Home Roasting Experiment: The Beginning

image Someone I met at work told me he roasts coffee beans at home in an old air popcorn popper.  I thought that was extremely interesting, and so looked it up online.

Sure enough, it seems there’s a whole lot of people doing it.  So many, in fact, that it’s driven up the price of a used original West Bend Poppery to $50 or more.  I shared this news to someone close to me, and for Christmas I received a shipment of assorted green coffee beans.

So now I have to get myself a air popper.  No problem, I thought, and went to Walmart and bought one.  But it turned out to be the wrong type, and so back it went.

If you can see a screen in the middle of the bottom of the popper, it’s the wrong type.  If you see a series of vents along the edge of the bottom, it’s the right type.

It’s not easy to find the right type.

I actually started making a little movie of my quest for a air popper to use for roasting coffee beans.  Last night I finally won one on eBay.  I filmed that too.  I also plan on filming me getting it in the mail and setting it up and trying to roast coffee in it.

When it’s done, I’ll post it on YouTube and put a link to it here.

Barres Brothers Sumatra Mandheling

It’s noon as I write this. A city disaster siren just went off outside my window, moaning a very loud message of doom. Thumping and crying out of my computer’s speakers is an old Pink Floyd song called Mudmen.
And I’m drinking my second large mug of Barres Brothers Sumatra Mandheling.
Life is so good. There are challenges and sorrows, sure. There are disappointments. Things more often than not go ways other than we’d like them to go.
But if you strive for excellence, you will receive it. Not always in big ways, but definitely in small ones. Like a really excellent cup of coffee that you can savor and let it flood your soul with energy and focus, bringing a sense of both peace and gratitude. Gratitude that you’re actually alive, aware, in this time and place. Right now. Right here.
Berres Brothers says of this coffee that it’s “Intensely powerful, joyfully rejuvenating. Indonesian beans create this strong, earth richness accented with”
With what? I don’t know. It cuts off right there. It must be a printing error.
I will personally vouch for it being “intensely powerful” as that is exactly what it is. This is a powerful coffee, not overbold like a dark roast, but powerful in its brown robustness, its winey notes mixed with earthy toasty beans. There’s a spike of acidity, so I wouldn’t drink this one all day long. A good mid-morning or lunchtime coffee, enough to give you that sharp kick that helps you over the hump of the day, making your afternoon enjoyable and lucid.
Berres Brothers does it again. This coffee is another in their long line of groovy brews.
Oh, and that disaster siren, it was a test, only a test.

Irony, Starbucks Style

After my writer’s meeting tonight I stopped by Starbucks for a latte, and noticed the cup was advertising a movie called Arctic Tale. It showed a mother and cub polar bear with the inscription, “The change in their world impacts us all.”
Off to the side is posed the question of what we can do at home to fight global warming. Their answer: “Launder half our clothes in cold water.”
Below that was printed: “Careful, the beverage you’re about to enjoy is extremely hot.”

Cure for Horrid Hotel Coffee

For the life of me I could not figure out why the coffee tasted so awful.

I’m on a long term assignment, and I’m being put up in a nice hotel suite with a little kitchen. I already knew the coffee would suck so I brought my own. To my surprise and horror, it still sucked.

Must be the water, I thought, and went out and got bottled water.

Still sucked.

Must be the coffee pot, I decided, and cleaned it out thoroughly. Made a new pot.

It still sucked.

I cleaned it again, this time using that stuff that goes through and strips out all the lime and sediments. That had to be it, I thought. There was nothing else it could be. I was using some of the best coffee I’ve ever had, and I was using good water, and the filters were fine.

Yet, the coffee was still horrible.

Finally I figured it out by listening. It sounded like the boiler was never quite shutting off, that it kept trying to spit more water through. Upon opening it, though, I found there was no water in the tank. The boiling sound was coming from the coffee pot.

The stupid freaking hotel coffee maker was boiling my coffee! The pot warmer was set way too hot.

Well, that was it. I was finished dinking with this coffee machine. I decided to simply go and buy a little cup-top manual coffee maker like the one I use at home.

I gave up on that, as well, after days of searching. No one here carries them.

It came down to two choices … buy a coffee maker, or make my own coffee maker. Well, I certainly wasn’t going to buy one. I came close a few times — I was that desperate — but in the end I decided it wasn’t rocket science, I could construct my own.

I started with a travel mug that had its own lid. It was perfect because I already had an idea of what I would do, and needed the lid for support.











Next I took a Styrofoam coffee cup that the hotel provided and poked holes in the bottom with a plastic fork. This became the holder for my coffee filters.






After that it was a simple matter of stuffing a filter into the Styrofoam cup and measuring coffee into it.









I set the ad-hoc coffee maker onto the open lid on the travel mug and poured the hot (but not boiling) water into it.

The coffee steeped as it should, trickled down fresh into the mug, and guess what?

It tasted awesome.

Now, I know what some of you are going to say. I should have simply called down to the front desk and demanded another coffee machine. I have to admit the thought did occur to me more than once, but I didn’t because I figured they’d just bring another one of their horrid coffee makers. Besides, this was a challenge and I wanted to solve it myself.

And, truth be known, I thought it would be fun to write about.

This is a good example of how there really is nothing to brewing good coffee. You don’t need a $400 machine with its own cybernetic brain, or four dials and 37 valves.

All you need is good coffee, good water, and to brew it at an appropriate temperature.

That, and an unwillingness to settle for coffee that sucks.

Taking a deep breath, and then smiling again…

From my last couple of posts you can tell I was venting some frustrations, and yes, I’ve been spending time in a new office with bad coffee, and living in hotel rooms with bad coffee.
What’s worse than bad coffee?  Having to drink it after being spoiled by remarkably good coffee (see several posts previous to the two negative ones).   Which brings me to a concern of mine: if I drink only superb coffee, is it going to skew my view of what a coffee should be?  In other words, if all I wear is gold, will I ever be happy with copper again?
I don’t know.  I guess we’ll see?  After all, what’s wrong with only liking the best?
If everyone insisted on the best, would that not force all coffee growers, roasters, and marketers to improve or perish?
Speaking of which, I’m a bit nervous.  Inland Empire Coffee is sending me some of their beans to review.  These guys are legendary … am I going to be spoiled rotten?  Even beyond what I already am?
We’ll see…
A big shout out to Cliff and Ralph for mentioning GroovyBrew.com on their IE Coffee Radio Show this weekend.  I’m honored!  Thanks guys!