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Sunday, 02 March 2014


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Mike, it seems your quality comparisons are for both coffee and roasted beans. I am wondering if you have done any side by side taste tests with your roasted beans and others? While I don't roast at home I do buy whole beans from across the country (trying different roasters and only buying 12-16 oz. bags) for my morning latte (and occasional machiato and espresso in the pm); using a Mazzer Luigi Brevetto grinder and my Swiss made Giotto machine.

Spring is only 19 days away! Hang in there!

$300 for a roaster whose motor dies at two years? I am surprised that you can't find a local appliance/electronics repair shop that can't fix it for substantially less than a replacement. mean, a roaster is basically a motor (and fan) and a heating element. Pretty simple stuff.


Yeah..I gave up on Coffee brewers that have a plug on em. Im back to a Melita #6 filter holder and hot water in a vessel. Perfect.

[Go to Sweet Maria's and search "Clever Coffee Dripper." Even better! --Mike]


I'm curious about your (and others') brewing technique. Perhaps you've already covered this in a previous post.

I recently got an Aeropress and it's an improvement over techniques I've tried at home - bonus: it's cheap. Still working on dialing the process in.

Fascinating level of detail from someone clearly in love with subject.

Sadly, I can't fully share the enjoyment as I detest the taste of coffee - not just the remarkable variety of gourmet coffees but even coffee flavoured desserts and coffee cake and coffee centre chocolates...just coffee anything! Thinking about the aroma of coffee emanating from the Carwadine's coffee houses we got dragged to a a kid makes me shuddered with remembered horror.

My mum is a great coffee fan but tea and hot chocolate for me.

But for those in the coffee camp, enjoy a good one for me ;-)

So did you get the 3 year warranty this time? Only 33 bucks. That will drive your amortization cost dramatically. Not that I care, cause I find Nespresso "good enough". Sounds like the camera debate about the IQ of camera phones;)

I love trying espresso from shops all over when I travel, but so many of the most famous independent shops make a shot that's much too dense and dark for my taste.

My favorite shops are relatively obscure -- Zocalo Coffeehouse in San Leandro, CA, which has a roaster on premises (and was owned for 10 years by my brother Tim but is now under renovation for the new owner), and, oddly, the Saturdays NYC surf shop on Crosby Street in Manhattan.

I've learned the hard way that you can't judge an espresso by the price of the machine that made it or the hipster cred of the barista -- so many horrible shots over the years. That's one thing I thank Starbucks for -- as a last resort, I can always count on that pretty good shot.

Sorry, but here it's Expresso only. Or sometimes Greek/Turkish coffee.
To each his own :-)

[You still need roasted beans to make espresso, at least from what I hear. --Mike]

Really? The motor died? I would have thought the heating elements would go first. Behmors seem somewhat repairable, so maybe the motor can be replaced, but maybe it's not worth it. Save your old drum and chaff tray; spares might come in handy some day.
You might also want to discuss brewing some off topic day, and the fact that most home coffee makers don't get the water hot enough (195-205 degrees F) to fully extract the flavors and make really good coffee.

Just curious if you tried jimmying the gears around with a sharp implement. Mine supposedly "died" so I took it apart and discovered the gears were merely jammed up.

I have a really hard time crediting you, because I know my coffee roasters, and they put a lot of professional energy, time, effort, and hard-won know-how into sourcing beans and dialing in their beans. To think that some photography blogger with his ten-thousand hours invested in something else altogether could miraculously roast better coffee at home reliably and consistently? I see that's not quite the claim you make, but you come awful close to making it. Awful close.

And it's not like these professional roasters make the stuff they sell and then go home and roast the coffee they drink for themselves on a Behmor or iRoast.

As a reader of this blog, I'm a photographer too. And I like the photographs that I take, but I know very well that my best few street photography shots aren't better than, say, Gary Winograd's. Do I like some of them better subjectively? Sure thing. Would I rather pay to print and hang my own photography than to get a photo print of a photographer I admire? Well, depends.

I also just started brewing my own beer. It's competent home brew, and it's very drinkable, and I enjoy the process and creativity that brewing my own beer allows. But I don't pretend to make better beer than (say) Half Acre or New Glarus.

I've heard your story before from many other people. I have to imagine that tens of thousands of people would claim that they roast better coffee at home than they can buy. What seems more likely to you, that tens of thousands of people are simply biased in favor of their own DIY creations, or that craft coffee is a fancy sham?

And all of the qualification that it's just your own subjective preference? It still reads as humblebrag to me. And I don't like it, and I'm willing to credit you less even about photography because of it.

[Wow, I did not see that coming. I didn't intend to start any fights here.

You seem to have skipped the paragraph that starts, "Why no '10'?" What I said there was that I don't consider myself an expert and I'm speaking only of my own experience. As usual. Anyone is free to disagree or disregard, also as usual.

