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Topic: Questions from a very new stovetop roaster (20 msgs / 675 lines)
1) From: Andey Amata-Kynvi
Hello, I'm brand new at this and roasting in a Theatre popcorn pan
that we just happened to have. I am most of my way through a 4-lb
sampler, I am having a blast! And almost everything I've done has been
delicious. However, I have a strong sense that I have no idea what I
am doing!
I started in the garage on the campstove, but it was about 25 F that
day so I wasn't happy about it, and then soon after the first batch of
beans started making sounds, there was a different kind of pop, and I
saw liquid in the recess on the fuel bottle right around the seal. UH
OH! So I turned the stove off and ran away ... and then took the
coffee inside. I have done all subsequent batches inside without a
range hood, and have found that if I don't peek TOO often, and then I
take the pan outside to dump the beans into the colander, the smoke is
not too bad. I tend to jump the gun, though, and either end up with a
roast that looks lighter than what I was aiming for, or else I have to
bring it back inside and put it back in the pan.
My questions are mostly about degree of roast.
One thing is that there is quite a bit of variability within a batch.
After I discovered that the beans weren't moving from the center of
the pot to the outside and vice versa very well, I started shaking the
pan every minute or so, and that has helped, but the beans are really
still different colors. (Perhaps this is not a problem - again, the
coffee tastes very good to me, but it does complicate the question
about where in the roast spectrum I am ending up.) I am hearing sounds
that I am interpreting as first and second crack, the first crack
sounds are a little higher pitched than the second crack sounds, and
the second crack sounds are louder. There is a lull, but sometimes
very little lull, in between cracks, which may be weird. Another weird
thing is that if I stop as the second crack is beginning, the beans
look more like a cinnamon roast, not what I want, so I have been
having to let what I think is 2nd crack go for maybe 3 minues for all
the beans to look like they are somewhere in the range between C and
FC, and almost 5 minutes to get something that looked like FC+ to
Vienna. This doesn't match with what I'm reading on the SM website, so
it is confusing me. Total roast time has been between 10-15 minutes,
depending on how dark I am aiming for but also on the stove setting as
I've been playing with it.
The thermometer isn't being helpful - I get it up to 400 before I dump
the beans in, and then it goes down to about 325 and doesn't climb
much above 350 before the beans really seem done. (Yes, I have
recalibrated the thermometer. Its tip is sitting in the air just above
the beans and the rotating wires, close to the middle of the pan. The
inside of the pan is pretty light aluminum, which I read can change
the reading on the thermometer, though I'm not sure how much sense
that makes if its tip is in the air.) If I wanted the temp to climb
faster, I could turn up the flame on the stove ... but the BEANS seem
to be happy, progressing steadily toward a nice roast, so I have been
hesitant to turn up the heat. (Hard to describe the setting on the
stove, I've got an old gas stove that we just adjust by eyballing the
flame. Maybe I have the flame about half the size of maximum.)
I also am just guessing about the visual appearance of roasts between
City and FC+. The pics on the website look really exactly the same on
my computer! I can figure out that if the outside of the bean looks
oily, I've made it to Vienna, but short of that I'm having trouble.
I've put some numbers in here - but every roast has been different,
and I haven't kept track of times and temps all the time (too much
else to pay attention to!), and the last batch I did was a decaf that
did seem to roast pretty quickly so that may be affecting my memory.
SO I'm not sure about the times and temps I have given, if they don't
sound right, but I AM sure about the weirdness around the progression
of the cracks and doneness.

