This year, my husband and I slashed our annual coffee budget from a shocking $1,350 (we purchased whole beans from local roasters) to about $320. (I'll save you the math: That's $10,300 of savings over the next decade.) What's more, the $6-per-pound coffee we're drinking is coffee-shop delicious. Dump that sentence down the drain. Our coffee is noticeably fresher, stronger, better.
Step one was switching from half decaffeinated to regular, and simply drinking less. While I thought I'd miss the sheer number of hot cups in my hand, I did not. And the reason was step two: home roasting green beans atop the stove.
I fell in love with home roasting coffee beans and I fell hard.
In addition to saving money and yielding delicious coffee, other pros of home roasting are that it requires little outlay (I spent about $20 on a pot and wooden spoon), little time (15 minutes per roast) and leaves behind no non-biodegradable plastic pods in landfills for eternity.
More seductive are the mental benefits from this simple activity. Modern day's information shrapnel seldom informs or strengthens; the more information that gets thrown my way, the more fragmented I feel. But the bean abides. Home roasting -- with its predictably satisfying beginning, middle and end -- calms my mind in a way that I suspect other hobbies do.
If you want to roast your own coffee, here's all the preparation you'll need to do before your first roast.
• Dedicate one 2- or 3-quart pot and one wooden spoon to your roasts. People will tell you that you need a $400 roasting machine. You do not.
• Order raw beans by the pound. I order mine online from Sweet Maria's.
• If you don't have a burr grinder, buy one.
• Either ask someone to personally teach you or watch a short video online. I've taught neighbors and friends, and have been surprised by their eagerness and various motivations, which include drinking better coffee, saving money, being intrigued by the world's number one drink and--my favorite--beating a brother-in-law at a long-standing game of Who Can Make The Best Cup of Coffee.
Now it's time to roast. Trust me on this -- it's not difficult to do. Here are the steps to roasting your first batch.
• Open your windows. It will get smoky.
• Heat pot over medium heat on stovetop.
• Add 1.5 cups of beans and stir continuously for about 12 minutes. You are not cooking the beans like hamburgers, but rather roasting them, so keep those little guys moving and flipping.
• Remove from heat and immediately cool on cookie tray.
• Pour into container such as an old coffee bag or glass jar; do not seal tightly for 24 hours as the beans outgas.
• Wait 24-48 hours before grinding with burr grinder.
At this point, watch that video again. Talk with your coffee tutor. Read about roasting. You'll improve as you go, and so will the taste of your coffee.
Need one more reason to try home roasting? You might find yourself a wee bit happier. According to a 2012 AARP survey ("Beyond Happiness: Thriving") hobbies contribute more to our happiness as we age, about as much as volunteering your time to a worthy cause or treating yourself to a favorite meal.
Ready for delicious cups of coffee and oases of completeness? Give it a shot. It's a cheap, easy hobby to enter; easier yet to enjoy.