Home roasting - what's the big deal?

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

Postby Worldman » Sep 12, 2006, 7:23 pm

I suppose that I like espresso as well as any of you and probably better than some of you. The difference that fresh beans make vs. stale beans is drastic.

I just don't see the need to roast my own when freshly roasted beans are available to me at will (as long as I drive to the roastery or a couple of coffee bars to get them). One supposes that most of you also have decent local roasters. Why then do you home roast? What is the advantage?

If your reasons are "craftsmanship" or some such, OK that is understandable. But even then, there are so many variables (roast temperature, roast time, which green beans to use, which beans to blend with which, etc.) that the possibilities for both good and ill become endless.

Len <--- already suffering from too much anxiety

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another_jim
Team HB

Postby another_jim » Sep 12, 2006, 7:35 pm

Roasting is good for learning about coffee. A typical coffee shop or roaster will have one coffee from each major growing area, roasted in one way. Homeroasters usually have access to probably half a dozen coffees from each area, and can roast them lighter or darker as they please. This leads naturally into comparing and cupping.

Homeroasting is also very tedious if one doesn't enjoy the actual process. If you value your time at even minumum wage, homeroasted coffee is also more expensive than coffee bought from a roaster. So you had better like doing it.

Finally, homeroasting machines are not very good -- there are no semi-commercial home roasters. You'll get results better than most medium sized commercial roasters using a popcorn popper, just like you get better espresso than an average cafe at home with almost any machine. But this is a fairly meaningless standard unless you are really inconveniently located; it will take time, learning, experience, and lots of roaster mods before your results will compare with the coffees we talk about here.
Jim Schulman

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Worldman

Postby Worldman » Sep 12, 2006, 7:42 pm

Jim,

Well said! I can appreciate that home roasting allows one to experiement and to know experientially what goes into the roast, and absolutlely to know about different coffees. It is just a lot of work/tedium.

If I understand you correctly, you are saying (in so many words) that home roasting takes the anal retentivity of espresso to new levels.

Len

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Compass Coffee
Sponsor

Postby Compass Coffee » Sep 12, 2006, 8:49 pm

Worldman wrote:If I understand you correctly, you are saying (in so many words) that home roasting takes the anal retentivity of espresso to new levels.
Len

(Not Jim here of course) Not at all IMO. It can take tastes to new levels! Different people home roast for different reasons. Some thinking to save money (sometimes mistakenly), other's it's all about quality, freshness and choices. Jim was around and one of those I looked for guidance from when I began my home roasting journey going on six years ago.

My reasons for starting home roasting strictly because had been chasing fresh roast whole beans since I began drinking coffee late in life in 1984 after first tasting fresh ground fresh brewed fresh roast, then age 30. During the ensuing decade and a half first one local micro-roaster discovered in Vancouver way back then went under, they were ahead of their time. Found another an hours drive away and then they too went under after happily buying from them for 5 years. Bought online a couple years but just wasn't satisfied with variety or quality. While searching for online sources that you could order not only specific SO varietals as well as blends but also able to order different degrees of roast stumbled on home roasting.

I agree you must enjoy the process of home roasting to stick with it. Sometimes it's a hassle or chore, but most of the time it's actually relaxing, Zen like being one with the bean for me. Or spend thousands on a commerical automated roasting system. Though there is a 1/2# totally automated PID controlled P1 roaster being marketed out of The Dalles OR, under the radar as it were. Does an excellent job BTW! That said having full manual control of my roast via mods I'd put my espresso blends and roasts against the likes of Stumptown Hairbender. Seriously. And while their Hairbender is a quite good espresso blend IMO, having it all the time would be quite boring. Then there's the almost endless SO choices. I virtually always have 4 or 5 different coffees roasted and rested, seldom having the same cup back to back. Typically start the day with a SO Americano, followed by a SO or espresso blend cap' but usually a SO, then to straight shot(s) of blend and or a SO.

