Thursday, August 9, 2012

Coffee Roasting Cowgirl Style

By nature I'm a fairly thrifty person, and I try to do right by the earth, and the creatures (including people) living here.  Sometimes it can be tricky. For a while after we bought our house I was buying really cheap coffee at the grocery, I mean really cheap (although maybe not quite so cheap when I think of the small bag size). It had a handprint on the package (earthy chic right?) and it was just o.k. taste wise. One day I did a bit of research and couldn't find much in terms of information on where the coffee came from. I sort of wonder if perhaps it is off-roast coffee from other roasters. Anyhoo, as I was reading online I saw someone mentioned roasting their own coffee. What!? You can do what? A quick search and I found Sweet Maria's.  These folks have all the info you need to get roasting.

We do like our morning coffee, but we certainly don't go through as much as a coffee shop. I ended up going with Sweet Maria's 4 pound sampler which (even with the shipping) is not a bad price. For the roasting my plan was to use the popcorn maker we it was on the list of ones that could be used to roast coffee, but that did not work out so well. Our popper works by shooting hot air up through the kernels from the bottom of the vessel. This same hot air basically blew the coffee beans right out of the popper, still green. Not the idea.

Now I'm on the lookout at thrift shops for a popper with the hot air coming in from the sides, but until then I'm roasting my coffee cowgirl style. Apparently cowboys (and gals I'm betting) would bring green coffee beans and roast them in a pan over a fire as they went along the trail. I am roasting in a stainless steel pan with a glass lid and it generally takes me 15-20 minutes (including getting rid of the chaff).

Here's how I Roast Coffee Cowgirl Style

I put my pot with lid on my largest burner.  My stove is gas so if you're working with an electric stove you may have to tweak things a bit. I put the heat on high and then figure out which variety of coffee I'm going to roast (this does not take long).

Pour between a third and half a bag or so of the coffee into the pot and put the lid back on. Note the time. Move the pot back and forth over the high heat. At about 5 minutes I generally hear the first crack and I can tell we're there by the caramel color and toasty aroma wafting out of the pot.

I keep moving the pan at high heat for another 2 minutes or so and then turn it down to medium. I see smoke coming out around the edges of the lid and hear the second crack and roast until I like the color. Remember the coffee will keep roasting a bit until it cools so you want to take it off the heat a bit lighter than you want the finished product to be.

I grab a potholder and dash outside with a couple metal colanders. I pour the beans into the colanders and then pour them back and forth between the colanders to cool them, and to get rid of any chaff.  Each time I pour them beans into the second colander give the first colander a good whack on the ground to get rid of the chaff left behind. This pouring and whacking is an auditory treat and might just be my favorite part of this process.  Once the beans are cool enough to touch you are done. Just put them in a jar with the lid not screwed on tight for at least four hours. I generally leave the lid loose overnight and then put it on tightly in the morning.

We grind our coffee each morning and then use a french press, but I took some of our home roasted coffee for a weekend in Conway, NH with my folks and the regular drip coffee my Dad made with them was out of this world, and it seemed to require less coffee than our french press. I actually might be looking for a drip coffee maker just for that reason.

Sweet Maria's has great instructions info on roasting your own, and I dare say they would frown on my method as utilizing too much heat, but that's how I do it, and we're happy with the results.

On another coffee note, one of the folks in my permaculture group reports that putting coffee grounds around the base of plants that have a tendency to become infested with insects can prevent such infestations. Possibly due to the plant taking up some of the alkaloids. He's going to give it a try with rose bushes to prevent the Japanese beetles. Wow, I certainly do have a Japanese beetle problem. Will have to drink more coffee : )

This fellow, Duane Marcus, uses coffee grinds to grow mushrooms in a 5 gal bucket. How brilliant is that? Maybe a good winter project when we don't have so much fresh food from the garden.

Wishing you a lightly caffeinated day.

P.S. This is not a sponsored post. I just love Sweet Maria's and wanted to share.


  1. Wowee zowie! You are one dedicated person! I wouldn't have the patience. However, it sounds like you've got yourself some awesome coffee! I love my first cup in the morning!

  2. I know what you mean Tonya, that first cup is simply divine! A second cup is never quite as good, and a third (though I rarely have a third) makes me feel totally out of whack.