Curious about Roasting

Discuss roast levels and profiles for espresso, equipment for roasting coffee.
rrahman

#1: Post by rrahman »

I am interested in starting to roast my own coffee beans, but have some reservations about it. I was hoping some experience home roasters could validate my reasons for doing this and address my concerns...

The main reasons I am interested in starting to roast are
1) Despite being a very steep learning curve, I am someone that enjoys the details and prefers full control of the entire bean to cup process.
2) My wife and I drink lots of coffee, ~1600$/year. In the long term this may pay for itself w/ the amount we consume.
3) We drink decaf or odd ball types of coffee infrequently. It would be nice if we could keep a stockpile of green beans to roast little by little to keep freshly roasted beans on hand.

My main concerns are
1) I am concerned about the challenges I would have in sourcing as diverse of an array of green coffee beans as I currently have access to buying from subscription services and professional roasters. Is this a legitimate concern?
2) As I mentioned before we use subscription services like Moustache and purchase coffee from professional roasters like counter culture, onyx, wild gift, JBC, etc... As a home roaster enthusiast will I ever be able to roast beans as well as or better than their roasted beans?
3) Once the learning curve is climbed, how much time does it take to roast a batch? Do coffee roasters have lots of maintenance costs? Clean up time/costs?

Thanks for looking!

Nunas
Supporter ♡

#2: Post by Nunas »

You're overthinking it. You can easily do a very good job roasting your own greens with very little practice. I suggest you get a very simple roaster to start. I usually recommend a FreshRoast roaster, as it is very easy to learn on, and it forces you to understand roasting from a sensory point of view. Don't go for a big, fancy or automated roaster, just yet, anyway. Our son has just expressed a similar interest with some of the same questions. I recommended an SR800; check it out. It's relatively inexpensive and if you move up, it will serve as a backup to a bigger roaster. For years, I hung onto my venerable SR500 and pulled it out any time someone wanted to learn a bit about coffee roasting.

Concerning your specific questions:
1) You'll have no trouble at all finding a good assortment of greens. When I started out, I ordered from Burman and Sweet Maria's. Both have "sample packs" and a good selection. There are plenty of other suppliers. Kept in a cool, dark environment, greens can last a year or more. I usually order mine twice a year, once just before winter to avoid any possibility that they might freeze in transit. That said, some folks even freeze greens (I don't).
2) I know this will raise some eyebrows, but it's my opinion, so here goes. Unless you're buying your roasted coffee fresh, from a local roaster, you've been drinking coffee that's already past its prime. Our experience is that going from store-bought coffee to home roasted coffee is the same quantum leap as going from instant to ground coffee. Everything we roast is consumed within a week or two of roasting. Buying roasted beans online, it can take a week or so just to get to you.
3) A typical roast can take from nine to fifteen minutes, depending on what you're trying to achieve. If you buy a very simple roaster, such as I suggested above, clean-up is minimal. The one lacking of such roasters is that they need to be cooled down between roasts. I ran my SR500 through a couple of cooling cycles with no beans to speed this up. The biggest issue with the SR roasters is overheating the chaff collector, but you can buy an extra one and switch them over if this is important to you. The roaster body cools down very quickly with even a single cooling cycle (a few minutes).

There's a tonne of info right here on H-B on roasting coffee. And, if you have specific issues, there's a pile of folks here ready to make suggestions.

Ypuh

#3: Post by Ypuh »

I've recently got into roasting with an Artisan controlled roaster. You can (and maybe should) go into the rabbit hole, but indeed you're overthinking it. You'll get to the 'drinkable' stage of roasting within a couple of roasts.

A roast takes like 15-20 minutes if you exclude pre-heating but include setting everything up and cleaning it. My roaster has a 1.2kg capacity doing 0.75kg batches and at the start of this hobby I'm actually quite bummed that it only takes one roast for my weekly consumption. It would be more fun to do 3-4 in a row and really learn the differences and you'll still be done within the hour.

