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Is home roasting worthit?


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Forgive the really newbie question. I enjoy coffee - I wouldn't call myself an expert but I know what I like and what I don't, and have a weekly subscription of fresh beans to the door. This is costing around ~£30pm currently.

What I'm keen to know is how comparable are home roasted beans to beans freshly roasted by someone like hasbean/union roasted etc? Will I notice the difference (negatively) - I know when I've done home-made beer, it's bloody awful! I'm curious if home roasting coffee will give better results? If that question very much depends on the type of machine you buy, what kind of budgets should I be expecting for comparable results? I'm not sure how much I want to spend really. Is there any you can recommend which have minimal labour? My brew method is currently espresso with a DELONGHI Dinamica ECAM 350.35.W machine. :good:

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Like with coffee machines, you can spend very little to quite a lot. For example, you can start off with a bread maker and a heat gun, or a popcorn maker - I never tried. Or you can buy a Gene Cafe, or a Hottop, or an Amazon Dalian roaster.

likelihood is... you’ll need some great equipment to achieve pro results. But then again, if you want to give it a go, you can start on the cheap and see if it works for you. If you are thinking of roasting at home for saving money - I very much doubt you will. 

Current: Lelit Elizabeth / Niche Zero / VST baskets / Distilled water + 100mg NaCO3/L

Previous: Gaggia Classic | Eureka Mignon | Rocket Cellini Evo | Profitec 700 | Profitec T-64 | Gene Cafe CBR-101 | Kinu M68 | Feldgrind 2 | La Pavoni Europiccola 2012

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1 hour ago, bootlesshacker said:

What I'm keen to know is how comparable are home roasted beans to beans freshly roasted by someone like hasbean/union roasted etc? Will I notice the difference (negatively) - I know when I've done home-made beer, it's bloody awful! I'm curious if home roasting coffee will give better results?

After over 20 years of both roasting coffee and brewing beer, both in a very amateur way -

I enjoy drinking the beer I make from extract kits, and even more so with dry hopping which I started recently. I find it very easy to get results that I would happily drink in a pub, without any fancy equipment, knowledge or effort (it's all relative, of course).

As for coffee roasting - for many years I was happy with the coffee I was roasting at home and thought it was good (for a short while with a popcorn popper, then with a couple of Precision home roasters and in the last 10 years with Gene Caffe). Recently I dived deeper into the hobby, upgraded from my Silvia/MC2 setup and started learning more. I then tried cupping a few coffees next to each other, and found that my own (very dark) roast actually tasted like burnt plastic - horrible. After many years of only drinking my home roasts, I recently started buying professionally roasted coffees in order to have some reference and to take this variable out of the equation, so I can focus on other variables. When I feel more comfortable with the other changes I have made, I will try to roast again and see if I can get better results that I am happy with. Otherwise - I will by roasted. 

What I am trying to say, is that the answer to your questions depends on where you are in your coffee journey, how developed and sensitive your senses are, what sort of coffees you like to drink, what sorts of roasts you enjoy etc. It also depends on how much effort you are willing to put into learning how to roast coffee, so it's really hard to know before you try. You might love to drink your own roast + save a lot of money (you can buy green beans once a year if you roast your own, rather than paying weekly delivery fees on roasted coffee), or you might think that it is awful like you said about your home brew beer. Best way forward would be if you could try it - find some home roasted coffee, or try in a popcorn hopper and see how you feel about the process and the result. You don't need to go all in right from the start. Good luck with whatever you decide!

Edited by Doram
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On that, I never got on with the Gene Cafe. Too sensitive to voltage fluctuations, difficult to hear first crack, etc. Anyway, I didn’t like the results I had, and, as reference, I used to roast my own Colombian Suarez and also buy the same roasted by Rave. It was night and day. My roast was dull, flat, tasteless... to my taste.

I then showed that to people at work, and one of my colleagues pretty much paid for my hobby - I charged him the cost of the green beans, and I’d roast it. He loved it. At one point I parted with the Gene and he was so upset!

So, goes to show that taste is subjective. You might find that roasting is for you and you like what you produce and want to move on to the next level in terms of equipment and quality/grade of greens. Or you might find out that you completely suck at it - like in my case. Start low, see what’s like and advance accordingly. Good luck from me too.


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Current: Lelit Elizabeth / Niche Zero / VST baskets / Distilled water + 100mg NaCO3/L

Previous: Gaggia Classic | Eureka Mignon | Rocket Cellini Evo | Profitec 700 | Profitec T-64 | Gene Cafe CBR-101 | Kinu M68 | Feldgrind 2 | La Pavoni Europiccola 2012

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I think that we are going to see more and more small home roasters that are affordable and smart in the next few years. This should make the entry into roasting far easier and less technical than it has been in the past.

