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New to Home Roasting--A newbie Question--
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beerANDmathematics
Senior Member
beerANDmathematics
Joined: 18 Mar 2012
Posts: 153
Location: NYC
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Sama Export, La Peppina,...
Grinder: OE Pharos+VDD, Lido2,...
Vac Pot: Cona B + CoffeeBoS Brew...
Drip: hario woodneck, kalita wave...
Roaster: popcorn popper but rather...
Posted Mon Mar 26, 2012, 6:11am
Subject: New to Home Roasting--A newbie Question--
 

First of all, hello (coffeegeek) world!

I have been reading coffeegeek for a few months now but just registered to be part of this wonderful community =)

Last weekend, I began my home roasting adventures. As a grad student, I wanted to do this as cheaply as possible so I chose to start with my stove, a pan and a wooden. Simple set-up, and all done with things I already had. Here is my newbie question (I tried searching forums, but couldn't find answers):

Is it normal for freshly roasted beans to be extremely hard to grind?

I am using a Hario Mini-Slim hand grinder, and have used it for months with all types of beans (from store bought cheap-o stuff to high-quality S.O. freshly roasted by fancy coffee shop--from medium to dark roast) so I know the amount of torque I usually need to exert to grind beans (or should I say seeds?). But, with my fresh roasted beans, not even 24 hrs old, it was damn-near impossible to grind them. I did eventually, but I seriously thought I would either break the handle of the grinder, or the burrs (or both). None happened thankfully, but still.

Background on first roast:
On Saturday morning I roasted Ethiopian Limu Jimma, to what I think was City+. This was my first roast, so take all my descriptions with healthy skepticism. I cooked over a gas stove on a regular frying pan. Warmed the pan a bit on HIGH heat, then threw in about 1/2 cup of beans measured with a measuring cup (ie by volume)--this didn't quite cover the surface area. Anyways, I was well into first crack after 4-5min (I kept a timer --but didn't log anything down) then turned the heat down to Medium. First crack was really loud--just like popcorn. After a while the first crack stopped and soon I thought I heard a wispy second crack. So aiming for City+ I knew that it was time to start cooling the beans. I did this using two other pans and moving the beans from one to the other (boy did this make a huge mess in my apartment! I live in NYC on 10th floor, so I can't do this outside...) Cooling was slow, and lasted about 4-5 minutes. I put the beans in a mason jar with the lid on top but not closed (pretty much like having the lid off). The roast was quite uneven with a few burnt beans (about 10%) and under-roasted beans (about 15%). On Sunday morning, I awoke exited to try my first batch. It smelled amazing so even though the roast was extremely uneven, it was still very promising. I threw out the most serious offenders, but I suppose I could have thrown out even more.

Taste:
I used my favorite brewing method--Hario Woodneck pourover--for this coffee after struggling to grind it. Once ground, the coffee looked and smelled great. The taste was interesting: flowery, earthy, and a bit lemongrass-y. I liked the taste, even though it didn't quite taste like other Ethiopian coffees I've tried. I had my roommates try some, and they all liked it but said it wasn't strong enough (drink crap like Starbucks). What I found interesting is both said it tasted more like tea.

Sorry for such a long and detailed post, but hopefully knowing all the variable helps you narrow down why it was so difficult to grind the roasted coffee beans.

Thanks in advance,
Cheers
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ocarolina
Senior Member
ocarolina
Joined: 30 Apr 2007
Posts: 59
Location: chicago suburbs
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Rancilio silvia 3
Grinder: baratza preciso
Drip: french press - no drip
Roaster: behmor / iroast2
Posted Mon Mar 26, 2012, 6:39am
Subject: Re: New to Home Roasting--A newbie Question--
 

Although I have never roasted in a pan, I would wonder if you roasted long enough.  When I first started roasting, I did not have the proper heat temps to crack and expand the bean - even though I heard some cracking noises.  I have also gotten beans from a friend (a local roaster) that were nice and brown, but looked like then never cracked to expand.  They were the same size as the original green bean.  If that is the case, you will ruin your grinder trying to grind an improperly roasted bean.  When done roasting, I always crack a sample bean, not only to smell the roast, but to make sure that the beans will crack. I always notice that when the beans roast, they get bigger than the original size.  I am not sure about the specifics of roasting in a pan, but as my culinary teacher says at school - regarding roasting nuts - Can you evenly brown a nut in a flat pan? (hence we roast in an oven for even heat distribution all around).  If you do not want to spend money, the popcorn poppers are really cheap, and they will roast more evenly than a flat pan.  I am a full time student too, so I understand the importance of saving money whenever you can - unfortunately when it comes to coffee roasting and grinders and brewers, I tend to splurge.
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frank828
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Joined: 23 Feb 2011
Posts: 581
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: Professional

