Why Roast Your Own Coffee (Fresh, Tasty…And A $10,000 Skill?)
For the longest time, I figured coffee roasting was some bizarre, complicated process that required thousands in equipment.
Something only serious experts could even think about.
But I discovered that’s not the case.
Not only is it accessible to anybody, but it’s even easier than you’d think.
Here’s why you ought to give it a try, too. You’ll also learn just how much money this fun, simple skill can be worth, and I’ll share the machine I use to make it effortless.
Let’s look at six big reasons why home coffee roasting is worth trying!
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1. Nothing is fresher
In coffee, freshness equals flavor. Sure, there are more factors, but a lot of what you enjoy (or don’t) comes down to how long the roasted beans have sat around.
There’s a good chance that coffee you buy at the supermarket is much older than it ought to be. That even goes for expensive bags from sought-after roasters. It’s great to see them so readily available, but they tend to be far too old for the price.
When you roast at home, it’s the opposite problem: coffee is initially too fresh.
Coffee needs to rest for 12-24 hours after roasting, and that’s the bare minimum. In fact, its flavor often peaks after about one week.
Freshness is no issue. You’ll have to hold back your excitement to try your newest batch.
And that is a nice problem to have.
2. Enjoy specialty coffee for pennies
Of course, you can also get fresher coffee by buying it directly from a good, specialty roaster.
I’m all for supporting them.
The obvious catch is that it’s expensive. You can expect to pay around $16-$18 (or more) for 12oz of very good beans. While the odds that you’ll like them are high, it’s never a sure thing, either.
However, the very same coffee you’ll buy at that price point would cost you perhaps $6 per pound green.
Coffee loses lots of moisture while roasting, so 1 lb green may yield a little over 12 oz roasted. That’s a savings of about $10/bag for just a few minutes of (rather fun) effort!
If you’d normally buy a bag of specialty coffee every other week, that’s 26 bags per year.
That means 260 bags per decade and 1,040 over the course of your 40-ish working years.
At $10/bag in savings, that leaves you $10,400 better off (just to keep the math simple).
The only thing better than drinking great coffee is getting paid to do it.
To be fair, the totally free home roasting methods aren’t ideal. You’ll want to budget at least $20-$50 for the right kind of popcorn popper, which doubles as a surprisingly capable roaster.
As long as you stick to simple and durable roasting equipment, you’ll come out far ahead.
3. The variety is endless
One of the best parts of coffee is the incredible variety you’ll stumble upon.
If you’ve already tried some more uncommon beans–think a floral Panama gesha or a tea-like natural process Ethiopia heirloom–then you know that I’m talking about.
They’re not always easy to find, though. And to the above point, they can get very expensive.
Roasting in the convenience of your own kitchen lets you try anything from the massive selection that importers like Sweet Maria’s keep in stock.
It’s easy to try a lot, try a little, try one bean at many different roast levels, or whatever else you fancy.
4. Try a simply, satisfying hobby
Ever noticed how things you make yourself are just a little…better?
They might take a little practice, of course, and it’s no shame if the results are never world-class.
Even so, the fruits of your labor are satisfying in a way that nothing else quite matches.
That’s as true with home-roasted coffee as with anything else.
It requires patient observation, which can take on a sort of meditative quality.
Perhaps that sounds cheesy, but as someone who sits at a computer all day, the simple and engaging process is a breath of fresh air.
5. A ready supply of cheap gifts…that people love
It’s a bit of a bummer to give unnecessary stuff just for the sake of giving gifts.
But it’s great to give something personal and unique that won’t simply end up buried in the closet (or trash bin).
For me, that something is coffee. Practically everyone likes it, and practically everyone is amazed that I made it.
It’s probably not the main reason you’ll get into roasting, but it’s a delightful benefit that I never anticipated.
6. You’ll have a side business by popular demand
Speaking of wow-ing people with your roasting prowess…there’s one problem.
When you start giving home roasts as gifts, quite a few lucky recipients will want more.
Now, you’re not a coffee charity (but props if you are!), so you’ve got a side hustle ripe for the picking.
It’s not just relegated to occasional sales to family and friends, either. You’d be amazed at how many popular and even prominent roasters began with rudimentary equipment in their own kitchens.
What you need to start roasting at home
Thinking you’d like to take a “crack” (<- coffee nerd pun) at roasting your own green beans?
It’s easier than you’d think, and really requires just one thing: a few pounds of green coffee.
You’ll only roast 4-8oz at a time, but expect some trial and error, hence the extra supply.
Sweet Maria’s is my favorite supplier, but there are several that sell to individuals. (Their flat-rate shipping is another reason why I recommend buying several pounds at a time.)
I’ll talk about the actual process of roasting another time, but as for equipment, a medium-sized skillet with a lid will do the trick. Any steel colander/strainer, plus a fan for cooling, will also come in handy.
That is exactly what I used to begin, and it’s all you need to test the water as well.
Good luck, and enjoy!
P.S. After trying the skillet method, some popcorn poppers, and a few dedicated roasters, I settled on the Fresh Roast SR800. If you can tap buttons on your phone, then you can roast excellent coffee with it. Read my review here for the details.