Home roasting - what's the big deal? - Page 4

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

#31: Post by CoffeeOwl »

how to do the north italian roast, let's say with Gene Cafe? I mean when to stop? at the first crack? I mean: I don't want it too dark. (and I am a newbie to roasting)


#32: Post by Abdon » replying to CoffeeOwl »

You may be looking at it from the wrong end. At best the 'North Italian roast' is a gross generalization of a particular roast level; I guess it means a lighter roast as compared to gross generalizations of another roast level. At worst is just meaningless marketing sound bites used as a placebo for real understanding of coffee matters. Heck, offering somebody between a North Italian style roasted coffee or the Vienna style roasted coffee (instead of just saying light versus dark roast) has to be worth another 50 cents a cup :roll:

To actually answer the question: the term that you are using means quite different things to different people. The light end of it could be argued to be somewhere around City+ roast (which could be argued to be about a minute after the end of first crack) with the dark end around Full City+ roast (which could be argued to be somewhere shortly after second crack). In between those extremes, there is quite a lot of ground to cover.

The point of roasting is to extract a particular character from a particular bean for a particular purpose. 'North Italy roasting' one particular bean may be disgusting, 'North Italy roasting' another may be the ticket to heaven. Think of them like meat; roasting ribs for six hours, good idea. Roasting chicken for six hours, bad idea :wink:

It is more sensible to start with the roast level recommended by your green bean provider and then to experiment from there. Aiming for a roast level for no other purpose than to achieve that roast level works only when luck is involved.


#33: Post by CoffeeOwl »

Abdon, thank you very much!
I'm a complete newbie to home roasting yet I only knew I'd want to roast to such level, to get the most of the flavour of any beans and not to loose anything. Yes I know it's a generalization (and a gross one).
But luckily I found articles about roast levels on sweet maria's so at least I may say I started learning :)

There was a poll about the need for home roasting forum... yes we do need!
And in commentaries someone said it's good to taste some great coffees before starting your own roasting - please advice me on some...


#34: Post by ppopp »

Len -

Let me answer your question in a slightly different way. Clearly there is no shortage of people here who will stand up and say they will never look back after trying home roasting. But I have never read a post where someone has said they're giving up on home roasting, for any reason, and going back to buying commercial roasts. And I keep a pretty close eye on the roasting forums here and elsewhere. From this it seems clear to me that there is a "big deal". The only thing left to do now is git yourself an iR2 or a popper or a Gene or a HotTop or whatever... and some beans from Sweet Marias and figure out what the big deal is for you. For me, besides being fun, I like knowing exactly how fresh my beans are, frequently changing the beans I'm drinking (for drip coffee), and never getting home on Friday night and then realizing that I forgot to stop at the roasters and I'm out of beans for Satuday morning.

To answer some of your specific concerns, I've been roasting for about a year now with an iRoast2, and I have yet to produce a single batch that wasn't tasty and drinkable. If you do your research on the peculiarities of your roaster, the learning curve is very short. Regarding consistency, you can very quickly get to the point where your roasts are more consistent than you will get from most commerical roasters. And regarding the provenance of your beans, if you get your greens from quality online suppliers like Sweet Marias, you can be much more certain of their lineage than you can from commercial roasters. Very few commercial roasters specify the source/region/farm/co-op/crop as clearly as quality green suppliers. And it's much harder to hide faults with greens than with roasted beans.

Know beans, know coffee. No beans, no coffee.


#35: Post by Abdon »


The first step on learning to roast is to learn to brew consistently. Strangely enough (even here) some people don't take their brewing seriously enough; pulling a bad shot/pot/cup here and there is considered a part of the game, to be remedied by brewing another shot/pot/cup and hoping for the best. Learning to roast while at the same time dealing with inconsistent brewing will hinder your progress significantly.

