How to Roast Coffee at Home with the Hive Roaster


Here is a rundown on the entire process

First, please play music while roasting!

Open the roaster and brush out any remaining chaff. Do not clean with water unless deep cleaning is desired.  I have personally never cleaned a roaster other than brushing except for one time to learn how. Soaking in hot water in conjunction with an oil solubilizing cleaner such as urnex or other espresso cleaner will remove all deposits and make the roaster appear new, other than the golden hue which is a result of heat input and is permanent unless you were to re polish the unit with an abrasive.

Measure out your beans. This can be volume or weight.  Results from each method will vary due to bean size.  You will learn which is best.  I use volume.  One measuring cup is my go-to and balances the process very well. With most beans this is just shy of 6 oz.  This also provides me with three French press pots every two roasts which works well for me.  The more beans the more heat you can use.  With less beans, the heat reacts quickly and is more touchy and more difficult to achieve proper development. 

The other factor to the amount of beans you choose is that you are holding this unit and agitating it constantly for the duration of the roast. One or two ounces don’t sound like much but after 9 minutes of constant action, you can really feel it. You may not want to admit that a single ounce is making it too heavy.

 (NOTE: Columbian beans are recommended for beginners)

Remember to agitate with your forearm, not your wrist. Use a circular motion over the open flame and use the momentum of the beans to ease your work.

Preheat the roaster or don’t. It’s up to you.  If you preheat, don’t overdo it or you will blacken the roaster and potentially damage the stainless steel by burning out the nickel.  The metal is very thin and heats quickly, so take it easy, use low heat. 

Be careful when removing the lid, it will burn you unless you use a towel or gloves to remove.  Preheating the roaster reduces the overall roasting time and has the potential to change the flavor.  I can get excellent results either way and tend not to preheat.

Decide what you want your profile to look like. More time tends to lead to smoother coffee with less acid, but with more blended flavors.  Short roasting time results in a bright acidic cup with prominent individual flavors.   How much of your roast do you want to be development?  Twenty percent of the roast time is the industry standard. It is totally up to you.  I tend to develop longer than 20% with particularly good results, but I am usually going for a very smooth, low acid roast.   Really plan it out if you can.  If this is your first time, do not worry too much. You will learn a lot from this experience, even if you aren’t super stoked on the result.  I do not recommend trying to develop, lower the heat or anything if you are a beginner.  Start at a medium heat and go for it.  If you are not going to develop that first batch, let it run a little darker than you might normally want to be sure that is totally done.  If it is very light and not developed it will taste grassy and make a scummy cup of coffee.  Nobody likes a scummy cup.
To determine the heat input needed will require a bit of experimentation.  Assume your first roast will not be very tasty but may be the most valuable as you will learn from it.  Stove tops put out a huge amount of heat and the Cascabel can take it, but your beans may not. It may take a few roasts to really get to understand the heat. 

The key for me is end of drying phase.  This is when the beans change from green to yellow.  Directly before they begin to yellow, the green will become vibrant.  I look for this to happen just prior midpoint of my overall roast time.  Most of my roasts are between 12 and 14 minutes, so I want to see end of drying be at 6 to 7 minutes in, starting with a cold roaster. Preheating can drop a minute or two.

Monitor your beans constantly during the process with a flashlight.  If you see the color begin to brighten to that vibrant green and you are 3 minutes in, you are too fast, lower the heat.  If at 3 minutes the beans are pale and unchanged, the heat may be too low.  You still have time to correct.  If you get to 6 or 7 minutes and end the drying phase, you’ve got a great start.   If you continue this heat without lowering, you roast will crack hard before 10 minutes and depending on your goal, may be over shortly after that.   

The next key waypoint is when the beans are browning, and you see what appears to be a slightly darker oil coming to the surface.  The bean will appear somewhat uneven and glisten slightly.  This is my indication to lower the heat as low as I can to develop.  It is likely 1 minute or so before it would have cracked.  If I am late, I will pull the roaster off the heat for 10 seconds or so to slow the process.  Now simmer. 

If you have a thermocouple you will see a rate of rise somewhere below 10 degrees per minute, maybe even lower.  If the rate of rise goes negative, this may adversely affect flavor by baking, which is pretty gross, so keep the heat on the positive.  Once the beans are producing smoke, you may not be aware due to incineration, so pull the roaster off the heat and watch for smoke. This is a very valuable tool.  Once you are sure your beans are actively smoking, lower the heat until you see smoke exit the roaster.  At this point your roaster will not heat positively, so you will need to increase until you see incineration. I use this to determine the lowest setting on the roaster, perfect for gentle development. Do not do this at crack as there is so much expanding gas happening that the incineration process may be overwhelmed and so this test will not be accurate.

Now that you have begun development, continue to monitor the aroma, and you will begin to smell the caramelization of the present sugars. These sugars are only there for a short while and too much heat will burn them away forever.  Proper development will caramelize the sugar and provide a very flavorful, sweet cup.  Now you will need to decide when to drop your beans.  This is up to you. The roaster will give you whatever color you want.  

Cool down! When you are sure the roast is complete, turn it upside down into your cooling tray of choice and begin to cool.  I use a coarse mesh sieve in conjunction with a leaf blower.  On my setup, the sieve sets onto the intake of the blower. I run this on high for about 1 minute and mix.  This will also shoot chaff all over your neighborhood, so please consider this when aiming.  Any fan will cool the beans rapidly, and just dumping them onto a plate and spreading them around will suffice. It is super important to cool your beans to stop the roasting process, or you risk going beyond that optimal end point which you have worked to attain. 

There are lots of ways to roast the same bean, and really no one way is right or wrong.  There is a lot of talk and words about the right way and in my opinion, these are opinions not facts.  Depending on the pattern of heat application and ventilation you can change the outcome of the roast. Some changes will be improvements, while others will not. Again, this is all dependent on what you look for.

As Hive Roaster grows, expect to see a full line of cooling equipment as well as other accessories.