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Everyday Cheapskate: How to Get Started Roasting Coffee Beans

Mary Hunt on

It all started about nearly 15 years ago when I had a conversation with a friend who'd recently taken up the hobby of home coffee roasting. The motivation? First, quality and taste, but also to cut the high cost of quality coffee by at least half. That was enough to get my attention and all I needed to become equally enthusiastic.

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

Because the coffee beans must get hot enough to burn off the chaff that surrounds each bean, roasting coffee produces a lot of smoke. While I know some people roast indoors, I do not recommend it because it's going to send your smoke alarms into a tizzy and smoke up the house. More than that, you will be roasting at such a high temperature, setting a fire becomes all too possible.

So, where to roast? Outdoors. Or just inside an exterior entrance such as in the garage. Let wisdom be your guide.

What you'll need as a beginning roaster:

-- Air popcorn popper. You want an older model like West Bend Poppery or Poppery II. I found mine on eBay, which is a good source, or you can check yard sales, thrift stores or even your garage. The machine needs to run at 1,200-1,500 watts. While you can still buy air poppers, newer models don't get hot enough to roast the beans evenly.

-- Two metal mesh colanders.

-- Oven mitt.

-- Airtight container.

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


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

Step 2: Turn on the air popper. Place the bowl in front of the machine, where the popped popcorn would exit, to catch the chaff. 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 "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 signals that you have reached what is called a "full city" or 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 very quickly, and pour the beans out of the popper 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, pour them into one colander, shake them around, and then pour them into a second colander. Continue to toss the beans from one colander until the beans are just warm to the touch.

Step 5: Place the beans in a container that has a tight-fitting lid. However, do not apply the lid at this time. Freshly roasted beans must be allowed to "de-gas" for at least two hours, 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. The beans are not ready to be ground and brewed until they have rested for at least a few hours, to allow them to develop to their peak of flavor.

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 you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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