My parents are daily coffee drinkers, and they always bought whole bean stuff whenever possible and ground it every morning. I remember summers when my dad would get up early before work and I'd wake up to the sound of the grinder from the other side of the house. I won't pretend I was excited about it or anything, that's just a memory I have, and one of my earliest of coffee.
When I hit my mid-twenties, I started getting more into coffee brewing methods outside of automatic drip stuff. I always ground my coffee right before brewing, but I never really got into "tasting" it like I did beer or whiskey. I liked it, sure, I liked the smell in the morning, and liked sipping from a hot mug, but that was really it.
That is, until I found this company called Boca Java via a coffeemaker review on consumer reports.
I researched their coffee, and initially kinda balked at the price, but figured with some membership deal they offered, that it was worth giving it a try. I was hooked. They roast the coffee they ship you a couple days before it's shipped. I received my first shipment and I was hooked. I tried their medium roast/breakfast coffee, Boca Sunrise and was amazed at how well balanced and flavorful it was. It wasn't acidic at all, and I loved it.
It was at that point that I realized that coffee could easily be for me like whiskey or beer - an adventure of sorts.
So, fast forward a handful of years to early in 2013, and I'm roasting my own coffee. I buy my beans from a great vendor our of Oakland, CA called Sweet Maria's and their selection is fantastic. Beans from every coffee growing continent on Earth.
How does someone roast their own coffee, you ask? I started with lots of forum reading, guide reading, video watching, and other stuff. I found guides in a bunch of different places, including great guides on Sweet Maria's site. I looked at different methods, and figured that I'd go for the cheapest one at first.
I began roasting in a $25 popcorn popper I bought from Amazon. My first batch was OK, but not great. Subsequent batches improved dramatically.
I graduated from an air popper (which can only do 75-85g of coffee at once, depending on bean size) to a stovetop popcorn popper. I modded this with a 550F candy thermometer to give me an indication of the temperature inside the "roaster". I used froglube food-grade, plant-based oil on the gears atop the popper because it gels at room temp but flows really well when heated. It's great on guns, likewise great on the little gears of a popcorn popper, with the side effect of keeping the crank easy to turn.
I had a hard time with the hand crank poppper. Most of my trouble initially was with environmental temperatures. In the summer, it's hot (whaaaaat?) and in the winter it's cold (whaaaaaaaaat?) and it takes a bit of finesse to get the temperatures "just right". Unfortunately, it also takes a fair amount of energy to get the thing hot. My kitchen stove is more than up to it, but coffee lets off steam, smoke and objectionable (to Cadie) aromas. The nixed my ability to roast any decent quantity inside the house. What that meant is that I had to use the side burner on my grill. Unfortunately, my side burner is only like 8000BTU or so, and it has a hard time keeping temperatures stable when adding beans. I attempted to work around this by using a cast iron griddle, which helped a little, but then it became harder to modulate the internal environment of the roaster.
Where does that leave me now? After wrestling with the stovetop popper for 6 months and getting some really great..and really mediocre..roasts with tons of different documentation, I'm gonna try a Gene Cafe drum roaster. It's self-contained, has its own heat source, can be vented outside using a dryer duct and I'm hoping with practice, I can get more consistent roasts out of it than I can with stovetop methods. Couple that with its 250-300g capacity, and I should be able to roast more than enough for my weekly use.