Friday, December 31, 2010

A Coffee Christmas

What I expected, happened. I was blessed with a shower of coffee-related goodness over the Holy Days ("holidays"). Holidays are risky though, since 99% of people bestowing these blessings have zero-negative zero coffee knowledge. The things I'm interested in aren't the run of the mill, ground coffee, flat-bottom filters, or generic coffee mugs. I'm interested in special coffee supplies and goodies. I try not to cheat, you know, tip them off too much, but the danger is often too high to leave the choosing to them- so I hinted. I am SO happy I did.

I had already accumulated 7 different brewing methods, so even if my family and friends did happen to get on the right track, odds are I'd have the item already. So, when my mom asked what I wanted this year, I didn't pull any punches- I straight up sent her links to the items on and yes, I admit, that's a little more than hinting.

Very nice
First, I received an awesome Bialetti Moka Pot. This contraption uses steam pressure to force 200 degree water at about 2-3 bars of pressure through semi-course coffee grounds, producing a very stout cup. If performed correctly, the coffee produced will have a body similar to a french pressed coffee, but a taste like that of an Aeropressed coffee. Not sure what those are? Check my blog history or search for those terms in the search bar a the top of the page. Now that I have the six-cup version of the moka pot, I'd recommend a larger one, especially if you've got to share with someone else regularly. My wife is ALWAYS needing a cup of her own... mooch! Here's a video of the moka pot, though some of the preparation techniques are a little shabby and are not necessarily recommended. I'll have to post a how-to later. If you need know-how right away, check, as usual.

Truly, a decent gift nonetheless
Okay, so that was bar far, the biggest gift. I've already posted about the two coffee mugs I received- they were not run of the mill mugs either, these were very personal and much appreciated. From my younger brother-in-law, I received a surprisingly fitting single-cup brewer with travel mug. Before you get too excited, these were Melitta brand- the bane of specialty coffee filters' existence. Of course, he did not know this, so this gift was remarkably thoughtful and appropriate. My wife received one as well. I did try to use it while he was there, but I cannot get over the intense PAPER taste that the contraption leaves on my coffee. I was using a nice Kona blend from The Roasterie in Kansas City, where my older brother-in-law is working as a barista- this coffee being his gift. So, even with a fantastic coffee in use, the brew still tasted like a newspaper took a whiz in it. I DO NOT recommend
Paper-tasting coffee filters
Melitta filters for uber-specialty coffee peoples. Instead, use Chemex Unbleached Square Coffee Filter or Hario Coffee White Paper Filters Size 02 for V60 Brewer, 100 Count for similar single-cup brewers. These filters have been treated especially for coffee brewing and do not leave that awful God-forsaken paper taste in you mouth when used. Of course, rinse your filters with a dose of hot water before inserting the coffee, no matter what type you're using. Notice though, I said these Melitta products were not a good choice for the uber-coffee nerds in your life- not a bad choice for everyone. Melitta stuff is sold EVERYWHERE. It's cheaper and simple to use. Therefore, it can be a great introduction to specialty coffee for those just getting into it. That's why we regifted these to others in our family that have already told us they have used them and enjoy it.

Lastly, I received an unaffiliated Visa gift card from my wife's grandmother this year. With it, I purchased the Hario "Mini-Mill Slim." This is a great hand grinder. I had my doubts due to its size, but it really has performed. I am planning on taking it with me on my trip to Mexico. This thing is truly tiny. It's about 7 inches tall total. The handle is removable and the grind setting is highly adjustable. Here's the kicker- it has no English included in the directions. This means that guys who had planned on ignoring the directions out of manly spite are now forced to figure it out due to lack of available information. Their wives must sit idly-by and watch them scrunch up their noses and match their wit and brawn against this tiny grinder's fairly confusing grind settings.

The grinder has something like a wing-nut under the black upper portion that is screwed right and left to fine-up or coarsen the grounds. The range available was shockingly varied. I achieved something as course as basically halving the beans, to a powdered sugar Turkish grind. Be warned though, grinding takes time and energy. Don't get me wrong- I've very pleased with it.