Sourcing greens is really easy in our country. There's a few big importers that also sell to consumers for reasonable prices. I bought like 30kg from the get go (note: You lose about 15% in weight when roasting greens) which should last me a couple of months. You can buy greens per 1kg, but shipment, waste, roast profile, maybe a batch going wrong etc. it's easier to buy at least 5-10kg of the same bean. Once you found a roast profile you like, with Artisan you can just do a playback and roast it in a nearly identical way, only having to react on the changes in environment.

The computer controlled roasters are quite expensive though. Think in the realm of $1.800-3.500 (Hottop, Bullet, Kaleido). You likely won't be making any or much money since you need to calculate some time/waste/accessories/cleaning/trail and error etc. too.
I don't want a Decent

GDM528

#4: Post by GDM528 »

In our defense, coffee roasting is a playground for overthinkers - it's my Happy Place.

I suggest a core concept of home roasting is agility. A one-bean coffee drinker may not see much value in home roasting unless they're looking to shake things up and explore different roast levels and origins. If one keeps buying different bags of roasted coffees, never settling down, then home roasting may be a good path to the next level.

$1,6000 is a lot of coffee... Respect sir, respect.
I live in a town with over 80 local roasters, which drives down the price of artisan, freshly-roasted coffee to about 2x higher than highly regarded single-origin greens (I get the impression that consumers in less coffee-obsessed towns might be closer to 3x). If $1,600 is a sunk cost, then $800 would get you to break-even in just one year with a pretty nice roaster.

My first roaster was a FreshRoast and it served me well for a decade. But eventually I reached a point where I realized that my coffee roasting technique was centered more on dealing with the quirks of the roasting machine than the roast. Every machine has its own unique set of attributes and it took me two machines to find my match - something to consider when (over)thinking the journey and the destination.

Roaster manufacturers will jump-start the learning curve, and there's access to a crazy amount of sage advice on the HB forums filled with peeps that are interested in home roasters being successful. Despite that, a professional roaster should do their job better than I can do my hobby. However, I found it's rare that I and the roaster have access to the exact same greens, so it's not a level playing field. They have access to bulk discounts and multi-source blending strategies, and I have access to small runs of unique greens that don't make sense within their business model. And just because I roast my own coffee doesn't mean I can't buy professionally roasted coffee - I can still buy the occasional bag to see how the other half lives, or benchmark to learn how to improve my own roasts.

Roasting it myself changes the ground rules for judging such that I've never binned a roast. And I can chase arguably silly goals, like a really nice roast color, that someone running a business would never entertain. I roast in small batches so I can dial in both the resting time and days to consume to exactly when I want, just as the OP described. And I can experiment, learn, and explore far more combinations of roasting styles and origins than I could comfortably consume with commercial roasts.

Many roasters have a kitchen appliance-like footprint and usage model that makes setup, operation, and cleanup trivial. My current machine can roast a pound of coffee in an hour (5 identical or unique batches) including everything: setup, loading/unloading, storing. About 15min of which is spent interacting with the machine. Other roasters can report their roasting rate so you can line that up with your target consumption rate. Any way I look at it however, it takes me far longer to roast my own versus simply buying it.

tompoland

#5: Post by tompoland »

1. No.

2. Yes. Definitely.

3. 30 minutes including pre heating and roasting. Maintenance is easy and simple.

I am 129 roasts in on an Aillio Bullet and sure, there's a bit of a learning curve but it's really worth it and definitely a lot of savings to be had. Sourcing green beans is not too hard if you look for buying groups. I hope you go for it because I think you'll love it.
Some people drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.

luvmy40

#6: Post by luvmy40 »

I'll second the recommendation of the FR800 for your first go round. And, yes, it's worth the investment of both time and $. The FR800 with the OEM extension tube makes home roasting easy and fun. I roast 10 oz. batches with 2 cooling cycles between batches. It's about 18 minutes/batch including cooling. I see no real need for any other roaster, but I am highly to susceptible to upgradeitis and have been yearning for a traditional drum roaster. Maybe, someday, but the FR800 works and works well.

Between Sweat Maria's and Coffee Bean Corral, you should never run out of options.

