For years, I've wanted to try my hand at roasting my own coffee. Hoping to do it cheaply, I've always been looking for a very specific type of popcorn popper that will work for this purpose. However, given the trend that popcorn poppers seem to have taken, I'd more or less given up on the idea.
A few months ago, Matt was kind enough to let me borrow his Fresh Roast Plus that he had since replaced. It's a great little roaster, and given what I now know, I'm glad this was the first roaster I've used. It does have its drawbacks, but it's a great roaster to learn on. Most notably, the build of the unit let me see what was happening to the beans throughout the roast, and also let me hear the audible cracks of the coffee beans. Now that I've done a little bit of roasting, I'm planning on moving up to a unit that can roast a half-pound or a full pound at a time. The Fresh Roast can accommodate only 3 ounces at a time, which means that to have fresh coffee consistently, one would have to roast nearly every day, depending on coffee consumption.
I started by ordering a sampler from Sweet Maria's, which gave me 8 different types of coffee to try roasting. I've liked them all, and it's amazing to taste the vast differences in flavor. Up until very recently, I had been letting beans sit for 12-24 after roasting before grinding and brewing, which I'm now realizing likely contributed to too much acidity. My most recent batch rested for about a week, and the flavor is much more apparent.
The roasting process itself is drop-dead simple. All it takes is putting the beans in the roaster, turning it on, then waiting for the appropriate signals to know when to stop. I used a guide from Sweet Maria's which has plenty of information on the roasting process.
I can tell I've got a ways to go before the beans rival those of my favorite local roaster, but they're a heck of a lot better than any of the national chains.