It’s not hard. And you get used to the flavor of fresh coffee. Green beans are half the price of roasted beans, even when you buy them one pound at a time. I don’t do that, though. Why, when green coffee doesn’t go bad? It will last on the shelf for years, though it will lose some zing. Buying once a year, when the harvest comes in, suits me. I roast once or twice a week, because after a week, even whole roasted beans, stored well, no longer really seem worth drinking. The only downside, as I see it, is that if you prefer a darker roast, it can smoke up your kitchen a little. But probably, roasting your own, you will lose interest in a dark roast. It cooks the nuances out of beans, makes them all taste the same. I still roast dark time to time but only in fair weather.
How do I do it? I’ve tried a number of techniques, and found that the best one (shy of investing in appliances) is also the easiest:Â
Bring oven to ~500 degrees.
Spread green coffee-beans one deep on something like a cookie sheet. (I generally use a bread pan.)
Bake for 10-15 minutes, until it is about the color you want.
Cover, let cool, blow off the chaff.
This method yields beans good enough that I am never excited to find myself in a city with a famous roaster, though I love a good coffee. I rarely travel without some green beans now. It is bad to be stuck without fresh beans.
Some roasters will sell you green beans, also some homebrew supply shops and fancy groceries. I mail-order mine from sweetmarias.com, also a good source for more information.
Here is Facts for Farmers (1863) on roasting coffee:
“It should be roasted very evenly, of a light brown color, and used very soon afterward, as it loses value every day after it is roasted, and after it is ground it will become almost worthless by a few days’ exposure to the air. . . . Roasting coffee in a room will always disinfect it of bad effluvia*. . . . In roasting coffee, first dry it gently in an open pan until it changes color, and then cover the pan and scorch it rapidly without charring a grain.”
*This is true. My house is constructed such as that skunks like to live under it, and inevitably several times a year there will be a spray that will render it unlivable for days. At such times, I always roast a big batch of coffee, and it always helps.
And Pellegrino Artusi (1891):
“It’s best to increase the heat gradually and therefore use wood rather than coal as a heat source, since it’s easier to regulate. When the beans begin to sizzle and smoke, shake the toaster continuously. Remove it from the heat when the beans have turned chestnut brown, and before they emit their oil. . . . Toast the beans a little at a time, and keep them in a tightly closed metal container, grinding them as necessary, because they lose their aroma easily.”
And The Original Picayune Creole Cook Book (Ninth edition, reprinted from the fifth edition of 1928):
“One of the first essentials is to ‘Parch the Coffee Grains Just Before Making the Coffee,’ because coffee that has been long parched and left standing loses its flavor and strength. The coffee grains should ‘Be Roasted to a Rich Brown,’ and never allowed to scorch or burn, otherwise the flavor of the coffee is at once affected or destroyed. . . . after the coffee has been roasted and allowed to cool in a covered dish, so that none of the flavor will escape, the coffee is ground[.]”