BTW, buying in bulk, I save 50-75% the cost of local roaster's prices. I try to keep 20-30 lb. of greens in the cupboard.

littlenut

#7: Post by littlenut »

From a previous post....

Want's to Start Roasting

Your other points and questions will be addressed as you roast coffee.

HTH,
-LN

Milligan

#8: Post by Milligan »

Reasons you are interested:

1) If you enjoy the details then you will really enjoy the nuances of roasting. Typically people that like to roast find it highly rewarding to change a few roasting parameters and then be able to taste it in the cup. It is a really fun process especially once you get past the initial frustrations of learning the basics.

2) You will save a lot of money. I recently ordered 32lbs of different green coffees to try. Something like 6-7 different beans. All for around $150 to my door. That would be $700+ from the roasters you listed. So the economics are there after recouping your initial buy in. I also like to to think of the waste savings from not having dozens of bags, boxes, and individual shipping packages sent to me all the time. One big order and then use reusable containers after roasting to save waste. Onyx is a big offender on this! They send so much packaging with their coffee it is kind of insane especially for a roaster that is claiming to seek "accountability and truth."

3) Green beans are good for around 6 months or so if properly stored. So you can stockpile a nice supply.

Concerns:

1) You will have a more diverse supply of coffee by far sourcing green beans. Something easy like Coffee Bean Corral has 140 different beans from any origin you could imagine. If you think about the nearly "infinite" ways you can roast those beans then you truly have the most diverse selection roasting your own.

2) This is a great question. I think it is a hard one to answer. I can certainly say you won't be able to get consistent results without buying a higher end roaster or diving into tinkering with PID controllers on a budget. You can eventually get as good if not better than premier roasters for your palette. That is really the key here. They are roasting profiles and beans with a large net while you will be roasting for your specific needs. In that way, you will eventually surpass what others can roast for you. This will take time though.

3) This depends on what roasting machine you get. Most batches take between 10-15 mins on any roaster. So upping the batch size will obviously make roasting at quantity a faster process. For example, my Ikawa Pro 100 would take about 1 hour to roast 1lb of coffee. Certainly not ideal for roasting a lot of coffee. An Aillio Bullet would only take 10-15 mins to roast upwards of 2lbs. A huge time savings. If time for roasting is important for you then you'd match the roaster to your needs. Short answer, it can take as long as you want it to. Maintenance usually isn't a big deal on home roasters.

I'd say if you are interested in saving money, spending time researching coffee, taking hours of notes to expand your knowledge and skill, and are truly dedicated then you'll have a great time. Be prepared for frustration at the beginning but as with anything, it gets easier with time.

One thing I would recommend since it seems you already have a good taste for coffee since you are chasing specialty roasters is to not start at the Gene Cafe, Behmor, or Freshroast level. I think you'd be best served going on up the ladder at the start. Perhaps an Ikawa Home or Aillio Bullet. I wish the Aillio's price hadn't been hiked so many times because it is getting out of the realm of recommendation for a beginner. The good part about it is that you can fully grow into it. It could be your beginning and end for home roasting. If you are more interested in learning the physical process of roasting then a manual roaster like a Huky or Cormorant would be better. Just depends on what way you want to learn and what your aspirations are.

Good luck!

User avatar
luca
Team HB

#9: Post by luca »

This question comes up periodically, and asking it here is a bit like asking a barber if you need a haircut. You've got to assume that the answers you are going to get are from people who have self-selected to be here, presumably because they are enjoying roasting and think their results are good.

