HomeRoast Digest

Topic: My first roasting experience (24 msgs / 902 lines)
1) From: Nicholas Leon
Greetings, folks!
I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce myself and describe my =
first experience roasting (and get comments back in return).
I have been an avid coffee drinker for all of my adult life, and much of =
my late-teenage years as well. Last week I had the pleasure of having =
some home roasted coffee thanks to a friend of mine who has started =
doing his own. I found the actual roasting process to be extremely =
rewarding and found the coffee it produced superior (it was a Tanzanian =
Excited at the prospect of roasting my own, I went ahead and purchased a =
FrenchRoast+ and a slew of coffee from Sweet Maria's. I then sat back to =
do some research and wait for my products to arrive.
They did so yesterday; and last night I roasted my first batches.
I was not impressed :(
My first batch was a Purple Mountain Estate Kona (Kona being my wife's =
favorite). Armed with the knowledge that you must not fill the beans to =
the "Fill line" on the FR+, I dumped in one 43cc scoop of beans, turned =
the knob to "4" and stared at it like a kid in the window of a candy =
It took forever to reach first crack, like around 4 minutes. When FC did =
occur, it was strung out over such a large period of time that I wasn't =
sure when FC began and when it ended. I just had a non-steady stream of =
CRACKs occurring over a period of one to two minutes. When things =
quieted down, I waited a few moments (15-30 seconds) and set the roaster =
to COOL. The beans were unevenly roasted, some had chaff still stuck to =
them, a few were even green. I let it cool further, picked out the bad =
beans, made a pot of coffee* with it and started my second batch.
My second batch was Guatemalan Organic. I won't go into the horrid =
details of this batch except to say that I put even LESS beans into this =
batch. It obviously didn't work out well.
At this point my PME Kona was finished brewing, so I tried a cup: it was =
the weakest coffee I have ever made. Into the sink it went.
While I contemplated my failures, I grabbed my binder full of FAQs, =
suggestions, instructions and other doodads that I had downloaded and =
read them again, trying to locate the cause of my difficulties.
My third batch was Sumatra of some type (I don't remember which =
variety). Armed with new knowledge, I put the CORRECT amount of beans =
into this batch, 2 43cc cups of them. *Much* better roasting. Since I =
was going for a darkish roast, I let it go through FC and stopped it =
sometime during SC. The beans were nice and rich looking, dark (without =
being oily), and evenly cooked. The whole process was about 4 minutes (a =
great improvement over my first batch which took about 7 or 8 minutes). =
I quick-cooled these in a cold metal bowl and ground them. The smell was =
DELIGHTFUL. I tossed my old coffee and made a pot using these beans.
It was almost as weak as my first batch. I asked myself "What the hell =
am I doing wrong?" I know that roasted beans need to sit for at least a =
day before use, but certainly they should produce stronger coffee than =
this. I sealed them up in an airtight container and continued with my =
My fourth (and last) batch was Tanzanian Peaberry. 2x43cc measures =
again, set the timer for "5". Everything proceeded as expected. I waited =
for second crack to stop completely before cooling them off. I had =
expected more oil to be showing before I cooled it, but very little did.
I took this batch and immediately sealed it up to try in the morning =
before work. When I woke this morning, I made a full pot (as I normally =
do) and was very surprised to find out that this was the THIRD WEAKEST =
POT of coffee I've ever made. An improvement over the 2nd, but honestly, =
not within my definition of "drinkable"; at least for morning coffee.
So that leaves me where I am today. I am mildly frustrated with my =
results, but I know they will improve over time. What I am most confused =
about is the lack of strength to the coffee that I've brewed. I'm not =
trying to brew something that you can use as asphalt cleaner, but I =
expected it to be much stronger and richer than it was.
I'm looking forward to heading home after work and trying some more =
roasts. I want to try and get the dark, oily roast that I'm longing for =
from the Tanzanian and I want to do some more comparisons with the other =
samples and lighter roasts. 
But one question still haunts me: why did my brewed coffee turn out so =
weak? I'm going to French-press it tonight to see what difference that =
makes, but I'm confused**.
Thank you for reading this rambling, it's not quite as exciting as the =
previous newbie's post (his roasts sounded like they succeeded; I =
wouldn't put mine into that category yet). 
*PLEASE* feel free to make any comments, suggestions, questions or =
ANYTHING. I will soak up good ideas like a sponge.
* I have a thermal style mr coffee and a whirly-blade coffee grinder =
(which WILL be replaced soon, both of them).
** Which is nothing knew to me :)
* nicholas j leon,    java developer   <--- more meanings than just one =
now! :)
  technology concepts and design inc
  336.232.56800x5868 n_leon