Posted Mon Mar 26, 2012, 3:46pm
Subject: Re: New to Home Roasting--A newbie Question--
 

usually i find that lighter roasted beans are more difficult to grind.  not sure what kind of beans you have been grinding before but if they were darker roasted, they'll probably be easier to grind.  

i'd usually give african coffees a lot longer to rest.  you said you had it a day later.  give them another try in another couple days.  many people have said that they have felt some of their african coffee was best at about 5-7 days off roast.
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BarryR
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Joined: 21 Nov 2010
Posts: 281
Location: Wilbraham
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Clever...
Roaster: Hottop KN-8828B2-K
Posted Mon Mar 26, 2012, 6:15pm
Subject: Re: New to Home Roasting--A newbie Question--
 

My guess would be that some (or most) of the beans are under roasted though from your description you may have gotten into 2C (in which case most of the beans wouldn't be under roasted).

I never roasted in a Wok but wonder if they might be cooked on the outside but not on the inside (due to the whole process going to fast).


I also agree with the previous poster who suggested moving beyond the wok. If you don't want to fork over the dough for a Behmor, a popcorn popper (find the posts on which popper to use and how) would be the way to go.
From what I've read, it's very hard to get good results from the stove or oven.

Finally: There's a fortunate rationalization for getting a Behmor (or otherwise shelling out cash for roasting equipment) -- you do save a couple dollars or so per lb roasted. So, if you roast 50-60 lbs / week, you'll save as much as the Behmor costs after about three years.
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beerANDmathematics
Senior Member
beerANDmathematics
Joined: 18 Mar 2012
Posts: 153
Location: NYC
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Sama Export, La Peppina,...
Grinder: OE Pharos+VDD, Lido2,...
Vac Pot: Cona B + CoffeeBoS Brew...
Drip: hario woodneck, kalita wave...
Roaster: popcorn popper but rather...
Posted Tue Mar 27, 2012, 5:30pm
Subject: Re: New to Home Roasting--A newbie Question--
 

Thanks for the replies everyone!

Like many of you suggested, I think I under-roasted the first batch.
I did another batch on Sunday and cooked it on lower heat for longer (~ 20 min).
These beans did much better after 1 day...tasted ok (honestly, I liked the first weird batch)
but it was easy to grind like I have grown to expect on my Hario mini-mill.
I'll leave the 'bad batch' rest for a few days and try again--following frank's suggestion.

Maybe I'm a total noob but I really liked the taste of the under-roasted beans.
Is that weird?

I don't know why but I feel like spending 30$ on a popcorn popper is a rip-off.
If I can find one at a thrift store, I'll definitely pick one up.
I'll keep trying the pan but maybe I'll add another pan to cover it to help keep the heat better.

Cheers
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frank828
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Joined: 23 Feb 2011
Posts: 581
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: Professional

Posted Tue Mar 27, 2012, 6:20pm
Subject: Re: New to Home Roasting--A newbie Question--
 

if you hit second crack, i wouldnt say you underroasted them.  it may just be that you're accustomed to grinding beans that are roasted darker but you actually prefer the taste of lighter roasted coffee.
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HLing
Senior Member
HLing
Joined: 10 Dec 2010
Posts: 21
Location: NYC
Expertise: I like coffee

Grinder: Manual Stone Quern
Roaster: stove top cast iron pan or...
Posted Tue Mar 27, 2012, 8:26pm
Subject: Re: New to Home Roasting--A newbie Question--
 

Congratulations on home roasting!

I started home roasting with the cowboy method: using a cast iron skillet over gas stove.

Things got better after I added a lid to hold the heat in better, pre-heat the pan with lid on medium heat for as long as your pan can take it (cast iron is cheap and strong), and once in, shake the pan often to let all the beans roast evenly.  It's better not to keep opening the pan to check.  Think of it more like popping corn.

It will get better with practice.  I also don't want to splurge on dedicated equipment at the moment so I understand where you're coming from.  The only thing not so good is the dark sticky build up that gets on everything from the smoke. Unless you have good ventilation I'd keep important, delicate objects covered.