I also purchased yet another popcorn popper for my home roasting, but for some crazy reason, the popper roasts the coffee SUPER FAST! It's completely unusable. All I achieve is an Italian roast in two minutes flat (basically charcoal). It's not even a decent charcoal either, the beans are tipped so that the inside of the coffee is barely roasted at all. What a waste. I don't even like popcorn. I have weaned myself off of coffee for my trip to Mexico, where suitable pure water may not be available. I am certain that I am being punished with that dud roaster for my disloyalty- the coffee gods are jealous and will not be mocked.

With that, Lord, I thank You that You are just and merciful- far more-so than the "coffee gods" I've cooked up. I pray You would protect me as I go to Mexico this next week. it's not the safest place to be at the moment, but then again, neither was Judea/Palestine when You came to earth... or now for that matter. Keep my head deflated and on straight.

Just dreadful.

Post Script:

I also received a packet of Nescafe instant coffee. This "gift" did not even warrant being included on the actual "A Coffee Christmas" post. Icky.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Coffee Capstone Completed

My History degree has been completed at Mizzou! Easily one of the most difficult experiences of my life, not because history is somehow arduous for me, but because the assigned work combined with other assigned work, plus my LIFE, really made for a strenuous ending to the degree program. One element of the capstone project that made it more bearable though was that I had the opportunity to choose what topic I wanted to research within the subject assigned. The professor who acted as my slave driver for my project was very encouraging- and as you may have guessed, quite demanding.

A neighborhood in London with a particularly high concentration of coffee houses. Read the paper for more information!

"The British Coffee House: 'Penny University' or 'Seminary of Sedition'?" was finally completed after consuming around 300 hours of my life- that's around 13 days.  This paper turned out to be long enough to qualify for "Honors Thesis" status, but since I did not apply for this recognition before I started, you cannot apply retroactively. So, it's merely a REALLY long "regular" thesis on a fascinating time in coffee's history. I'm going to post the paper here for you to read and enjoy. I promise the read is worth it, but I know few of you will try to digest the 40 thick pages of coffee enlightenment.  For those of you who are really interested, the bibliography will be very useful for you.  Most of the texts referenced there are WAY to dense for the average reader, not to mention outdated, but there are a few good ones for introduction: Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergast as well as The Coffee House by Markman Ellis.

A hotly debated claim...

Here's a crude representation of the text on Google Docs: "The British Coffee House"

In case you're interested in the other massive paper for the semester: "Christianity Reduced"

I have a feeling that, like last year, Christmas gifts will be dominated by a coffee theme, both incoming and outgoing. I'll post on this soon.

Lord, thank You for Your Son, begotten, and not made, of the same substance with the Father, mutually eminating the Holy Spirit who shares Your divinity in the same way.  You sacrificed for me, with no gain to be had Yourself. I pray that would be a template for my own life. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Coffee Stout

Probably the single tastiest beer I have ever had. I'll give you one guess why...

The Oatmeal Stout was a fantastic beer on its own, but now that it has been paired up with Espresso 700 from Kaldi's, Schlafly really looks to be going places. What a great idea!
Why aren't more brewers doing this? From what I can tell, this is a beer perfectly crafted for the professional barista.  Most baristas I know really love beer, especially stouts- probably because they have so much in common with coffee, as far a taste profiles go. I'll be looking for more of this soon. Schlafly has some truly great seasonal beers- very inventive. Their regular beers are alright too. Kaldi's also has some great seasonal coffees products, a couple worth mentioning in particular: Fair Trade Rwanda COOPAC and Costa Rica Helsar de Zarcero are both sublime. But, relevant to this post in particular, Espresso 700, which often-times gets overshadowed by its flashier cousins, the single-origin rock stars mentioned above.  Want to treat yourself this Christmas season? Have yourself a merry little 6 pack of Schlafly Coffee Stout and pound of Kaldi's Coffee.

