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What should be areas of focus for someone new to roasting?
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TapeDeck
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Posted Tue Apr 2, 2013, 4:04pm
Subject: What should be areas of focus for someone new to roasting?
 

I'm very new to roasting... I've done 3 batches--heat gun and dog bowl.

1). Too light, and took to long, so I think I was baking it too much.
2). Much better even-ness of color, much better on time, but still too light (like, decent diner coffee... not enough depth)
3). Changed beans, thought I got the color better, and the initial flavor is better, but there's some sort of green-ness to the flavor... a little like the smell of the beans unroasted... I may just not like these beans as much.

3 batches, so I'm basically a total newbie.  Anything that is worth learning, takes time, so I'm perfectly content knowing I have a lot to learn.

But I am wondering if there are variables I should be playing with, or suggestions from any of you folk.  I'd heard some people saying that one might want to go through the beans and segregate out coffee beans that have problems, etc.  Do you folks do that?  Just sort of curious what I should be pointing my attention at, apart from "Stir, apply heat, cool quickly" etc.  Are there any books you guys recommend?
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IMAWriter
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Posted Tue Apr 2, 2013, 4:17pm
Subject: Re: What should be areas of focus for someone new to roasting?
 

Chris, welcome to CG.
First thing, if you could tell how much (in oz) you are roasting per batch, and importantly, how long it takes you to get to 1st crack.
With the HG?DB method, as I remember at least 750 watts is recommended for the heat-gun?
I would think if you're doing 12-14oz per batch, around 11-13 minutes would be optimum to get to first crack.
Try a slow first few minutes to stretch the "yellowing" to light tan process, then speed it up towards the end of that phase to get to a nice sharp 1st crack.
Try to allow at least a minute or a little more of continuous 1st crack, then back down the heat a wee bit, and try to stretch the roast 2-3 minutes before the onset of 2nd crack. (it will sound a bit like "Rice Crispies."

I'd like you to got to 2nd, so you can get a feel of the timing. Of course, timings will change a bit depending on the varietals, age of the green, amount, ambient temperature, etc.

A good rule of thumb is high grown varietals, sometimes called SHB..strictly hard bean like Guatemalans can take more heat quicker than can lower grown beans, like Brasil. It would behoove you rot get comfortable with the different regions, and their roasting characteristics.

Stay at it. Perhaps, try a smaller load, like 10oz, and see how that goes. Also, allow your beans at least 48 hours before grinding.

 
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RandomTask
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Posted Wed Apr 3, 2013, 7:26am
Subject: Re: What should be areas of focus for someone new to roasting?
 

Welcome to CG! I will start by saying, with roasting, youíre in for quite a ride. Donít get discouraged if it doesnít taste right, this is a journey, be prepared to experiment.

I'm fairly new to roasting as well (only a couple months) and I'm using an Air popper not a HG/DB but here's a couple of tips that I've learned over the past few months;

  1. Always weigh the amount of beans you use. It's a bit of trial and error but keeping at least a set amount of beans lets you try different things and attempt to narrow down what is going wrong (or right)

  2. Keep a timer or stopwatch handy. I'm in the habit of timing the roast, that way I know when something like 1C or 2C is about to happen based on previous results. It also helps if you want to experiment with the roast slightly.

  3. Keep notes. This will help once you start doing more batches so you can go back and try and repeat the process. Thanks to the abysmally small batch size in the popper, Iím doing a roast every other day. Iím not drinking my most recent roast, Iím drinking the one prior (or even the one before that) so you can go back and note what you liked about it along with how you did it, so you can try and reproduce the results.

  4. If it doesn't taste right, give it another day of rest. Depending on the beans you use, they might need more rest than others. Right now I'm using Guatamala Antigua and they taste best after about 3 days rest. I had a sample of Java that tasted best at about 2. There's a list of the recommended rest times based on location of bean, it's somewhere on SM's site, thought I can't seem to find it right now.
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TapeDeck
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Posted Wed Apr 3, 2013, 10:56am
Subject: Re: What should be areas of focus for someone new to roasting?
 

Well, the first attempt was a half pound, and it was clearly too much, considering the temperature in my garage (below freezing) but I had the time and I have the beans, so I thought I'd give it a shot.  It was massively uneven roasting... some short of city, and some past burnt, because of the quantity and the time, along with external temps.  So I decided to do half of that at a time, from now on, until I have it down a little smoother.  Once we're in the 60's and 70's out here (Chicago) I will probably try to get back to half pound batches.  

The heat gun I have is the Milwaukee on the original article you find when you search the technique.  I could probably get one hotter, but I probably won't... as I intend to go to a dedicated machine at some point this year.  Really, I spend a lot of money and time to get my favorite coffee... it's 35 minutes from my house, or I have to have it shipped, and that ups the price... it's $20 a lb.  And I have come to the conclusion that the thing that makes it so good, is really the fact that they care about their product, and that it's crazy fresh.  That is something that a home enthusiast should be able to replicate, IMO.

It's taking close to 15 minutes to get to first crack right now.  First crack has begun when you hear multiple beans start to crack, not just at the first crack you hear, right?  Because I'll tend to get a couple going earlier than that, but it takes a while.  I'm not getting a particularly audible second crack before I'm seeing some charring... like, more than I think I should be seeing.  Do you recommend powering right through and using sound as my only guide, if I want to experiment on FC and FC+?  Beans are cheap... these are cheap lessons to learn.  It's more that it's a bummer to see coffee beans turn into compost without giving up their goods.  Maybe I'm relying too much on visual cues?  But I'm definitely going more than 2-3 minutes after the start of first crack.  I think outdoor temps and garage temps, along with technique, are the issue here.