(Cast iron is better than thick stainless steel pan because it doesn't hold the moisture in but keeps the heat well.   I had to switch to an All Clad stainless steel though, because the pan handle heat resistant holder wore out, and somehow nobody makes them any more. It's difficult to grip the hot cast iron handle to shake the pan.  With the All-Clad the handle doesn't get hot. I'll just have to let the air/moisture escape once in a while by opening the lid a little. Also, use something to hold down the lid while shaking the pan.)
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Prof
Senior Member
Prof
Joined: 10 Sep 2004
Posts: 719
Location: Seattle
Expertise: Pro Roaster

Espresso: PV Lusso
Grinder: Pharos 696
Drip: Aeropress
Roaster: Behmor 1600+
Posted Wed Mar 28, 2012, 7:08pm
Subject: Re: New to Home Roasting--A newbie Question--
 

beerANDmathematics Said:

Thanks for the replies everyone!

Like many of you suggested, I think I under-roasted the first batch.
I did another batch on Sunday and cooked it on lower heat for longer (~ 20 min).
These beans did much better after 1 day...tasted ok (honestly, I liked the first weird batch)
but it was easy to grind like I have grown to expect on my Hario mini-mill.
I'll leave the 'bad batch' rest for a few days and try again--following frank's suggestion.

Maybe I'm a total noob but I really liked the taste of the under-roasted beans.
Is that weird?

I don't know why but I feel like spending 30$ on a popcorn popper is a rip-off.
If I can find one at a thrift store, I'll definitely pick one up.
I'll keep trying the pan but maybe I'll add another pan to cover it to help keep the heat better.

Cheers

Posted March 27, 2012 link

Noobs don't stay noobs for long.

Hit the thrift stores until you find a Poppery II (or even better, I) or West Bend Pumper, or something with slits on the sides of the chamber.  You'll be happier with the results, and your lungs will thank you when you don't have to stand over the smoke...

Or PM me and I'll send you one.  What type of math are you studying in grad school?  My son is at Oregon studying something called Quantum Groups or something like that.  Now that is far out...

 
LMWDP # 010
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ocarolina
Senior Member
ocarolina
Joined: 30 Apr 2007
Posts: 59
Location: chicago suburbs
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Rancilio silvia 3
Grinder: baratza preciso
Drip: french press - no drip
Roaster: behmor / iroast2
Posted Thu Mar 29, 2012, 7:12am
Subject: Re: New to Home Roasting--A newbie Question--
 

I am no roasting expert in the chemistry department of it all, but as stated above, it may be roasted on the outside, but not inside (hence the hard consistency).  Too much heat too quickly will brown the outside, but not roast the inside for proper cracking and expansion of the bean.  The beans that came from a local small business roaster by me, were almost impossible to grind, yet were brown like a French roast- had no flavor, and I knew immediately that they were not roasted correctly - upon sight.   I know that roasting too quickly even though you hear a cracking, is not going to produce a good evenly roasted bean.

If having a good quality roasted bean is important to you, then $30 (or less $ 2nd hand) is nothing to spend on roasting (as a student, I am sure that is only a few beers LOL).  I am a culinary arts student (almost 45 yrs old), and can honestly say that you cannot roast any small thing on a stove top in a skillet with even doneness (even with a lid).  You said that some were burnt, and some were underdone - which is my point.  I am not saying that you cannot roast beans on the stove, but after doing this for almost 5 years now at home, you are not going to get a great cup of coffee with that method.  I am sure someone will disagree, but I believe that you have to have some sort of monetary output on equipment for a decent roast.

HLing - If you get some Bar Keepers Friend cleaner, you may be able to clean the All Clad pan back to original state.  It is good stuff, and I use it all the time on my stainless All Clad.
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Feuros
Senior Member


Joined: 6 Mar 2012
Posts: 29
Location: Guelph,ON N1H6H9 Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Vesuvius, BES900
Grinder: HG-One, Forte
Vac Pot: Bodum
Drip: Clever
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Sun Apr 1, 2012, 5:03am
Subject: Re: New to Home Roasting--A newbie Question--
 

Newbe roaster here also.  I picked up a $15 Salton popcorn popper at Walmart and have been having great results!
My first batch was a bit under roasted as I wasn't really 100% sure what I was doing, but all subsequent batches have been excellent.
The popper is really easy to use and get good results with as long as you can listen.  The only drawback for me is that you can't roast a ton at once in it.  I find about half a cup is my max.  I'm thinking of picking up a second popper just so I can up my volume.  
I think I'd like to eventually get an actual roaster, but it seems for anything under $1000 every machine has some sort of drawback, so for now I'm quite happy with the popper.
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