So many different roasters and methods exist to roast coffee beans at home. What is a good option? How does one do it without creating too much of a mess and in a way that produces good beans and consequentially a good cup of coffee?
I started roasting in a pop-corn air popper. Unfortunately, I could only roast a very small quantity, perhaps as little as 50g. To remedy this challenge, I created a cardboard chimney. One to fit into the top so that the beans could rise without expelling.
This works, but the heat and floating silver-skins cause burning and annoyance.
A popper can get you a decent roast. Considering the price of such a machine, it is not a bad option. However, having beans is the first step in a three-step process. Grinding beans, creating an espresso shot (or drip filter in another type of coffee maker) and preparing some milk may require specialised equipment.
In my opinion, we all want to make a cup of coffee with latte-art on the top. Equipment is required to have all in place that allows cradling the cup and whisking a pattern.
For me, this is a Breville Barista. It’s probably the closest affordable option that any home coffee aficionado should afford to get close to a barista. I have the “Barista” version with a built-in grinder and a stainless-steel pitcher for the milk. This machine isn’t cheap, but it is in context. Any boiler operated “level-up” easily trebles the price.
Being in the Breville price range for coffee at home, it naturally flows that a similar figure can be considered to close the left-hand side of the coffee supply-chain spectrum. Roasting your own at home, next to the Breville where an empty cup is awaiting a charge.
My first Gene Café came about when I lived in Johannesburg. An exited coffee market entrant called me up (since I had a web site advertising) and asked if I have Gene Café roasters in stock. Sheepishly I thought to myself, despite having made a push into being a coffee merchant, I am still roasting from a popcorn popper.
I immediately researched all available home roasters and decided that the Gene Café, at least to me, seemed a very elegant option. It has an aesthetic appeal (beautiful looking), not like a popper. Can handle a decent load of 200-300g of green beans. An important factor is that it can produce 250g roasted beans, exactly what is packaged (as the norm) for retail coffee sales in South Africa. I also think that 250g is a quantity that can be consumed in a week and that makes excellent synchronisation with the roasted profile and the daily taste experience.
This lead to becoming the Gene Café agent in Southern Africa.
Today, I have had about five Gene Café roasters, mostly sold to people (second hand) because they were impatient and didn’t want to wait for a new batch to be imported.
Roasting coffee in a Gene Café is a pleasurable experience. Starting the coffee chain sees a batch, from its off-set axis roasting chamber, pour into your coffee tin, roasted to a profile that you require. The noise level is very low. The only consideration is the exhaust. It lets a fair amount of haze…being smoke if you like an Italian blend. You won’t want this in your house. My roasting spot is on the stoop where I can sit in a comfy chair and look out onto the Hottentots-Holland mountain range, or flip a steak on the barbie. It’s a personal choice. Some attach those silver foil air-conditioner piping and let the machine exhaust from an opened window.
Selecting the time and temperature might be a challenge the first time. Not because it’s complex, but roasting is a process that requires your intuition to merge with the character of the roaster. Before you know it, intuition is your guide and you do roast after roast consistently.
About the machine’s quality, I can say that it is ergonomically designed and is comprised of the durable exterior, internal electronics, and heating element. Last week I repaired the heating element on a 15-year-old Gene Café. The heating element is a component that requires care. Where electricity supply fluctuates or the machine is operated in conditions that cause frequent on-and-off situations, it puts wear-and-tear on the element. A heat-element, no matter what the component, is a high functioning component. Depending on the nature of use, it should last between three to five years. Maintenance is a fundamental aspect of any machine and that also is the case for a Gene Café roaster. It is rare for other components to fail, but if something does, it can always be traced to electricity fluctuation or improper supply. Abuse of the machine is naturally a fail inducing action. It is a home roaster, intended for home use.
The machine weighs in the order of 5 Kg and easily stores or can be packed back into its original box for stowing. It can be viewed as a kitchen appliance and put into a kitchen closet. All up, it’s a very nice and easy way to do your coffee roasting.