As I said in the post, a lot of the goodness in coffee depends on the quality of the beans and on freshness--the time between the roast and the grind, and the time between the grinding and the brewing. Another thing professionals can't do that I can is to adjust everything according to my personal taste--which is one reason why everybody does things a little differently, preferring many different brewing methods for instance.

I just ate some steamed broccoli, and it was better than any broccoli I've ever had at a restaurant. (Really, it was.) That just means I waited until the store had a fresh batch, handpicked the best looking bunch, fixed it just the way I like it, and then ate it sixty seconds after it came off the stove. It doesn't mean I think I'm a better cook than every restaurant chef.

I think these are some valid reasons why you've "heard the same story before from many other people." --Mike]

Damn, home roasting....gonna have to fight that urge off.

I stick to light roast beans, we have some roasting companies locally that you can buy from so you get freshly roasted beans. I only home brew on the weekends so it's not that expensive.

As far as brewing methods I've tried several, ended up using a French press. I'm now using the Espro press. It is giving me noticeably better tasting coffee. MAKING SURE THE WATER TEMPURATURE IS CORRECT is the most important thing after the beans.

I'm sure a big reason what you make is so much better than what you can buy is freshness. Coffee is best used within the first couple of weeks after roasting, and by the time the coffee gets to Wisconsin from wherever it was roasted, it's most of the way to stale.

Living in Seattle, I have no desire to roast my own. I'm sure I couldn't do as well as any of the half dozen places I buy beans from, so I'm perfectly content to pay them to do the job.

I'm curious that you say the best results are when you 4-12 hours after roasting. A new coffee shop near me, Artis in Berkeley will roast green beans to order while you wait - it takes about 5-6 minutes and, of course, you can dial in the roast and bean selection as you want. But they will tell you that you should wait 2-3 days before brewing, and, if you want something to use that day they'll suggest a pre-roasted batch.

I can't fully share the enjoyment as I detest the taste of coffee

Me too. It's a ghastly drink, second only to Horlicks.

Say there fellas.........

Do you love good, strong, freshly ground coffee? The aroma of just roasted coffee beans? Miss the whirr and crackle of the grinder and that warm, Sahara wind-like blowback of the roaster? The joy of a home roasted, ground, and brewed cup within just an hour or two of rising?

And how about the pleasure of private hours spent in the darkroom? The unique delight of a freshly enlarged and hand printed 8x10 after just a few hours in dark solitude. The knowledge that you truly are the hand crafter that everyone looks up to, and silently envies?

But wait - do you hate the pesky cleanup? The need to save and re-strengthen the chemicals? The shop vac needed for the roaster? The knowledge that either passion takes hours and hours of pre and post prep time? The venting and plastic sheeting?

Well, for the first time, you can combine your two passions, and halve the cleanup! Yes, for a limited time, for only three easy payments of $ 49.98 (plus shipping and handling) we'll rush the Roast n' Print kit, approved by the Darkroom Roasters Guild of America, straight to your home.

Now you can dual-purpose those stainless steel processing tanks, the temperature control apparatus, the valves, the timers, the safelites, the light table. Don't throw out that rubber apron! Save your ventilator, your gloves and tongs! That silver recycling rig - perfect for grounds! Best of all, if you have one of those fancy motorized Jobo set ups - you'll save hand-crankin' forever! Remember, this is a limited time offer, not available in any store, so call today!

But wait again - that's not all! The first two hundred callers will receive, absolutely free, Chef Mienhard Reisner's "365 sausage dinners". Imagine, adding the joy of bratwurst to your coffee roasting darkroom. Just pay separate shipping and handling.

You could look into the drum roaster attachment for a gas grill. I have been doing that for about 20 years. If you already have a gas grill, the drum may work just fine if you invest in the rotisserie system.

300 bucks for a roaster is a lot of momny, and it works for only two years?
I skip the grinding and roasting process and buy coffee in vacuum packs. The coffee from a "moka" machine is delicious and is way above a Sturbucks Coffeee - if that can be named coffee.
For 300 bucks I get more than two years of coffee for me, and I`m talking Illy and Pellini TOP kinds.
Oh, and I drink mine straight, no sugar no milk, that`s how you taste the coffee.
How much costs those beans of yours?

I roasted in the oven for a couple of years, moved to an iRoast 2, when that failed, moved to a Behmor 1600. My Behmor has been doing 1-2 lb/wk for about 4 years now. I have a laundry list of things I wished it did different, but will still probably buy another one...

@David Miller: "aroma of coffee emanating from the Carwadine's coffee houses".

I never thought I'd ever hear anyone comment on-line on Carwardine's coffee houses. You've brought back memories of growing up in Bristol, England, and of enjoying coffee cake and the wonderful smell wafted from the roaster strategically placed near the door, even before I liked the taste of coffee itself, probably around 1958.

Carwardines were into retail theatre then, beans weighed out on brass scales, ground and poured onto a sheet of wrapping paper that was by some sleight of hand folded into a neat package. Like a bit of high-class Tokyo retail transported to 1950's provincial UK.

