The best place to start with the beans. When you go to the grocery store pre ground may sound easier but once coffee is ground it looses 90% of its flavor in the first 20 minutes. Starting with whole-bean increases the coffee’s ability to hold on to its flavor by well over 14,000%. Yes that is a real number, crazy huh?
Tip 2: Fresh Ground
Now that you have started with whole-bean it’s time to grind fresh! When I say fresh ground I mean fresh. Don’t start grinding the coffee until right before, making it the last step you take before you brew. Otherwise every second the coffee sits in its ground form it is exposed to oxygen which is the biggest flavor destroyer of coffee.
A blade grinder is the most common way to grind coffee at home. The problem is a blade grind doesn’t provide for a consistent grind. A burr grinder grades the beans all to the same size. This allows the water to saturate the coffee evenly providing for a more even, smooth and true cup of coffee.
Tip 4: Filtered Water
Filtered water is one of the most important tips in brewing the best coffee ever. Any impurities in the water will affect the flavor of the finished cup. Since coffee is 98 % water it will be obvious if the water wasn’t filtered.
Tip 5: Air Tight Storage
Like I mentioned earlier oxygen is the biggest destroyer of coffee’s awesome flavor. The longer it stays in direct contact with it the more flavor breaks down. Using an air tight storage container will help preserve the coffee’s flavor.
Bonus Coffee Tip
Do not store coffee in the freezer or fridge.
Tip 6: No Sugar
If you have to add sugar to your coffee it’s because the coffee isn’t good. So before you put sugar in your coffee give the coffee a sip. If what your tasting is good don’t add sugar. Sugar covers your taste buds and prevents you from enjoying the true flavor. If you coffee tastes bad, remember that moment and get a different whole-bean coffee time.
Tip 7: Try New Things
The only way to really know what you like is to try new coffees constantly. This is something I practice religiously and it has helped me find some really amazing coffees!
Tip 8: Clean Coffee Maker
Calcium deposits will ruin the flavor of your coffee. This happens over time as you brew coffee and using unfiltered water only makes it worse. Declassifying works wonders and I recommend doing it at least once a month.
Tip 9: Water Temperature
When you brew coffee the perfect water temperature is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. This will ensure the proper extraction of the flavor from the coffee.
Proportion of coffee to water is equally important. I recommend starting with a ratio of 4 oz of water to 7 grams of coffee and adjusting to taste.
Tip 10: Coffee Diary
Keeping a coffee diary might sound like the final geek step but it’s really helpful in tracking how to brew the best tasting cup of coffee ever in the future. When you track things like proportions, grind setting, water temperature and brew style it really helps give you a clear indication of what to do next time to get that perfect cup.
When coffee was discovered for the first time, it was believed that the first human to consume the berries ate it straight off the plant, after he had seen goats, birds, and other animals do the same and receive a tremendous amount of energy. But the man also discovered that the berries were extremely bitter and not pleasant to taste; so he decided to cook the beans to check if the bitter taste could be cooked out. By doing this, that man became the first coffee roaster.
But another problem of cooking the beans was that the resulting beans were hard and unpleasant to consume; so he then boiled the beans in water to soften them up. As a result, the man ended up with an aromatic brown liquid that later came to be known as a miracle drug.
There are many more such stories on how coffee roasting began. But proven history suggests that the first known implements for roasting coffee beans were circular and thin, often made from porcelain and used in Greater Persia and the Ottoman Empire during the 15th century. The pans were made with long handles so that it could be held over hot coals for roasting coffee.
During this era, Europe and the US saw an influx of commercialized roasting machine patents for roasting larger quantities of coffee. But despite this, home roasting remains the most common method for most local people until roasted coffee was sold by the pound in 1864.
Several commercial coffee roasters had to battle to sell their roasted coffee since home roasting appliances were advancing at a fast rate; during this period, a coffee roaster was invented that could roast coffee on top of the kitchen stove.
After the introduction of one pound pre-roasted coffee bags, commercial coffee roasting hit the mark that it had been trying for decades now. This success meant that customers could purchase ready-to-brew coffee immediately and more than what was produced by home-brewing methods. By the start of the 1900s, commercial coffee roasting surpassed home-roasting in countries like the US.
Modern era (Post-1900s)
Instant coffee became quite popular during this era and specialty coffee shops sprang up to serve the tasteful and nostalgic crowd. Specialty coffee shops saw a boom in business during the 1970s and this was the time when coffee companies began to experiment with a wider range of roast as well as coffee beans from around the world. At the same period, a different type of coffee roasting machine was invented in Germany that made use of the fluid bed roasting process.
Home roasting was not entirely dead and by the end of the 1990s, an influx of home-roasting patents was filed; this included different types of fluid-bed roasters and drum roasters. But home-roasting was limited to coffee ‘purists’ and the luxurious-minded crowd. Coffee roasting simply developed with the coming times, adding more user control. Today, coffee roasting machines are completely digitized and offer a wide spectrum of roasts, with greater control on the process.