Fortunately Stumptown was just starting up about the same time I started home roasting, and I'd not discovered them yet. Had I discovered them I well may not have started home roasting. However no way I'd quit home roasting, they and no commerical roaster I know of offer near the choices I have at my beck and call. At one time peaked at 63 different greens, now down to around 40...

Home roasting isn't for everyone just as other culinary skills aren't for everyone. It's as much art as science as is the case with most cooking. If someone has a high aptitude in the culinary arena chances are they'd be good at home roasting. OTH if someone is the type who tends to burn water they'd most likely be better off finding a good retail roaster!

FWIW my espresso journey didn't actually begin until about a year after home roasting.
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

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John P

Postby John P » Sep 12, 2006, 10:11 pm

We microroast at our caffe (1-3# at a time) and I'm here so much, it might as well be 'home' roasting. 8)

I mostly enjoy roasting single origin coffees and blending for espresso. I've learned a lot about how different beans interact, at what level of roast they work best, what days are peak for that particular roast, etc.

For only about nine months of roasting, I am still in my infancy. I frequently read what home roasters are doing, because I think there's much to be learned there. Knowledge is knowledge, the only real difference is equipment, volume, and frequency and access to high quality beans. Most passionate and serious home roasters will have better coffee than your average indie and most all of the chain stores. Roasting, whether it's at home or at a 'home away from home' allows us to create an orchestra of flavors from an array of very finely tuned instruments. One cannot be a Concert Maestro in a day, a week, or even a year, but once you experience the softest whisper of a single violin note to the rousing crescendo of the brass coning together in a way such that all seems 'right' in the universe, you are hooked for life. (sorry for the poeticalness :oops: )
John Piquet
Salt Lake City, UT
caffedbolla.com

Ken Fox

Postby Ken Fox » Sep 12, 2006, 10:23 pm

John P wrote:We microroast at our caffe (1-3# at a time) and I'm here so much, it might as well be 'home' roasting. 8)

I mostly enjoy roasting single origin coffees and blending for espresso. I've learned a lot about how different beans interact, at what level of roast they work best, what days are peak for that particular roast, etc.

For only about nine months of roasting, I am still in my infancy. I frequently read what home roasters are doing, because I think there's much to be learned there. Knowledge is knowledge, the only real difference is equipment, volume, and frequency and access to high quality beans. Most passionate and serious home roasters will have better coffee than your average indie and most all of the chain stores. Roasting, whether it's at home or at a 'home away from home' allows us to create an orchestra of flavors from an array of very finely tuned instruments. One cannot be a Concert Maestro in a day, a week, or even a year, but once you experience the softest whisper of a single violin note to the rousing crescendo of the brass coning together in a way such that all seems 'right' in the universe, you are hooked for life. (sorry for the poeticalness :oops: )



I don't spend a lot of time in SLC, but I do pass through it a couple of times a year. It is great to hear that there is a cafe there to check out. All of my previous forays into SLC espressodom have been beyond disappointing.

ken
What, me worry?

Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

Ken Fox

Postby Ken Fox » Sep 12, 2006, 10:29 pm

Worldman wrote:I suppose that I like espresso as well as any of you and probably better than some of you. The difference that fresh beans make vs. stale beans is drastic.

I just don't see the need to roast my own when freshly raosted beans are available to me at will (as long as I drive to the roastery or a couple of coffee bars to get them). One supposes that most of you also have decent local roasters. Why then do you home roast? What is the advantage?

If your reasons are "craftsmanship" or somesuch, OK that is understandable. But even then, there are so many variables (roast tamperature, roast time, which green beans to use, which beans to blend with which, etc.) that the possibilities for both good and ill become endless.

Len <--- already suffering from too much anxiety



I'm definitely someone who, if I had the chance, would simply buy excellent fresh beans from a pro. It isn't because I can't do it but because to me it is a time consuming activity that I do a reasonable job at but there are other people who are as good and hopefully better at it, and I'd rather do other things.

