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Topic: new here....advice needed (14 msgs / 504 lines)
1) From: carolyn giroux
hi
i am thinking about using a popcorn popper to try roasting coffee . anyway i do not
like bitter coffee or extreme tasting ....i actually like dunkin donuts coffee.
anyway am i correct in my understanding  that it is the length of the roast that gives bitterness?? like i think starbucks is too strong or bitter.... are there certain beans i should look for?  i really don't understand what the descriptions mean.... should i go for the coffees that sound sweet?? anyway any advice would be appreciated.... i know i am at step one  but looking for some direction before i get started.... i do love coffee.
thanks
carolyn
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2) From: Paul Helbert
Carolyn,
Welcome!
No question you can ask that won't get a dozen answers here. Hope you'll
have fun sorting through them.
I'll launch right in by pointing out that to most of us here "strong" is
determined by dosage. Strong is not a flavor. Strong or week (or whatever
you like) is adjusted by adjusting the coffee to water ratio. That said, I
understand that you do not like bitter. Few people do. (I happen to be one
who does, especially in beers and ales, but not in my coffee). There are
several types of bitter. One, which you refer to is "burnt" bitter from
taking a roast too far. (Burnt toast has a  similar bitterness). That
bitterness is indeed a length (or heat) of roast problem. The other is an
"over extracted" bitter which comes from trying to get too much out of a
dose by leaving the water and coffee together for too long a time or from
using water that is too hot.
On Sat, Apr 5, 2008 at 8:55 AM, carolyn giroux 
wrote:
<Snip>
Understanding the descriptions is best learned by trial. Try them all! One
of Tom's sampler packs is a good way to begin.
-- 
Paul Helbert
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3) From: Dave Kvindlog
On Sat, Apr 5, 2008 at 7:55 AM, carolyn giroux 
wrote:
<Snip>
Welcome, Carolyn!  I used to lke a few coffee places too, but never *$.  The
reason *$ is strong/bitter is that the beans are taken too dark -- you're
tasting the roast rather than the flavors of the bean.  Dunno about the
quality of the beans they use; with the burnt taste overpowering the origin
flavors, I guess we'll never find out.
Sweet Maria's (SM) beans are a different story.  Great quality every time.
So a great starting point for a great cup of coffee.  A great cup starts
with a great bean, so you've got that covered, but it also needs a good
roast (more on that next paragraph), a consistent grind, proper water
temperature, and a dozen other things that the other folks on this list will
freely advise you upon.
Which bean?  No one can tell you what you will like.  Most folks think they
like Central and South American coffees, but Tom sells more Africans than
any other.  I personally like beans from Guatamala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica,
Panama, and Sumatra.  But I love finding new favorites.  I recommend you buy
an 8 pound sampler for your first bean purchase.  Eight different coffees to
start learning with.
Get to know what each region has to offer.  Each origin (country/farm/etc.)
tastes different.  You'll sort those flavors out as you work your way
through the dozens (hundreds?) that Tom & Maria offer and soon will begin to
learn what you like.  Then you'll be able to read Tom's descriptions and
select a bean you'll likely enjoy.
I discovered early on that great coffee doesn't taste like the coffee I grew
up with.  Great coffees have many rich nuances we've never been told about.
It's this secret that keeps everyone on this list so passionate about their
coffee.  Once you taste those wonderful flavors, you'll never drink coffee
from a store again, and you too can then take the CSA (Coffee Snobs
Association) pledge.
Like you, I started roasting with a popcorn popper.  I recently graduated to
a heat gun and stainless steel dog bowl (HG/DB) for a slower, more control
roast and more volume.  But by all means, start with the popper.  You'll
soon leave Dunkin Donuts far behind...
Be sure to get a popper that beans won't get trapped in -- there's an
article on the Sweet Maria's web site that advises (with pictures) which
ones to look for.  I have a Chefmate, but the Poppery I and Popper II are
most popular amongst roasters.
A popper will roast to the beginning of first crack in around 3.5 to 4
minutes, and to the beginning of second crack by the 8th minute or so.  You
can slow this down by a minute or so by using a 50'-100' outdoor extension
cord.  Try to use the same mass of beans each roast at first.  I didn't have
a scale when I started, so I maintained a consistent volume of 1/3C.  My
popper can handle up to 1/2C, but needs help moving the beans around until
they dry out.  To help the larger volume of beans move, I tip the popper by
propping it on a piece of wood to around 15 degrees and stir the beans
almost constantly with a wooden spoon or teaspoon until they're moving on
their own.
Let the roast rest for about 3 days and the flavors will intensify, mature,
and mellow.  Then grind (metal burr grinders offer the best consistency and
least fines/dust), and brew.
Keep learning from the experts on the list and soon you'll be in coffee
heaven.  Enjoy!
-- 
Dave Kvindlog
iHomeroast
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
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4) From: Lynne
Hi Carolyn -
Welcome to the group - and to homeroasting! I think you'll be very pleased..
