Coffee roasting drill

Roasting coffee at home is fun. And it makes better coffee. Guaranteed. And as I’ve mentioned before it’s pretty easy to get green beans online – try Ministry Grounds – There’s a bit of a rule of thumb for most home roasters – from what I can gather – that the more elaborate your roasting set up (short of a commercial roaster) the better. There are a bunch of good ideas at coffeesnobs… But I haven’t seen one as elaborate as this:

There’s a free PDF set of instructions on offer from Make Magazine. Beautiful stuff. I might see if I can dig up some other novel roaster designs too.

Epic fail

A few days ago in my post on coffee snobbery I mentioned that I liked the idea of rewiring my breadmaker so I wasn’t subject to it’s stupid cycles.

I had to wait half an hour for the motor to kick in and spin the beans. Now they won’t spin at all.

It sounded so easy on the website. Just add a wire here, a switch there. It wasn’t. I’ve killed the breadmaker (I think, I’m in the process of rewiring it again).

There was a spark, and a bang as the fuse blew when I turned it on for testing.

My soldering skills aren’t up to scratch and now I’m feeling a little light headed. In a rare moment of wisdom in this little episode I purchased the lead free solder. That could possibly have saved my life.

The breadmaker’s body, when you strip all the plastic off, is quite sharp. I now have cuts on my arms, the back of my hand and a nasty one right on an existing scar on my thumb.

The most annoying thing is the death of the breadmaker. Hopefully I’ll be able to fix it or replace it before the next batch of beans is due to be roasting.

If any of my readers have some electrical expertise and feel like coming around to take a look I’ll make them a coffee.

Things I use: The Evolution of a coffeesnob


That’s a graphical illustration of the typical path of the home consumption of a coffee snob. If you’ve skipped any of those stages good on you. The path from International Roast to roasting international beans at home is one filled with pitfalls and dangers.

The best way to traverse this is with the help of others. I’ve found the forum at to be particularly helpful in my own personal coffee (r)evolution.

The forum was most helpful during the rebuild of Sheila, my Rancilio beastie.

I’ve collected a bunch of links to particular discussions that I think are vital to such a process.

1. Choosing a Grinder
2. Corretto
3. Buying used coffee equiptment – I’ve bought two grinders from this part of the forum, and been happy with both. I only bought the second because upgradeitis set in. Mostly because my other one was fine for home use, but I now roast beans for other people and take my machine to parties.
4. Plunger tips
5. Stovetop tips – you can get crema using a stovetop
6. Coffeesnobs glossary – helpful guide to finding your way around the forum.

This is something I would like to do when I have some spare time – but I also don’t want to electrocute myself. The Panasonic SD-200 breadmaker I use for roasting is annoying because you can’t just switch it on and make it spin. This modification adds a switch that just turns the motor on and off.

Other good coffee sites/articles:

“Ingredients for perfect espresso”
– a forum moderated by the aforementioned Ministry Grounds (where I buy my green beans) Neil Atwood, good Australian alternative to coffeesnobs.
Home Barista
– a world wide forum – mostly US centric. With a great “How tos” section
Whole Latte Love
– full of reviews and stuff. Including this article on “rituals of espresso” that’s pretty helpful.
Coffeeparts – a great parts wholesaler who are more than happy to provide helpful customer service. I’ve bought a bunch of parts and paraphernalia from them.
Crema Magazine – an Australian coffee journal.
Cafe Grendel – a great coffee blog.
The Knockbox – another coffee blog run by an evangelical Christian who home roasts.

Things I use: Ministry Grounds

I like coffee. You know that by now. I’m also very committed to the idea that you can have coffee that’s better quality than the coffee served by 90% of cafes at home (without being crazilly obsessive and buying a commercial machine – but don’t tell my wife).

There are two essential ingredients to good coffee that make even the most rudimentary brewing methods produce a passable cup of coffee. Freshly roasted beans, freshly ground. That’s it. If you have those ingredients you can produce a great cup of coffee just by mixing the coffee with (almost) boiling water.

The freshly ground part requires a grinder. Most coffeesnobs will argue that you should spend more on your grinder than your machine. The grind is the most important variable when producing different types of coffee in different ways. Most coffee snobs say the only way to go is for a conical burr grinder – but I think given a little development of technique (ie figuring out how long to push the button for) even a spinning blade grinder will produce a better coffee than a lot of cafes if you have the right beans.

Lets face it, dud beans=dud coffee. It doesn’t matter what other variables you throw into the mix . Give a World Barista Champion a box of Lavazza beans from the supermarket and they’ll still turn out coffee that tastes stale and muddy.

Getting the beans right means getting the beans at the right time. Ideally 2-14 days post roast. The sweet spot timing wise depends on the type of bean and how roasted they are. The darker the bean the stronger the flavour and the thicker the “body” of the coffee – and the lighter the bean the more complex and tasty the bean is (and the less bitter).

There are two ways to ensure you’re hitting that timing sweet spot – one is to find a roaster who labels their coffee by roast date – the other is to roast your own. Buying roasted coffee is expensive – Coffee Dominion in Townsville roasts wonderful coffee – but charges $8 for 250gm – or around $30 if you buy a kilo in bulk. That’s a lot of coffee to get through in two weeks.

Buying green beans is much cheaper – Ministry Grounds – the online co-op I buy beans through sells green beans ranging from $6 through to $12 per kilo – you’ve got to throw postage costs into the mix – but it’s much, much cheaper. Neil Atwood, who runs the store and the associated blog, is a coffee snob and a church minister. He’s very approachable and helpful. The customer service is great – and all the green beans come with a “serving suggestion” roasting notes to help you get the best from different bean varieties.

Roasting at home is easy. There’s a plethora of information around the web. I got most of my tips from (who incidently also sell green beans once a month through a first come first served “beanbay”) and my roasting set up cost me about $40 thanks to ebay and some astute garage sailing. I use a heat gun/breadmaker combo as do many people from the coffeesnobs forum – but roasting simply requires heat and agitation – you can roast beans in a popcorn popper.

Home roasting is cheap, easy, and has that do-it-yourself element that adds a whole lot of self-satisfaction to every cup. And it tastes better too.

If home roasting sounds like too much hassle you could always ask your friendly neighbourhood home roaster and they might do it for you… it’s well worth it.

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