"I haven't failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
I approached this test with the mind set of proving the coffee roasting world wrong. Here is my exact thought: Ethiopians have been pan roasting for 400 years, surely it can’t be that bad.” I was right, but I was mostly wrong.
See my other posts on roasting.
I started using my wok on a turkey fryer. The heat was too hot on the bottom. The direct heat was the issue; direct heat on the bottom point of the wok and direct heat of the bean on the metal of the pan. My first step to reduce the immediate burning was to rinse the green beans. This adds water to them which evaporates almost instantly and cools the pan enough to not burn them on contact. I also noticed this helped with removing the chaff.
The second step I took, partly because I used up all the propane on my turkey fryer, was to put my pan on the grill. I noticed that the heat was much less direct, so the beans didn’t burn as fast. The use of a lid helped reflect the head back down on the beans so the round parts were roasting better.
I started this batch using the information I learned and was coming to a frustrating result. The beans were still cooking too fast at the bottom of the pan. I had green and cinnamon all at once (no bueno). I lowered the overall heat to try and slow it down a bit. When my father in-law came out to grill the hot dogs, I had to pull the beans and wait. This gave me some time to look at everything and think. (Side note: don’t stall the roast. If you can roast at a time in which hot dogs can be roasted before or after, that is much better.)
When I put the pan back on, I lowered the middle two burners at low and outside on high. My thought was that the shape of the wok would help balance the temperatures. The bottom point of the wok would still get hotter than the top because it was closer to the fire. The outside would put more heat up into the lid and back down on the beans. I would leave the beans for about a minute or two and then stir, trying not to let all the heat out of the grill when I did. ***If you try this, take care to not burn your hands. It gets really really really really hot. I wear a grill-glove and it still gets too hot.***
I lost track of my temperatures because I left my infrared thermometer too close to the grill and had to rush it into the refrigerator before the screen melted. I also lost track of time because of the grilling of hot dogs and such. I know it took much longer than the traditional 9-12 minutes. It is kind of a “low and slow” method. If you roast too fast, then they just burn on the flat side.
Conclusion: Pan roasting can be fun for a hobby or a learning experience, but does not produce perfect coffee. I am not sure that I will be able to get my beans much better than this. That is why I call it an Edison success. I may not have discovered how to roast the perfect coffee, but I learned a lot along the way.