Locked & Loaded: Home Roasting
It's no wonder San Francisco has such a booming culinary culture. It's an area where people are willing (even eager) to experiment with new ideas and reshape culture. The old western culture of self-reliance is still very much alive. When you mix those together, all sort of interesting things happen. Like home coffee roasting. Sure, you can buy coffee from some of the nation's best roasters here. But that hasn't stopped lots of locals from trying their hand at roasting green beans right in their kitchens. (In fact, it's probably even encouraged it.) Home roasting is easy and rewarding, and you've got everything you need–from supplies to community–right here in your backyard. Here's everything you need to get started.
If you've ever dreamed of being the next Alfred Peet or James Freeman, you may as well start like both of them did: small. In fact, Blue Bottle's Freeman launched his empire on a baking sheet full of coffee beans. These days, it's a little bit easier to get started. Scores of suppliers will sell you home roasting equipment and beans online. One of the best (naturally) is headquartered right here in the Bay Area.
Oakland's Sweet Maria's will sell you everything you need to start cooking, from equipment to beans. A slightly modded popcorn popper is your easiest and least expensive way to get geared up--but you can also drop several hundred bucks on a dedicated drum roaster. (Um, don't start with that, okay?)
More importantly, you need beans. Fortunately, you won't be stuck with the stuff that fell off the truck. Home roasters now have access to exceptional quality green (unroasted) beans, some of the best in the world, in fact. Sweet Maria's even offers the legendary Hacienda Esmerelda Especial Geisha, a bean that's won just about every award and broken every record for auction price that exists. (Um, again, don't start with these, okay?). In addition to Sweet Maria's, Oakland's Peerless Coffee & Tea also offers green beans. This family-owned roaster doesn't have the selection you'll find at Sweet Maria's, but it's worth a look.
While it's a pretty straightforward process, and only takes about five minutes, sometimes, we all need a little hand-holding. Will Smith, over at Tested, recently shot his home roasting exploits from his Pacifica backyard and posted a step by step video that walks you through it.
I think, maybe, my favorite thing about Will's video (and it speaks again to what obsessive foodies we have in the Bay Area) is that he's using an induction heating element. Because it's not enough to roast your own beans on your DIY-modded popcorn roaster, you need to heat it with a 21st century cooking method. You go Will.