I want to clock a whole lot of roasts with this simple setup, and then I want to jump to something a little more robust and programmable, like the Hot Top.  

Very useful info, regarding varietals and how much heat they can take.  I get my beans from SM, and they obviously have suggestions--I suspect they'd even make recommendations via e-mail, but I absolutely want to roast many types of bean, to really try and dial in what it is that I like from each type.  I've learned over the last couple of years that I like juicy, high acidity as much as I like somewhat dark roasts... the danger in liking so many types of coffee roasts is that it can be easy to blur the lines and not really have a target.  That's largely what roasting is, for me... learning coffee inside out.  It's going to take a few years.  Perhaps I should be working with one varietal for a couple of months, at a time, though.

Definitely weighing the beans.  It definitely makes sense to eliminate a few variables, if repeatability is the goal.  I can't wait for it to get a little warmer outside, so air temp isn't such a dramatic variable.  This time of year it's ranging from the upper 30's to the 60's.  Duly noted that a 3rd day of rest can matter!  

Thanks, folks.  Very much appreciated.
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RandomTask
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Posted Thu Apr 4, 2013, 1:06pm
Subject: Re: What should be areas of focus for someone new to roasting?
 

As far as First Crack/ Second Crack is concerend it's related to the type of crack, not necesarily the 1st or 2nd you hear. First crack sounds kind of like popcorn popping, 2nd crack sounds more like Rice Krispies or sissling. Going from 2nd Crack to char isn't actually that long, I've tried it in my popper once and it took an extra minute from start of 2nd crack till everything was burned. Ideally you want to try and get everything to crack at a simillar time, that tells you that all the beans are reaching similar tempuratures at about the same rate.

You have to try and rely on as many different cues as possible; sight, sound, even smell. If you're seeing it turn to char on some beans before some beans are hitting 2nd crack, try mixing it up; less beans, different technique, ambient tempurature might be a consideration too. As you say, beans are cheap and these are good lessons to learn. As I said, I "wasted" some beans to take it to full char just to see how long it would take and what would happen. I started roasting on one of the "Sample" packs. It was neat, but I then ordered 10lbs of Guatamala Antigua just to get a good hold on my technique and timings. Neither is a bad way to learn, but I like removing as many variables as possible to try one thing at a time.

I'd love a Hottop but sadly it's above my price range, that's why I'm roasting with a modified $10 popper!
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TapeDeck
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Posted Thu Apr 4, 2013, 1:49pm
Subject: Re: What should be areas of focus for someone new to roasting?
 

Yeah, I know I'm going to have to get a little more rigorous with my methods and timing.  I wanted to do the first bunch of coffee sort of free hand, just to see what the initial process is all about.  Incidentally, the most recent batch that was tasting a little green and off to me, has noticeably improved from the 3rd to the 4th day.

If I was only going to roast for me, and me alone, I don't see any reason I'd have to move on from the heat gun/dog bowl thing.  But I'd like to be able to handle coffee for my employees at my retail business, and think it could be a fun side sort of DIY/Craft business... that if it pays for itself, it's worth doing.  

I also agree with you on eliminating variables.  I am glad I got the 8lb SM sample packs, because I think I will probably learn if there are varietals I prefer (at least initially) but as soon as I complete all of these, it's definitely time to buy one bean in semi-bulk like you did.
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Frost
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Posted Fri Apr 5, 2013, 9:55am
Subject: Re: What should be areas of focus for someone new to roasting?
 

Making your DB/HG roaster behave more like a coffee roaster will improve your roasts.
Minimize heat loss from the bean mass by insulating and preheating the bowl. Adding a cover to limit direct convection loss will help too. This will allow the beans to progress in the roast more evenly with lower Environment Temperatures from the heat gun.  More even and consistent heating of the bean mass will make for a better roast

Your 'worst case scenario' was described in your first roast; A cold garage and an open vessel. The beans are hit hard with extra heat to overcome all the heat loss of the roaster.  Making your open dog bowl with heat gun look more like a convection oven to the beans will greatly improve the roast quality.
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TapeDeck
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Posted Fri Apr 5, 2013, 11:16am
Subject: Re: What should be areas of focus for someone new to roasting?
 

Very interesting.  Imagining quite a few ways to attempt this.  It will be a good roasting weekend.  Thanks for the info.
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jliedeka
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jliedeka
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Posted Sat Apr 6, 2013, 8:46am
Subject: Re: What should be areas of focus for someone new to roasting?
 

I have since switched to a Behmor but I roasted outside with a heat gun for a few years.  Here are a few random thoughts:

  • I didn't weigh my beans at that time but roasted up to 3 cups per batch

  • I found any temperatures below 20 degrees to be too cold for a good roast and took those opportunities to support my local roasters.

  • I roasted in the garage to be out of the wind.

  • I used a mesh colander inside a metal bowl.  I think that helped to trap more heat.

  • IIRC, my 3 cup roasts took 20 minutes or so but didn't end up baked.

  • I used a Wagner heat gun which I think may be the same as your Milwaukee

  • I varied the heat but tried to aim for a fairly fast ramp and slower finish.

  • Constant stirring and varying the nozzle height are important.

    Jim

 
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TapeDeck
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Location: Plainfield
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Tue Apr 16, 2013, 10:38pm
Subject: Re: What should be areas of focus for someone new to roasting?
 

Still at it.  Totally appreciate the insight.  I can't imagine getting 3 cups worth rolling at once in 20 minutes.  I have to keep tweaking!
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