Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Is coffee your daily grind?

People ask me if I wake up grumpy in the morning.  No, I reply, I just bring him some coffee! 

My love of excellent coffee is inspired by my husband.

My sweetie loves a good cup of joe.  He classifies the first cup coffee I ever made for him as the second WORST cup of coffee he ever had . . . in his whole entire life.     The can of ground coffee I used was forever and a day old . . . I didn’t drink the stuff and I just had it around for holidays and company.   I’ve been trying to make up for that horrible cup of coffee ever since.

He will attest, I’ve come a long way.  Not only does he get a great cup of coffee every day, but he gets a freshly ground cup of coffee every day.   And, if it’s Friday he gets a dollop of Bailey’s in it for good measure.

Now that I can appreciate a good cup of coffee, I’m a much bigger coffee snob that he is.  My husband will drink a tolerable cup of coffee . . . I'd rather go without.

I spoiled myself.  I buy the whole beans roasted; grind ‘em up and brew.  YUMS.

He challenged me to roast my own coffee . . . practically speaking, we can’t get it any fresher than that!

What is coffee?  Coffee is a small red fruit that is processed and dried into a green bean.  Green coffee stores for a very long time and becomes fresh and fragrant after it is roasted.

Home roasting coffee used to be as common as baking bread or making butter . . . all tasks that have gone the way of big industry and are seen rarely in most modern homes. 

There is a mystique about roasting coffee.  However, home roasting of coffee is reemerging as the popularity of gourmet coffee is growing.  These days there all kinds of gadgets that make roasting coffee practically foolproof.  Nonetheless, I approached the process from a more fundamental perspective.

Cast iron pan + heat + green coffee beans = lovely, aromatic, roasted coffee

During the roasting process water is forced out of the bean in the form of steam.  This causes the bean to expand.  The sugars contained in the bean begin to caramelize which gives coffee its luscious and complex flavors . . . the depth of which depends on the darkness of the roast.

Coffee needs to “rest” for about 24 hours before being brewed but within a week of the roasting it has already begun to lose its flavor.

Roasting coffee isn’t complicated but it does take practice to get the roast you like every time. 

Like I said, there are all kinds of doodads and thingamabobbers you can spend way too much money on.  I used a run-of-the-mill cast iron skillet . . . this method results in an uneven looking roast . . . but good is good.  Roasting on the stovetop takes longer and will produce a roast with more body and deep notes but will lose some of the bright notes and aroma of a faster roast.

Using a cooking thermometer is an excellent tool to have when roasting in this manner to gauge temperature levels.

This is the method I used.  I plan on trying other ways to find what works best for me.  

1: Start by heating the frying pan or roaster on the stovetop to a medium setting, or until temperature reaches about 475 F. Add up to 8 oz. of green coffee beans and stirring constantly.

2: Continue stirring. Beans must be agitated constantly for an even roast. At a minimum, beans must be stirred every 30 seconds. In 4 - 7 minutes the beans will start to make crackling sounds. At this time coffee smelling smoke will start to appear. If you have a fan hood, turn it on now, or open the window because the beans start to smoke at this point.

3: About a minute after the first crack check the beans color frequently (once a minute) until the beans have reached the desired roast color. Once oils appear on all the beans, the roasting process is concluded.  (If you like a stronger coffee taste the continue to roast for an additional 5-7 minutes.
4: Once the beans are roasted to your satisfaction, immediately remove from heat and pour into a large metal colander to cool. Toss or stir the beans to remove excess chaff and speed the cooling process.

5: After the beans have cooled, you can add flavorings if you like.
6: Let the coffee rest for about 24 hours before grinding and brewing.

This a good guide to the roasting process:

•           Yellowing: For the first few minutes the bean remains greenish, then turn lighter yellowish and emit a grassy smell.
•           Steam: The beans start to steam as their internal water content dissipates.
•           First Crack: The steam becomes fragrant. Soon you will hear the "first crack," an audible cracking sound as the real roasting starts to occur: sugars begin to caramelize, bound-up water escapes, the structure of the bean breaks down and oils migrate from their little pockets outward.
•           First Roasted Stage: After the first crack, the roast can be considered complete any time according to your taste. The cracking is an audible cue, and, along with sight and smell, tells you what stage the roast is at. This is what is call a City roast.
•           Caramelization: Caramelization continues, oils migrate, and the bean expands in size as the roast becomes dark. As the roast progresses, this is a City + roast. When you are the verge of second crack, that is a Full City roast.
•           Second Crack: At this point a "second crack" can be heard, often more volatile than the first. Most of our roast recommendations stop at or just into second crack because the roast character starts to eclipse the origin character of the beans at this point. A few pops into second crack is a Full City + roast; a roast all the way through second crack is a Vienna roast. Small pieces of the bean are sometimes blown away like shrapnel!
•           Darkening Roast: As the roast becomes very dark, the smoke is more pungent as sugars burn completely, and the bean structure breaks down more and more. This is a French roast.
•           Eventually, the sugars burn completely, and the roast will only result in thin-bodied cup of "charcoal water."


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