2) From: Brett Mason
Welcome Andey!  One of the challenges of pan roasting is the "melange"
or variable roast bean-to-bean.  The heat is primarily on one side
only.  With the lid, you don't get the visual cues either, so shaking
makes a lot of sense...
You might try a popcorn popper from a thrift store for $3 - just so
you can see how the beans "bathe" in the hot air.  Make sure the beans
are moving around, otherwise the ones at the bottom will scorch...
Once you see a whole roast with he visual cues, go back to the pan,
and try to achieve the same depth of roast, particularly inside the
Great hobby - hope you love it!
On Dec 31, 2007 8:04 AM, Andey Amata-Kynvi  wrote:

3) From: John Despres
Hi, Andy and welcome!
I'm relatively new at this as well, but learning fast with the help of 
this forum and some extra help from one member (Eddie Dove) who sent me 
a bunch of his roasting profiles for my machine. I know next to nothing 
about pan roasting but it sounds like your times are about right. I 
think constant agitation will help a lot with the even-ness of your 
I just had an idea I may act on for some extra assistance - I think I'll 
go to a very good local roaster and buy small samples of various roast 
degrees and keep them for visual reference. As I become more accustomed 
to the end result, I'll need them less. Visual reference is a small part 
of the process; sound, smell, time and temp are better clues that I'm 
still learning.
Good luck!
Brett Mason wrote:
John A C Despres
Hug your kids

4) From: Lynne
Hi Andey - and welcome to our wonderful group!
I roast stove-top. Started using a Whirly Pop I got for a dollar at a yard
When I killed that after a few months, I moved to a little uncovered pan,
while I also have an IR2, I love the control I get when roasting stovetop.
One thing I found is that I have to keep stirring, non-stop. It's only about
minutes (depending on the bean, and also depending on the age of the bean),
so I don't mind. I've been doing this for over a year now - experience is a
Oh - when I was using the Whirly Pop and the thermometer I got from SM's, I
found that my temps were different - I actually brought done the temp a bit.
a long time since, though, as I just use a small pot & stir with a (very
worn down)
wooden spoon.
My niece sent me a cast iron pot - can't wait to treat it & try a batch in
that, too.
Some days I think I would have enjoyed living as an artisan before
('course, it would have been REALLY difficult to run my computer back
On Dec 31, 2007 9:28 AM, Brett Mason  wrote:

5) From: Lynne
Noticed my typo: meant to say that I actually brought *down* the temp a bit.
Someone told me early on to try to extend my roasts, and I did. It's tricky
learn how to do that (and not end up with baked beans - I might be in
but I don't want to drink baked beans - ha!). Now I don't think I even need
time my roasts (although I do), it's so second nature for me.
I'd also recommend that you get some of Tom's yucky beans - what are they,
goo-goo muck, I guess? They are cheap - you can do some practice roasts
& not worry since you'll throw away these as merely tester batches.

6) From: peterz
Hi John, Andy,
No need to buy beans to look at. They change over time anyway, and some 
degrees get oily after a few days.
Tom has a much better solution on his site.
Check this out:http://www.sweetmarias.com/roasting-VisualGuideV2.htmlHope this helps,
Happy New Year,
John Despres wrote:

7) From: John Despres
Hi, Peter.
I've used Tom's guide, but am leery of A: my monitor colors even though 
mine is calibrated and B: the inks, paper, etc. used to print them.
Good point about the beans purchase, hadn't thought of that.
peterz wrote:
John A C Despres
Hug your kidshttp://www.sceneitallproductions.com

8) From: Bill
Maybe this will start an argument... I don't think precision is a stovetop
roaster's strong point.  I would love if some stovetop roasters disagree
with me, because I could learn something.  In my limited experience, I
wasn't terribly precise.  With a stovetop roaster, you're not fiddling with
a profile or really worried about bean mass temp... While you can control
the heat input and watch a thermometer, these aren't nearly as finely-tuned
as an expensive drum roaster.  So I never worried a ton about "degree of
roast..."  you could pretty successfully nail "ballpark" City, City+, Full
City, Full City+, Vienna, but it was always ballpark, never spot on... Which
is a great deal of the enjoyment of the roasting method.
But seriously, if someone is getting precise results with their stovetop
roaster, I'd love to hear it!!
On Dec 31, 2007 10:54 AM, John Despres 

