Every coffee roaster – amateur or seasoned – finds the coffee roasting process magical. It’s almost ethereal to witness plain green coffee beans undergo slow transformation into gorgeous-looking aromatic and flavorful beans. Pan roasting has been tried by most home roasters, as it is the most approachable roasting method, albeit also one of the most challenging ones in terms of achieving the right roast in a uniform manner.
Why roast coffee beans at home?
Home-roasting is a more attractive option for coffee-enthusiasts for several reasons:
Easy and convenient: One can roast any beans from any region whenever they want them, fresh and as needed.
Right roast, each time: If you reside in a place where it is difficult to find coffee beans roasted to your liking, pan roasting could just be the answer for you. It may take a few trials for you to determine which roast you like – light, medium or dark – and get perfect home-roast beans every time!
Affordability: Unprocessed or green coffee beans are available with ease at a much cheaper price than a specialty roast by a barista – sometimes green beans can be found for even half the price of a medium roast! Buying green beans and pan roasting at home could prove to be an economic way to fuel your daily caffeine needs.
Also – as a bonus – your home would smell heavenly each time you finish the coffee bean roasting session, with the beautiful aroma of coffee wafting from your kitchen for days.
How to Roast Coffee Beans in a Pan
Most coffeeholics understand that the fundamental reason behind roasting coffee beans is to allow the originally plain and tasteless green beans to develop complexity in terms of flavor and aroma. The uniform heat supply during roasting facilitates the essential chemical reactions that take place within the core of the coffee beans.
- Deep wide pan, preferably cast-iron
- Electric burner or stove/ hotplate
- Green coffee beans
- Wire whisk or wooden spoon (for stirring)
- Digital timer
- Oven thermometer
- Metal colanders or large trays (for cooling)
- Box fan or air blower
Step 1: Set-up & pre-heating
Set the pan on the stove for preheating, start the timer and place the thermometer on the pan. Ideally, the flame or burner setting should be such that it takes about 8-9 minutes for the pan to reach 200°F – too fast or too slow will affect the roasting process adversely. Medium flame is usually preferred.
Step 2: Begin the roasting
Once the pan reaches 200°F, remove the thermometer and add coffee beans to the pan. Reset the timer as you keep stirring constantly to avoid burnt beans. Here on you will notice the following stages:
- Start – 7 minutes: You’ll notice the green beans turning into pale yellowish to lightest brown shade. Beans will emit considerable steam along with a grass-like fragrance.
- 7 – 9.5 minutes: The beans will slowly turn a golden brown, as they begin to smoke.
- 10 – 13 minutes: The smoke will turn grey at this point, which signals that the beans are at the door of the 1st crack.
- 13 – 14 minutes: A medium brown shade and a distinctly audible crack or pop will accompany the stage we know as 1st crack. Once the 1st crack is completely over, the roasting process can be halted at any point. This is a light roast, also known as New England or City roast.
Step 3: Stopping the roast
The ideal stopping point for the roasting depends on individual preferences regarding the taste, flavor and aroma of the resulting cup of coffee.
- 14.5 – 17.5 minutes: As the 1st crack is complete, the smoke begins to intensify and we arrive at City roast (medium) stage.
- 17 – 18 minutes: In about 4-5 minutes from the 1st crack, the smoke begins to intensify, signaling that we’re right on the verge of the 2nd crack. The coffee beans would be medium dark here, signifying a Full City roast.
- 18 – 19 minutes: The continuous heating draws out the aromatic oils from the beans, making them appear glossy. The 2nd crack sound is less distinct, somewhat resembling the wrinkling of paper. As the 2nd crack peaks, we arrive at a Vienna or French dark roast.
Step 4: Cooling the roast beans
It is important to set the beans for a quick cool-down as soon as you decide to stop the roasting process. The failure to do so will carry the roasting process further due to heat accumulated inside the beans. To cool the beans, transfer the roast beans from the pan into metal colanders or large trays and set them in front of blower fans or a suitable wind source as you continue to stir them. This will also remove the outer chaff of the roast beans.
Tips for achieving the best pan-roast coffee beans
While there are no definite yardsticks or measures in place when it comes to pan roasting of coffee beans, following tips ensure that you attain the perfect cuppa from your roast:
Selection of the pan – Beware of the non-stick or coated varieties of pans, as these may render an unpleasant aroma or flavor to the roast beans. Also, thick-bottomed and preferably cast iron pans work best. Selecting a deep-set pan may help in uniform roasting, rather than a wide pan with large surface area.
Ample ventilation – Coffee roasting produces extensive smoke – the darker the roast, the more smoke produced. Make sure that you carry on the roasting procedure in a well-ventilated area with exhaust fans or ample windows. You may also need to disable the smoke detectors before you begin the roasting process.
Mind your beans – Last, but not the least, never ever leave the coffee beans unattended during the roasting process. Darker coffee roasts are especially dangerous if left unattended, since the moisture gets expelled from the core of the beans as temperature rises, making their texture very similar to charcoal towards the ultimate dark roast point. An unattended batch of roast beans can easily be major fire hazard.
Understand your preferred roast – Different roast degrees bestow diverse flavor profiles to the final brewed coffee, and it is important for you to understand the correlation between the two. Typically, the lighter roasts contain their origin characteristics and a muted or understated mouth feel. On the contrary, as the roast becomes darker, the resulting coffee brews possess more pungent, pronounced and sharp flavor profile.
Different coffee beans roast differently, and no two origin beans roast in the same manner. Roasting frequently along with taste tests and flavor profile matches will allow you to develop your own standards for that perfect roast.