Ever wish you could get real, fresh-roasted coffee without paying $16/lb or more? That you didn’t have to start your day with supermarket-grade brew? That you could get your hands on better coffee without braving a sneering barista* and hordes of scornful yuppies? What if you could get really good, really fresh-roasted coffee and support small coffee farmers and US jobs at the same time?

We found a way.

Roast your own coffee at home. It’s very, very easy.

A lighter roast I did for Josh upon request. I’m better at darker roasts.

You will need:

  • A powerful range hood/fan/vent. This process makes lots of noxious smoke. If you don’t have a good vent, you can’t do this inside.
  • a metal (not nonstick) pan, preferably fairly deep
  • two metal mixing bowls
  • a non-plastic stirring implement (I like my metal flat whisk the best)
  • good raw coffee beans

We get our beans from Sweet Maria’s. It’s just this guy, who travels all over the world sampling coffee from lots and lots of tiny little farms. Then he buys directly from the farmers. The result: fair trade, great selection, and incredible quality. (And no, they don’t have a clue that I’m writing this).

There’s lots of help on the Sweet Maria’s site for coffee-roasting tips and expensive gadgets, but it boils down to a simple process that takes about 7 minutes. It’s actually a lot like pan-roasting popcorn. You heat the metal pan dry, over medium-high heat for a while. Dump in the raw beans and begin to stir. That is the key – you NEVER stop stirring the beans. You might have to switch hands after a while, but you never stop stirring. The beans begin to “pop” after a while – that’s called “first crack”. I  lower the temperature gradually down to medium as they get closer to the color I want. And I keep stirring the whole time.

Once they get to the right color, take the beans off the heat and pour them into one of the metal bowls. Take the bowls outside and pour the beans in a stream from one to the other, blowing through the beans as they fall, to winnow out the chaff and cool them a little. If you’re lucky and it’s windy outside, you can save yourself some hyperventilation. When the chaff is gone, bring them inside and set the bowls on a heat-proof surface to cool the rest of the way before storing them in an airtight container.


  • Don’t be intimidated. If it doesn’t work, what do you lose? $5 and 7 minutes – nuthin‘.
  • Your beans will always come out variegated – a range of similar colors rather than one solid color. This is because as you are stirring, some beans touch the bottom of the pan more, some less. It’s unavoidable but a good thing, as it gives the finished coffee more complexity.
  • I have more trouble doing light roasts. I’ve only tried a couple times, but I get a wider variety of bean colors than I’d like. I’m pretty sure the key is patience, a lot lower temperature and a longer period of time. But I am not so good at patience.
  • You need to get a French press for this to really pay off. Come on, you know you want to really taste all the flavors you worked so hard for! A simple one runs about $15.

(*I refuse to spout fake Italian to order the size I want. “Small” will do just fine.)

2 Responses to “Fresh-roasted”

  1. Rose Says:

    Oh my. I might have to try this. THUMBS UP!

  2. Matt Says:

    <3 your coffee beans!

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