Common Mistakes While Home Coffee Roasting
Home coffee roasting is for all coffee lovers. Those among us who have experienced the joy of roasting coffee would never look back. For one, it has flavors that regular coffee can’t even fathom, and two, the process transitions from being a hobby to becoming a lifestyle. Although it’s easy to enter the home coffee roasting world, honing your skill takes time. To consistently unlock the potential of each coffee, a roaster would need time, experience, and knowledge. We can’t phase out the learning curve, but it’s possible to reduce the severity of this curve by learning from history. Here are some of the most common home roasting mistakes that roasting rookies make.
Mistake: Under-roasting or Over-roasting
The degree of your roast boils down to personal preference. That’s why it’s important to identify what you want in your coffee. The color and feel of the bean would depend on whether you lean towards origin flavors in light roasts or the caramelized notes in darker roasts. Over-roasted coffee is darker, somewhat brittle, and characterized by a coating of oil with flavors often on the bitter end of the spectrum. Whereas under-roasted coffee is lighter and tends to have a herb-like flavor profile.
“Somewhere in between herb and bitter, there’s a world of flavor”
Mistake: Not pre-heating your equipment
The temperature of your equipment fluctuates based on where you live, the time of year, and also where you place your home coffee roaster. Hot and cold spots are created in your roaster when it’s not pre-heated because the distribution of heat is uneven. To avoid over-roasting in one batch and under-roasting in another, pre-heat your equipment to standard temperature. This pre-heat temperature depends on the type of beans, batch size, and ambient temperature.
“Being hot takes planning”
Mistake: Not understanding your green coffee
The world of green coffee is vast and limitless. Every farm produces raw green coffee that’s unique and incomparable to another region. It’s important to gather information (elevation, processing, environment, etc.) about the green coffee you’ve chosen to roast. The more informed you are about your coffee, the easier the roasting process. Variables like density, moisture content, varietal, and elevation have an impact on your final cup [For example, Brazilian beans have lower density and are easy to roast but maintaining consistency is a challenge. Whereas Colombian beans are more likely to be consistent but not as easy to roast]. Getting to know your coffee through each roast by taking lots of notes to record your learnings is a surefire way of becoming a better home roaster.
“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”
Mistake: Not understanding your coffee roasting equipment
Whether you’re roasting in a pan, oven, hot air popper, drum roaster, or hybrid, the principles are the same. It’s all about applying heat while moving the beans – the two quintessential physics processes needed to roast coffee. Eventually, it’s important to understand how your home coffee roasting machine transfers heat (conduction or convection or radiation), and how the beans are agitated. We’ve often heard people complain, “I don’t get the same flavor and body in a fluid bed roaster as on a drum roaster”. Our answer is that you’re likely using the wrong user’s manual. Creating roast profiles for different machines helps overcome the disparity in your roast. By understanding how your machine operates, controlling your roast becomes second nature.
“Know thy roaster”
Mistake: Not observing and taking notes
Going on auto-pilot while roasting at home is possible since it involves repeating several steps every time you roast. But doing so is a slippery slope to inconsistency. A few seconds of roast development time and a few degrees of pre-heat temperature can lead to totally different flavors, complexity, and body. Without proper documentation of each batch, it’s hard to remember what you liked and how to replicate it. Have a notepad or use artisan software to log temperatures, time stamps of each crack, and the total time of the roast. We’ll do a deep dive on roast metrics in the future.
“Be a roast scientist”
Mistake: Scorching your beans
Scorching happens when your green coffee is subjected to really high temperatures at the beginning of a roast. High heat tends to burn the outside of a bean while the inside remains raw. Scorching isn’t exclusive to happening at the start of a roast, it can also occur during the process if there’s a spike in temperature. It’s easy to avoid if you know what to look for. Keeping track of temperatures throughout the roast and knowing your roaster’s agitation mechanism can help identify and prevent the mishap.
“Roast with one eye open”
Mistake: Baking your beans
Baking happens when heat is taken away from the roast process at an inopportune time. When the temperature of the bean stalls instead of changing over the duration of the roast, it destroys the complex flavors in your green coffee. Keeping your beans at a constant temperature isn’t good either. The rate of temperature rise should never stall or go negative. Beans are more inclined to “bake” before the first crack, and avoiding this is half the battle.
“Don’t get baked”
Apart from the mistakes we discussed above, there are a few others to look out for. Keeping your equipment clean can help improve the roast and significantly decrease the chances of fire hazards. Chaff is particularly flammable and the roast process tends to produce chaff every time. Some processing methods like natural & honey tend to be “chaffier” than others, and that’s why knowing your green coffee is invaluable.
Another common mistake is drinking your fresh-roasted coffee the moment it’s done. We’ve been there, and we agree that fresh-roasted coffee is a temptress but you’ve gotta learn to ignore its charms. Coffee tends to release CO2 after being roasted and waiting a day or two improves the experience, especially if you’re making espresso. To fine-tune the roast profile for your roaster, reach out to us here or visit forums like home roasters and home barista.
Keeping all these concerns in check is a great way to consistently enjoy fresh-roasted coffee. If you’re new to roasting, there’s no reason to be intimidated by the process. Every coffee roasting connoisseur once stood where you stand currently. Nothing should stop you from investing your time and efforts towards something so rewarding. If you don’t know where to start, we can help you. To begin your home coffee roasting adventure, here’s our recommended reading.
Don’t forget to sign up for the Bunafr Smart Home Coffee Roaster, click here.