Mr. M is rather picky about coffee.
He doesn't drink a lot of it - usually just a cup a day - but he wants that cup to be as good as possible. Not only must the beans be freshly ground, they should also (ideally) be freshly roasted (within the last 4 days, according to Mr. M).
The first is easily accomplished; the second is rather more difficult. Unless you happen to live near a roasting company (we don't), or can afford to have coffee roasted to order and shipped the same day (we can't), you are dependent on the freshness of whatever your supermarket or coffee vendor has available. And while some sellers can tell you the date their coffee was roasted, many cannot. What's a coffee lover to do?
For years Mr. M had been reading about the coffee roasting process, and dreaming of one day roasting his own. With a very modest investment (about $32, most of which came from a Christmas gift of money), that dream finally came true.
Would you like to see how it's done? Of course you would. Note: Because the smell of roasting coffee is very strong, Mr. M does his roasting in the garage - hence the bike parts and random manly gear which you'll see in the background of these photos.
The equipment list is very modest: A hot-air popcorn popper (with optional glass chimney made from a recycled jar, bottom cut off and edges smoothed), a long-handled wooden spoon, a heatproof bowl, a mesh strainer, and some green beans.
(Green beans? Yep - coffee beans really are green before they're roasted. Mr. M orders his from a coffee importer in Madison. For the truly coffee-minded and curious reader, I believe these are Kenya AA beans.)
A stopwatch is optional, but helpful for the novice roaster. Mr. M starts the watch...
...dumps the green beans into the popper, and turns it on. He puts the strainer over the top and lets the beans jump around for about one minute. (The strainer, and the chimney, keep them from flying out.)
Then he removes the strainer and starts stirring. Soon a popping sound is heard...
...and chaff begins to fly as the beans shed their outer layer.
After the inital "pop" comes a pause; then the beans begin to crackle. At this point, they're roasted - and Mr. M must use his eyes and nose to decide whether to leave them for a few seconds more, or take them out. (The longer they're left, the darker they'll be - and if they're left in too long they'll begin to smoke and get very dark indeed.)
Mr. M likes a medium roast, so he stops the popper and dumps the beans into the strainer.
They're piping hot and on the verge of smoking, so he swirls them around as they continue to cook under their own heat...
...then he pours them back and forth, back and forth, between the strainer and the bowl, to cool them down and stop the roasting.
From start to finish, the entire process takes about 6 minutes. (Actual roasting time is even shorter - about 2 minutes. Correction - more like 4 minutes. Thanks, Mr. M!)
And here's the finished product:
Mr. M roasts just enough coffee to last him a few days and no more - by this means assuring that his daily cup will be truly fresh. He's already placed another order with the coffee importer, taking advantage of a sale to buy a year's worth of assorted green beans. The overall cost per pound is about the same, or a little less, than buying his coffee from a good supermarket or coffee store - but the pleasure he gets from roasting his own beans, and the quality of the finished cup, are worth more than money to him.
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Is there a product or service that you could buy, but that you prefer to do for yourself? (Such as baking your own bread, making your own pasta, grinding your own peanut butter, roasting your own coffee, sewing your own clothes or home furnishings, etc.?) If so, I'd love to hear about it.
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