Saturday, December 7, 2013

Roasting the Coffee Beans

My mama was serious about coffee. She wanted her coffee ready first thing in the morning, and it had better be hot enough to scald your mouth. She LOVED fresh roasted coffee, freshly ground. I am not talking about Folgers or even Starbucks. We are talking super fresh. She wanted me to roast the green coffee beans myself. 

It all started when a friend of mine told me about roasting green coffee beans. Never one to forgo a new skill, especially a culinary skill, I paid careful attention, took notes, and ordered some beans. My first coffee roaster was a big black skillet. It takes considerable stirring, non-stop for twenty minutes or so, to get the beans just right. From the first cup, my mama was hooked. It was clear I was going to do more stirring than I had planned to do, so my next roaster was a vintage hot air popcorn popper. It worked great, but I could only roast 1/4 cup of beans at a time. A pound of coffee was a major undertaking, but my mama really loved this coffee. She had so many dietary restrictions that coffee was the one thing she could enjoy just the way she wanted it. Finally, in the interest of time, I ordered a big home roaster that could handle a pound of coffee beans at once. 

The interesting thing about coffee is that every variety of bean roasts a little differently, and has an individual flavor. There is an art to roasting coffee, so I've taken careful notes on how long it takes to get to first crack, how long to second crack, total roast time, flavor, and how well I liked the coffee. It has been more than a year since I used the roaster. After my mama died, picking up a bag at Kroger just seemed easier. Tonight, however, I dragged out the beans. I selected a Guatemalan bean with a name that is too long to type, much less pronounce. It is supposedly going to be "a luminescent cup with apple cider notes, cinnamon, allspice, buttery mouthfeel, fresh cream finish". I can't wait to try it! (I'm doubtful about that butter and cream business, though.)

Temperatures above 400 degrees F are required to get the roast just right. While the bean is roasting, the thin layer of skin left on the bean during processing, known as chaff, is removed. The chaff has to go if the coffee is going to be tasty!  If not, it leaves a bitter taste when the beans are ground. 

This is just part of the chaff removed in roasting a pound of green beans. 

In this next picture, you can see the roasted beans. There is still a little chaff clinging to the beans, but it will have to be removed before grinding. A thorough shaking should do the trick

Coffee roasting requires constant attendance and careful attention. Nineteen-plus minutes watching the drum roaster rotate tonight gave me plenty of time to ponder. As I watched those beans "go through the fire", I thought about all the times in my life when it seemed I was going through a fire of my own. Sometimes the circumstances were pretty hard, maybe hard enough to be considered a "hot fire".  I wonder... Did that life-fire burn off my chaff? Did it rid me of the thin skin that leaves a bitter taste behind? I sure hope so!

My freshly roasted beans are resting tonight. Can you believe it? After all that watching and waiting, I still have to wait some more!  Tomorrow morning, I will be enjoying my fresh-roasted, fresh-ground coffee, just like my mama loved. Judging by the aroma in my house tonight, it's going to be good. Now if I could be a good as the coffee .... No chaff at all. That would really be something!