Coffee

These days I'm roasting my own coffee beans, both decaf and regular. It all started when I learned that the previous owner of our house had roasted green (unroasted) coffee in the convection oven he'd installed in the kitchen. I went from this method to the popcorn popper method, and finally to a dedicated coffee roasting appliance (thanks Tineke).

Today my coffee shrine includes: Hearthware Precision roaster, Hario Super Technica vacuum pot brewer, Braun Burr Grinder, Braun 12-Cup Drip brewer, and a Rotel Espresso machine. I'm not doing much with espresso these days mainly due to lack of time; This will change when I've narrowed down my choices of green beans and roasts. When I fire up the Rotel again I'll try everything I've roasted as espresso (more about that below).



For home roasting, first and foremost is Kenneth Davids' book which describes just about every method of home roasting.


(Hey David, are you going to drink that coffee or soak your beard in it?)

Preview and/or order this book at: LucidCafe.com. It's also available from:



For green coffee beans, home roasting equipment, and brewing supplies here's a site dedicated to the home coffee roaster:
Tom of SM is always there to help when you just can't coax a good brew out of one of his coffees. They also have a listserver if you'd like to engage in some sophisticated discussions about coffee (minimal flaming in that group). There is also a digest of the listserver postings.


Although their espressos aren't bad, the company that the following logo may remind you of doesn't know much about roasting non-espresso coffee. Their web page falsely states that beans are not ready until after the onset of second crack (they call it "second pop"). In fact, some beans are best roasted up until the end of first crack. Some Guatemalan Antiguas, for example, are best as a light roast.

In the late 90's Starbucks came out with the worst tasting coffee I've ever had: Lighter Dimensions. It was a really bad example of what a medium-dark roast could be (their idea of a light roast). If you buy inferior green beans, you'll typically get the best result by roasting very dark. If you buy really good beans, you can roast them different degrees in order to emphasize different taste components. There are coffee drinkers who believe that the mass market coffee shops mask inferior beans with a very dark roast.

What I want from coffee is variety (e.g. several origin of beans, light to dark roasts, multiple brewing methods). Variety is one of the things that does not deliver. After The Coffee Connection left the planet (see below) it took me a long time to find great coffee; home roasting was the solution.


When I arrived in Boston, The Coffee Connection was the best place to get coffee. George Howell and crew understood that very dark was just a point on a spectrum of good roasts; that each coffee needed to be roasted at several different levels until they found the best roast. CC offered free classes with the intent of educating its customers to discover the wide variety of beans, roasts, and brewing methods. Making espresso from a light roast was not a sin, making drip coffee from an espresso blend was a worthy experiment. Here's my last "buy ten get one free card" from CC, looks like I have just four more cups to go!
Post Mortem: When Starbucks announced they were opening in Boston, George did what any wise entrepreneur would have done, he sold out. I'd like to thank him for showing us that there is much more to coffee than can be found in even the most popular coffee venues.

Rebirth: This just in --- George Howell has recently setup a roasting operation in the very town I live! The local paper says they have cuppings on most Thursdays. Here's the link: www.TerroirCoffee.com

I wonder where Raymond Trevino is (formerly a buyer for CC), Raymond taught me that "espresso is not a roast, not a bean, and not a blend of beans, espresso is a method of brewing coffee". I just wish I could use my card a few more times.



Like any other hobby, there is no limit to the time, money, or technology you can invoke. For the truly obsessive here's a few sites that prove that the addictive properties of coffee go far beyond caffeine:


There are low tech solutions as well:
Woodstove and Wok Coffee Roasting


Even National Geographic has something on coffee:


The newsgroup alt.coffee is a busy newsgroup that has helped me along the way. Both in roasting/brewing/storing techniques and where to buy supplies and equipment. The flame wars (usually about *$) are much less frequent than the useful discussions on all matters pertaining to coffee.


The two best coffees I've ever had are:
* Jamaica Blue Mountain, bought in a grocery store in Santa Cruz, CA in 1972 for the outrageous amount of $6/lb. This was the most balanced coffee I have ever had.

* Kenya AA Decaf, bought from Key West in Acton, MA in 1999 and roasted in the Hearthware Precision. Key West subsequently went out of business. I can drive over to their abandoned storefront, look in the window and see burlap sacks full of green beans, one of them probably containing the Kenya, but haven't found a way to get inside (legally).



For more links, I can't do better than sending you to the Coffee Kid's link page:
Coffee Kid's Coffee Links
This guy's coffee preferences are similar to mine:
Bill Wiltschko's Coffee Page


This page would not really be complete without a shot of Juan Valdez (and here's www.JuanValdez.com)!

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