As some of you may know, I've recently decided to take the 1st step in the coffee roasting arena...or as I like to say, "the next step in my coffee evolution".
I bought a hot air (popcorn) popper. This is the entry level way of roasting coffee (e.g. not getting the $400 home coffee roaster). I read a lot of tutorials to make sure I got the right type of popper (only a certain kind work correctly for roasting coffee).
Ok, here is how it all went down.
First, I had bought an 8 lb. sampler box of green (unroasted) coffee beans from Sweet Marias (suggested place to start by Mill Creek). I picked one of them to start with (Kenya AB).
I had decided to roast on Thursday because I don't drink much coffee at home on weekdays as I'm up and off to work quickly, and you have to let the coffee rest (dissipate CO2) for about 12-24 hours after roasting before using. So Thursday was the perfect night to roast just enough coffee for the weekend (as the whole idea is to always have very freshly roasted beans).
So I grab the first bag to start. I start the first batch (can hold about 1/2 cup). The tutorial I was going by said you would hear the first crack at around 3 minutes and the second crack at around 4 minutes. First crack would be about 'light city" roast and 2nd crack would be about "full city" roast. Longer than that and you get the dark roasts.
I like my coffee around 'full city', so I planned on 4 minutes for the 2nd crack. The problem? I heard a few cracks around 1:30. Not having roasted before, I thought maybe it was a 'false crack' because it was waaaay too early.
Any way, to make a long story short, this popper is apparently hotter/faster than the one they used in their tutorial. That first batch was over roasted. They were so dark they looked like Starbucks beans (bleh!).
So I started the second batch and learned another quick lesson. You need to let the popper cool down between batches because the first beans that go in (ones in bottom) get roasted very fast because of the heat already there (hot metal reservoir). The second batch looked very "salt and pepper" with some really dark over roasted beans and some light. Chucked that batch.
By this time I thought I kinda of had the mechanics down and it was only getting the timing right. Third batch came out good. First crack was at about 1:30, second crack is around 2:45. I found the level I like my roast was good at about 3:30-4:00. (Tutorial was estimating 5-7 minutes).
Now, armed with the formula I roasted the rest of that bag. When all was done, I got about 1/2 lb of roasted beans (from the 1lb bag). I lost about 1/2 lb due to those two bad batches and spilling some a few times while cooling in a colander.
You aren't supposed to use them for at least about 12 hours, so tonight will be the actual tasting. If interested, I may take a picture of the roasted beans to show you.
BTW, it's a pretty messy process. The beans release their chafe as they roast and it goes everywhere. It doesn't just come neatly out of the popper chute and into the bowl/sink like you want. It ends up going all over the area where you are roasting.