Brave is the soul that roasts one of the world's most expensive coffee beans (Jamaica Blue Mountain) on an air popcorn popper with amazing results! Meet Len from Duncan, BC...he is this brave soul! This is his story...
How long have you been roasting?
Just a month.
What made you start roasting at home?
I’ve always wanted “better coffee” and have been grinding store bought beans for years. Last summer, a friend showed me his coffee press, saying if you want a great cup of coffee, this is the way to go. We began to talk about taking it further in a quest for the best cup possible; what would that look like? A simple grinder didn’t lend itself to that mission anymore, so I got a little burr mill. Then it occurred to me that if I was truly trying to cover all the variables toward coffee perfection, the only thing remaining would be to roast my own beans. His statement “ya right, now you’ve gone too far” was all the motivation I needed. I did some reading and discovered not only was it possible, it seemed relatively simple and something I could in fact do myself at home. Surprisingly, I found U-Roast-It was nearby so excitedly placed my first order: Jamaican Blue Mountain. It arrived a few days later and my wife just shook her head, laughed, and said “oh my God, you’re actually doing this?”
How do you roast your coffee?
My internet search showed a lot of people were using air popcorn poppers with success so I decided to start there. While waiting for the arrival of my beans I went to a thrift store and bought all my roasting supplies: a popper, colander, measuring cup, spatula and fan, all for under $15.00! I haven’t tried any other methods yet as I’m really enjoying my coffee so far, albeit in small batches. I will probably look to something larger later, a half-pound batch would be nice for my needs and I’d like to give some to friends.
Have you been successful?
OH HELL YA! Although the popper only yields just shy of a cup of roasted beans, I find the small quantity has allowed me to play around with roasting times without freaking out that I might ruin a large amount. It also means a fresh batch every two days so I get to compare my differing roast results quite quickly and experiment a lot. Every time I roast I learn something about the process so small batches definitely speed up the learning curve.
What are your favourite beans and do you like a light medium or dark roast?
I have only been doing it a short while so haven’t experimented with a lot of different beans yet. I do however notice that they’re definitely not all the same. Ethiopian for example has a distinctly different aroma when I’m roasting than Jamaican. More chocolatey? Same for the different roasts. Its super exciting to be able to play with the roasting times and compare how it relates to flavour and aroma. It’s all very good but subtly different, I haven’t yet roasted a batch that I could even remotely say I didn’t like. I never used to pay a whole lot of attention to one roast or the other when buying beans, nor did I fret over exacting quantities of grounds when making it. I better appreciate now that there are many components to making a good cup of coffee and that careful attention to each of those will reward you with consistently great results. And the best part that no one told me about: the smell of the roasting process! Although I do it in my garage because of the chaff and smoke, the aroma floating through the house afterward is indescribably amazing for a coffee lover. Seriously. If heaven had a smell I’m sure it would be like this.
If you’ve ever experienced the pride and satisfaction that comes from doing something yourself, and if you’re a self-described coffee person who can’t remember the last day you went without, then you really should try home roasting. Of course you’re going to get a better cup of coffee, but it’s not just that. For me, the enjoyment I get from roasting my own beans, grinding them up, carefully pressing out a perfect cup, then sitting back and taking in the aroma along with that first sip… It’s like someone has captured a really beautiful sunset and put it in a mug.
Look at the Jamaica Blue Mountain beans below. Wow, what a fantastic job from a Thrift store popper!