Let’s start with the most traditional method: Stovetop. Stovetop roasting (which also works great over a fire) is the best way to really see the roasting process unfold. Coffee was first roasted in pans over campfires. Even until the early 1900’s most people roasted their own coffee at home this way.

To begin you’ll need:

  • A pan. You can use a cast iron skillet, wok, frying pan, or better yet, a hand-crank stovetop popcorn popper such as the Whirley-Pop. Please note that whatever pan you choose it will no longer be suitable for food once it has been used to roast coffee.
  • A metal colander for cooling the beans after roasting. Avoid plastic colanders, which can leach ‘plastic flavor’ into the cooling beans.
  • Oven mitts or gloves to handle hot items.
  • A wooden spoon for stirring beans while roasting and cooling.
  • Of course you’ll need ¾ cup to 1 cup of green, unroasted coffee beans.

Start off by preheating your pan to 500F. Once the pan is heated, pour in your beans and cover the pan. Once the beans have entered the pan they MUST be kept moving throughout the entire roasting process or there is risk of fire.

Roast the beans on high heat, keeping them in constant motion. Every minute or so you can uncover the pan and stir the beans with your wooden spoon. You should always recover the pan quickly so heat isn’t lost. This is also a good time to check the color and smell of the beans.

As the beans roast you will begin to detect changes in their look and smell. The smells will change from grassy to baking bread and finally to coffee.

As the beans brown you will begin to hear a crackling and popping sounds. As the sound grows, smoke will begin to come from the beans. At this time ‘chaff’ will separate from the beans and may fly around some. We will remove the bulk of the chaff during the cooling phase so don’t worry.

Any time after this point will produce drinkable coffee.

Keep checking the beans and note their color and the look and smell of the smoke.

Once the beans have reached their desired darkness, you’re ready to cool. Remember that the cooling process itself can take one to two minutes. This means that the beans continue to roast after you’ve begun cooling. So, begin cooling about a minute before they look and smell ready. This process will take some practice so don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time.

To cool the beans, dump them into the metal colander and stir them with your wooden spoon. If you have a small fan you can cool the beans faster by turning it directly on the beans. Chaff, the outer skin of the bean, will be blowing around at this point. You’ll want to remove as much of this as possible (try brewing a cup of chaff-tea if you want to find out why).

Once the beans have cooled to the touch, they are ready to cool and store.