There are a few ways to look at it. It's not like you have to make a massive decision all at once, so the practical answer is to probably take some baby steps towards getting some good answers. Find some blowhard home roaster near you that's convinced that their coffee is good and buy some roasted coffee from them and see. Or get your hands on some green coffee and a cheap roaster and have a go. Something like a popper or a heat gun/dog bowl is cool because of how hands on it is. Buy, say, 1kg of coffee, roast it all at once; knock out 10 different roasts that are all slightly different; try to cover the full spectrum from too light to too dark, and short to long roast times, full well expecting that the majority of the roasts will be terrible. They will be, but that's not the point; the point is it's a cheap, efficient and fun way of learning how hard roasting is and what flavours you can expect. And part of the reason why making lots of really eggregious mistakes is great is because once you have tasted how green coffee can change with different roasts, it makes it easier for you to recognise less extreme roast defects in other roasts. So that's sort of a non-answer to any of your questions, but it might actually be the most useful thing I have to say.
2) As I mentioned before we use subscription services like Moustache and purchase coffee from professional roasters like counter culture, onyx, wild gift, JBC, etc... As a home roaster enthusiast will I ever be able to roast beans as well as or better than their roasted beans?
Well, the devil in the detail here is, as it always is, what you consider "good" to be. It's also kind of not really a question about whether you can roast as well as they do, it's more a question of how easily and repeatably you can do it, and how long it will take you to learn to do it. All of this sort of comes back to your frame of reference, and I'd say that there are tonnes of commercial roasts that have what I'd consider to be roast defects, but what others would consider to be a stylistic choice.

Personally, I've tried home roasting on and off for something like 15 years and have roasted over 2,000 batches and I don't feel that I can consistently roast as well as the roasters that I really like do. But I'm getting a lot closer. Someone else posted something to the effect of avoiding the spiralling upgrade path in home roasters and starting out with something a little more expensive. I think there's some wisdom in this. I think what you probably would ideally want in a home roaster, as a minimum, is that it would give you control of an independent variable related to the heat/energy (eg. input air temperature or power), it could deliver a repeatable roast state (eg. noting preheating and between batch protocol), you could record the results (eg. artisan/cropster/similar) and it would give you an independent variable to see as an indicator of roast progression (eg. bean temperature). There are also a few other things that are important, but that's kind of the super important things to help you dial in the roast. These are not trivial problems, there are commercially available home roasters that don't have all of these features, and also some that purport to have these features, but really, when you look at them, the implementation is not good, or it's not really these things. To give a really simple example, you want to be able to taste a roast, go "oh, it's too light" and then do something to repeat that same roast, but make it darker, in a predictable and repeatable way. Then you can start to make progress. But, for example, if you made a change to make the roast darker and it didn't work because on your second roast, the roaster wasn't preheated as much, or because you ended the roast based on some temperature indicator and that was unreliable, or because it was colder on that day and your system didn't account for the colder inlet air temperature, or because the thing that you changed didn't play out as you tweaked it to, then you are probably going to chase your tail and get frustrated. There are plenty of machines that you can buy that will be sold to you as finished products that will leave you with these sorts of experiences. Commercial machines, too, from what I'm told!
1) I am concerned about the challenges I would have in sourcing as diverse of an array of green coffee beans as I currently have access to buying from subscription services and professional roasters. Is this a legitimate concern?
Yes, but, as with all things, think through it and see if you nonetheless get somewhere where you are happy.

Again, I think the key to this question is probably what's your frame of reference? Are you generally satisfied with all of the coffees that you get from subscriptions where the roaster or some middleman picks? Or are you the sort that has strong opinions about the coffee variety and the processing technique? Do you have thoughts along the lines of "this XXX variety, YYY process from ZZZ roaster is in a similar genre to the AAA variety, BBB process from CCC roaster that I had DDD years ago, but it's more 111 and less 222 and I like it a lot 333"?

Obviously, coffee roasters have the opportunity to get a wide variety of samples, test and evaluate them and pick what they consider to be the best for their application. As a home roaster, you're not going to do that. Essentially, you are going to substitute the judgment of your coffee roaster and subscription service for the judgment of your green coffee suppliers. You're probably going to buy more coffee from fewer people, so you are going to be more dependent on that judgment.

