Home Roasting Overview, History, & Method Overview
The process of home roasting involves roasting small amounts of coffee beans at home for personal consumption. This practice has been around for centuries, with people using simple methods such as roasting the beans in a cast iron skillet over a fire or using a small steel drum on a stovetop. Before the early 20th century, it was more common for people to roast their own coffee at home rather than purchasing pre-roasted coffee. However, after World War I, commercial coffee roasting became more widespread and, along with the availability of instant coffee, home roasting declined significantly.
Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in home roasting coffee. This once necessary task has now become a popular hobby for many people. Some of the reasons for this revival include the desire to have fresh, flavorful coffee, the opportunity to experiment with different beans and roasting methods, the opportunity to perfect the roasting process, and the potential to save money. Additionally, the availability of green coffee in small quantities from suppliers and the production of counter-top roasters have also contributed to the renewed interest in home roasting.
Coffee Roasting History
The first known tools specifically designed for roasting coffee beans at home were metal or porcelain pans with a circular, often perforated shape, which were used in the Ottoman Empire and Greater Persia in the 15th century. These shallow, dish-shaped pans had long handles so they could be held over a brazier of hot coals to roast the coffee beans. The beans were stirred using a thin spoon. However, these pans could only hold a small amount of beans at a time. In the mid-17th century, a cylinder roaster with a crank to keep the beans in motion was invented in Cairo. This roaster, typically made of tinned copper or cast iron, was held over a brazier or open fire. French, Dutch, and Italian versions of this design soon emerged and became popular throughout Europe, England, and the American colonies. English coffee merchant Humphrey Broadbent preferred this type of cylindrical roaster and wrote about it in 1722. He praised the ability of home roasting to remove damaged beans from the batch before roasting and the security of knowing that merchants were not adding poisonous lead powder to the beans to increase their weight and price. He wrote: "Most persons of distinction in Holland roast their own berries."
During the 19th century, patents for commercial coffee roasters were granted in the United States and Europe to enable the large-scale roasting of coffee. Despite this, home roasting remained a popular activity. An employee at a commercial roasting plant in St. Louis, Missouri, stated that "selling roasted coffee was up-hill work, as everyone roasted coffee in the kitchen oven" in the 1850s. He noted that the arguments against home roasting included the economy of saving fuel and labor, the risk of burns and angry outbursts, and the potential for ruined beans or poor-tasting coffee. However, appliances for home roasting were becoming more widely available. In 1849, a spherical coffee roaster was invented in Cincinnati, Ohio for use on top of a wood-fired stove. Inventor Jabez Burns, the nephew of Jabez Burns the religious scholar, pointed out that with practice and experience, even simple tools like a corn popper could be used to roast coffee evenly at home or while camping. Burns noted in 1874 that "patent portable roasters are almost as numerous as rat traps or churns." Green coffee beans could be purchased at local stores or even through mail order, and early issues of Sears catalogs offered them. Some common methods for home roasting included placing a layer of beans on a metal sheet in the oven or stirring beans in a cast-iron skillet over a fire. Despite the widespread popularity of home roasting, Burns predicted that it would soon disappear due to the advancements made in commercial roasting during the 1860s and 1870s, including the benefits of economies of scale. The commercial roaster inventions patented by Burns transformed the U.S. roasting industry, similar to how innovations by inventors in Emmerich am Rhein greatly improved commercial coffee roasting in Germany. Additionally, the successful introduction of one-pound paper bags of roasted coffee by the Arbuckle Brothers in Philadelphia in 1864 also contributed to the rise of commercial roasting. From this point, commercially roasted coffee became increasingly popular, eventually surpassing home roasting in the United States during the 1900s. The first electric roasters were patented in the U.S. in 1903 and in Germany in 1906, allowing for smoke- and fuel vapor-free roasting. In France, home roasting did not decline in favor of commercial roasting until after the 1920s, especially in rural areas. Coffee was roasted to a dark color in small batches at home and by shopkeepers using a variety of appliances, including those with a rotating cylinder of glass, sheet iron, or wire mesh, and ones powered by hand, clockwork, or electric motor. Due to the smoke and chaff, people in rural areas often roasted coffee outdoors.
