I am ready for winter. This year it will not catch me by surprise. The local weather prognostication predicts a wet, stormy, snowy, cold winter. If the power goes out I AM READY!! I roast my own coffee in a popcorn popper, which is a perfectly adequate way to enjoy freshly roasted coffee.I taught myself how to roast on a Primo 6-kilo roaster when I was the erstwhile owner of Villa Victoria/Cafe Mocambo. The hardest thing to give up when I closed my business was the roaster -- no, the roasting. I loved the different stages: the blue-green half seeds, each one held in a state of suspended animation with it's own potential; or the middle stage when the beans have the color of fried peanuts, ready to be salted and enjoyed with an ice-cubey lime-perfumed gin and tonic; and the last stage where their hard edges are smoothed out and they turn roley-poley like plump pillows. An Ethiopian man once told me that you should be able to see the oil of the bean just beneath the surface -- if you see the oil on the surface, you've gone too far. I got seduced by the romance of the beans -- an individual far away in Brazil picked these beans one handful at a time, until he/she picked enough to fill a sixty kilo bag and then get paid for that day! Each bean became important to me. That handful of beans, having found their way to me, here, in 98118, had been entrusted to me to bring them to their ultimate state. How could I let that coffee picker person's work all go for naught? My job was as the stonecutter's or the woodcarver's -- to bring out potential and get out of the way. Anyway, while gas prices were going up to $4.25 I got the rug pulled out from under me by COFFEE and got hooked into loving it!
I loved it so much that I vowed I would never roast decaf. Why do you want to decaffeinate a plant that has taken millenia to evolve into being caffeinated? Has anyone seen what decaffeinated beans look like? They look dead. I became the self-styled bad girl of coffee. No espresso and no decaf -- ¡que horror!
In 2006 Seattle had a 3 day-long power outtage. We had a little coffee, but no way to grind it. The fabric of human kindness began to unravel on Rainier Ave and Martin Luther King St, on Day 2. I'm still grousing about how the Starbucks on that corner could have ameliorated frayed nerves by having their employees stand outside handing out free cups of coffee. On Day 3 I asked our neighbors across the street, who had a generator, if we could grind our last bit of coffee at their house. They consented and saved us from falling into despair. Fortunately, the power came on that afternoon.
As I roasted more and more on my air popper I began to shed my disdain for the medium. I began to realize that the beans don't know or care if the heat is fire or electric -- it's the person roasting not the roasting equipment. The original Ethiopian mother, whose goat-hearding son brought back the berries on which his goats had gotten frolickey, didn't have a gas-fueled Probat 5 roaster. She had a hearth and a pan. It's the person roasting, not the roasting implement.
In the coffee-industrial complex (grow> pick>process>transport>roast>sell) the penultimate step, the roasting, is the weakest link in the chain. Roasted coffee does not remain fresh very long -- at the most a week and a half then it starts to precipitously degrade. When was your big box coffee roasted? If you get 5 lb. at a time, how can you possibly drink all of it in time?
This winter if the power goes out I will be ready for any eventuality. I will simply light my gas stove, put some beans in my roasting pan, fill my tea kettle with water, grind the beans in my Kyocera ceramic blade grinder, and put the hot water and the beans together in a simple press pot. I will be totally off the grid, not dependent on someone else in a big box to roast my coffee, not beholden to the electric company, except maybe, the gas company.