Three months ago I started an experiment to find out if it was cost savvy and efficient to roast green coffee beans at home instead of buying roasted coffee. After crushing the numbers and several weeks of roasting, my conclusion is that I should have started several years ago!
Reason 1: It is easy!When I started my research, I was intimidated by the amount of information that is out there. I found tons of recommendations for specific temperature profiles, multiple temperature levels, cycles, timing, etc. It seemed that a Ph.D. was required in order to get it right.
So, why it seems to be so complicated to roast coffee?
Let's remember that coffee green beans are a commodity. What this means is that there are many substitutes for a particular product, you can easily substitute beans from Costa Rica with beans from Tanzania and still make coffee; therefore, it is difficult to justify a higher price tag. To be able to charge a higher price for the product, Coffee Roasters, i.e. Starbucks, Pete's Coffee, and others, try to find ways to differentiate from each other and make their product "less common." Having specific blends, selected by expert connoisseurs and roasted to perfection are part of the marketing message.
For most of us, mere mortals, we can live with slight variations in our roasts. What I have discovered is that, for me, the window of acceptable roast levels is quite wide. In three months I haven't ruined and wasted a single batch. Beans that were darker than what I normally like were greatly appreciated by an Italian friend who is used to those roasts.
Today, I can turn on my roaster and do a couple of batches with almost any effort or supervision other than pouring green beans on it, removing them once they are roasted, and discarding the chaff. A batch takes me around 8 minutes, and in the meantime, I can keep writing this post.
Reason 2: FreshnessSince my roaster is very small, I need to do three batches of coffee every week (which takes me around 30 minutes total). What is great about this process is that every week I have freshly roasted beans.
When I was buying roasted coffee, a bag could last anything between two to four weeks. By the third week, as most of you probably know, the coffee had lost a lot of its aroma, and there was a noticeable degradation in flavor.
By roasting green beans every week, I get the freshest possible coffee beans.
Reason 3: Money Savings!!!!!
The main reason why you should be roasting your own coffee beans is that it is cheap. Cheaper than any decent roasted coffee you could buy. On my two previous posts (Does it makes sense to Roast your own coffee and Roasting Coffee at Home: can anyone do it?) I ran some numbers on how much cheaper it was to buy green beans versus roasted ones. In average it is 75% to 80% cheaper to roast your own beans.
Are there any cons?The main one is that if you don't plan accordingly, by the end of the week you might run out of coffee, and you will not be able to roast more and consume it immediately since the recommendation is to let them rest for 24 hours. A couple of times I was about to get to this point, and I had to decide whether I go out and buy some roasted beans or do a batch on Thursday night. In every occasion, I chose to roast some more beans, since it represented a $0 additional cost.
I have been roasting my beans in the patio since I am pretty sure that the smell it generates will trigger the smoke alarm if I do it inside. If you don't have a balcony or patio, it will be challenging to roast your beans without a couple of visits from the fire department. Even if you manage to avoid triggering the alarm, most likely the smell will stay in your apartment for a couple of days.
ConclusionThe Pros of roasting beans significantly surpass the cons. There are other ones that we didn't discuss, like the ability to try single origin beans and compare the differences in taste and aroma among different regions. It is simple enough that almost everyone can do it with a very low investment. I think that the companies that offer roasted beans have done an incredibly good marketing job on convincing people to pay high prices for their product.
Considering how simple it is to have freshly roasted coffee at a fraction of the cost at home, I am surprised that no more people are doing it. I am starting to wonder what other things I could do at home by myself: brewing beer, pickling and stuffing olives, curing prosciutto? This seems like a great topic for a new post...