Because I live in a rural area with no reliable nearby source of fresh coffee, and because I don't feel like paying $15 or more per pound, including shipping, to have good fresh coffee available all the time, I home roast. I have reduced the hassle factor by investing in a 500g commercial sample roaster, and by judicious use of the freezer. Since I'm almost entirely interested in espresso, and since I hate throwing out sink shots, having 12 different types of roasted coffee available at one time is not something that attracts me. I have two grinders, and having given up on decaf I now use both of them for caffeinated beans, so I can easily have two different SOs or blends available at one time, but not more.

For me it is part convenience and part economics. If I lived down the street from a competent roaster, I would never have bothered with any of this home roasting stuff.

ken
What, me worry?



Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

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jesawdy

Postby jesawdy » Sep 12, 2006, 10:52 pm

Worldman wrote:I just don't see the need to roast my own when freshly raosted beans are available to me at will (as long as I drive to the roastery or a couple of coffee bars to get them). One supposes that most of you also have decent local roasters. Why then do you home roast? What is the advantage?



Len et al.-

The above statement is exactly where my mind was just a few weeks ago. Why would you go through all that trouble?

Well, I do not home roast, and I probably won't even try for sometime.... I quite simply don't have the time to invest in learning roasting right now.... That and the fact that I have available to me multiple local roasters, and online retailers that can reach me within a few days post roast. But, that being said, I can see why one would go through the trouble now.

Why would I like to home roast:

CONTROL

With a roaster, large or small, there will be changes out of your control... and you will most likely never know about the change until you've suffered a noticable change in the cup. Unless you keep close tabs on or are super friendly with a local roaster, you'll not know that a blend has changed, this or that lot ran out, etc, etc. Now, your roaster should be cupping and reformulating blends, and keeping things as close to the same as possible, but there will be changes. Beyond lots and blends, I experience a little frustration in roast level changes from batch to batch with a local roaster. Home roasting offers complete control (and potentially complete failure I suppose).

DISCOVERY

I imagine that learing to cup and roast coffees and utimatley blend some coffees can be a pretty incredible journey. Could *I* do it right now, even given the time in my schedule to magically home roast, I'm not so sure I could. I think my palate is too young to understand where to even begin right now. I've only been serious about espresso for a very short time, and I feel like I need to spend a lot more time learning from the good coffees (and bad coffees too) that are out there right now. I hope to become involved with some local cuppings someday soon to start this journey.

MY THIRD POINT?
Huh, I thought I had another major reason why.... it escaped me! :lol: Something like for the fun, satisfaction, ownership, craftsmanship, artistry of it all. Or something...
Jeff Sawdy

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John P

Postby John P » Sep 12, 2006, 11:13 pm

Ken,

I used to live in Chubbuck, next to Pocatello. Fun times! (NOT)

We run a 2 group Synesso here, used to have a Linea. We fresh-roast coffee to order, no drip, press-pot only. I agree with your findings in SLC. After hitting places like Vivace, Lighthouse, Hines, etc.; the only way for us to enjoy a great espresso was to open our own place.

Drop me a line anytime.
John Piquet
Salt Lake City, UT
caffedbolla.com

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RapidCoffee
Team HB

Postby RapidCoffee » Sep 12, 2006, 11:42 pm

Worldman wrote:I just don't see the need to roast my own when freshly roasted beans are available to me at will (as long as I drive to the roastery or a couple of coffee bars to get them). One supposes that most of you also have decent local roasters. Why then do you home roast? What is the advantage?


Why cook a meal when you can get take-out food? Why play an instrument with the world's greatest music in your CD collection? In fact, why participate in any amateur endeavor when a professional product is available for purchase?

Quite simply, I home roast for the love of it. It's part of my ongoing passion for coffee. There are endless possibilities for wonder, enjoyment and satisfaction in coffee roasting, just as in coffee brewing.
________
John