I used to love Dunkin Donuts' coffee before I started homeroasting about 2
yrs ago. My son, who moved back home after being on his own for three years,
was a HUGE DD fan (hey, I live in MA, the original home of the original
[pre-franchise] Dunkin Donuts-  DD is close to being second to the Red Sox
here, lol). He told me he had no intention of giving it up - then less than
a month later, he bought a cup & had to throw it out, lamenting that I
ruined him forever! ;>) It's funny - but after you've perfected roasting a
bit (mine, I admit, is never perfect), it's very hard to find any coffee in
the world out there that isn't bitter, DD, included.
Others will be able to lead you to types of beans - after these 2 years, I
can't pick up those subtle flavors that Tom writes about. I can, however,
say - WOW, this is GOOD coffee!!! (I've even stopped using cream sometimes -
after a lifetime of using it. Now that's something..)
You might want to do what many of us have done - buy the sample pack, that
way you get to try different coffees. I will say that Kenya coffee tends to
have more sharpness - I thought I nailed a roast, but it started tasting
real bitter after a rest - I'm going to wait longer to see if it improves).
There are so many ways to roast - I started with a Whirly Pop. When it broke
after a few months, I progressed to roasting in a pan, stove-top, which is
still my favorite way to roast (but I'm def. in the minority w/that method).
I like the ones that are described as sweet - but try different ones in a
sample pack. That way you get a chance to try several.
Whatever bean you choose, and whatever method - you'll find that the beans
from Sweet Maria's will produce a better coffee than you'd ever experience
without homeroasting.
Most of all - have fun!
Lynne
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5) From: Paul Helbert
"Weak" not "week".
So, with a popcorn popper the key is to use all of your senses. Use a good
light and watch the color change. Hopefully your popper won't make so much
racket that you miss the snapping sound of the "first crack". You will
notice the change of smell from "grassy" to "coffee". You will see chaff
flying about. Take notes as you go along. As a minimum, note what is going
on minute by minute. Try to stretch the time of your roast out as much as
possible (eight , ten, twelve minutes should be better than four to six
minutes). Stop the roast a bit before achieving the color you are aiming
for. When I started, I glued a few beans of my target roast to the lip of my
roaster for comparison.
Sweet Maria's has tip sheets and other resources are easily found on line
for popper roasting.
Don't be afraid to burn a roast clear to black just so you have a time frame
for what is too much. (If you do that, do it outside away from flamables
with a fire extinguisher handy).
-- 
Paul Helbert
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6) From: Jim Gundlach
Carolyn,
       Welcome to the homeroast list.  I , like most of our list  
members started home roasting with a hot air popcorn popper, I now  
think that is probably not the best way to get started. I feel they  
roast too fast and do not give you much control without some very  
heavy modification.  Instead, I would recommend starting with a heat- 
gun dog-bowl set-up and once you got tired of stirring, get, and  
modify,  a bread machine to do that part.  I would also recommend that  
you toss aside your current conceptions about what you like in  
coffee.  The range and variety  flavors and qualities available to we  
who roast Sweet Maria's green beans is really a vast new world to  
experience.
       pecan jim
On Apr 5, 2008, at 7:55 AM, carolyn giroux wrote:
<Snip>
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7) From: Dean De Crisce
I started homeroasting because I particulary do not like darker roasted coffees which are ubiquitous. There are many contributors to bitter coffee...degree of roast...type of brew...length of brew etc. I started not to long ago with a popper...it was very fast (4 minutes) and I couldn't really control the roast. I am not inclined to do heavy electrical modification and so looked for a cheap way to roast aside from the popper. I tried stove top...but I couldn't stir enough to keep it from getting scorched. Then I used the oven on a perforated pan. I read about it and used it for a number of months...not very sophisticated...and not perfect roasts...but much  much better than store or starbucksy cafe stuff. I loved it. After that time I decided this hobby was for good an so I decided to invest a bit and got a behmor drum roaster for 300. I use it a few times a week and have tried all types of beans to see what I like. I am very happy with that...and find I like the very sweet c
 offees l
ike central americans...yirgacheff...also kenya...and columbian antioqua. I am learning all the time and can make for myself a custom crafted cup...just the way I want it.   Welcome.
Dean De Crisce
Sent from a Treo.

8) From: carolyn giroux
hi
i just want to say thanks to everyone for all the advice... i am a little unsure of using the popcorn popper now ,,, but it does seem like the easiest way to get started so i probably will stick with it.
i am sorry as my first post took all day to get on the board  so i had written another ,,, at the time of writing this it has not been posted ,,,, but i am guessing it will be soon. do all your posts take so long to be posted i really thought it was lost , i am on other forums and they post very quickly, so sorry for any confusion.
thanks again for all you who took the time to write.
i am going to order the sampler pack and am very excited!!!
thanks again!!
carolyn
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9) From: Paul Helbert
Yet another sort of bitterness just came to mind as I read the espresso
machine cleaning link supplied by MiKe in another thread. That is the
bitterness picked up from rancid coffee oils in less than perfectly clean
coffee making devices.
