Coffee Time - The Difference between City Roast and French Roast

We are still so cold today. I think that our high was about 5 above. We do have lovely snow on the ground and it looks like a white Christmas for sure. To celebrate the cold temps I will continue to post about something that never ceases to warm me body and soul, coffee.
In my last 4 posts I discussed the joys and how to's of roasting your own coffee at home.
But how do you know which level of roast you will like the best? Experimentation is always a great way to go. Since you roast in small batches it is easy to roast and taste different roasts and see which one you like best. There are many terms used to describe the various roasts from the lightest brown to the darkest almost charcoal bean. Below is a list of roasts from my favorite coffee sight - Sweet Marias.

Roast Names
List of roast names from lightest to darkest:
1. Light Cinnamon
Very light brown, dry , tastes like toasted grain with distinct sour tones, baked, bready
2. Cinnamon
Light brown and dry, still toasted grain with distinct sour acidy tones
3. New England
Moderate light brown , still sour but not bready, the norm for cheap Eastern U.S. coffee
4. American or Light
Medium light brown, the traditional norm for the Eastern U.S .
5. City, or Medium
Medium brown, the norm for most of the Western US, good to taste varietal character of a bean.
6. Full City
Medium dark brown with some slight oily drops, good for varietal character with a little bittersweet.
7. Light French, or Espresso
Moderate dark brown with oily drops, light surface oil, more bittersweet, caramelly flavor, acidity muted.
8. French
Dark brown oily, shiny with oil, also popular for espresso; burned undertones, acidity diminished
9. Italian or Dark French
Very dark brown very shiny, burned tones become more distinct, acidity almost gone.
10. Spanish
Very dark brown, nearly black and very shiny, charcoal tones dominate, flat.

Do you have your roaster yet? Have you bought some green beans? Baby it's cold outside, roast yourself some coffee!
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Coffee Time - The Easy Way to Roast Coffee at Home

Another cold day in the Pacific Northwest. We are expecting snow soon and very cold temps. What a wonderful time of year to enjoy a rich warm cup of coffee. Of course in our house, anytime of the year is coffee time. I explained in my post, Shoestring Savings - Coffee Time, why we started roasting our own coffee. Then in my next two posts, Home Roasted Coffee Time and I Would Sell My Cow For a Bag of These Beans, I discussed the roaster that we use and where we buy our green coffee beans. Today let's talk about how to roast.

As I've mentioned before there are lots of different methods for home roasting but the method that we have found to be the most economical and the easiest is to roast with a hot air popcorn popper.

You will need:
  • 1 hot air popcorn popper. Remember to buy the poppers with the air vents in the cylinder and not the popper with the screen in the bottom.
  • About 1/2 cup of green coffee beans. Use the same measure of beans that you would use for popcorn.
  • A bowl to catch the chaff, if you are roasting in the house. We roast outside so we just let the chaff blow away.
  • A colander.
Where to Roast:
You can roast inside but the beans will smoke during the roasting process so be sure and roast in a place where the smoke can vent out. We prefer to roast outside. That way we don't have to worry about the smoke and the chaff can blow away and be swept up later.

How to Roast Using a Hot Air Popcorn Popper:

  1. Place the popper outside on a table near an outlet. Note - popper will not roast very well if the temperature around the machine is too cold. The machine sucks in the cold air. If it is below about 40 degrees, place the popper in a small box, big enough to allow some air to flow around the popper. We use the kind of box that two gallons of milk come in. Cut a small hole for the power cord to go through.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup of green coffee beans into the popper.
  3. Place the cover on the popper, including the butter dish.
  4. Place a small to medium size bowl below the chute to catch to chaff or just let it blow away in the wind.
  5. Turn on the popper.
  6. In approx. 2 to 2 1/2 min. you will smell fragrant smoke ( I think that it smells like brownies) then you will begin to hear the first crack which sounds like popcorn popping. If you like a lighter roast, start watching you beans now. Pull the beans just before they reach the color of roast that you like as they will continue to roast a little as they cool.
  7. The first crack will subside and in another couple of minutes you will start to hear the second crack. The second crack sounds like rice crispies snap, crackle, popping in milk. If you like a darker roast start watching your beans now. This is the place where you will get a darker French Roast. You will also see more smoke at this point. This is normal, don't panic. During the peak of the second crack, the beans are usually a dark brown with some oils starting to show.
  8. When the beans have reached the desired roast, about 4 minutes for lighter roasts and six minutes for darker roasts, stop the popper, pour them into the colander and stir with a wooden spoon or swirl them around to cool and stop the roasting process.
  9. You can grind and brew as soon as the beans are cool enough not to melt your grinder. I always like to make a pot right away, but the maximum taste is achieved after they have set for about 4 hours to overnight.
  10. When the beans are completely cool store in an airtight container out of direct light. The experts say not to store in your fridge or freezer.
  11. For the best fresh taste use your beans within five days and then roast some more.
  12. For more information on popcorn popper roasting, visit one of my favorite coffee sites Sweet Maria's.
See how easy it is to have fresh, rich, deliciously affordable coffee?
Coffee Time posts still to come: The Difference between City Roast and French Roast, What's the Deal With Decaf.

