Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Zen Manualist Coffee: Part 1 - roast your own beans.

is it a sign? what does it mean?? latte art readings
rather than tea leaves...a sort of automatic writing, perhaps?
i continue to explore the lacto path
IF you enjoy good coffee, such that your fave coffee place is because of the coffee not because of the ambiance per se, and if your a bit of a Manualist (i don't know what else to call it - someone who enjoys crafting a process by hand-ish - is there a term?) then here's something simple you can try: roast your own coffee beans.

Roasting one's own coffee rather sounds daunting, doesn't it? It turns out, it's not. And so i begin to wonder at all the hoopla and mystique around roasting and the oh so precious precious ness of it. Great packaging for a product, but ah c'mon! You may come to the same conclusion after the following "it can't be this simple" post.

or of course, there's instant...on the menu in some UK restaurants....

Step 1: get green beans and be as ethical and snobbish about it as you like, as you can pick beans from anywhere in the world.

Green beans stay fresh for YEARS. That seems a big plus. And getting sample packs of bunches of places lets one explore flavours, blends and roasts.

For bean sources:
In the US i keep hearing about Sweet Maria's. In the UK, i've found Rave Coffee.

Step 2: choose your roasting implement -
There's loads of how-to's on the web from using fry pans ( i wanna be a cowboy...) to amazingly crafted bbq rotiserie turned roaster. Just check out this page of roaster mods (who knew?)
4-7mins for about 100g fresh
roast coffee
One way to get into it - and you may have this implement for other purposes  - just use a hot air popcorn popper. No fuss; no muss. Super overview and video how to here.

NOTE: In the UK, here's one german made model Severin - that i've used for about 23 quid (amazon uk affil link).  You can drive these into the ground. If you're using them weekly, at 4-6 mins per batch, and do three batches - more or less in a row - that's pushing these little motors to the max - and they can fall over. They make very interesting noises when they do. I rationalise this by considering that a dedicated  home roaster now is about 300 quid, and i'm just not sure i'm ready to go there. Not quite sure.

Step 3: Load beans into roasting mechanism of choice
Here we see green beans loaded into a popper - usually take about 100g pre-roasted weight. Mark Prince gives a lovely overview of the popcorn popper set up approach here.
green water processed beans from an ethical, organic, free trade
all things wonderful, place in Guatemala. 

Step 4: attend as required
 (learn about first crack, second crack, temperatur, time and immanent flambĂ©)

Step 5: delight in bean roast
It's pretty cool to see the transformation happen, as beans go from green swirls, to yellow, to darker tan to what we recognise as roasted coffee bean color.

Post processing of beans from the spin cycle and just past
what's known as "second crack"
Interestingly, roasting beans do NOT smell like coffee. it's not an entirely enticing aroma. so the first flush of coffee joy may be mainly visual in observing that this bean transformation has actually taken place.

Step 6: put in appropriate off-gassing vessel for 18-36 hours pending preference.
Here's where the coffee roast aroma starts to happen, as the beans blow off the gasses from the roasting.

You can use a bag with a gas out valve (the kind of bags starbucks coffee come in - i got a bunch from Rave when i ordered the beans) or, one tip from the Sweet Maria's video tutorial above, get screw lid type mason jars and leave the lid slightly unscrewed for a day or two. And then either transfer to an airtight vessel to keep beans out of light as well, or just grind up for service.

Some beans - Guatemalan in particular  - seem to do better to be left alone for a week or ten days.

Step 7: Occasionally enjoy the aroma of the roast's progress 
It's fun after the beans have been bagged to squeeze the valve bag and inhale a bit to get an aroma for the colors of your coffee as they mature over the next day or so.. It's really happening, this wonderful chemical reaction.

Small story: in Paris last week for conference; found a coffee roaster in a wonderful wee market area (the shop is called "brulerie des turnes) - i'd run out of the coffee i'd roasted and ground for the trip (yes and i also brought a moka pot), so went to the shop asking for coffee that had been roasted two days ago - no sooner. Intriguingly this request perplexed the staff. Everyone else wants it just after it's roasted, they said. Oh dear. Well (and then my french failed me in terms of "perhaps they grind it themselves, or do they grind it here?)...Were these staff or owners? I was then perplexed: based on what i've learned (and inhaled) about "fresh roasted coffee" why would you grind coffee just after it's roasted?? Fascinating, oui?

And that's about it.
Just roasting beans is a pleasure. If you find you enjoy it, but don't like coffee, you have a very personalised gift you can share with friends.

If you do like coffee - you're in for a treat on multiple levels, from process to product. Really: you did that! Isn't that cool? And it tastes great.

For some insights into the next part of the process, grinding, scroll down to the end of this post on post processing trauma through manualist interactions (i'm grokking this term). You'll see several videos on cool ways to do manual coffee grinding.

I refer to this roasting process as part of a Manualist coffee "zen" - well ya know it just gives me delight - and perhaps any emotional experience is not particularly zen, but it sounds kind neat. Maybe it should be "delight coffee"??

Anyway, if you give this a go, please shout. Will look forward to hearing your experience.

We'll talk about using a wee espresso pot and about latte art, i'm sure, anon.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME (have some good ventilation) - and let me know - please - what you find.

you can follow me on twitter @mcphoo

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Possible Coffee Replacement Drink
Green Tea: good for more than what ails ya
Value of Reusable bits - like a tea infuser.

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