2) From: Mike Gallant
Welcome! Don't forget to grab your handbasket on the way in... :)
	Did your friend use a different brewing method (ie. are you comparing
his/her presspot coffee to your mr coffee coffee)? That could account for
perceived weakness. Was he/she using a better grinder? Are you using the
recommended amount of coffee to brew with (I believe 7gr/5oz cup - not 100%
sure as I'm used to doing mainly espresso)? Just some random thoughts.
	Good luck. I'm sure that with the amount of knowledge spread about this
mailing list, somebody will be able to help with your problem.
Mike Gallant

3) From: Nicholas Leon
Naw. He was using an even cheaper drip coffee maker.
I used the same amount of coffee that I normally do when I make a pot (I =
couldn't honestly tell you how much that is; I've been eyeballing it for =
years now...). He DOES have a better grinder, a Solis Maestro Conical =
Burr Mill but I doubt that could explain the difference.

4) From: steve_w
Quoting Nicholas Leon :
What kind of coffee were you drinking before you tried home roasting?
I think some more information on what you were acclimated to before
trying homeroast might give us some insight into your results.
Steve Wall

5) From: Nicholas Leon
I've been drinking Millstone coffee (french roast) from Harris Teeter
(which I grind at home, of course), the occasional Starbuck's house
coffee here at work, some Guatemalan and Kona from a local coffee shop
and I VERY frequently get gifts of roasted coffee from friends and
family. Everything is usually roasted quite dark except for the Kona
(which I don't like dark).
I can already feel from the two responses I've gotten that "weakness"
should not have been caused by anything I did, per se. I was hoping that
the lack of flavor was a result of me not letting the beans settle
enough, but I guess that's not the case.
As it stands now I'm even more confused ;) Maybe I was on crack or
something and just didn't use enough.  Maybe it's time for me to
actually start measuring the coffee I make. 
I plan to do some more roasting the instant I get in and use my french
Thank you!
-- njl

6) From: Mike Gallant
	Also, don't discount the difference a good grinder can make. If you're
grinding too coarsely with the whirly blade, that could account for weak
coffee (of course, if you grind too finely, you end up with a bitter
overextracted mess :) Of course, all IMHO, YMMV, etc (in keeping with the
earlier acronym theme).
Mike Gallant

7) From: C.J. Prince
  Hi everyone.  First let me introduce myself:  I'm from Georgia and I've
been homeroasting for a couple years or so.  I have recently found this list
(it's really enjoyable!) but haven't posted until now.
  Nicholas, sorry you're having trouble with weak brews.  I assume that you
are using the correct amount of coffee (somewhere around 10g-roasted per
cup).  So I'll propose a wacky theory for you to investigate:
  Very-freshly roasted coffee has a lot of CO2 gas in it.  As you drip-brew
and sprinkle very hot water on such grounds, the gas will expand rapidly and
may create a foamy mix of water, gas, coffee oils, and grounds which may be
three times the volume of your dry grounds.  After the gas dissipates and
the foam subsides, much of the grounds may be sticking to the sides near the
top of the brew basket.  So as the brewing continues, the water misses a lot
of your coffee.  This is worse if you use a mesh filter that allows liquids
to pass quickly without filling up the basket.
  So take note of your basket after brewing and see if there is a nice bed
of grounds or if they have spewed all over.  Since you've been auto-drip
brewing with very little rest for the beans, this could (possibly) be your
 - C.J.

