My roaster: the Deathstar

Roasting - before I dropped the Deathstar

I like coffee so much that I actually roast my own beans.

The Deathstar

My siblings have kindly named my roaster "The Deathstar" because it looks like the notorious space weapon in the Star Wars movies. Here's a photo of it in action.

The Deathstar in action

And here it is opened, showing the modifications my brother-in-law kindly made for me so that the beans would be be tumbled more effectively and therefore roast more evenly.

Looking inside the Deathstar

The Roasting Process

Firstly, I preheat the Deathstar. By the way, this has a real name, it's called a Tostatutto Elettrico, which learned friends have told me can be translated as "toasts everything electrically". Anyway, I preheat it, which is not a precise matter. I determine whether it is hot enough by the sound of the sizzle when I splash cold water on it. I then add 100g of green coffee.

Roasting the beans is also not as precise as I would like. It would be great to be able to precisely control the temperature and also to be able to monitor the colour of the roasting beans. Alas, I have to make do with the level of smoke and, most importantly, the sound of the crackles. As those who know anything about roasting know, there are two crackles. As I prefer a lighter roast rather than a darker roast, I try to remove the beans from the heat as soon after the first crackle as I feel like on the day, so sometimes it's just after the second crackle.

Now comes the vital cooling process. How I rejoice when it's a windy day. I have a simple two stage cooling process. In the first stage I take the beans outside and cool them by pouring them from a sieve into a stainless steel bowl. This provides the swift initial cooling and also enables me to eliminate the husks, which blow away, usually over me.

The first stage of cooling

The second stage of cooling is equally simple and very effective. I place the beans in a cold cast iron frying pan. This drains the remnant of the heat from them.

Roast Beans cooling in a pan

Sometimes I get a surprisingly even roast - it's a matter of the right temperature, the right quantity of beans and the right length of roasting time being in harmony. Often I don't, prompting one professional roaster friend to comment, "That's a lovely blend you've made there, Charles".

And the green beans themselves?

The question everyone asks me is "Where in Auckland do you manage to buy green beans?". One can purchase them from a number of places, though the main problem is getting a variety of Arabica beans. For the past two years, I've mainly got mine from Altezano in Mt Eden and highly recommend them. They're very kind to me, have a reasonable range of interesting beans, are enthusiastic, charge reasonably, and courier promptly. What more does one want? Well being human, probably a lot more. Those who live across the waters on the North Shore are recommended to try out Veni Coffee Roasting Boutique in Milford, which is run by a Bulgarian couple and which has a good range of quite interesting Arabica beans.

And then I stupidly dropped the Deathstar

And a whole new world of coffee roasting has opened up for me