Home-Roasting Heretic: Happy Accidents

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A royal screw-up led to my first major home-roasting success.

Well, I should be more specific "the right kind" of screw-up led to success. My first few home-roasting endeavors (particularly the first) were chock-full of screw-ups, and none of them yielded great results. On my fourth or fifth attempt, however, despite thinking I had under-roasted the beans, I experienced my first ahhh that's good! batch.

Light vs Dark Home Roasted Coffee
The light-roasted beans on the left were the result of a botched roasting operation -- which proved to be a very happy accident.

A roasting emergency forced me to prematurely halt an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe/Sidamo roast. Using the Westbend Poppery, I had placed a soup can atop the popper as a chimney (a suggestion from MAS's Roasting Coffee in a Popcorn Popper tutorial). The problem was that the can I used was coated inside. I noticed a couple of beans sticking to the can, apparently because the heat was softening this coating and making it adhesive. I switched the power off, to end the roast and save the rest of the beans.

The Poppery for Roasting Coffee
The Poppery for Roasting Coffee

I've long preferred darker roasts, so I was disappointed that this session ended with the beans just barely at a Light Roast stage. Still, I wasn't going to let this batch go to waste.

I drip-brewed a pot, expecting mediocrity. Instead, I was blown away. For the first time, I could recognize distinct tastes in the beans I roasted ("floral, earthy"). This was the first batch I roasted that I would have been able to identify in a blind cupping. Accidentally, I roasted Ethiopian beans to perfection.

The morals of this story are twofold:

  1. The trial-and-error involved in learning home-roasting can lead to some fortuitous discoveries.
  2. Home-roasters using a soup can on the Poppery should make sure the can has no interior coating.

Resources

The Home Roaster Color Chart - A visual guide to coffee roasting by color.

Rookie Roast - Alex's first adventure with home coffee roasting.

Roasting Coffee in a Popcorn Popper - Tutorial on how to roast coffee using a Westbend popcorn popper.

Published: May 2010, Last Modified: October 2011