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Roasting Coffee Beans in the Blacksmith Shop: Take 1

Inspired by Jayme (at Tales from the Coop Keeper Blog), Mr W, and I set out to turn green coffee beans into beautiful roasted coffee beans today. Friend Daniel just happened to be visiting here at the right(?) time so he was drafted to help in this process. I think we may just have smoked and stunk him out! Poor guy… he may ne’er return again.

Mr W and I are major coffee fans. We’ve purchased coffee beans for fresh-ground weekend coffee for years (our weekend splurge). The next step seemed logical – to start roasting our own beans (it’s a little less expensive that way also).

Jayme gave me just enough information to get me really interested in this venture. She also recommended the Whirley Pop popcorn method. I purchased a separate Whirley Pop to use exclusively for coffee bean roasting (didn’t want to taint the taste of our buttery popcorn!). Also, it was recommended to do the entire process outside because of the stink/smoke involved. Wow, was she ever correct! One would think that roasting coffee beans would be ahhh ... aromatic … delectable-smelling. Nope! So, out to the blacksmith shop we went, and we kept the door wide open.

I ordered green coffee beans from Coffee Bean Direct (tip: search for “Coffee Bean Direct green coffee beans” on Amazon to get free shipping with a $25 order), and Sweet Maria’s. Sweet Maria’s also had the thermometer that reads to 550 degrees and fits nicely into the Whirley Pop popcorn popper. A thermometer is a great thing to have, especially for novices like us. Mr W drilled a tiny hole in the top of the Whirley Pop to insert the thermometer. He set up the fish cooker burner in the blacksmith shop. I also gathered a metal colander to cool the roasted beans in, a metal cake pan to put the cooled beans into, an oven mitt, a measure that holds exactly 8 ounces of beans at a time. And of course my instructions printed from my various trusty Internet sources. We had the air compressor next to the cooker so we could immediately begin to cool the beans after roasting (very important to cool them quickly, so I’m told). You can also use a hair dryer set on cold or a fan for this purpose.

We poured our 8 ounces of Coffee Bean Direct’s Columbian green beans into the Whirley Pop, turned on the heat, and started cranking.

popper with coffee beans

Keeping close watch on the thermometer on top. We’re waiting for “first crack,” which may happen at about 6 minutes into the process. You will start to hear pops and cracks, and the beans should start to turn brown. Some sources suggest the ideal temperature for roasting will be around 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Popper with thermometer

Our “first crack” happened much sooner than 6 minutes, which told us we had the heat too high. From here on out, major smoke and stink warning.

Popper smoking

“Second crack” should happen between minutes 9 and 12 according to one source. We went to “second crack” much too soon also, and quickly removed the popper, poured the beans into the metal colander to cool. We helped the cooling process along by using the air compressor, forcing cold air onto the beans. Also much of the chaff from the beans was blown off during this step.

Beans in colander

We went on to batches 2 and 3, trying to regulate the heat. I think we almost got it, but unfortunately our beans from today’s roasting are very very VERY dark. Could they be classified as espresso? I hope they’re drinkable! We’ll see …

Dark brown beans

Let me just say, while our first efforts were valiant, I think we’re going to need more practice. Best tip from today: SLOW DOWN – lower heat. Yes, we’ll try it again. Soon I hope. And after we allow our beans to “degas” for 12-24 hours, we’ll try a pot of fresh-ground home-roasted and I’ll post our review.

If you have an interest in becoming a home coffee bean roaster, there are many sites which are quite helpful. My favorite so far is Sweet Maria’s ( They really do have a wealth of information and tutorials on roasting your own beans. Join us – we’ll learn together!

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rodeo princess
2/20/2010 3:33:09 PM

I am so depressed! Do you know what a MESS I could make of 550 degrees in a barn over a fish cooker? All you bloggers keep putting the bar higher and higher - what's next? Tiny little tea leaves?

mountain woman
2/7/2010 6:55:16 AM

Oh, Tammy, it's wonderful to see you here. We're just like you in regards to coffee and I never knew I could roast my own beans. You have inspired me. Maybe next you'll have Flat Creek Farm coffee?

2/6/2010 9:58:05 AM

Thanks for the welcome, Cindy! I'm enjoying the great blog reads here - yours included, of course! 'Tis true... those beans smell bad before they smell delicious. Isn't that strange? I'll be back with an update post on this soon, but just let me say, our second roasting smelled much better than the first. :)

cindy murphy
2/5/2010 7:34:09 AM

Welcome to Grit, Tammy. (Oz Girl - do you know EVERYONE here?) As an avid coffee drinker (excuse me while I get another cup), I was surprized to read about the smell involved in roasting beans - the aroma of coffee brewing is one of life's little pleasures. Who would have thought the roasting process involved stink?! Interesting post, Tammy. Welcome to Grit. (Oz Girl - do you know EVERYONE here?) Cindy ~ A Lakeside View

2/4/2010 8:05:22 PM

Thanks so much for the kind comments! Oz Girl - I hope chickens are in your future, as well as mine. Now, just bring over some of those wonderful cookies (people OR critter style) and we'll have a bean-roasting party :) I think we have it almost all figured out now... let's hope! Dave - You visited a Nicaraguan coffee plantation?! I'm impressed as heck by that. This coffee bean roasting thing has turned out to be a piece of cake, although it didn't seem so at first (I'll follow up soon with our results, and then our modifications). The hubby is much more pioneer than me - I'm just happy to have his 'pioneer guy' help with my crazy ideas!

nebraska dave
2/4/2010 12:45:52 AM

Tammy, How about you roast ‘em and I grind ‘em and brew ‘em. I have never heard of anyone roasting their own beans in a popcorn popper out in the barn over a fish cooker burner. You guys are true survivor pioneers. I have to say I am quite impressed with you even trying to roast the beans let alone actually getting it accomplished. That whole process is unbelievable. I would very much like to know about how the taste test comes out. I guess if the whole world crashes and burns, I’ll know where to go to get my coffee beans roasted. I don’t think I would be so brave to try such a thing. I thought I was living on the wild side just grinding my own coffee beans. I did visit a coffee plantation in Nicaragua once. That’s about as close as I’m ever going to come to roasting my own beans. I wish you safety and great success with you roasting.

oz girl
2/3/2010 6:44:05 PM

Tammy! You sure kept this under your hat... I was surprised to see you here on Grit. Congrats! :-) And I'll commend you again on your adventurousness in roasting your own coffee beans. Goodness, I'll be doing good just to get a small garden started this year; of course, I plan on expanding upon it each successive year. And I'm crossing my fingers that chickens are in my future, at least within the next year. And then there's that compost pile too... Maybe I'll add roasting my own coffee beans to my list... but only after you perfect your method! :)