Monday, August 10, 2009
I imagine these women, swathed in colorful cottons, carefully tending their beans in a cast iron skillet or perhaps some sort of fascinating bit of specialized equipment, passed down through families and carefully wrapped for the journey from Ethiopia to the US. What I never pictured was a hot air popcorn popper but, as it turns out, these silly things make decent one-batch coffee roasters.
Intrigued by this idea, I asked my friend Doreen for some green beans (which, because they are decaffeinated, are actually a light tan color before roasting). Doreen and her husband run ZBeanz, a local coffee roasting company whose coffee I love. While I was curious to try roasting my own coffee, I had no illusions that I'd produce anything brilliant and wisely bought a bag of their Sumatra decaf for backup.
You can read about popcorn popper coffee roasting all over the web, but I found this page at Coffee Geek to be particularly informative. After reading thoroughly I took the popper outside to avoid setting off smoke alarms. I put in about half a cup of beans, turned the thing on, and puttered around in the garden for 5 minutes or so while things warmed up. I was soon rewarded with a lovely aroma as the beans began to darken. I peered carefully into the popper to keep an eye on the darkening beans and soon noticed that along with the rich coffee smell I was also breathing in the less lovely aroma of melting plastic! When I realized the hood for the popper was starting to melt I unplugged things and decided the beans were dark enough.
I immediately heated water and ground the beans for my French press. The resulting coffee was good but not as full bodied as I would have liked. My 16 year old coffee loving son declared it "bland". And he was right. We both prefer a darker roast which was prevented by my early shutdown of the popper.
I may pursue this more, just because I love the idea of doing my own roasting. On the other hand, I don't love the idea of inhaling plastic fumes at all. Thank goodness I always no where to go for more excellent coffee!