The story for a lot of the bigger roasters seems to be along the lines of "guy starts doing a bit of roasting at home, people like it, starts business and sells larger batches". Considering how quickly some people seem to go from home to business, I find it hard to believe that roasting to an acceptable standard is uber hard. 

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32 minutes ago, mctrials23 said:

I think that we are going to see more and more small home roasters that are affordable and smart in the next few years. This should make the entry into roasting far easier and less technical than it has been in the past.

The story for a lot of the bigger roasters seems to be along the lines of "guy starts doing a bit of roasting at home, people like it, starts business and sells larger batches". Considering how quickly some people seem to go from home to business, I find it hard to believe that roasting to an acceptable standard is uber hard. 

Roasting to an acceptable standard is easy, matching the guys with many years of experience and significant investment in equipment is much harder. It can be done (not always for all coffees), but you can have it exactly as you want, rather than as they believe it should be. As good and better is always very subjective. One thing you can do is buy the best quality beans, sometimes very expensive online when roasted...or simply harder to get hold of.

Ultimately, it's just extending the interest into coffee for those that really want to get into it a little more and try things out with a bean that perhaps the big roasters have not tried. You don't generally save money...what you do get it the coffee, fresh, when you want it and you can have 3 or 4 coffees on the go.

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36 minutes ago, DavecUK said:

You don't generally save money...what you do get it the coffee, fresh, when you want it and you can have 3 or 4 coffees on the go.

Without addressing any of the other pros and cons, I think you can save money. For example, a typical 500g roasted coffee bag from Coffee Compass is £10. Same coffee is £24 for 2kg of green beans (so £40 for 2kg roasted vs. £24 for green). Even after accounting for weight loss in the roasting process, green will be ~25-30% cheaper. Add to that the frequent shipping costs for roasted vs. buying bulk green beans once or twice a year (so shipping is probably free), and it all ads up. I think a 1-2 shots a day drinker can easily save £120 a year with home roasting, and of course the more coffee you use the bigger the difference and the sooner you can cover the initial investment in equipment.   

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I think that’s a fair statement providing you are happy with he results you get in comparison to the same beans roasted by the pros.

Current: Lelit Elizabeth / Niche Zero / VST baskets / Distilled water + 100mg NaCO3/L

Previous: Gaggia Classic | Eureka Mignon | Rocket Cellini Evo | Profitec 700 | Profitec T-64 | Gene Cafe CBR-101 | Kinu M68 | Feldgrind 2 | La Pavoni Europiccola 2012

Also at: CoffeeTime Forum & Niche Zero Owners Group

 

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1 hour ago, Doram said:

Without addressing any of the other pros and cons, I think you can save money. For example, a typical 500g roasted coffee bag from Coffee Compass is £10. Same coffee is £24 for 2kg of green beans (so £40 for 2kg roasted vs. £24 for green). Even after accounting for weight loss in the roasting process, green will be ~25-30% cheaper. Add to that the frequent shipping costs for roasted vs. buying bulk green beans once or twice a year (so shipping is probably free), and it all ads up. I think a 1-2 shots a day drinker can easily save £120 a year with home roasting, and of course the more coffee you use the bigger the difference and the sooner you can cover the initial investment in equipment.   

You've got the running cost and maintenance to consider. Also ruined batches. 

I agree though you can save money it just takes a long time. Buy a Dalian Amazon, spend nothing maintaining it, nothing running it, and don't throw any batches away, and after about 8 years you might have covered the cost of the roaster in savings if you buy in bulk from importers and vac seal in batches. Of course you've got maintenance and running costs to factor in. And also you would be stuck going through 30-60kg bags at a time unless you resell it. With something like the Gene you're not going to get the same quality you can get from a pro roaster no matter how skilled you are with it, but you will "pay it off" sooner even with modest savings. 

For me home roasting was all about being able to try different profiles with the same bean. Over the years I gained a good understanding of how to change a profile based on what I was tasting and developed my palate in the process so from that perspective it's been worth it. 

Edited by Rob1
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ACS Minima (Beta) with Bianca Paddle -- Reskinned Ceado E8, Niche Zero --- Gene Cafe CBR101 with Dimmer Mod and Bean Mass Probe

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26 minutes ago, Rob1 said:

You've got the running cost and maintenance to consider. Also ruined batches. 

And also you would be stuck going through 30-60kg bags at a time unless you resell it.

I agree with your comments. Regarding the two things above - you are right that I didn't take into account the running costs and maintenance. My own maintenance in ten years of owning a Gene was to replace a heating element once (it was ~£50 from BB, I think). Electricity I have no idea how much, but probably not a lot.

As for buying beans - I never bought 30kg or bigger sacks, just 2kg bags from the likes of Coffee Compass, Has Bean etc (hence compared the costs for those roasted vs. green). I imagine buying sacks would make green even cheaper, but personally I would never want to commit to such quantities.