8) From: Greg Owen
On Wed, 30 Apr 2003, Nicholas Leon wrote:
Here is my anecdote.  It is anecdotal.  YMMV, etc. etc.
I spent a year trying to get good roasts from my FR+ with very limited 
luck.  To make a long story short, it turns out that some combination of 
low voltage in my house and possibly variation in my individual FR+ meant 
I had lots of trouble getting things roasted well enough.  See if you can 
get a good dark oily roast by extending the timer, and if you can't, you 
could have a similar problem.
I recently bought a variac to boost my line voltage, and the change has 
been enormous.  I am making consistently smooth, drinkable coffee and can 
roast all the way up to espresso darkness without issues.  My roasts are 
always longer than 5 minutes, but that isn't a bad thing from what I've 
If you have a multimeter, check your line voltage.  With the outlet at 117 
before throwing on the FR+, I had bad results.  With 118-119, I had 
mixed results.
	gowen -- Greg Owen -- gowen
	79A7 4063 96B6 9974 86CA  3BEF 521C 860F 5A93 D66D

9) From: Todd Smith
Home roasting is a lot like cooking...  There is a learning curve,
so don't give up.   Does the coffee taste "grassy"?  If so, it probably is
under roasted.  It could also be that your new roaster isn't functioning as
it should.   Call your friend and have him help you with a roast or two...
Try out his roaster for comparison.
Good luck
On 4/30/03 1:52 PM, "Nicholas Leon"  wrote:

10) From: Brice D. Hornback
Oh yes!  That has happened to me.  My second batch (remember... I'm roasting
with a Poppery II black version) roasted perfectly.  I ground it and put it
in the basket of the BUNN GR10.  Within seconds of starting the brew... it
foamed OUT of the basket and all down the sides of the coffee maker.  Talk
about a MESS!  :-)
However... it still tasted great.
- Brice

11) From: Mike Gallant
	Well, if we're trading coffee explosion stories....
	Just yesterday evening, I felt a need for some coffee, but didn't want to
caffeinate before bed. So, I roasted up some Ghimbi Decaf, ground it up and
put it in my Bodum Mini-Santos. Can you say "coffee geyser"? I had a literal
coffee fountain shooting up through the vents on the Santos cover. Luckily,
I was standing outside the 2 ft spray radius while it was gushing. At least
my wife found it entertaining. I wish I had the excuse that it was only my
second batch... :\
	At least what was left did taste OK.

12) From: Lowe, David
Just a couple of weeks ago I ended up using some very freshly roasted =
beans in a press and almost had it overflow with very little water in =
it. Had to "stir down" the foam, add water and then do it one more time =
before I got the right amount of water in. I knew the beans should have =
been rested, but had no idea they would generate that much foam.
Dave Lowe

13) From: john kangas
Ah, I've been made aware of this facet of good, freshly roasted coffee. It's 
probably something to do with the CO2 floating the coffee, but the way I 
like to explain it to the uninitiated is:
That other coffee is bad. You make it as strong as you do, because if it was 
stronger, the badness would be intolerable. This freshly roasted Sweet 
Maria's coffee lacks this badness, so it must be brewed stronger to cover up 
for all that missing badness.
I've been telling folks I share my coffee with, to make 2 pots out of the 
1/4 pound (pre-roasted) I give them. It ends up just a touch on the strong 
side, for most, but not overpowering.
John Kangas
MSN 8 with e-mail virus protection service: 2 months FREE*  http://join.msn.com/?page=features/virus

14) From: Ken Mary
You overroasted this batch and possibly the third also. For non-espresso
brews, never go much beyond the first snaps of second crack.