Lord, thank You for such great flavor experiences. I pray for more of the same. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

Monday, November 29, 2010

cleanhotdry: Roasting

This is such a beautiful video on roasting, I felt compelled to repost this here. You will enjoy this video.

Roasting from John Giannakos on Vimeo.

Everything from cleanhotdry is always really well done. Some opinions expressed there are a bit different than mine, but I have never seen a blog with better presentation.

Lord, thank You for beauty and the ability to appreciate it. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cupping Burundi Kayanza Bwayi

A Preview
It was about time that I cupped this fantastic coffee. But, if I was going to cup it, I might as well do a bit of investigative sampling at the same time. So, I roasted this same varietal four different ways, do different roast levels: Full City @ 4'25", City+ @ 4', City @3'45", and City- @ 3'30". Pictures can be found on my Facebook page. I apologize for not posting the pictures here, but if you have terrible internet speed you feel my pain and share my burden. 

What's to come:

A first for me, both for roasting and tasting. India's seem to be very rare.

This is another first. Tanzania's are almost always sold as pea-berry, but there is no reason that a "flat-bean" cannot be equally exceptional. This ought to be a great learning experience. 

A solid varietal here. There are very few ways to lose with this coffee. This will be a sure thing in the midst of the other two "exotic" coffees. 
For those of you waiting for my capstone paper in the History department of the University of Missouri, I'll be posting that in the next month. Its title: The 17th Century British Coffee-House: "Penny Universities" or "Seminaries of Sedition"?

Lord, thank You for the great coffee and the ability to purchase and consume it. Bless those that have worked so hard to propagate this coffee and make it available for me. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010


pure terror
I wasn't going to participate.  I know, I know, it's a terrible thought.  I'm swamped with school work as it is, so why distract myself with something like Halloween and the pursuit of the right costume?  I had good intentions, but after speaking with my uncle, I was forced to change my mind.  He called me a "Fuddy-duddy."  What else could I do?!  You can't just get called a fuddy-duddy and take it!  I did make him help me brainstorm costume ideas.  His best help was, "What frightens you more than anything else in the world"?  That little bit of advice was all it took.

I dressed up as a cup of decaffeinated Starbucks Pike Place Roast, literally the most terrifying material item I can conceive of.  The problem with this sort of a costume is that even if you add subtleties like a coffee sleeve with special boxes checked off "disgusting," "terrifying," "lava hot," and "decaf," people still think you're a fan.  Take a look for yourself:
close-up of the front of the sleeve

reverse side of the parody sleeve
my thoughts, just for good measure
 As you can see, the costume was made to look very much like an actual Starbucks cup. Even with all of these small details clearly making the costume obviously anti-Starbucks in nature, I received at least 100, "Yeah! I love Starbucks!", to which I replied, "I hate you."

Overall, I'd say the festive evening went well.  Part of the agreement you have to sign before you can take your newborns home from the hospital is that you dress your entire family in a set of costumes that coordinate.  So, in order to bring the rest of the family in on the action, my daughter was a Sweet 'n Low and my son was an Equal packet.  My wife, Micalah, was the orchestrator of the coffee horror show, she was a Starbucks "barista." More photographic evidence:
too cute
without baby bodies inside...
coffee family of HORROR!
I figure, if we have any more kids for next year, he or she would take the role of raw sugar.  The costumes were a hit, even if for the wrong reason.  The Missourian newspaper snapped a couple shots of the family for their online publication of the best costumes in Missouri, so that's cool.  Plus, I won second prize in the church's chili cook-off (lost to the guy who has cooked for all the mission trips for longer than I've been alive).

Lord, thank You for the time to hang out with my family and extended family in Christ.  I'm sorry for inadvertently advertising for the supreme heresy, Starbucks. Forgive me of my ignorance. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Review of Guatemala San Pedro La Laguna

Originally submitted at Coffee Review

Produced in the spectacular mountain basin surrounding Guatemala's Lake Atitlan by small-holding producers from trees of the Bourbon, Caturra and Typica varieties. Founded in 1994, Kaldi's Coffee is a quality-oriented small-batch roaster with several cafes throughout Missouri. Visit or cal...