So, let's step through how this might work in practice. You decide that you want, say, a Brazilian coffee that's kind of chocolatey, nutty, sweet and low acid. How will you get this? You'll probably google and look at what the various suppliers have in stock. So let's say you buy one. Then you roast it. Maybe the results will be good. So maybe you are happy with it, and then it's for you to decide what you do next when you run out. Is it worth trying to find something better? Or do you order again? If you order again, what are you missing out on? How good is it relative to what else is on the market? Or maybe the result is bad. How do you know if it's because of the coffee, or because of the way you roasted it? Was it correctly and reasonably described? I mean, in all likelihood, if you brought it up with the supplier or with home roasters, you'll probably be told that it's of the highest quality and that you didn't roast it well. The description you were probably given was probably not especially specific; it was probably something like "sweet, nutty, low acid, some fruit"; the supplier never said that it wasn't papery and astringent or earthy on the finish; they simply picked a few good aspects and described them to you. So what are you going to do about it? Do you buy more of the same and believe people that your roast was the problem? Do you blindly go buy something different? When you start off, do you maybe buy a selection of different coffees that meet the description of what you're after and go through all of them to work out what you should be buying? These aren't far fetched examples; they are real questions that will inevitably occur to you when you are roasting, so you might as well think about them now.

In some senses, the questions aren't really any different from what a professional roaster faces. The difference is that a professional roaster has access to lots of samples if they want them, and can quickly develop a frame of reference. But some professional roasters just uncritically buy a narrow slice of what's available from one or two suppliers that they trust, so it's not really a given that they will do better, just that it's easier for them to do it. And I've had, defective green coffee like phenolics and mould from both home roast green suppliers and professional coffee roasters, so it's not like the extra layer of QC that you might have if you are buying from a commercial roaster always works. Of course, you can expect that most suppliers will either make advertising puffery style representations about how all of their stuff is high quality, or will be silent as to quality, but you can't really expect that your suppliers are going to give you an honest appraisal of where their green quality sits in the market.
3) Once the learning curve is climbed, how much time does it take to roast a batch? Do coffee roasters have lots of maintenance costs? Clean up time/costs?

This bit sort of varies from roaster to roaster. The popper style roasters can be super small, easy to pull out, set up and go and pack down, and I gather people use some of them with no preheat. They're pretty convenient; no idea about the roast quality. I had a quest M3 that a friend of mine and I highly modified so much that we made the chaff removal useless and had to vacuum the chaff out of it. That was quite a good roaster, actually, and I think we would probably have gotten some really great results out of it if we'd had the patience to keep on modifying it, but part of the reason we gave up on it was because we had so many bread boards and screws and things cobbled together that it was like an hour just to set up, preheat, cool, clean and put away.
LMWDP #034 | 2011: Q Exam, WBrC #3, Aus Cup Tasting #1 | Insta: @lucacoffeenotes
★ Helpful

Mbb

#10: Post by Mbb »

8) You can do fine
It doesn't take very long to actually roast
It does become a PITA if you have to roast more than once a week, imo.
But dropping by a local roaster once a week was also a bigger PITA for me

Many of your small roasters are not as good as they would like you to believe they are.
In fact, some of them are pretty bad and they're actually selling coffee in stores.
Like anything else, it's 90% marketing

Starbucks is pretty damn nasty and look what they've done.....
Similar can be said for Folgers......
And probably 90% of your small cottage roasters as well
They're just a fancy bag , a trendy name, and marketing
Most of their buyers have no idea how bad of product they're buying

Dont be intimidated by them.

Find a couple of coffees you like, roast them your way. Enjoy.
Subscription services are a good way to sample some different coffees. And that can be interesting. But if you rely too heavy on that then you won't need to roast your own.

I have used some subscription for variety. And it's enjoyable and interesting. Most supply too much coffee for you too drink and still need to roast your own though. I haven't found a subscription that actually fits my needs..... One problem is too many nasty naturals. Keep them. They are mostly gross. Other coffees can be interesting..... But not necessarily something you want to drink 2 cups of everyday. ...... I got a coffee in a subscription last year that tasted like lemon.... I mean overwhelming lemon flavor..... Yeah that's different and unique.... Exactly how long do you think it takes to get tired of that? Yep, one cup and you don't ever want it again. It's simply not something I want to drink everyday.

Different...... Sells initially. But it doesnt satisfy the "so fricking what?" Question long term. Is coffee supposed to taste like lemons ( or blueberries, pipe tobacco, ripe currants,....) is that the new thing? No, it's just a novelty that's short lived. A lot of roasters are out there just producing novelties.