We love our coffee here in the UK (I’m definitely proof of that, with at least 2 a day and a coffee machine at home). Coffee is rapidly overtaking the traditional cup of tea as our national drink, and coffee shops have sprung up in every corner of the country over the last few years. But an addiction to your daily espresso or tall skinny latte can get expensive when you tot up how much you spend over a month or year. Many coffee aficionados are exploring other ways of roasting and grinding their own beans at home as both a way of cutting costs and getting an individual product, and one of the best and easiest ways of roasting beans at home is on a standard barbecue grill.
What Sort of Beans are Suitable for Roasting?
Most of the coffee which we drink in coffee shops are made from a blend of different sorts of coffee beans. There are lots of websites online which will give recommendations about what sorts of beans to buy and which make the best blends, but as with everything else, the choice of beans is very much down to a matter of personal taste. The best advice is to buy small quantities of different beans and experiment with different roasts and different mixes of beans to find out what mix you like best.
When shopping for beans, make sure you are buying “green” or unroasted beans rather than ones which have already been roasted and are designed purely for grinding at home. Roasted beans are best used fresh, so roast regularly and in small quantities so your beans are always beautifully fresh.
Benefits of Using the Barbecue
It’s perfectly possible to use any stove to prepare your coffee beans at home, and many people roast using a frying pan on their cooker. Roasting beans can get a bit messy and smelly though, so working in the open air means you take the mess and smell out of the house. The temperature has to be high to roast beans though, so it is best to use a gas fired barbecue to roast beans. It can be difficult to get the temperature high enough on a charcoal grill. As the beans are contained within a roaster while you are working, you can also cook food on the grill at the same time, if you wish.
Do I need Special Equipment?
Some real coffee experts have special machines and pans with paddles which are turned around to ensure an even and professional roast. These are quite expensive though and aren’t really necessary for someone who is just beginning. Any flat frying pan or shallow pan will do to roast your beans in, but it is best to choose one with a metal handle as plastic handles may well melt in the high temperatures experienced on the grill. The surface area of the pan will determine how many beans you can roast at once, so the larger the pan the better. You will also need gloves to handle the pan and the hot beans once they have roasted, and some sort of storage container to keep your green and roasted beans in.
Always heat your pan before starting to roast your beans. Putting the beans into a cold pan is not going to work as well as putting them into a pan which has already got up to temperature. Put a thin layer of beans into the pan, leaving enough room to move the beans around on the surface. The length of time you roast the beans for will determine the strength of flavour. Again this is a matter of personal preference.
The beans are green when you first put them into the pan and will first start to turn yellow, smell a bit like grass and start to steam a little. You will then hear a crack, and then the beans start to roast as the sugars in the beans start to caramelise. The length of time you allow the beans to roast at this stage determines the strength of your coffee. Most roasters will take their beans out of the pan at this stage. The beans will eventually crack for a second time and by this stage the roast is very dark. At this stage it is best to take the beans off the heat – any longer and they will burn.