[Homeroast] My obsession history.

Jeff Bensen jbensen-0007 at xemaps.com
Wed Aug 15 01:50:18 CDT 2012

(Apologies for the long post. I was thinking about this topic over 
the past day and what follows just flowed from my fingers before I knew it).

I started drinking good coffee when I lived in New York in the late 
1970's when a roaster came to town (not Barnies, but similar and now 
long forgotten). I used a whirly grinder and a hand-blown Chemex for 
many years.

I first considered home roasting back in the mid-1980's after moving 
to Florida, but there was no detailed info at that time. Two friends 
at work and I looked into modifying some poppers and splitting a 150 
pound bag of greens from an importer but chickened out when quoted a price.

In spite of not roasting yet I still bought fresh beans from local 
roasters that were springing up, ground in a whirly and brewed in a 
french press or electric drip (the Chemex broke in a sink accident 
and was never replaced).

In 2004 I bought a Cafe Rosto from another vendor along with 15 
pounds of greens. Funny story: The limited info on that other site 
included the instruction to stop when you saw the blue roasting 
smoke, which I initially took to be a recipe instead of a warning. I 
never had a fire, but everything tasted like *$'s.

A year later I stumbled on Sweet Marias and never looked back. I 
immersed myself in reading their site, bought an iRoast, drilled a 
hole in the lid to fit a thermocouple, added a Variac and the journey 
down the rabbit hole began. I discovered medium roasts, vac pots, the 
Technivorm, Ibriks, mocha pots, the CCD, the Aeropress, the value of 
a good grinder (Zass), then a good electric grinder (Maestro Plus), 
then a better electric grinder (Rocky). That's just the abbreviated list.

In December 2010 my parents gave me an unexpected cash gift and after 
over 5 years of continuous service and numerous repairs the old 
iRoast was finally retired. In it's place is a Quest M3 fitted with 
dual thermocouples connected to an old laptop running the Artisan 
open source software.

This latest part of the grand experiment has proved to be both 
frustrating and fruitful. For the first 6 or 7 months I felt like I 
was learning how to roast all over again. The Quest offers tremendous 
control, but it took time to figure out what to do with that freedom. 
The past year, however, have yielded some of the best coffee I've had 
the pleasure of drinking. Even the roasts that don't quite pan out 
are still far better than anything I can get in town.

I sort my beans when they arrive to remove the broken, blackened and 
bug-eaten ones. They are then stored in large mason jars. Prior to 
each roast I go through Tom's notes plus any of my notes from 
previous roasts. I look at my cupping notes for the roast profiles 
tried so far and decide how to treat the beans this time. I usually 
roast 2 half-pound batches of different beans at a time, but may do 
more if I need to vac and freeze some due to heavy work or travel 
schedules. In spite of being extremely busy I make it a priority to 
find a couple of hours in my schedule to roast regularly.

At age 53 I've had 3 good careers so far and feel like I have at 
least one more in me. I have been considering trying my hand at small 
scale commercial roasting. Even if I decide not to take that plunge 
the obsession will continue.

BTW: My spreadsheet of bean orders shows 395 pounds of greens from 
Sweet Marias from April 2005 through today, of which all but 12 
pounds have been consumed so far.

-- Jeff B.

At 02:50 PM 8/11/2012, Rayburn Robert wrote:

>I've been roasting coffee for a few years now...I roasted my first 
>batch in our kitchen oven, very bad idea.  I bought a hot air popper 
>next, then went through 2 Fresh Roast machines.  Christmas of 2011 I 
>bought a Behmor and the obsession definitely kicked in.  I roast a 
>least 2 lbs per week, sometimes more.  I like P3 with 1/2 lb.  I've 
>roasted approx. 50 lbs since I purchased the Behmor.  Out of the 50 
>lbs, there were approx. 50 varieties...all but 2 from Sweet Marias.
>I thought it might be interesting to see how obsessed the rest of 
>you are.  If you don't mind sharing, please post information similar 
>to what I have just posted.

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