15) From: Nicholas Leon
Well shoot. That's pretty much the answer I came to as well. 
My second day of roasting was MUCH MORE enjoyable and productive. I
learned several things...
1) Greg Owen hit the friggin' nail on the head: I moved the roaster from
the outlet I was using (which was very old groundless outlet) to one of
the newer 20amp circuits I've put in my house recently. The difference
was amazing. I roasted a whole slew of beans, and every single batch
came out as well as I could expect. The roasting was even and fast,
within the time expected. I noticed that the fan part of my FR+ worked
much better now (the beans were blown around inside the chamber much
better). First Crack was no longer stretched out over a long period of
time and Second Crack had me looking at the glass on the roaster
thinking it had cracked O_o
2) I understand now why some coffee is labeled by its roast and not the
beans: after a certain point the type of beans become less important
than the strength of the roast. Bean characteristic vs. roast
characteristics, I guess. It's not often that I make coffee/have access
to coffee where the true flavor of the beans come through. And those few
times where the ones that I thought where absolutely fabulous. Last
night I had fabulous coffee again :)
3) Sampling coffee for four hours will put enough caffeine in your
system to keep you up all night.
I want to thank everyone for their understand and help. It seems that I
have much to learn; and not just about roasting. 
-- njl

16) From: AlChemist John
Welcome aboard Nicholas,
This sounds IMO like you have simply not roasted them long 
enough.  Completely forget the timer on the FR.  I never found it long 
enough to do a roast.  I always  used at least two rounds of the timer, 
sometimes three.  Likewise, you made the right move in doubling the bean 
amount.  For a test sake, you could also keep adding beans until they are 
just moving, somewhere around 1/2 c.
As for some observations, 4 minutes is not a real long time for FC, but I 
remember thinking when I started that it was.  Just for comparison, most of 
my FC's are around 8 minutes (not a FR).  Likewise, 1-2 minutes is an OK 
time for FC to occur.
This definitely sounds under roasted to me.
That is a good sign, the smell that is.  Did you use the entire batch of 
beans for your pot?  I don't know about you, but that is how much I 
presently use for a "normal" drip pot.
Ok, another observation.  2nd crack does not stop really.  If your cracks 
stopped with the heat still on, that was the end of 1st crack, not 2nd.  If 
you want dark beans, keep on roasting for another 2-3 minutes or so 
YMMV.  2nd crack sounds much more rapid fire and higher pitch.  Also, down 
the road, you may find that super dark with oil is not the best way to 
roast beans as the varietal flavors of the coffee sort of fade, but for 
this exercise, go for finding a  rapid fire 2nd crack.  BTW, you also may 
wish to due this outside or under you stove vent because WHEN ( you will 
get there, really) you get to a rolling 2nd crack, you will be producing 
some smoke.   Report back when/if you get to this point.  If you can't 
reach a smoke stage, something else may well be going on.
If you do get to 2nd, let the beans rest at least a little, then use all 
the beans for a full pot of coffee (or 1/2 for 1/2 of course).  See how 
that is.
Take it slow.  Don't waste to many beans until you/we work out what is up.
Is is convenient to ask you friend who roasts to come over and check out 
your FR?  Someone who actually has roasted should spot any problems or 
technique issues immediately if they can be present for them.
I hope this helps some.
John Nanci 
AlChemist at large
Zen Roasting and Blending by Gestalt

17) From: Ben Treichel
Nicholas Leon wrote:
Pushing into 2n'd crack, french or beyond, or past Full City. Take your 
pick; they are all beyond the line you are asking about. Of Course, it 
depends on the indivdual bean, etc. etc. etc.

18) From: Rick Farris
Alan writes:
Yeah, and you're most likely used to wearing your
underware on your head. 
Have you forgotten the forum you're in?
-- Rick

19) From: Marchiori, Alan Mr. TSC
maybe i don't understand, but the subject was "My first roasting experience"
so this lead me to the stale conclusion.  And no last I checked my undies
are right where i put them this morning (where they were last night is none
of your business)--but thanks for checking.
as a side note why does it take 24hrs+ for my posts to get to the group?.. 

