by Joseph Wetzel, Board President
As an amateur coffee roaster, this is the question that I most often receive after delivering a small bag of “Wetz’s Coffee.”
The answer is yes.
When moving to Champaign in 2014, I wanted to start a new hobby. In my close group of friends, each one of them is a creator (maker of wine, home brewer of beer, musician). I decided coffee roasting would be a natural fit as I have always loved coffee. However, getting into this was a bit intimidating.
While there many ways to create a cup of coffee, this is meant to be a broad overview. Below distilled down to basics, is what I have learned in six years.
The coffee you drink is actually the baked/roasted seed from a fruit – the coffee cherry. Just like it sounds, a coffee cherry looks just like a cherry.
Coffee cherries are harvested and the seed is separated from the fruit. The seed is dried and bagged and shipped around the world as “green coffee.”
Once you buy green coffee, the next step is to apply heat to turn the green “bean” to brown. This can be done in a variety of ways. You can roast the beans with a mechanical roaster, a popcorn popper, or even just on a baking sheet. Beware – these all produce smoke!
Once you figured out the mechanism of roasting, you then need to determine how long you want to roast. One of the ways to vary the type of coffee is its roast level. The longer the roasting time, the darker the bean and the more robust the flavor. Usually, this is referred to as Light, Medium, or Dark roast.
Contrary to popular belief, the lighter the roast, usually the more caffeine.
Actually roasting the coffee sounds easy, right? In theory, yes. In reality…not so much. My first batch looked, smelled and tasted like a burnt log. Yum! Plus, I set off the smoke detector and it caused our apartment to smell like burnt toast for three days. At that point, I thought that I had picked the wrong hobby.
Over the next few years, I worked on the specifics of time, temperature and weight of the beans. These variables help determine what your final batch looks and tastes like.
For me, I find coffee roasting to be a great blend of creativity, science and relaxation. As an added bonus, your roasts will impart your space with the smell of coffee for many hours. Hopefully, you are inspired to take the leap and try this for yourself!
Shoutout to Sweet Maria’s Home Coffee Roasting. This is where I spent hours learning the basics and from where I order all my home roasting supplies. https://www.sweetmarias.com/