters aren’t well made,” Ostrand said.

But for the hobby roaster, or someone who just wants to try their hand at a new DIY cooking project, here are a few tips and tricks to get started:

Start with the right (green) bean

Raw coffee from different regions of the world will taste and roast differently. Consider talking with someone like Ostrand, or your favorite barista to find out where the beans you usually enjoy come from. Several online sites such as Sweet Maria’s Home Coffee Roasting also sell green beans to the average home roaster.

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Head outside

Ostrand recommends people roast outside because of the pungent smell that comes from roasting the beans. It takes a while for them to smell like your favorite coffee shop, and in the meantime, everything from your clothes to the curtains will absorb the smell.

Consider using an air popper

Traditional popcorn makers with handles that turn an arm inside the pot will also work, but Ostrand said an air popper emulates a professional coffee roasting machine and will cook the beans more evenly.

Proper roasting temperature

Start by heating your roaster on the stovetop until the temperature reaches about 475 degrees. Add up to 8 oz. of green coffee beans, close the lid and begin stirring. In about 5 minutes, the beans will start popping. Check their color and remove the beans after they’ve reached your desired roast color. If the beans reach the point where you hear the second round of cracks, you will have reached a French roast or very dark roasting point. Try not to go beyond that to avoid burning.

Remove the beans and allow them to cool completely on a cookie sheet or something similar.

Grind. Brew. And enjoy.

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