Guatemala San Pedro la Laguna

By The Espresso Vein from Columbia, MO on 10/17/2010


3out of 5

Pros: Balanced Acidity, Unaggressive and simple, Not Bitter, Smooth Taste

Cons: Roasted Too Light, Mild aroma above 190 F, Tea-like body, Thin Or Watery Mouthfeel/Body

Best Uses: French Press, Slow-brew only, V60 unfit for this coffee, Chemex or Clever approved, Automatic Drip/Filter

Describe Yourself: Home Roaster, Shop Consultant, Barista Trainer

I almost always brew with pour-overs because I like the clean mouthfeel of filtered coffees. At first, I used the Hario V60-01 on this coffee, but found it to brew too quickly and leave the coffee too light bodied and tea-like. Therefore, I tried again with a 6 cup Chemex, which has a significantly longer brew time (about 3.5-4.5 minutes). After the second round, the results were more favorable, but not outstanding. If I were judging for the Coffee Review, and I am not, I would give this coffee an 88 or 89, mostly for lack of body. Please note though, other brew methods such as French Press, or even automatic drip may have differing results. For those wanting a laid-back, Sunday afternoon brew, this may be a good choice.


Grind Size, of Course. But What About Dose?

Maybe it's just me, but I have been having a lot of trouble with my brewed coffee lately. Part of the problem comes from heightened awareness of the particulars in the process of brewing. I am a perfectionist when it comes to coffee, especially when I am the one "behind the bar." The other part of my problem comes from a lack of information/thought on the issue at hand.

When brewing with a pour-over, the general consensus on the coffee weight to volume of water ratio is about 2 grams per ounce. I generally agree with this assessment.  Another often talked about factor is water temperature, which is expected to be within the small window of 195-204 degrees. Here, I agree as well. Grind size is of course, paramount. Everyone knows this and adjusts accordingly (for pour overs, somewhere between "espresso" and "drip" is expected).  But after following all the guidelines and suggested measures, I still find myself disappointed with some brews.

Maybe some of the coffees I use just suck? This is possible, but not likely. I roast my own to my own taste (usually around the city to city+ range, a standard roast  level for the American taste bud). If  I'm not drinking my own, I'm drinking Kaldi's Coffee or Northwest Coffee, both artisan roasters in St. Louis. Though artisan, their coffees are very different. Kaldi's roasts lighter, Northwest, darker (around a full-city).

When I use these same coffees in pour-over brews, I am almost always disappointed with the Northwest brews. This is the coffee the most unlike mine or Kaldi's, so some taste difference is expected.  My disappointment goes beyond taste though, it is almost always linked to its characteristics affected by brewing.

The Northwest Coffee seems sharp, biting, and aggressive- way too intense for such dark roasts.  I am beginning to think that using the same brewing parameters for coffees with different Agtron ratings should not be done. If we adjust grind size for roast level (I have heard this suggested many times, most recently from a link posted by Tim Wendelboe, by Dr. Brew from Bunn) why not also dose?

I have decreased the grams/ounce to 1.7g/oz when using these darker-roasted coffees, even coffees of my own. So far, the change has been fairly noticeable.  In my coffees, the brew seems under-extracted, but the body seems to be just where I like it.  Here, my problem is trying to manipulate body when I shouldn't. When brewing Northwest coffees, everything checks out just like it should.  So, therefore, I do think there is something to changing the dose, and grind size, for significantly darker than average roasts.

Check back soon for my post assessment of Kaldi's Coffee's newly cupped and rated coffee Guatemala  San Pedro La Laguna, a 91 by the Coffee Review!  Even though I don't agree with such subjective rating systems, I do appreciate the chance to try an excellent coffee.