Over the next several posts I am going to try to share some of what I have learned about roasting coffee in the Behmor 1600 home coffee roaster. If you are a home roaster or if you are a fan of Sweet Maria’s website on the internet you may know that Josh recently posted a YouTube video on how to roast with the Behmor. Before I write anything else about the Behmor and its use I guess I need to include a disclaimer: much of what I have read on-line about the Behmor by those who use or who have used it, tends to criticize it as not being able to take a roast into the darker levels. My Behmor must be an exception. I have never had a problem getting my Behmor to roast as dark (and yes, unfortunately darker, than anyone could want to go). Just a few weeks ago I had someone ask me if I could roast some coffee for them and they specifically requested that I “take it dark.” I may have gone a little too dark – at least I would never drink coffee that dark. I started with 16.20 ounces – that is just over a full pound. I did the roast on the one pound setting, and I did it on profile 4 (it was a low altitude, soft-bean coffee). I had to stop the roast early and even then it was darker than I would have ever wanted it.
All that is to say “Your ‘mileage’ may vary.” Apparently, what may be true for one may not be true for another. For the record, my Behmor is the USA 110v model and not a 220. I did invest in a Kill A Watt to measure and monitor my line voltage and do not roast if the line voltage is below 118v. I am not sure if this is the difference or not, but I put it out there for those who say the Behmor cannot roast a dark roast coffee. The bottom line: you are going to have to experiment for yourself to see what works. You may have to roast ½ pound on the one pound setting and watch and listen. I use the setting for the amount of coffee I am roasting, and I (if you read the last post) still watch and listen quite closely.
Enough technical junk. As you may know from all of my previous articles I have roasted in a popcorn popper, a Nesco Professional Roaster, and the Behmor and the single greatest HINT that I can give anyone about any coffee roasting method you choose is cooling is critical. I would guess my Behmor is out of warranty now, so it does not matter that I admit this, but I do not allow my coffee to cool in the Behmor. I do keep the Behmor running through the cooling cycle so as to not damage the equipment (because it does need to go through the cooling cycle). As soon as I stop the roast, or as soon as the roast is complete I put on a pair of gloves and I lift the drum and slide it left to remove it from the roaster. I take a few seconds to quickly shake the drum to get rid of as much chaff as I can, and I then stick it on a metal grate inside a small apartment sized refrigerator to cool the beans as quickly as possible. It is this quick cooling that I personally think makes all of the difference in the world.
Whatever method you may choose to roast your coffee, popcorn popper, pan, gas grill, metal dish and heat gun, or a commercial roaster, my first and foremost recommendation is to find a way to cool the beans as quickly as you can to prevent the “rolling roast” that occurs with most non-commercial roasting methods. This will keep the flavor from “dulling” and will lead to a cleaner, brighter, crisper, flavor in your cup instead of the typical “mud” most slow roast slowly cooled roasts provide.
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I began roasting coffee at home the way that many people, from what I have read, began home roasting: with a side vented hot-air popcorn popper. As I said in my first post, the first time I had ever seen someone with home roasted coffee I was intrigued. I did some research on line (Sweet Marias has a wealth of information) and learned that many people used a popcorn popper. I remembered that I had seen our old popcorn popper in the basement just a few days earlier (cleaning up after our basement flooded). I went downstairs, found the box that had some old small kitchen appliances and pulled out the popcorn popper.
I was in luck, it was a side vented hot-air popper. Some hot-air poppers blow the hot air straight up from the bottom through a screen. Other poppers vent in hot air from the side creating a “cyclone” action that not only heats the beans, but keeps them moving in a circular fashion. I took it upstairs, cleaned it up, opened a can of soup (which I forced myself to eat) at both ends, cleaned the can, and placed it on top of the popcorn popper to create a sort of chimney. In the meanwhile I had ordered some green coffee beans (a sampler) from Burman Coffee Traders in Madison, Wisconsin.
So far, so good. To this point I was doing quite well, and was pretty pleased with myself. Once my green coffee arrived (after what seemed like months – although I think it arrived the next day or the day after that) I took the popcorn popper over to the counter near the outlet, and plugged it in. I measured out what I thought would be an appropriate amount of coffee beans, dumped them in the popper, and hit the switch. For the next few minutes (I am going to guess three or four minutes) things were still going quite well, and I was still rather proud of myself. Then the beans began to roast. I had no idea that roasting coffee, unlike popping corn, would generate that much smoke. There I was, all alone in the house, coffee roasting – and progressing quite quickly – and the smoke detectors beginning to scream at me as if to remind me how stupid I really was.
I wasn’t about to leave the coffee to fan the smoke detectors or pull the batteries, so I stood there roasting coffee in the midst of what sounded like an air raid. After about seven or eight minutes the coffee was ready to be cooled, I dumped it into a colander and raced outside with my smoking colander of coffee beans in hand. Once I had sufficiently cooled the beans it was time to go inside and stop the wailing smoke alarms. At that point I am not sure if I was glad no one else was home, or disappointed, but it really did not matter. I had roasted my first batch of coffee beans and twenty-four hours later; I was hooked.