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Coffee Time - I would sell my cow for a bag of these beans

My last post, Home Roasted Coffee Time, discussed our discovery of roasting green coffee beans with a hot air popcorn popper. I know that it sounds strange but it really does work. Since we only spent $10 on our roaster, now we need to find affordable green coffee beans.

The wonderful thing about home roasting is that the green beans can be bought in bulk, the larger the quantity the lower the price. Large quantities of beans can be stored in a burlap sack or paper bag in a dark cool spot and will last for a year or more.

Two of our favorite sites that carry green coffee beans are Gotcha Coffee and Sweet Marias. Both offer good quality beans and excellent customer service. If you love to Ebay it's a great place to buy green beans. We have been very successful watching the auctions and bidding on beans. Just remember whenever you buy online you have to figure shipping costs into your final cost per pound to see if you getting a good deal and saving money.

Our goal was to always get beans for less than $5 a pound and most of the time we were successful. One day we chanced on the mother load of green coffee beans. We were in a Costco that had a commercial roaster in the store. Next to the roaster was a small sign that said that they sold green coffee beans and to inquire at customer service for a price. We asked at the desk and couldn't believe what they told us - $60 for a 30 pound box was the average price. Have you done the math? That's $2 a pound! Of course, $60 is a big chunk of change to plunk down at once for beans but 30 pounds of coffee will last the average coffee drinker quite a while. Costco carries a good variety of beans and, so far, we have found them to be of good quality. If $60 (more or less) sounds daunting, go in with a group of home roasting friends and share the cost.

I've told you where to get the roaster and where to get the beans. My next post will discuss the extremely uncomplicated how to of Home Roasting.

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Shoestring Savings - Home Roasted Coffee Time

In my last post, Shoestring Savings - Coffee Time, I wrote about a great way to economically take care of your coffee fix - Home Roasting. In this slow economic time we need to find ways to save money and still maintain the things that give us joy.

In our home one of those joyful pleasures is coffee.

Home roasting your own coffee is really quite easy. You only need two ingredients - green beans and a roaster. There are many coffee roasters available online. I haven't seen many in the mainstream stores like Target or Walmart but gourmet cooking stores carry them. The problem with these kind of home roasters is that they are expensive. We keep thinking that we will someday invest in one of these more pricey roasters. They do have their perks: you can set the roast level, there is a timer that let's you know when the beans have reached the level of roast that you desire, some of them have a place that allows the smoke to escape. Yes, a nifty expensive roaster that looks cool sitting on my counter would be nice to have, but we are shoestring people and we need to do what's the most cost effective.

The first time we tried roasting we tried it in the oven. Do Not Try This At Home! We followed the directions carefully but the part that said that the beans will smoke a little was clearly an understatement. Our house filled with greenish smoke and we found out that all of our smoke detectors functioned very well. Further research led us to a site that suggested roasting green coffee beans in a hot air popcorn popper. We searched our area for the right kind of hot air popcorn popper and found that there are two kinds of poppers available. One popper has a screen in the bottom. You do not want to use this kind because the oils from the roasted beans will clog up the screen causing it to cease to function (and with my luck, start a fire). The other kind of popper has air vents in the side of the cylinder. This is the kind that you want to use.

We searched high and low for the right popcorn popper at the right price and finally found one at Walgreens for only $10. Sometimes Walgreens has a rebate on these poppers and you can get them for $6. What a deal!

So, now we have the roaster. In my next post I'll tell you where to get the best prices on coffee beans.

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Shoestring Savings - Coffee Time

Happy December! It is 19 degrees and much colder today than the last time that I posted, July 2. It is a sunny morning and from the window of my office I can look out over my favorite tree which is sparkling with ice like diamonds in the sun. I'm very glad to be drinking this warm rich cup of coffee.
In our home coffee is the essence of warmth and comfort. Not just any coffee. Certainly not the kind that you buy in the store and have to open with a can opener or pull the foil off the top. Noooo, not that kind of coffee. Years ago we discovered how much better a cup of coffee is when you buy good beans, grind them yourself and make a fresh pot. Unfortunately this can also be expensive. The price of whole beans has continued to rise. Even the lesser quality beans have gone up to almost $10 a pound. What are poor coffee consumers to do?

About a year ago my husband came upon a solution, Home Roasting. We found out that buying green coffee beans and roasting them ourselves can save us up to $8 per pound! That is a significant shoestring savings. I'll tell you more about how we roast at home in my upcoming posts.

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