The second step is to learn to roast consistently. This means being able to roast one bean to a particular degree of your choosing time after time. This is were a lot of folks (even here) do not take roasting seriously enough; most beans will be fine throughout a wide window of opportunity. They will roast, it will taste good, and they will be happy. They will roast again, it will taste different but still good, and they will still be happy. To learn consistency you need a system that can be calibrated (such as a variac for electricity-driven roasters), the ability to gather data (timer, thermometer), and a roast log. Trust me you want the log; it may not give you much information now, but once you learn more you will multiply your learning. The log becomes a window into previous roasts, one you can revisit every time you learn something new.

You can learn everything you need to learn about basic roasting from a single (type of) bean. As a matter of fact I would strongly advice that you stick to mild mannered single-source beans for your early experimentation. Blends will hinder your learning because you will not know where the funk may be coming from. Also, with a single source it is a lot easier to fine tune your consistency. Keep in mind that what applies to one coffee bean doesn't necessarily translates to another one. Treat each lot (even from year to year) as their own little world and research what others are saying about the peculiarities of your particular bean. My recommendations for mild mannered would be Costa Rican La Minita Tarrazu, a nice Kenyan if you like acidity, or a mellow Brazilian (soft bean, easy roast).

At some point you will find that you like some of the things you find on your light roast, and some of the characters when it is darker. Welcome to the world of blending! Volumes can be written on this subject, but the basics are simple; you are changing some aspect of the cup, hopefully for the better. Once again a single (type of) bean can teach you quite a lot. Roast one lot for bean character (light), another lot for roast character (darker), blend to taste (50/50, 75/25,etc). Even if you taste it and think that the blend sucked, congratulations, you just made your first judgment call on a blend!

Above all, relax and have a cup of coffee. You can learn everything you need to learn for basic roasting in a few hours, enough to ensure fresh premium roasted coffee on your jar. Perfection, is what can take the rest of your life.


#36: Post by CoffeeOwl »

Thank you!
As far for brewing, I'm on my way for year and a half, starting point was low (I'll post it on the hall of shame), but I am a willing to learn person so now I'm just waiting for my new machine to arrive :-)


#37: Post by alsterlingcafe »

John P wrote: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, my wife joined me a couple months back on a biz trip to SLC. We stayed at the Homewood Sts., near the Rio Grande Bldg., and I discovered a small, new espresso shop across from the hotel. Wonder if you've met the owner? We did stop at your shop, and spoke with your wife. You were out at the time and I couldn't make it back. But I'll be in SLC again and will definitely stop by again!

And Len.......I've been home roasting for a couple years now, since returning from my first coffee trip to Brasil. Frankly, I know great roasters, and Len, I'll never be a great, or even mediocre roaster! I have other battles to fight. But I have found a way to use my Hottop to roast my Malabar Gold green and Emerald Mist blend green (from Chas. Weber at CoffeeWholesalers, Eugene OR), and get very near the resulting brewed taste of the MBG that Dr. John sells roasted. I used to buy larger quantities from Dr. John, roasted, but if I didn't use it all here at home, it was wasted. I do home roasting for inventory control, and because I can quickly roast SO's sent to me from our family ranches and neighbors in Brasil.

I have been known to go to Kean Coffee, Martin Diedrich's shop, in Costa Mesa, and buy his espresso blend. It's great, and I can taste the years and years of his roasting experience in every extraction. Just an observation... I have said from the beginning that the "retail espresso business" and "roasting" should be respected as two very separate separate business units. I smile every time I see a retailer that seperates and pulls his roaster out of his high dollar/sq. ft. retail space and starts with a small industrial lease bldg. for roasting. I think John's roasting setup in SLC is in the back of the store, right?

Hope all is well in Pittsburgh! Al (I may be out again in October for a sales meeting...?)

Supporter ♡

#38: Post by mgrayson »

ppopp wrote:But I have never read a post where someone has said they're giving up on home roasting, for any reason, and going back to buying commercial roasts.
I may have abandoned home roasting - it's been a while. For espresso, I just can't compete with the fabulous blends from Ecco, PTs, and others. My drip roasting is pathetic compared to Cafe Novo. Yes, it's more expensive, especially with shipping, but this La Alondra by the keyboard is really really good. :D