9) From: Kris McN
It sounds to me like what you're hearing is still first crack and not second
crack at all.  Generally, first is louder than second with distinct *pops*,
while second generally sounds more like rice krispies snapping.  It's not at
all unusual to have a couple of pops from a few early beans, then a lull
before the rest really get into first crack.  It sounds like you've been
pulling the beans in the middle of first, not second, which is why you're
getting a cinnamon roast.  If you haven't done so already, I'd take a batch
of beans all the way through to burnt, so you know for sure you've hit
second and you'll hear what it sounds like.  I know it's hard to think about
intentionally burning a batch, but it's the best thing for learning.  It
took me awhile to realize that I wasn't really getting anywhere near second
crack when I first starting roasting, because I was so paranoid about
burning the beans.
Good luck and enjoy!
Kris McN

10) From: Bill
Ah, good call, Kris.  Re-reading the post it seems that might be the
culprit.  It's always amazing how much 1/2 pound of coffee can pop!!!Bill
On Dec 31, 2007 12:32 PM, Kris McN  wrote:

11) From: raymanowen
"I have a strong sense that I have no idea what I am doing!"
You can stay- You're at the best place to start.
I actually first roasted over 30 years ago in a Melitta Aroma Roast. There
was a hint of something more to the Kenya AA when it was fresh roasted. I
had no clue- I brewed all 3 carafes on my Brewmatic, later, my Bunn Office
when I was at Mines in Golden.
3 years ago, I got some more Kenya AA from Bill Boyer and put it in one of
my air poppers, trying to match or better the Aroma Roast. Then, I found
quite a Specialty coffee following online. I didn't know anything about
everything re: coffee.
After reading one of Tom's articles, I found I wasn't even brewing it right,
let alone my roasting debacle.
If you have questions, Ask! We'll all learn.
Cheers, Mabuhay -RayO, aka Opa!
On Dec 31, 2007 7:04 AM, Andey Amata-Kynvi  wrote:
"When the theme hits the bass, I dance the Jig!" - -Virgil Fox at the Mighty
Wichita (ex- NYC Paramount) WurliTzer- 1976

12) From: Kamran
Hi Andey,
I have been roasting with a stainless steal popper for couple of years. You
can only have full control of the roast by paying attention to temp and
time. As far as temp some beans' start to crack earlier than the others
especially dry processed beans. One thing I do, after loading, is that I
never let the temp drop too much below 300f, 280f-300f and not higher than
305f-310f more than that the roast goes faster than you want. Although the
temp might vary from beans to beans, around 5-8 minutes the temp starts to
rise that's when I fix my eyes on the thermometer and timer the smell gets
stronger and before you know it the first crack starts. At this point the
temp raises steady I wait for a 1min and 20 second then either lower the
flame or better yet take the pot off and set it next to the stove while
still cracking. As soon as the temp starts to fall by one or two degree I
put the pot back on the flame and lower it. Then I wait for the temperature
to go up again, second crack. By lowering the flame at the top of the first
crack or taking the pot off momentarily I give myself more time to develop
the city to full city+ roasts better. Keeping track of the temp and time is
the only way to achieve the proper roast and then you let the ear and nose
do the rest.

13) From: Lynne
Bill wrote:
In my limited experience, I wasn't terribly precise.  With a stovetop
I think it depends a lot on the individual, and the amount of time (months,
years) one does stove-top roasting. It didn't become intuitive for me until,
say nearly a year of roasting every three or four days.
By my nature, I rely more on my intuitive and feeling nature than many other
people. I find having to go by temperature to be extremely limiting, and
even exhausting. That's why I also love baking bread (and meditative
No argument here (arggh - I tend to run away from arguments - ha!)
We are all made different - that's the beauty of this. Sometimes I feel
that, yes, I may be missing out (still can't work my IR2 very well). But
others aren't going to be able to sense what I sense, either.
(who just finished making a big pot of delicious soup/stew/bean goulash
stuff - making something from nothing - and not having any idea what I was
making in the beginning. Mmm)

