Really? I can roast my own coffee beans?

Did you know that you can roast your own coffee? It tastes better and it is less expensive. A short time ago I was confident that roasting coffee was something to be left to the experts. It requires temperature control, special roasting equipment, mastery of the technique, and special packaging to keep it fresh. How could I roast coffee in my own home?

Living in Ethiopia, I have learned a lot about coffee and the process of roasting. I have found that it’s not that complicated and all you need to roast your own beans are green coffee beans, a frying pan and a stove.

Lucky for me because Mekelle, the small town where we live in Northern of Ethiopia, has no place to buy pre-roasted coffee—I had to master the home-roast.

Most coffee that we buy pre-roasted or drink in coffee shops in America is actually burned to control and standardize the taste. That is why most coffee needs multiple spoons full of sugar, a few splashes of cream and a shot or two of vanilla. This might be hard to believe, but coffee that is freshly roasted and not burned requires hardly any sugar and, for me at least, no cream.

Coffee beans are actually coffee seeds that grow on a coffee tree. I have a coffee tree that looks like a bush outside of my front door. The berries turned red this month—my brother Sam was living with us and he picked the berries off of the tree-bush and popped them open to get the seeds out. There are two slimy seeds in each berry. The Ethiopians wash the coffee seeds and then place them in the sun to dry. Sam and I washed the seeds and stuck them in the dehydrator for about 6 hours before they were ready for roasting.

Legend has it that Ethiopia is the birth place of coffee. Hundreds of years ago, ancient Ethiopian warriors noticed that sheep were munching on the berries from the coffee bush/tree. After consuming, the sheep were running around full of energy. Before going into battle these warriors decided to try out these coffee berries and they enjoyed the effects from what we now know is caffeine. From there, Ethiopians started roasting the beans, then grinding them and adding water, to now brewing what we know as coffee.

When Ethiopians make coffee, they have a whole ceremony. There is no quick drive-thru coffee here. They roast the green beans in front of you and grind them by hand with an old-school mortar, then they brew it in a traditional clay kettle and serve it like espresso in tiny cups.

More than just a daily shot of caffeine, coffee in Ethiopia is done slowly.  Meet Etenesh who lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as she roasts her coffee beans over a charcoal stove.

More than just a daily shot of caffeine, coffee in Ethiopia is done slowly.  Meet Etenesh who lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as she roasts her coffee beans over a charcoal stove.

The berries from our coffee tree provide enough coffee beans for two stove-top espressos of coffee so I have to buy green beans or green seeds to supplement the rest of our coffee addiction. The store around the corner from my house sells green beans, but for those of you that don’t have green coffee beans for sale at the store around the corner there are plenty of places on amazon to buy washed green beans. Check out these links.

Once you have green beans in your home, you are ready to roast. I am sure there are many ways to roast coffee. I use a frying pan. Yes, a frying pan.

Watch this video to learn the sophisticated techniques of roasting. 

Coffee Roasting Instructions:

I put two layers of green beans in the pan and place over medium to high heat. Be sure to turn the vents on over the stove. The smell from roasted coffee is amazing but it can produce lot of smoke. I don’t have a vent over my stove so my whole house smells like coffee when I am done roasting. Depending on how hot your stove is it might take 2-3 minutes to heat up. Once the beans start browning, I shake the pan back and forth to evenly roast all the beans. Sometimes I use a wooden spatula to move the beans around as well. You keep shaking the pan until the beans reach the desired colored. Not all the beans will be the same color. Some might be darker than others.

I tend to like a medium to dark roast with some of the beans dark and some a little lighter.

Remove the beans from heat and pour on a cookie sheet to cool. I usually roast a few fry pans full to last me the week. I have heard that beans are best brewed within 7 days of roasting. Depending on how well cleaned your green coffee beans were before roasting there might be some flaky-skins that need to be removed. I like to use a highly specialized technique of taking the cookie sheet with the roasted beans outside and blowing on the beans to remove the extra skins.

Prepare your coffee how you like, but please don’t use the stuff out of a can.