Coffee by Michael Cummins

We love coffee, in its many temperatures and formats. If you love coffee too, you might be interested in learning how to roast your own. All you need are green beans, a roaster, and a grinder. Here's how we do it at our place.


Blog Posts


Roasting and Brewing Coffee Yourself

Collecting the Coffee Cherries

Honestly? It’s not as hard as you might think it is. You get a hold of some green coffee beans, you pop them in your home roaster, you roast them until they’re just the way you want them and voila. Coffee! Grind it in a decent burr grinder and you’re ready to brew.

"You don't want to have more than 3 days supply of roasted coffee around since that defeats the purpose of home roasting, to always drink freshly roasted coffee." Sweet Maria's

Anyway. To roast your coffee, you’ll need to know a little bit about 1st and 2nd crack. What is that? Well, I’m glad you asked. When your green beans are whirling around in the heated air of the iRoast2 (it’s kind of like a snooty popcorn air popper) they are slowly heating up to roasting temperatures. The green beans have a bit of moisture in them and as the seed heats up it fractures (between 390F and 410F) releasing the moisture in the form of steam. If you’re really listening, you can hear them crack as they whirl around. Once you hear that First Crack, your coffee is beginning to roast; something magic is happening. After you do this a few times you start to get a feel for when Second Crack is about to happen. That’s generally where I stop roasting regular coffee (They call that point a Full City roast) because if you go past that point, the flavor is more about the roast and less about the local characteristics of those fancy green beans you bought. If you’re going to pay for a Hawaiian Kona or a Costa Rican Candelilla, you want it to TASTE like a Kona or Candelilla, right?

"Even bad coffee is better than no coffee at all." David Lynch

The Second Crack takes place when the cellular matrices of the coffee begins to break down, freeing the various oils that are trapped within. You’ll hear this crack too, and you’ll see the beans get shiny from the oil. If you went this far, you made espresso.

Here's a really great visual guide for the many stages of roasting.

"The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce." Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr

Now you’re done! That wasn’t so hard, was it? All you did was put the green beans in your iRoast, enter your roast profile and then hit start. You waited patiently until you felt second crack was about to take place and then started the cooling process. You open the iRoast2, and you poured the beans into a plastic colander. After 10 minutes or so you stuck ‘em in one of Sweet Maria’s vacuum sealed baggies and the next day (once they’ve had a little time to breathe off that CO2) you’ve got the most awesome coffee in the city.

Not bad, eh?

Grinding and Brewing the Coffee

You really need to get a decent burr grinder. It makes a world of difference when extracting the best flavor out of your coffee. Alton Brown totally agrees. I use a Capresso Infinity Conical Burr Grinder that I bought from Amazon. I love it.

You can really just pop it in any old coffee maker, 1 to 2 Tablespoons of ground coffee per six ounces of water depending on your preferences. Me? When I have guests over I pop it in a really OLD coffee maker. I love my Kona vacuum brewer. It’s seriously old school. They’ve been making parts for this one since, what? 1921?

Buying Green Beans

There’s only one place I buy my green beans: Sweet Maria’s in Emeryville, California. Thom and Maria seem like great people, have always gotten my green beans to me quickly and safely and even tuck post cards into the box from time to time as they travel the world looking for the best of the best.

Visit their website. Read the blog. Check out the forums. Peruse their selection of green beans. Thumb through the coffee library. You’ll learn more there than you ever will hanging out in Wikipedia.

Roasting the Coffee

Drying the seeds of the coffee cherries

You’ll need a roaster. To be honest my Tassimo makes most of my coffee from day to day and I even love the Tim Horton's T-Discs. (This is the part where all the coffee aficionados start dowsing me with holy water and dragging me off to the gibbet) ...but I love roasting and drinking my own high-quality coffee, and for that I have an old iRoast2. I hear these things break down somewhat often, but mine has been chugging away quite patiently now for almost 10 years. I guess it didn’t get the memo.


My Roasting Profile

3 Minutes 320 F 160 C
2 Minutes 375 F 190 C
1 Minutes 385 F 196 C
2 Minutes 420 F 215 C
1 Minute 450 F 232 C

This is the default roasting profile I use when I start exploring new coffee.

Usually I enter second crack just after it hits 450, I very rarely make it to the end of that 1 minute phase. You have to listen for it and try start the cooling process just before it releases its oils. Will you set your roaster the same way? Who knows. Perhaps my iRoast runs a little hot, or maybe yours does; maybe living at sea level will make things much different from where you live. Perhaps you chose different beans that I did. You'll just have to figure out what works best with your equipment, your environment, your location, your beans. But that's what I do. Hopefully, it helps you figure out what you should do. Good Luck!