-- 
Paul Helbert
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10) From: Brian Kamnetz
Hi Carolyn,
I think that starting with a hot air popper is a good way to begin.
Having said that, be aware that coffee roasting is like chess, in a
way... in chess, it is relatively easy to learn to move the individual
pieces. it is much more difficult to learn how to move many pieces in
order to achieve a strategic goal. Coffee roasting is sort of like
that. As you learn more and more about what is possible, you can
become more and more complex in your roasting techniques.
But we all must start somewhere, and a hot air popper is as good a place as any.
A couple simple tips about roasting in a hot air popper:
* Always measure the beans, either with a measuring cup or by weight,
so that you know what to change in order to fix things that are going
wrong with the roast.
* When you start the roast, the beans should move in the roasting
chamber. A chimney can help to keep the beans from flying out. One way
to make a chimney is to find a tin can that is just a little too big
to fit into the chamber. Make a series of cuts around one end of the
can, so that it can be compressed into the smaller roasting chamber.
* When you begin roasting, the beans should turn yellow, then tan,
then brown, then hit "first crack", which sounds like twigs snapping.
First crack should continue for about a minute or minute and a half.
* There should then be a pause in cracks for a minute or two, and
second crack will begin. Second crack is much softer, like Rice
Crispies in milk.
* After about 10 seconds in second crack, stop the roast. This is a
starting point. In subsequent roasts you can experiement with shorter
or longer roasts.
* If the roast proceeds faster than I described, and there is not
pause between first and second crack, cut back on the amount of green
beans you are starting with
* If the roast goes more slowly than I've described, increase the
amount of beans you are starting with
* Some poppers have a bimetal safety tab that will allow the popper to
get the beans brown, but cycles the heat off so that the roast cannot
be completed. If you think that is happening, ask for help here on the
list.
* If you have other problems, ask for help here on the list.
Good luck!
Brian
On Sat, Apr 5, 2008 at 8:55 AM, carolyn giroux  wrote:
<Snip>
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11) From: miKe mcKoffee
Roast (coffee) or roast not, there is no try. 
Since you're currently into a mellow balanced coffee suggest getting a
mellow balanced Columbia to learn on. And get an 8-pack sampler to broaden
your horizons.
Kona Konnaisseur miKe mcKoffeehttp://www.mckoffee.com/Ultimately the quest for Koffee Nirvana is a solitary path. To know I must">http://www.mcKonaKoffee.comURL to Rosto mods, FrankenFormer, some recipes etc:http://www.mckoffee.com/Ultimately the quest for Koffee Nirvana is a solitary path. To know I must
first not know. And in knowing know I know not. Each Personal enlightenment
found exploring the many divergent foot steps of Those who have gone before.
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12) From: Bob Hazen
I see a new title coming for you!  Jedi Master miKe - richly deserved I 
might add!
Bob
From: "miKe mcKoffee" 
<Snip>
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13) From: Morris Nelson
Hello Carolyn,
Here is another method for you to consider.
I too am brand new to the fine art of roasting coffee.  I too have started
with a popcorn popper.  However, I chose to ignore the warning about not
using the model that has the "exhaust pipe" on the bottom. I sometimes have
difficulty following rules, especially if I'm not convinced the rule has
value.  I simply watch the roast non-stop. I do have an i-roast 2 on the way
and the exhaust pipe may be retired.
We have a great franchise called Dunn Brothers Coffee (DBC).  All the
franchises I've been to have a SanFranciscan and roast daily.  Their roasted
coffee is NEVER more than 7 days old.  The corporate coffee shop sells green
to the public.  As I learn, I imitate what they have roasted.  I buy a pound
that was roasted that morning and a couple of pounds of the same variety
green.  The coffees I have to choose from are limited as they limit because
of the volume they purchase.  They are also terrific offering advice.
I take the time to handle and look the roasted bean.  I fill my nose with
it's aroma. I do this several times.  I roast my beans so that they resemble
the DBC batch as closely as possible.  The roasted DBC is one day older that
what I roast.  I brew the DBC then brew MY roast and compare the results of
the two.  As the roasts age, I learn to appreciate the aging process as
well.
But like all the vets here repeat over and over, you'll have a new
appreciation.
Regards,
Morris

14) From: Paul Helbert
I'm currently doing the same exercise with Sweet Maria's Roast of the Week.
Of course, I had to do some advance planning to have the greens of the same
coffee ready to roast on the same day that Tom and Derek were roasting it.
(Since you don't know what they are going to feature very far in advance,
that "planning" involves having a number of varieties on hand and waiting
for one that you have to pop up). Just remember to take good notes so you
can share with us what you learn, or have enough data to help us help you if
need be.
On Sun, Apr 6, 2008 at 12:38 PM, Morris Nelson  wrote:
<Snip>
-- 
Paul Helbert
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