Lord, thank you for this beautiful Sunday morning. Bless the ministers around the world as they bring Your Word. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Coffee Capstone

I just couldn't help myself. There's been just too much news in my coffee world to keep my blog silent through it all. First off, my mother surprised me the other day with a gift she bought for 25 CENTS!!! from a garage sale.
4 cup Chemex w/ glass lid
Wow, what a great surprise. Could my month get any better? Well, yes it could. I'm completing my undergraduate degree in History from Mizzou this fall, and to do so requires me to complete a 30-40 page research paper on (this semester's topic) the British Empire. Good news is that I can choose (with approval from the directing professor) any topic I want. I'll give you one guess as to what topic I wanted... No, silly, not the downfall of Mercantilism for a Free Trade economic system. Coffee! Today I presented this idea of researching the development of coffee as a commodity trade item within the British Empire to my directing professor. He likes it! So, now I've got the task of narrowing down my research on the topic. We'll see where it goes. Here is a little sampling of my research materials thus far:
The book to the left was published in 1881. New scholarship is desperately needed.
What's more, I've had a professor of mine express interest in looking into specialty coffee. He's invited me to share with him suggestions about supplies and techniques. I don't think he has any idea the ramifications of his requests.

So, it's been a good week for yours truly. We'll see what next week brings. I pray Vida Coffee Co. gets started up soon (a mere two and a half years after I started that coffee shop project). That will be my next post most likely. Lord, thank You for Your many blessings, not least among them, a great mom. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I'm just going to go ahead and concede defeat now, that way nobody will be left hanging- myself included. I'm completing my history degree at Mizzou this semester, which means I'll be a slave to the library, my directing professor, and as always, to coffee (its caffeine especially). This may not strike you as anything special, after all, I've been working 40+ hours a week while taking 15+ hours of University credit, and being an interactive dad and husband for almost 3 years now. Well, this capstone (thesis) changes things a bit. As of NOW I have ZERO time to do anything fun or unproductive (as seen through the eyes of my new masters). This will be the last blog post until I am freed from the grip of their bondage on December 14, at 5:00pm sharp. I'll see you all on the other side (I hope).

Lord, protect my soul as it wanders through these treacherous peer-critiqued, professor dictated, and library infested waters. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Coffee Collective Deterra Farm Exploit

It's not often that I simply redirect you to another person's blog, but this is one of those times. The Coffee Collective has just posted its trip to the Deterra Coffee farm and it is very insightful. Great pictures with explanations. I highly recommend this post, and so much so that I'll copy and paste and link to it here. Enjoy!

Lord, thank You for those around the world who love Your creation. I'm about to start school again, so help me keep caffeine in my bloodstream. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Worst Cup Yet

Starbucks Pike Place Roast(c) at the 704 Southeast 7 Street, Blue Springs, MO 64014 location. Here's the link to the Google Maps review page for the specific retail store. I'm almost certain not all Pike Place tastes THIS badly. I'm simply pointing out an extreme in my life. I believe that when one bumps into anything extremely note-worthy, good or bad, it is noted. This extremely bad cup, the worst of my entire life, has been NOTED.

View Larger Map
Lord, save those weary travelers who stop at that wretched place and order Pike Place Roast(c). Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New York City Coffee

Here's a quick rundown of my trip to NYC, limited to my coffee shop experiences. I hope the pictures are helpful. A quick Google search of these shops should give you the specific locations. All of the places visited came t me highly recommended, and I can forward the opinion. Some places were definitely superior to others. I'll note these performance differences in the captions of the pictures.
Our third shop visited: Cafe Regular, Park Slope, Brooklyn. This shop came after we visited Gorilla Coffee further down on 5th Avenue, on Park Place, and Postmark Cafe which is on 5th Ave and 6th St.

