|Damn fine cup of coffee, Diane - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
OK, so that's a rotten lie; not a good way to start the the new year, I know. The Prime's rockin' New Year's Eve was a happily mellow and understated one -- absolutely no tigers or self-inflicted dentistry, at least that I'm aware of. But I can't assume that everyone is as fabulously boring as I am -- there's more than a few souls out there who have been wandering in an intoxicated haze since Thursday night, wondering why that raccoon stole their underwear. How about a cup of coffee to chase away the demons? Even better -- how about roasting your own coffee? Once the cinderblock metronome in your skull goes away, of course.
It's not as obscure a thing as one would imagine. Mr. Wasabi has been roasting his own beans for years. It's relatively easy, yields more flavor control, and can be budget-friendly. The basics behind roasting your own coffee is to find a method of dry, high heat, that helps circulate hot air around the beans so that they are continually moving and aren't burned during the roasting process. Brock had done some research and discovered that achieving this roasting method is as simple as using an old air popcorn popper. Check on Craigslist or rummage sales -- there are so many floating around and people seem more than happy to be rid of them, and more often that not, you may have one stowed away in some closet or atticspace. They roast up to a few handfuls of beans at a time and while averaging ten minutes of roasting time per batch, this roast time is variable, depending on the bean. This provides more options to push and pull flavors from the coffee beans.
|Greenie Beanies - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
As for the coffee itself, we've been purchasing our green beans online. There are several places that will sell green beans in bulk, which usually yields a cheaper price in the long run, and they keep for a very long time in a cool, dry place. Our longtime supplier has been Sweet Maria's, which sells a wide variety of green beans, plus provides handy advice and tips for DIY coffee roasters. Their green bean prices range from about over $5 to $8 a pound, plus some rare, more expensive varieties. They do sell small home-use roasters, but if you want to get all MacGyver about it, the popcorn popper works just fine.
|French press optional, as are Quantum Leap mugs - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
I may have a Mr. Wasabi, but I do not have a Mr. Coffee. We have a large collection of Bodum French presses, but no coffee machine. We've no quarrel with the appliance, we just never bothered to get one. Given the small batches of roasts done in the popcorn popper, we only use a small amount at a time, which for quality's sake, it's ideal to roast and brew the coffee within a matter of days. Once the oils from the beans are brought to the surface, they will start to deteriorate and the freezer only slows this process down so much. Because of the small-batch roasting, the French press is both a handy and delicious way to start one's morning, if you don't mind a few extra steps. We tend to brew up several cups' worth in a large French press and once ready, we pour ourselves a cup and then put the rest in an insulated thermos to keep it hot for seconds and thirds. Letting it continue to steep in the grounds at the bottom of the press will make the coffee bitter, plus having it exposed just cools it down. An insulated thermos does an amazing job of keeping the coffee hot for many hours.
|Proof of coffee nerd-ness - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
As to the other extra coffee-making tools we keep handy, we use a box grinder, and more specifically, a Zassenhaus conical burr grinder. They are not cheap, I realize this. I credit and fault Mr. Wasabi's coffee nerd obsession going into overdrive, but you can sometimes find these old burr grinders in antique stores, as this was the method of grinding coffee back in the day. The nice thing about them is they are not electric, few moving parts, adjustable, and they really will last a lifetime. The reasoning behind the box grinder is mostly because of the French press method -- electric grinders are so efficient, they pulverize the beans to such a fine grade that much of it will seep through the metal mesh filter in the presses, creating more sludge than coffee. If you embrace the power of technology, the 21st century, and have a coffeemaker like the rest of the modern world, this foray into bean grinding and French presses is unecessary. We're just the weirdos who don't have a coffee machine, yet own a pair of Quantum Leap mugs (I usually take Sam, and Brock tends to get Al, in case you were wondering).
You don't need to have all the extra brewing and grinding accompaniments to enjoy a home-roasted cup of coffee -- the main thing is the roaster and getting your hands on some green beans. If you have the chance to roast your own, I recommend it, as you will notice the flavor and freshness. It's a great way to start the morning, as well as the new year -- happy 2010, everyone!
Roasting Your Own Coffee (come on, you know you want to)
Tools needed: air popcorn popper, kitchen scale for weighing beans, stopwatch or timer, large metal bowl, metal strainer, oven mitt or glove, airtight glass jar for storage
Ingredients: 50 grams by volume, green coffee beans
Start up air popper and let it run for a few seconds to warm the heating element. Pour the green beans in, start the stopwatch or timer, and shake popper to make sure the air is keeping the beans moving. They should be swirling around rapidly. Place a metal bowl where the popcorn would pop out to catch any of the chaff as it's burned off the beans. The beans should roast for eight to ten minutes, depending on recommended roast time for beans or personal preference. Ten minutes yields a dark and flavorful roast, but not as strong or burned as most commercial blends.
Around the fourth or fifth minute, you will hear a distinctive snapping sound coming from the beans -- this is called "first crack," and signifies the roasting is about halfway through. Clean out the burned chaff from the metal bowl as it fills; it's good to do this around a kitchen vent to clear out the burning smell. Keep an eye on the beans -- don't ever walk away from them. When the ten minute mark hits, turn off the popper and carefully pour the roasted beans into a metal strainer. Toss lightly to cool or lay out on a cold stone countertop to quicken the cooling process. Careful, they will be super-hot!
Once beans are cool to the touch, store in an airtight glass container. The batch should last for up to a week, but it's best to grind and brew it as soon as the beans are cooled. After having the first cup of your own home-roasted coffee, I'll wager it will be tough for the beans to even last a week!
|Coffee roasting at home -- a better use for that Poppery II that no one's used for years. Photos by Wasabi Prime|