By Jim Cameron
There is nothing like a cup of coffee that has been freshly roasted, ground and brewed to perfection. There are a growing number of enthusiasts who are roasting their own coffee beans and enjoying the benefits of truly fresh coffee at about one-third of the price of beans from your local coffee shop. A recent article touts that roasting your own coffee is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the USA today.
A gift of freshly roasted coffee which you have roasted yourself is sure to be a hit and amaze the receiver of the hand made gift. The actual roasting of the coffee beans may be the easiest and most fun part. The packaging of your thoughtful gift will be the most challenging as you prepare the package with as much care as you have roasted the coffee.
Coffee which will be kept for any length of time should be kept in an airtight container out of sunlight. For the trip from roasting to the airtight container is where the creation of fun ideas comes in. Coffee is traditionally shipped in burlap sacks. You can buy some burlap at a craft store and sew up bags that will be great for packaging. At the same craft store you can buy pre-cut stencils with flowers, Lions, Elephants, Crocodiles etc and stencil your bags with animals, plants or other landmarks from a country of origin. A Lion on a bag of Kenya or Malawi, Palm tree from Costa Rica, Coffee cherries from Colombia, etc. Plain brown bags work well also and can be decorated in many ways with a coffee theme, re: cups, saucers, coffee pots etc.
Another idea, with the ease in which art can be produced and printed on stickers with the help of a computer, is to make your own labels. YOUR NAME’s special blend or a blend for an event. How about a wedding gift with the bride and groom’s picture and call it the “Perfect Blend”. The possibilities are endless on how you can package the coffee you have roasted yourself with your own signature.
All that is needed to roast your own coffee beans at home is green coffee beans, available from a number of sources, an oven, cookie sheet, oven mitt, metal colander and a wooden spoon. Preheat your oven to 500F, spread raw beans evenly one layer deep on a cookie sheet, place on middle rack of preheated oven and watch them roast. In about 8-10 minutes there will be a crackling noise and smoke with a coffee essence. At this point the roast moves quickly and you need to pay close attention. About 2-3 minutes after the crackling, your coffee beans should be at the shade you like them. Carefully (using the oven mitt) remove the cookie sheet from the oven and pour the beans into the metal colander. Stir the beans with the wooden spoon to help cool quickly. Do this over a sink or outside, as there is chaff that comes off the beans during roasting. And remember; NEVER leave your roasting coffee beans unattended.
Almost any appliance used to pop popcorn can be used to roast coffee beans. The hot air poppers are great, however, you may want to roast outside or in your garage as they blow the chaff out and can be messy. There are a number of manufacturers of home coffee roaster, including several that use a gas grill and rotisserie.
The internet is full of sources to purchase raw beans, but you want to make sure that the supplier you use knows their beans and “cups” their coffee before selling it to you. One of the most reputable sources for green coffee beans is U-Roast-Em, Inc., a high quality, no frills supplier with 30 years in the industry. They can be found at www.u-roast-em.com on the web. Many other sources can be found using your favorite search engine. If you’re interested in using a gas grill to roast your beans, check out www.rkdrums.com. For electric, countertop-type coffee roasters, visit www.freshbeansinc.com.
Green, raw coffee beans last for years when properly stored. This allows you to build a collection of fine coffees to choose from as well as buy larger amounts of the great coffees and save more money. Keep your bean collection in a cool, dry place out of any direct sun light and they will last until you roast them. As coffee ages it loses acidity and becomes more mellow. Many like the rich mild cup of a coffee that has had a couple years to rest and mellow. More important than the year of the crop is the quality of the bean, the preparation at origin, transportation and warehousing in country of consumption. If all of these things are done correctly, your green coffee will last for years. Suppliers who know how to cup samples of coffee beans are able to determine if all of these criteria are done correctly before they purchase the beans.
Now all you have to worry about is your friends beating down your door to get some more of that wonderful coffee you roasted for them. I guess at that point you just get them started roasting their own, they’ll be forever grateful.
Jim Cameron is a semi retired 30 year veteran of the Specialty Coffee Industry. His small coffee business now sells only the finest green coffee beans to the home roasting market at his web site.