20) From: Nicholas Leon
And you know, that's what scares me a bit: the thought that what I have
been enjoying for the past several years hasn't been the coffee flavor
per se but instead it's staleness/badness. If true, it's amazing what
one can become used to (and enjoy).
I've already done this to a small degree. The coffee I roasted my first
time (PME Kona) was much more ... flavorful ... now than it was several
days ago. It wasn't exposed to air (it's in a ziplock baggy), but it is
the /oldest/ roast I have right now.
'Day before yesterday I was VERY careful on the amount of coffee grinds
I used in my brew. My maker is 8 cups (40oz, and I measured using a
measuring cup, not the pot) and the amount listed on Sweet Maria's page
(and yours above) is approximately 1 tablespoon per 3 oz, which works
out to 13 tbls for my pot.
That looked like a sh*t-load of coffee to me (I was actually concerned
about overflow from my filter). With my other brands (including decent
ones from nearby coffee shops) I've been using about 1/2-2/3 that amount
for dog knows how long. When I used the proper amount it was of the
expected strength.
I'm not worried about anything like that. I decided to homeroast for the
sole reasons of enjoyment and education. I am open minded and that
includes open-mindedness that I haven't been paying attention to the
best qualities of the coffee I've been drinking.
homeroast.... ugh...
I'm not quite at THAT level; though I suppose at one point I was. I look
back 15 years and can't believe that I ever enjoyed a cup of "Chock Full
o' Nuts." 
Thank you!

21) From: javafool
I think Alan is probably correct, really on the right track. I had been
thinking that the weak coffee was just the missing typical *stale* coffee
taste non-roasters are used to.
Wow Rick, I certailly hope those underwear, and maybe a couple of feet, are
Yeah, and you're most likely used to wearing your
underware on your head.
Have you forgotten the forum you're in?
-- Rick

22) From: Les & Becky
Hey Alan,
What a great response!  Don't get too upset at "Chock Full of Nuts."  I
really liked it at one point too, and it was the coffee that opened my mind
to the reality that there was more than one taste to coffee!  It was the one
that really began my adventure into homeroast, not that it was bad, but
because it was different.  In my playing around, I have created some pretty
fowl tasting blends myself!  Eighteen years of homeroasting now and not
looking back too often.  Welcome to the club.

23) From: tadpreston
You may be on to something. I remember a similar experience when I 
went from store bought to fresh roasted. I played the the amount 
of coffee (and still do every once in a while) until it was just 
right. I use 2 tbsp to 8 oz. in a french press.
I gave some to a friend once and was expecting to hear, "WOW". But 
what I got was, "it was not as strong as I am used to." I was 
perplexed. But, I think your theory explains it. Thanks.

24) From: Jim Wildeson
I'm going to have to pipe in here now, too, since the home-roast-coffee-is-weak syndrome affected me in the same way when I first
started roasting a year and a half ago.  (I've been reading this list so long I can't remember if I've introduced myself or not,
but, hello, all!  I've quietly enjoyed and learned much from many of you.)
The coffee I drank before home-roasting was Peet's French Roast, I confess.  I found that I had to use considerably more home-roast
coffee than the Peet's I had been using to make the "strength" equal, which was disappointing, but I just started using more coffee
and shelved figuring out why.
I have two additional theories why a home-roast coffee is "weaker" than (some?) commercial coffees:
1) Commercial coffee is roasted "deeper", if not also darker.  If I'm not mistaken, it sounds like many/most premium commercial
roasters roast coffee more than 10 minutes, even upwards of 20 minutes.  When you compare the exterior color of beans roasted that
long with beans coming out of a FreshRoast (should it be called a FastRoast?) in less than half the time, the beans may appear
similar, but their internal constitution must be quite a bit different.  Comparing ground coffee instead of beans is more realistic,
but I don't think that even tells the whole story.  I think Peet's has even used the phrase "deep roasted" in some of their
literature.  I'm using an unmodified, un-Variac'd Rosto most of the time and haven't actually tested this theory.  Maybe some of you
profiling into the 15 minute range can shed some light here.
2) A more strident arabica or even a bit of robusta is added for an extra punch to an otherwise more mild coffee (this could be a
take-off on the "badness" theory).
-- Jim

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