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Everyday Cheapskate: How to Get Started Roasting Your Own Coffee Beans

Mary Hunt on

It all started about 10 years when I had a conversation with a co-worker of my friend Rosalie named Dax Wilson, who'd recently taken up this hobby of home roasting. The motivation? Quality and taste. But he also wanted to cut the high cost of quality coffee by at least half. That was enough to get my attention and become equally enthusiastic.

Today I'm going to walk you through the entire process I went through to get started.

Where to roast: Because the coffee beans must get hot enough to burn off the chaff that surrounds each bean, this is going to produce a lot of smoke. While I know some people do, I do not recommend roasting indoors, because it's going to send your smoke alarms into a tizzy and smoke up the house.

What you'll need:

--Air popcorn popper: You want an older model like the West Bend Poppery or Poppery II. I found mine on eBay, which is a good source. You can also check yard sales, thrift stores or even your garage. The machine needs to run at 1200 to 1500 watts. While you can still buy air poppers, newer models don't get hot enough to roast the beans evenly.

--Two metal mesh colanders.

--A bowl or a box to place in front of the popper.

--An oven mitt.

--An airtight container.

--1/2 cup green (raw) coffee beans.

--Sponsored Video--

Step 1: Measure out 1/2 cup green coffee beans, and pour them into the popper where you would normally pour the popcorn kernels. This is going to give you a net weight of 2 to 3 ounces roasted coffee beans.

Step 2: Turn on the air popper. To catch the chaff, place the bowl in front of the machine where the popped popcorn would exit. The beans will begin to swirl around in the machine, but don't worry. They are not going to pop out the way popcorn would. In a few minutes, as the machine gets hotter, you'll see the beans begin to turn brown. Next, you'll hear the beans starting to make a cracking sound. At the first crack you will have reached a "city roast," which is a typically a light roast. The longer you let the beans roast from this point on, the darker the roast you will achieve. You will hear the beans popping and cracking for several seconds. Then the sound will taper off. The next stage is when the beans start to sound more like Rice Krispies crackling in milk. This is called the "second crack," and it signals that you have reached what is called a "full city," or a dark roast. While the beans are roasting, you will see the chaff flying off either into the bowl or box, or into the air. This is normal and another reason you want to roast outdoors.

Step 3: The minute you have reached your desired roast, turn off the air popper quickly and pour the beans out into one of the colanders. Careful! The beans and the popper will be very hot.

Step 4: It's important to air-cool the beans very quickly so the roasting process ceases. To do this, shake them around in the colander, and then pour them into a second colander. Continue to toss the beans from one colander to the under until they are just warm to the touch.

Step 5: Place the beans in your airtight container. However, do not apply the lid at this time. Freshly roasted beans must be allowed to degas for at least two hours and up to overnight to achieve their full coffee flavor. If you were to grind and brew beans immediately upon roasting, you would be very disappointed.

Would you like resources for green coffee beans as well as an overview of my own coffee-roasting journey (I have graduated several times to higher levels of home-roasting)? I have posted all of this for you at


Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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