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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Making coffee to the most by taking on the roast

The “Everyday Cheapskate,” Mary Hunt, advised this week that the more you learn about coffee the less, you’ll spend. I went high-tech some years ago with Cuisinart’s Automatic Grind & Brew Thermal (tm). It makes great coffee and preserves it well by percolating directly into a stainless steel carafe. I get up early for a fresh-made cup and set the remainder at bed-side for my wife to enjoy as an eye-opener. She was the one who pointed out Hunt’s article to me, which suggested that roasting your own beans makes the brew “infinitely better tasting” at half the price. That is good, because after reading this, I immediately bought a $400 Swissmar Bravi and fired it up this weekend -- the distinctive, but not unpleasant, smell of roasted coffee fills my home as I write. (My daughter thought I'd been boiling down maple syrup.)

The Bravi manufacturer leaves nothing to chance. For example, in the coffee roaster’s product guide they begin by saying “Keep the instructions (sic) manual.” The Swissmar engineers then specify that their customers “always use exactly one-half pound (225 g)…no more, no less.”** The machine offers a variety of roasting levels to a maximum of “Espresso,” which “comes very close to the edge of ruin.” Taking no chances, I went far lower than that extreme roast my first time around!

The moment of truth will come tomorrow morning when I make coffee with my home-roasted beans (Sumatra Mandheling). It had better be good, because I figure that, given the $6 per pound savings in beans and assuming a production rate of 40 cups of coffee per pound, the payback period will be two years. If the brew gets a “boo,” that will seem like an eternity to a ‘caffiend’ like me.

*Coffee trees produce a red “cherry” that peels back to the core green-bean

**At Ubersite, which “capitalizes on random, chaotic, unpredictable, flexible, bizarre human behavior,” I found these humorous comments (censored) on whether one ought to bother weighing:

I'm too lazy to actually measure the coffee out, so I just dump some in and try to visually judge how much I'll need to brew a pot. Each day I stare while it's brewing, tingling with anticipation... "today it's going to be perfect." No matter what, I either get really strong goo, or light brown water. Wouldn't I be so much happier if I just measured?

The righteous way, and the path to true enlightenment, is to judge for yourself. As you hone your senses and your appreciation of the subtleties of coffee concentration increases, you will journey on a remarkable voyage of self discovery. You will see things that are invisible to the unenlightened eye. This will lead to a greater understanding of being. However, if you are fluctuating between brown water and syrupy goo, then I suggest you measure. You are a dingbat.

No. You will never achieve Zen-like coffee by measuring. The only way is trial and error. I know, I have achieved UberCoffee.


  • At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Evelyn said…

    You can roast coffee beans in an old hot air popocorn popper. I got mine free from a friend, he bought it for $2 at a garage sale.

    You'll want to test to see how long you need to age your roasted beans. I notice a significantly better crema in my espresso machine (hand ground beans, ground right before extraction), when the beans are between 1 and 2 weeks out of the roaster. Before and after that, the crema is nonexistant. Before 1 week, the taste is good, after 2 weeks it's starting to be flat.

    A great problem for DOE!


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