14) From: Andey Amata-Kynvi
I'm just dropping back in to say thank you to everyone who responded
with welcomes and advice. I had been getting the digest so it's hard
to respond to individual emails.
I went yesterday and got a bit of roasted coffee from a local place
that doesn't do anything lighter than FC, so I got some of that for
visual comparison, and I'm having SM's send a pound of this week's
roast as well. Still haven't figured out the crack thing, I don't
think I'm hearing a lull at all, and then the beans are done - since
the cracks are being hard to interpret, I'm trying to pay less
attention to them and more to smoke/temp/timing/visual. The last
couple of batches have gone too fast, my stove is SO hard to adjust! I
did some Sumatra Classic Mandheling this AM and it only took 8 minutes
to get to what looks just like the FC I bought - and then I turned the
stove WAY down to do did some Sumatra WP decaf and it still only took
8.5 min to get to what looks like almost Vienna (that dark, but no
oil). This is too fast, right?
It was 4 degrees F here this AM too (Lynne, where are you? I'm in
Marlborough). The temp makes indoor roasting without a stove hood more
complicated (I've been opening a window for a few minutes) - but makes
garage roasting pretty impossible!

15) From: Bill
What makes your stove so hard to adjust?
I used an electric and had to get used to the lag times...
I still wonder if you're going into 1st crack too hot... Question: on that 8
minute Sumatra roast, did you get a "melange," in which some were tan and
some were dark brown?  or were they all pretty much FC?
I use a Fresh Roast 8+ for some roasting...The lull between 1st and 2nd can
be 10 seconds or less, but that's a really hot, fluid air bed roaster.  So
like I said, I suspect that your stove may be too hot...
Don't know about that decaf roast, but remember that your 1st roast will
always roast slower than the following roasts.  I never noticed much
difference between roasts 2-10, but there was a BIG difference between
roasts 1 and 2.  I think it's due to the thorough heating of the popper...
but I don't know!  And this is a bit of a discursion, but... I wondered if
it was due to the electric coils not being totally hot, or the roaster not
being totally hot... But I could bring a pot of water to boil first
(ensuring warm burner), preheat my popper to 400 (that's warm, right?), and
my first roast would still be a slower, colder roast....go figure!!
Remember about decaf, that oil oftentimes comes out of decaf quickly, and
that color is a tough indicator since it starts out a goofy color...  So
it's still hard to say if the decaf was truly vienna.  Maybe FC?  Maybe FC+?
 tough to say...  So I don't know if the decaf roasted too fast...
So this is a real long way of saying that it's hard to say... keep
experimenting.  How do the beans taste?  Play with your heat a bit for the
roaster... see what you see!
On Jan 3, 2008 8:28 AM, Andey Amata-Kynvi  wrote:

16) From: ray
What you describe is common with some coffee beans!  A weak or non existent
first crack and some go right into 2nd crack with no time gap between!  You
have touched upon what 99% of us here are trying to accomplish is roast
profile the text book kind you read about.  Some beans will do just that
textbook roast others seem to go right into 2nd  crack faster and no time
lag between first and second crack and you stand a good chance to over roast
your beans unless you like starbucks coffee then burn the crap out of them
till there nice n bitter.  Your doing it right using your eyes nose and ears
and don't be afraid to pull them off if you think getting to dark for your
taste. Also cooling them as fast as you can is very important too a screen
sieve and a walk out side for a few mins or a fan outside to get that wind
chill thing going should do a great job for now I use a shop vacuum and a 5
gallon pail with the hose in the bucket about 4" from the bottom in the
garage got a stainless bowl from target that fits the top of the plastic
bucket and have about 100 or more holes in the bottom to cool the beans they
are cold in 1 min or less I also use a bread machine and a heat gun to roast
the beans works great at about one pound or a little more I find 1 and 1/2
pounds the limit for having a controllable roast so I stay about a pound and
do it in the garage and use the shop vacuum to pick up the chaff after its
done cooling the beans I live in Minnesota so it is nippy her to

