Acquiring green coffee is pretty easy these days. If you were to walk into a roastery and ask them to sell you small amounts of green coffee, they most likely would do so. There are also a number of different online retailers that will sell you green coffee for home roasting.
What really matters with green coffee is storage. While it can be a stable product, with the ability to last relatively unchanged for well over a year after harvesting, it must be stored properly. Basically, this means green coffee must be kept dry and at a cozy temperature. If the humidity is high, the coffee will absorb moisture. If it absorbs enough moisture, microorganisms may start chomping on it and growing, running the risk of ruining the coffee. Higher moisture contents may also facilitate natural degradation of the green bean, as will storing the coffee at temperatures that are too warm.
When green coffee doesn’t age well and it isn’t caused by mold, it develops a flavor known in the industry as “baggy”. It got this name because for most of recent coffee history, green coffee has been stored in jute bags and the baggy flavor tends to be woody/cardboard/grassy, not so unlike the way we imagine jute might taste.
Fortunately, storing small amounts of green coffee properly in your home is simple. If the climate in your home is controlled throughout the year to make you comfortable (i.e., you use air conditioning and heating), then the coffee will likely stay fresh for many months, even for more than a year, assuming you don’t store it, say, next to the shower. If the conditions aren’t that controlled, then merely keeping the coffee in airtight containers (plastic, glass, or metal) will also do the trick. There’s also anecdotal evidence that storing coffee in the freezer is an excellent way of preserving it with no known side effects (while crystal formation doesn’t seem to be a problem, the same risks that apply to storing roasted coffee in the freezer would apply to green coffee, as well).
Once you’ve got the green bean storage situation figured out, all you need is something with which to roast them! As a home roaster, you will be constrained by the tools available, thus, don’t expect to be manipulating the roast profile too much; home roasting machines aren’t as sophisticated as commercial machines. This isn’t to say you can’t create an excellent coffee at home, just that you may not get to explore the finer points of roasting too much.
You can roast coffee with pretty much any tool you have that will transfer heat to the coffee. Most people start roasting coffee at home the way it is typically done in Ethiopia—
on a skillet or other heated pan. This works, but roasting the beans evenly is very tricky, even with constant stirring. Other people start with hot air popcorn poppers. They hold only a small amount of coffee but hot air is a very efficient way of transferring heat to coffee. Commercial air roasters do exist, but they are much less popular than drum roasters, which are just large, metal cylinders that are heated externally and transfer the heat through the drum.
If home roasting becomes a bigger part of your life, you can purchase an actual home roaster. There are several different types available, each with its own pros and cons. Both air and drum roasters are manufactured. Of course, if you like to work with your hands, you can always just build your own home roaster!
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