For me the attractiveness of home roasting was the convenience of always having fresh coffee when I need it, and not having to do the balancing act of constantly ordering/resting/freezing roasted beans. The saving was the cherry on top.

However, to keep doing it I will need to convince myself that I can't taste the difference between my roasts and professionally roasted coffee. For many years I was content with what I roasted, but recently I came to the conclusion that it isn't good enough and am currently buying roasted beans to get some reference point before I try roasting again. For me, home roasting will have to give better or as good as results to what I can get from roasters. If I won't be able to achieve that - will probably keep buying roasted beans going forward. 

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(Without having any experience of Coffee Roasting)

Do NOT try to "get into roasting" to "save money" - You WON'T !!

ie Realistically in any pre-determined time your outlay (in money) will exceed "saving" - let alone time/effort etc.

That's not to say that it isn't possible to "save" money.... even to "make" money (eventually) with (any) hobby (even an expensive hobby). Obviously all the roasters around started somewhere and they have developed into "whatever they do now"
(be that "just" sorting themselves out, selling to mates, self-financing, or even making a living/employing others).

But I, pretty much, guarantee they didn't start out to "save a few quid"....

A bit like making espresso..... 250g of beens is loads cheaper than buying 1/2 dozen Lattes from Costabucks..... but if you think buying an EK and a Slayer plus gawd knows what other paraphernalia to make it equates to "saving money".......  

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There is a fine line between "Hobby" and "Manic Obsession"

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It's probably all been said already but, in my experience, the main attraction to home roasting is the learning process and the opportunity to geek out even further.  I dont think it is a money saver, once you have factored in a few hundred quid for a roaster. You do get the opportunity to roast up 200g, and therefore have a range of coffees on the go without them hanging around long enough to go stale.

Freshness is irrelevant in today's instant online bean buying world, as you'll discover if you try and drink coffee you have just roasted.  The other disadvantage is that you'll pay for your own mistakes in the learning process, rather than enjoying the expertise of commercial roasters who have had to pay for their own mistakes.

It all boils down to whether you want to get a bit closer to the coffee process.

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8 hours ago, Spazbarista said:

It's probably all been said already but, in my experience, the main attraction to home roasting is the learning process and the opportunity to geek out even further.  I dont think it is a money saver, once you have factored in a few hundred quid for a roaster. You do get the opportunity to roast up 200g, and therefore have a range of coffees on the go without them hanging around long enough to go stale.

Freshness is irrelevant in today's instant online bean buying world, as you'll discover if you try and drink coffee you have just roasted.  The other disadvantage is that you'll pay for your own mistakes in the learning process, rather than enjoying the expertise of commercial roasters who have had to pay for their own mistakes.

It all boils down to whether you want to get a bit closer to the coffee process.

This ^^^  really. If it interests you and piques a yearning to know more go for it. It is not likely you will better or even match (price for price) what can be had from the wonderful variety of good value roasters out there. 

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I've been roasting coffee at home for more than 2 years, using a semi-home made roaster. The results have been pleasingly good right from the very first roast I did. I find the taste favourably comparable to good quality commercially available roast beans such as what is available from suppliers such as Pact, York Coffee Emporium, Rave Coffee etc. Some stats for my home coffee roasting setup:

  • Total cost of equipment - £30 (popcorn machine, butchered french press, 1x hose clip, corrugated duct for chaff catcher)
  • Number of roast batches to date - approx 100 batches
  • Number of discarded batches - 1 (I forgot to switch it off and ended up with charcoal!)
  • Time taken to roast a batch - between 7 and 10 mins, varying slightly between different beans
  • Batch size - approx 150g (perfect for my coffee consumption rate - I use this amount in approx 5-7 days)

I find green beans to be typically half the price of roasted, so my equipment has approximately paid for itself 10x over so far (not factoring in the time it takes me to roast).

I'm a fan of home roasting because it guarantees freshness, appeals to the coffee-nerd in me and just happens to be cheaper than buying pre-roast.🙂

 

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I got into roasting fairly recently and have become hooked. It's a fascinating art/science and despite having started with a popcorn popper before graduating to a purpose made coffee roaster, I've never made a single batch that was bad enought that I couldn't drink it. I've bought plenty of roasted coffee that I liked, some I've loved and some I wouldn't buy again, so there isn't really a difference between roasting and buying pre-roasted in that respect. 

The big difference between the professional roasters and me, is that they create the same end product time after time. I have the ability to create markedly different flavours from the same bean on the same day 😜 so I win!!!

I thoroughly recommend it as a hobby' that lets you play with different bean varieties, roast levels and roast profiles to experience different coffee tastes at a lower cost than getting the same adventure with roasted beans, but not cheaper than getting the same bean you really like time after time. 

Aeropress | V60 | Sage Oracle | Ceado E37s | Motta ancillaries | Freshroast SR800

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