When it comes to serious coffee addictions, I think I’ve heard every joke there is. I don’t quite fall into that category myself, but when I was given a 3-pound bag of green coffee beans and asked my coffee-addicted friends to help me out, they jumped to volunteer. I never knew so many of them just had to have that cup of “liquid sanity” every day!
The green coffee bean experiment, as one friend called it, was a rousing success. Who knew green coffee beans could be so much fun?
Not for just a cup now but long-term storage for later
As I listened to my friends’ experiences with roasting and grinding the beans and then enjoying the fruits of their labor, I was impressed with the versatility of green coffee beans (I used Nicaraguan). Coffee drinkers are a lot like beer drinkers. Each has his or her own preferences and often refuse to drink anything else. By using beans that haven’t yet been roasted, each person can get the customized taste and body they want for that perfect cup of coffee.
Some coffee companies will ship their green coffee beans packed in nitrogen, which forces oxygen out of the container, giving the beans a longer shelf life. For more protection against oxygen, an oxygen absorber is also typically added.
The Green Coffee Beans Experiment
To launch this experiment, I identified 3 coffee-crazy friends, Amy, Joyce, and Michelle, and furnished each with one cup of green coffee beans.
Roasting the beans is the first step, and there are multiple ways to do that. We each used different techniques: hot air popcorn popper, a cast-iron skillet, oven roasting, and an actual coffee bean roaster. I was very impressed that we didn’t need any specialized equipment, although out of all 4 of us, Michelle, with the coffee roaster, probably had the easiest time of it.
My friend Amy used the hot air popper and reported:
“All went well as we placed about 4 ounces of the nutty smelling green beans into the hot air popper. I let it run for a couple of minutes before adding them to make sure the popper was super hot. I stirred the batch to make sure the temperature was consistent as the fragrance began to rise. Some of the beans launched from the popper because I did not put a chimney globe on top to prevent them traveling. (For the second batch I just flipped the plastic lid over to prevent loss) I hated to return the beans that popped out for fear the batch would be negatively affected by the differing temperatures.
The dog ate one of the fallen beans! She guarded the house quite alertly that evening!!
After about four minutes of stirring we heard the first crack, only a minute or so later we heard the second crack and poured the beans into a metal colander. We shook the colander a couple minutes and aired the medium brown beans for about forty-eight hours.”
Amy said that her beans weren’t consistently a dark brown color the first time around but with a second batch, she let them roast a couple more minutes past that second crack.
Joyce roasted hers in a cast-iron skillet over a gas stove. She said the process was simple enough, she just had to keep stirring the beans while they roasted. With this technique, the skillet needs to be at an extremely high temperature, at least 500 degrees Fahrenheit, so pre-heating and having a way to measure the temperature are important parts of the process.
My own roasting experience required very high temperatures as well. I chose to roast my beans in our gas oven. It was a very simple process that required placing the beans in a metal steamer. I put the steamer on a baking sheet and roasted the beans for almost 8 minutes. Since this was the first time I had ever roasted coffee beans, I didn’t leave them in the oven as long as I should have. They were browned, but not evenly and not dark enough.
Well-roasted beans will appear dark brown and oily.
It was Michelle, a true coffee fanatic, who used an actual coffee bean roaster. She has years of experience roasting green coffee beans, and the final results of her beans looked to be the best, with the beans a nice dark brown with visible oil. She said,
“The green beans were identical to the ones I buy locally in smell, size, and texture. I roasted them the same way I do my African beans.”
As Michelle had described her typical roasting process, I could tell I was in the presence of a coffee master. She asked if I wanted a light, medium, or dark roast and said that dark roast was her favorite. I was impressed that she had the expertise to get variable results, and when she said that she loved the cup of coffee from the green beans I had shared, I was thrilled.
What about the taste?
Everyone agreed that they loved the flavor and aroma of their cup of coffee. Michelle, the coffee expert, said:
“The smell of the fresh cup of coffee was delicious and the flavor was remarkably smooth. For flavor alone, I would buy the coffee.”
Amy agreed and said, “My first batch smelled great and I could not wait to grind and brew!! I ground them pretty fine and brewed six cups of coffee. The taste was very French, and a little bitter. However, the caffeine proved the batch worthy.”
Joyce liked the flavor as well and commented on the smooth taste. She served it to a couple of friends who also liked it.
All 3 of my friends had coffee grinders. I was the odd man out and decided to grind mine using my Ninja food processor. I also had a manual grain mill that would have done the job nicely as well. (Make sure you check the manufacturer’s instructions for your grain mill before grinding coffee beans. Not all mills are designed for this use.)
Green coffee beans are easy for even a beginner to roast, grind, and across the board, the final cup of coffee got a thumbs up from everyone who participated in my experiment.
Tips for beginners
First, I recommend not being afraid to purchase green coffee beans if you love your coffee. I had never roasted coffee beans before, and yet I was able to get decent results on my first try using nothing but my gas oven, a metal steamer, and a baking sheet. It took more time pre-heating the oven than it did to roast the beans.
A second tip and one of the lessons we all learned was the importance of roasting very small batches at first. My friend who referred to this as an “experiment” was exactly right. If you aren’t an experienced roaster, it may take roasting 2 or 3 small batches before you get just the right timing and results. In fact, I recommend making a note on either the bag of beans with the exact temperature and timing of your favored roasting process.
Specialized equipment does make the roasting and grinding process easier. If you stock up on green coffee beans, eventually you’ll want to make life easier by investing in a good roaster and grinder. These can be found on Amazon and in specialty stores. If you decide to use a grain mill to grind your roasted beans, consider the Wondermill Junior.
I’ve compiled a list of all the products that might come in handy for roasting and grinding your own coffee beans off-grid, as in, not using any electricity. You can get that list here.
Why store green coffee beans?
For a very long time, I have strongly encouraged readers to stock up on comfort foods. Rice, beans, and staples are all well and good, and necessary, but in times of stress, nothing comforts like a favorite food or beverage. For millions of people, it’s that cup of hot coffee that soothes, relaxes and comforts.
By packaging green coffee beans for long-term storage, the beans can become an important part of a family’s food storage pantry. For non-coffee lovers, they make a great item for barter as well.
Updated July 20, 2019
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