Whole Parenting Family

Roast Your Own Coffee Beans

This is a post by my husband and avid coffee lover, AA.  He learned a few years back from a dear friend (and philosophy professor) all about roasting coffee beans and now has his own style to do so.

After J was born, my appreciation for coffee took on a new form.  Sure, caffeine can be a plus, particularly when you’re taking care of a newborn.  But there is a goodness to coffee that is unique.  Cradling a warm cup of java in the wee hours of the morning can lead to epiphanies previously unknown.

In an attempt to economize, I purchased some cheap coffee.  It tasted like sawdust.  I wasn’t thrilled with the alternative of opting for (settling for) purchasing coffee beans from one of the mega-chain coffee shops, so I decided to go it my own.  Roast my own beans.  Why not?  There’s something invigorating about slurping your own brew.  For those of you who are coffee drinkers and are looking for the perfect cup of coffee, you should try roasting your own beans.  Like many things, it can be as complicated as you’d like it to be, but it’s simple if you don’t overthink it.  It’s a gritty form of art.

1) Materials.

A.  Something to roast the beans.  Strangely enough, popcorn makers do the trick nicely.  What you’re looking for is something that can distribute heat evenly while not overheating.  I’ve had great luck with my handy dandy Toastmaster, which you can find almost anywhere for $15-$20.  Amazon.  The Toastmaster keeps a constant swirl, providing a nice even roast.  There’s also a lid, which keeps the beans from whizzing into the air.  The drawback is that you can only roast about a cup of beans at a time.  If you drink coffee by the pot and not by the cup, you might opt for something larger.  There are lots of options out there.  Here’s more if you’re interested: Sweet Maria’s.

B.  A grinder.

C.  An extension cord.  You don’t want the smell of coffee-bean roasting to linger in your kitchen for days, and neither does anyone living with you.  I suggest roasting your beans outside or in the garage.

D.  Pre-roasted beans.  They’re green, not black or brown.  Note the difference between the pre-roasted and roasted.

 Your best bet in hunting down pre-roasted beans is to go to a local coffee shop, and ask for some beans that haven’t been roasted.  You might need to speak to the shop’s roaster though.  Try J.S. Bean Factory in St. Paul on Randolph & Snelling.  Buy a pound of beans and get started.  Another option is to order online.  For example, Sweet Maria’s.

E.  A measuring cup.

F.  A cookie sheet.  After you roast the beans, they’re hot and you’re going to need to dump them on something to air out overnight.  A cookie sheet will work.

G.  A timer.

2) Roasting.

If you’re a rookie, here’s the simplest way to roast.

A.  Make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area, preferably not in your house.  Again, the garage is a great laboratory for your masterpiece, and so is the great outdoors.  If you’re using the handy dandy Toastmaster, you’re limited to somewhere that is within reach of an electric outlet.

B.  Measure out the amount of beans you want to roast.  The Toastmaster has a line showing you the max amount of beans you can pour in at once.  Don’t overload.  Bad things happen.

C.  Pour in your beans and flip the switch.

D.  Start your timer.  You’ll want to keep an eye on the time.  Depending on the type of bean you have or the type of roast you’re looking for, you might be roasting for three minutes and up to six minutes.  It depends.  If you’re looking for a dark roast, you want to stop roasting a bit after you notice the beans start glistening.  Glistening is good.  Experiment with your roasts and the time.  It all depends on your tastes.  The beans are going to make a slight cracking noise at some point, so don’t be alarmed.  Also, there is an outer layer to most of the beans that will come off during the roasting, so you’ll notice them flaking out of the roaster.  (As a Nebraska Cornhusker fan, I like to think of this as “husking.”)

E.  After you’re done roasting, the beans are hot to the touch.  Pour out your beans directly on your cookie sheet, spread them out by shaking the cookie sheet, and let the beans sit out overnight.  You don’t want to grind your beans until the following day.  Contrary to popular belief, grinding and brewing beans shortly after being roasted results in profoundly bad coffee.  Don’t dishonor the bean.

F.  After you’ve let your beans sit for about a day, grind ’em and make your coffee.  I suggest using an all-white ceramic coffee mug.  There is something eminently suitable about pouring black coffee into a pure white mug.  Think of this as the White Mug Theory.  The coffee simply tastes better in a white mug.  No kidding.  Try it.

Roasting is that simple.  Once you’ve done it a few times, you can get fancier if you like, but there’s no need if you’re not so inclined.  There are a zillion other things that could be said about the process and beans in general, but that’s it in a nutshell.

If you’re not convinced roasting is for you, I’ve got to put a plug in for Mystic Monk coffee.  These Carmelite monks in Wyoming do a fine job, and it’s a great group to support.


  1. Novice Natural Mama on June 22, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    I am not a coffee drinker, but I have to say that home-roasted coffee just smells like candy! AA, well done!

  2. Shena on June 23, 2011 at 6:48 am

    Take it from me, folks, this guy roasts great coffee! A, thank you for giving us such clear and inspiring instructions for imitating your craft. After tasting your blissful blew last summer, I tried to find guidance from The Wizard (Google) but to no avail. Grazie mille!