The inside of Cafe Regular. Their espresso came from Pennsylvania, exactly where escapes me. Their staff was trained in the mechanics of pulling shots  fairly well, but even the owner was a bit lacking in thorough knowledge of his product. He was either uninterested in talking about his espresso's taste profile or he was ignorant of it. Either issue is a huge problem when you make your living selling the stuff.
A really bad shot of the shot. It tasted better than it looks here. Light and vibrant. I suspect it had a higher-than-normal African coffee content. There were clear woody tones that make me think it had some central American coffee included, but I'm not for sure (again, the owner had little ability to explain his product).
Cafe Martin is a relative of Cafe Regular. Regular had two owners originally, but now Martin has moved further down 5th Avenue to a new location. I thought Martin was good, worth the money, but had a lot of technical flaws that detracted from the coffee. My double shot Americano (seen below) was pulled in reverse, water after espresso. The biggest problem was that what should normally take 25-30 seconds to fully pull took closer to 45. By the end of the time, the shot was so blonde it was screaming in agony. The Americano tasted overly bitter and abnormally intense (since 3/4 of the drink was "espresso").  
Americano, Cafe Martin. Please note the bullet hole near the center of the crema where the hot water was added last. Ouch.
Very large by NYC standards. Ozzie's is a local favorite, but not really specialty coffee. Yes, they roast their own, but that does not necessarily mean it is good. It's not. This place reminds me of Columbia, Missouri's own Lakota Coffee.
Roots Cafe is relatively new to the scene, but more of a veteran than Cafe Martin. It's been around for over a year now. The owner, Jamey, is a great guy and knows his stuff when it comes to coffee. I met him at Church! a few years ago. I think he got a bit of inspiration from Church! for his shop- Postmark Cafe is a church-run coffee shop to reach out the the community in Brooklyn. I'd say Church! now has two brranches. Roots has definitely eclipsed Postmark in quality and menu variety. Roots uses Stumptown Coffee, which dramatically improves the coffee quality there over its competitors. He uses a two group La Marzocco Linea, which easily covers the demand. This hole-in-the-wall place will be expanding soon due to demand.
A picture of my stylish self ordering two (small is the only size available besides traditional drinks "for here") iced lattes with twin triple ristrettos. Very nice. My first Stumptown experience. Jamey threw out the first three attempts of the morning because the shots did not meet his expectations- the first shots of the day often do not make requirements. This is called "seasoning" the machine.
No outside photo of Gimmie! Coffee, but this is me purchasing a single shot and two triple ristretto iced lattes for the subway ride to Manhattan. Gimmie! is located in Williamsburg a couple blocks from the G train stop at Metropolitan Ave. Very stylish and tasty. Recommended, but it's a bit out of the way unless you're traveling on the G crosstown Brooklyn to Queens or visa versa.
More a restaurant than a coffee shop, Aroma surprised me with a great experience. There are three locations in NYC. We visited, quite by accident, the Midtown location while searching for fabric shops in Manhattan.
A picture of my lovely lady taking a small bite of the Affogato- one shot espresso with one scoop vanilla ice cream on top. Delicious. I'm pretty sure this is a large international chain, but after eating that ice cream on top, neither my wife or I cared much.
Surprisingly affordable merchandise: $4.95 for the macchiato cup.
We had a great trip filled with much more than just coffee, but for the purposes of this blog, that's all she wrote. I'll end with one more picture that has almost no significance:
The wife and I on the public pier. You cannot see them in the picture, but there are about 30 drink vendors shouting at us from all sides. It's illegal to sell anything on the pier without a permit. Nobody had a permit, trust me.
Lord, thank You for the great time. I appreciate the ability to travel and experience new things. Thank You for that freedom. Bless the Church! of Park Slope that was so welcoming to us. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

More relevant websites:


Friday, July 23, 2010

Let's go to Gorilla

I'm in the city for a few days. My wife asked me what I wanted to do. My answer: get coffee. I know, very surprising... not. She wants to go down to Canal Street and fabric shop, I'll be down at Gorilla, Stumptown, Roots, and Postmark. So far, I've made it to Gorilla and Postmark once, but don't think I'm underachieving; I've only been in NYC for a day. I'd like to shoot over to Gorilla again this evening to run into the owners. Perhaps if I'm flattering enough I'll get to tour the roaster? Anyway, here's a pic of me schmoozing with a barista (her name escapes me). The iced 8oz double latte I drank was fantastic.