I'm so sorry coffee doesn't suit you - but I'll send back your good wishes tomorrow morning when I'm pushing the brew through the AeroPress.

Every post about coffee you make brings me closer and closer to trying this for myself.

If you can find a Starbucks store with one of those clover brewing machines, you might revise your opinion of their in-store product. Most of the time, though, I just go with some fresh-ground in a Melita one-cup drip cone that I bought about 40 years ago. This is apparently making a comeback as the "pour-over" method, as the trendos call it.

Did you ever tried cold-brewing your coffee? I know it sounds very, very strange. Some time ago I read an article by the author and former leading EFF member Cory Doctorow, wherein he described his new tried and simple methods. He got it from other coffee aficionados and tried it with surprising results: it should preserve the very volatile aromatic acids and yielded no bitterness in the coffee. I did it myself with very fine tees (maybe Ctein could be interested, too) and they never tasted better.

If you'd like, you could read more about it in the mentioned article:


This post was chock full of information. I guesstimate that this particular device would be a wash for me in terms of cost. But as you say, Mike, there are qualitative benefits even so, not to mention the fun. (Actually you didn't mention the fun, but I know I'd probably enjoy the trying and learning as much as the result.) On the other hand, I live in a city with a dozen professional artisanal roasters, and have a cramped kitchen.

I'm curious what the taste-time graph looks like for roasted coffee, and whether it's consistent for different beans and roasts. This would be useful to know whether or not I do my own roasting. Another thing I wonder about is water temperature: I've confirmed that the recommended 165F (or slightly less) is best for the Aeropress, which contradicts the common wisdom that higher water temps makes better coffee.

Add my thumbs up for the Clover machines mentioned by Chuck. I also notice that Starbucks been adding and promoting less-roasted beans to its selection.

As for off-topic week, it somewhat reaffirmed my suspicion that I come here at least as much for the quality of writing and editing, and the voice, as much as for the topic. Sure, I'd prefer you write about stuff I care more about, like photography or coffee, rather than stuff like new cars, but it's all worth reading (if not all worth re-reading, for me). The important thing is that you're writing (and publishing); with good writers, the topic seems less important than what the writer finds in it. I'll add that for me the experiment suffered somewhat for following a particularly good Open Mike.

This piece was pretty good though. Besides, I've used coffee for developing and toning prints, so it doesn't even feel off-topic to me.

We men are such fetishists, aren't we?! No wonder women ridicule us (as if THEY are above fetishes).

"Phil's Kona is good enough for me". Well, Folger's instant is good enough for me. My, how our mileages differ. But, still, I read your blog every day. Your writing is a vintage unsurpassed on-line. With no roasting necessary.

Here's an interesting article I read a couple of months ago:

"Joy in the task: Even the finest restaurants are serving coffee made with capsules. Have we lost faith in the human touch?"


At home we grind and make espresso in a Neopolitan or Aeropress. The Neopolitan makes a bolder cup. The Aeropress a smoother one. And like you, it is to our taste and nine times out of ten better than what we can get out and about.

Nespresso? No thanks. We prefer the imperfect human touch and don't like the excessive plastic waste that capsules generate.

How do you store your green beans, and how long do they keep.

I’ve recently switched from a molded plastic disposable razor to a classic double edge, shaving soap and brush. The classic procedure does take a little longer – especially preparation. The water temperature must be just right. There are many preferences and recommendations for razors, blades, soaps and brushes – even bowls and scuttles. This means no time to roast and grind coffee so I use south Louisiana’s favorite: Community Coffee.

Fresh food or drink is always better. Add the factor that it was made by yourselves. It is just great. Ignore comment when you are right.

Commenter robert e wrote: "I also notice that Starbucks been adding and promoting less-roasted beans to its selection."

This is my big beef with Starbucks, and marketeers in general. When Starbucks first came to my then neck-of-the-woods (Chicago in the early 1990s), each store had an elaborate display of the roasting process, starting with green beans, to light roast, to medium roast ("city roast"), to dark roast to espresso roast. Their point being that nothing less than a dark roast was good enough. Store and restaurant coffees are city roast, they proclaimed, which falls short of bringing out the true and full flavor of coffee.

I bought into the premise wholeheartedly and started drinking Starbucks coffee exclusively. So imagine my surprise when Starbucks recently began selling something they call a blonde roast, while seriously cutting back on the varieties of traditional darker roast. This contradicted their "truth" of yore, on which they based their whole reason for being.

But then I remembered, that's marketing. Proclaim your way of doing things as truth, and then when the truth becomes inconvenient (i.e. it no longer makes you money, or as much money as it once did), pretend you never proclaimed it and proclaim something else as truth. That's why I've drifted away from 'bucs and have started cultivating independent sources (e.g. TOP reader Phil in Hawaii and an independent roaster I found in upstate New York).

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