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First Attempt at Roasting

I have tried my hand at roasting for the first time. It was a good learning experience on both roasting and the coffee I drink.

I am not exactly a rich man, so I am starting with the old school: Pan Roasting. Everything I read said that it makes terrible coffee, but I wasn't buying it. The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, that continues to this day, is done by pan roasting. I told myself that there has to be some merit in pan roasting. (The question by the end will be is the value worth the cost. Hint: it's not.)

I got my wok and turkey fryer out. I used a wok because I thought the beans would move better in the wok. I immediately recognized the issue with using a wok. The center was 600°F, an inch out was 400°F and the top was 200°F. Right off the bat, I had no consistent cooking surface, and my cooking surface could drop 100° with a strong gust of wind.

For the first batch, I put a few beans in so I could just watch the change in stages from green, to yellow, to cinnamon, to first crack, to burnt (there was no second crack for some reason).

The second batch was my first attempt to make something drinkable. I tried to keep the beans moving in the bottom of the pan where I kept it close to 500°F. There were 2 major issues with this batch. The first crack happened at all different times. I had some beans at first crack while others were green and others were burnt. The second issue was that the chaff was not coming off like it was supposed to. I tried to get them all into a dark roast; but when I pulled them off, I realized most of them were burnt.

The third batch was done differently. I had read about about how an Ethiopian woman pan roasted her coffee. She washed the green beans before putting them in the pan. Also, I lowered the temperature to around 400°F. I noticed that the beans did not instantly cook on the outside like they did before, and the chaff was coming off completely. I an only assume that the additional water transferred the heat into steam rather than directly into the bean, allowing them to sit longer before turning brown. I think the extra steam helped remove the chaff as well. I also used more beans on this batch, hoping that more beans would make them turn better, but the final was still inconsistent. Roast time was about 8.5 minutes.

My fourth and final batch was washed and roasted at around 200°F. These looked more consistent on the outside but took around 18.5 minutes before I pulled them off. Another issue I noticed was that my beans were staying flat side down, not rolling. That is why the flat sides were getting burnt and the round side was still light.

My buddy and I looked at the beans and decided to brew the third batch because it was the only one large enough to make a pot of coffee with (I knew I was going to mess up a lot, so I didn't want to waste my beans). The coffee was a little hard to grind, which made me think it was still green in places. We brewed it through our Ghetto Chemex and tried it. It was the strangest thing I had ever tasted. It was sour and super green up front, then the middle was actually nice, then smokey at the end. We could actually taste the inconsistency of the roast.

We decided to cut a bean in half and look at it. The flat side was roasted to a nice brown inside, but progressively got lighter towards the rounded side. Looking at it that way made sense of everything I saw when roasting and tasted in the cup.

I have a bean from Peru that I am going to try next time. The beans are smaller and much more round than the Ethiopian bean I used here, so I hope they will roll better. Here's to hoping!

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