17) From: Andey Amata-Kynvi
It's just a 1970's gas stove with no marks on the dial, and I can give the
dial the tiniest little nudge and it will drastically change the size of the
flame ... nudge it back the other way and it overcorrects, etc. Plus
yesterday I had sun shining in on the stove and even when I shielded the
flame from the light I couldn't really see it. I tried making my own marks
on the dial but then discovered there's quite a bit of play in the dial as
well, it's kind of loose on the peg.
I do suspect it's too hot ... I had done some roasts last week that seemed
to take 12 minutes or so to get to a similar color. This roast was more uniform
in color than those, though.
Flavorwise, this one wasn't the best I've done, it's the Sumatra Classic
Mandheling and it's, I don't know, kind of blah. Good, yummy, but no wow
effect, which was sad since I've saved it for last. I only tried a tiny bit,
and only 4 hours after the roast so maybe it'll be better later? This part
is hard too because I've been working with a sampler, so every time I roast
it's a different coffee too! I had a bit of the Cameroon Caplani Java that
was just amazing, and now it's gone :-(. My second order is on the way and I
ordered 2-5 lbs of single coffees so I can roast at least 3-4 times with
each one.
Has anybody compared flavor with the same coffee, to the same visual degree
of roast, different batches that take different amounts of time? (If this FC
roast of Sumatra had taken 12 minutes instead of 8, could it look the same
but taste noticeably different, and how?)
On Jan 3, 2008 3:21 PM, Bill  wrote:

18) From: Andey Amata-Kynvi
Thanks Ray! The neighbors have probably wondered what the heck I am doing
waving a colander around on the back stoop in 4 degree weather! (They're
used to me spinning salad greens around in a dishtowel over my head in the
driveway because I didn't have a salad spinner for a long time, so I guess
this is nothin'.)
On Jan 3, 2008 6:07 PM, ray  wrote:

19) From: Lynne
Andey -
I do stove top roasting, and believe me, the quality of the stove means so
About a year ago I moved (only lasted five [miserable] months to a different
apt. that had a really bad electric stove.
It should have been condemned by the Board of Health (seriously - I did
report all the code violations to the Board of Health), but actually the
stove was the least of my problems at that point.
From the sound of it, I'd be careful, for your safety. Gas stoves that old
are notorious for having leaks.
O.K., I'll put my mothering instincts aside now... getting back to roasting.
As much as I love stove-top roasting, if you can't control the heat, I'd
consider trying the heat-gun & maybe bread machine set-up many use. That was
going to be my plan - until I moved back to my old apt. I now have an IR2
added to my ever growing list of coffee stuff - but I truly love roasting by
hand. Unfortunately, I'm more intuitive by nature, so I haven't kept very
good records (have to get after myself about that... one more thing to add
to my list of must-do's..)
I found that the key to stove-top roasting is in the heat control. Oh, and
lots of experience, too. ; > })

20) From: Lynne
Andey -
I used to use a fan on my porch (I'm convinced that the smell of my
coffee-roasting has increased the profits of the Dunkin Donuts up the
But I found an easier & faster way to cool the roasted beans.
To start, I chucked my colander for the wire mesh insert of a discounted
asparagus cooker. I put the beans in that & shake in the sink. When it seems
that I've rid most of the chaff, I give them one fast little skirt of water
to speed the cooling, continue shaking until the steam stops (while being
careful I don't burn myself). When the steam disappears, I spread the beans
on one of my large cookie sheets & put it in the freezer.
It's not enough coffee to bring down the temp of the freezer, and the beans
get cooled in a matter of minutes.
(O.K., I want to know who sent this single digit weather to Boston?? You
guys in Canada - don't hide! Please - take it back!)
On Jan 4, 2008 4:16 AM, Andey Amata-Kynvi  wrote:

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