In the 1950s, as instant coffee gained popularity, specialty coffeehouses began to emerge to offer traditionally brewed coffee to connoisseurs. In the 1970s, more specialty coffeehouses were founded that offered a variety of roasts and beans from around the world. The gourmet coffee industry saw significant growth in the 1980s and 1990s. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Siemens Sirocco home roaster was made in West Germany and sold globally. It was a small fluid-bed roaster designed for home use and was named after a commercial hot-air roasting process, which itself was named after the hot Sahara winds called sirocco. In 1976, chemical engineer Michael Sivetz patented a competing hot air design for production in the U.S. and it became a popular and affordable alternative. Sivetz emphasized the importance of bean quality for home roasters. From 1986 to 1999, there was a significant increase in the number of patents filed for home roasting appliances. In the 1990s, more electric home roasting equipment became available, including drum roasters and variations on fluid-bed roasters. By 2001, gourmet coffee enthusiasts were using the internet to buy green, estate-grown beans and have them delivered by mail.
Advantages of Roasting Coffee At Home
One of the main reasons for the popularity of home roasting is the ability to enjoy coffee made from freshly roasted beans. Home roasting allows for the roasting of smaller quantities of coffee to match consumption, ensuring that the roasted coffee is used before it becomes stale. The optimal flavor of whole bean coffee is generally achieved between 7 and 14 days after roasting, although some beans may be best left for up to 21 days. Ground coffee has a shorter shelf life and begins to lose flavor more quickly. To extend freshness, coffee can be refrigerated, frozen, vacuum-packed, or stored in an inert gas environment. Green coffee beans can be kept fresh for 1-3 years, depending on storage conditions, and some home roasters choose to reduce storage time to 8 or even 1.5 months.
Other advantages of home roasting include the ability to enjoy high-quality coffee in areas where there are no good local roasters and the potential for cost savings. Home roasters who are motivated by economics can purchase green beans in bulk at a lower cost than roasted beans from retailers, potentially saving 25-50% depending on the type of beans chosen. Home roasters also have access to a wide variety of green coffee beans from various importers and distributors, including rare and award-winning beans, as well as those from specific countries, regions, orchards, and harvest years.
Roasting Equipment Beginners to Advanced
Home roasters have a range of roasting equipment options, each of which can affect the flavor of the coffee in different ways. The roasting profile, which describes the amount of time the beans spend at each temperature during the roasting process and the final temperature before cooling, significantly impacts the flavor, aroma, and body of the coffee. Home roasters may use computers or programmable controllers to control the roasting process and record data, although manually controlled equipment can also be used with skill. Experimenting with different roasting profiles to achieve the desired flavor is a popular aspect of the hobby, although taste is subjective.
Coffee roasting generates chaff and smoke, so it should be done in a well-ventilated area, which can be difficult to achieve in a home setting. When roasting coffee outdoors, the process can be affected by changes in air temperature and wind, requiring adjustments to achieve the desired results.
There are four main techniques for home roasting coffee: in an oven, on a stovetop, in a hot-air popper designed for popcorn, and in a specialized electric appliance.
Green coffee beans can be roasted in a convection oven by spreading them out in a single layer on a perforated tray with raised sides. This method is not ideal for achieving a consistent roast, as the beans at the edges of the tray will roast faster, but some people enjoy the resulting mix of roast levels. Roasting coffee in an oven generates a lot of smoke, so the room should be well ventilated.
Coffee beans can also be roasted on the stovetop using open-top cookware such as a cast-iron skillet or wok, stirring the beans constantly to achieve an even roast. Alternatively, a stovetop popcorn maker with an integral crank and internal agitator can be used to roast the beans by keeping them in motion. Both of these methods require constant stirring and good ventilation.
A hot-air popper can be used to roast coffee beans, but it is not designed to withstand the extended heat cycle required and may be damaged as a result. This method produces less smoke than oven or stovetop roasting, but it still requires good ventilation and can create a mess with scattered chaff. It is also possible to roast coffee beans outdoors.
After roasting with any of these methods, the beans must be cooled manually by shaking or tossing them in a metal colander for a few minutes.
Specialized electric home coffee roasters have been available since the 1970s. These countertop appliances automate the roasting process and include a cooling cycle at the end. There are two main types of electric roasters: fluid-bed or fluid-air roasters, which heat the beans faster and retain more of their acidic flavor compounds, but produce a tougher bean that is harder to grind and contributes less to the body of the coffee; and drum roasters, which take longer to roast the beans and produce a mellow-tasting coffee with a softer bean that is easier to grind and contributes more to the body of the beverage. Electric roasters have a small capacity, typically 4-8 ounces for fluid-bed roasters and slightly more for drum roasters, and can be expensive. Most models also emit smoke.
Kaleido Coffee Roasters and the Home Roaster
This is where the Kaleido roasters come into play. Our Kaleido roasters are for the home roaster that wants to take roasting to the next level. They are electrically heated drum roasters that offer the home roaster a commercial style roasting experience at home. Kaleido roasters can be used with roasting system developed by Kaleido (standard systems), or with Artisan Software (pro systems) or with either system (dual system units).