Lord, thank You for the opportunity to visit such an interesting place. You must truly be an amazing Creator to engineer men and women with such potential and diversity. And also, Father, coffee was a particularly great idea.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Home Roasting: Part 2, Brazil

Home roasting is cheap and can be very rewarding, both in quality and experience gained. I roasted a pound of Brazilian coffee this morning for a family friend.  She was the owner of the first coffee shop I ever worked for- where the specialty coffee bug bit me: The Coffee Ground. Anyway, I took a few pictures of the roasting process with my wife's camera, so my explanation of the process could be better understood. I have explained the ins and outs of the roasting process in depth before, so I won't go into it in excessive depth here. Enjoy the pictures!

The supplies I used: obviously the green coffee beans, a couple of colanders, 1/2 cup scoop, scales, a container for completed beans, and my cell phone as a timer.

Here's a close-up of the beans I used, with all the information on the label. I highly recommend Sweet Maria's for your home-roasting needs.

The typical amount used at a time reflects the prescribed amount of  popcorn kernels for the particular popper: 1/2 cup at a time. For Latin coffees and some Africans as well, I add a bit extra to help slow down the roasting process, allowing for the very dense beans to be roasted thoroughly (not an issue with the less dense Indonesian beans).

And dumping the beans in all at once, to the pre-heated popper:

I am roasting in my garage with the door up due to the excessive amounts of chaff that is expelled when roasting more than 1 cup of beans at a time. It's much easier to simply sweep out the garage when finished than it is to clean out the entire kitchen, plus reinstall the over-sensitive smoke detector that would inevitably be set off.

Here's a shot of the beans as they are from 0 to about 45 seconds of roast time. This period of "yellowing" runs fairly quickly for some bean varietals, but this is much slower than normal:

After about 1"30sec., the beans begin to tan. After about double this time, the beans will be roasted enough to be drinkable, but that roast is not always desirable (if ever).

Here are the beans at 3". This is very close to the "first crack" period, the beginning of carmelization of the sugars in the beans. They are drinkable here, but definitely not optimum for this varietal. You can see some chaff still attached to the bean, this is the "silverskin" that encases the seed of the coffee plant. As roasting goes on, most of the chaff is blown out of the roaster leaving the exposed bean. A little chaff always remains inside the bean itself.

At 4" almost all beans have reached at even browning. This is where most of my African varietals will be stopped, about halfway between first and second crack. This Brazilian, however, needs a bit more time to fully develop its natural sugars in carmelization.

It's important to note that  the way these pictures look is not how it is seen by the naked eye. This picture shows what the beans, whirling around in the popper actually look like. This more blurred look makes the roasting process much more difficult to judge. Professional roasters have "dip sticks" that they insert into their larger drum roasters that extract a sample of the coffee- this allows them to get a great view of the beans' development, unlike me.

At 6"45sec., the beans have been thoroughly roasted and many people would enjoy this coffee at this stage of development. Second crack is about 10-15 seconds away, so almost all the carmelization has occurred. Any more time added to these beans will begin carbonization, the burning of the sugars within the bean. At that point parts of the bean would begin to burst off, creating "pock marks" on the outsides of the beans. If you like Starbucks (God forbid), their beans- ALL of them- have substantial pock marks or are completely roasted to pieces, literally. Their coffee is so burnt that it is merely coffee shrapnel.

Since I knew whom  I was roasting for in this case, I knew the exact level of roast I wanted. My old boss likes darker roasts with a lot of roast quality taste to them. Low acidity (citric acid taste), heavy mouth-feel, and richer chocolate notes are all perfect for her. therefore, I let the coffee roast about a minute longer to 8" total before I began cooling with the colanders.

What was obtained was a nice dark-roasted Latin coffee. After all costs were tabulated, the coffee used cost me about $5 and 45 minutes worth of roasting time. Overall, not too shabby. A larger popper or even a roaster designed for larger batches could do this much faster, and with bulk, even cheaper.

Again from Sweet Maria's, a video discussing the different roast levels may be of further benefit to those of you looking to get into the home-roasting scene:

Lord, thank You for a great hobby. I pray it can turn into more. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

related posts:
Basic Training Part 1
Basic Training Part 2
Roasting @ the Roaster