That’s a good question. The number one reason I roast is because I enjoy it. But I am into this kind of stuff. I grow my own food too. I tie my own flies and make my own fishing lures as well. Just recently I started investigating what it would take to keep my own bees and I plan to raise my own chickens starting this summer. Not trying to frighten you away, just paint you a picture. It’s the kind of work I enjoy.
Now with that said the secondary and tertiary reasons are not far behind the primary reason. Those being, quality and price. There are very skilled roasters on the planet within shipping range whose coffee I greatly appreciate and, on occasion purchase for the joy of comparison.
About quality: great coffee starts with the harvest and drying process. Most, if not all, of this occurs in monetarily poor parts of our planet, as I’m sure you are well aware. It’s also important to note, coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world. For this reason, there is a long history of corruption. Without getting too much into the details, (see the book titled, The History of Coffee, and How it Transformed Our World) it’s this corruption and greed that drives the greatest percent of coffee sales in the world.
Farmers, by and large, are not paid full value for their product because consumers don’t respect coffee as a fine food. Coffee is equally, if not more, complex in flavor compared to wine. However, it, obviously, does not demand the price (thankfully). For this reason brokers drive a hard bargain, paying the bare minimum to farmers in a effort to maximize their gains (hence the greed and corruption). The down side to this equation is poor quality green coffee. To minimize the mustiness (off flavor) of the inferior beans, commercial roasters over bake their product, imparting more roast character than origin character. Ever wonder why French Roast is so widely known and touted as the preferred roast?
We can get more into roasting when you come over, but for now, coffee passes through two distinct phases during the roast cycle, first crack (sounds like pop corn popping) and second crack (sounds like sharp snaps, fire crackling). Anything beyond the second crack begins to impart roast character. The longer you roast into second crack, FullCity+, Vienna, French/burnt the less origin character is left in the coffee. Suffice it to say, with good quality green coffee I can roast my beans to “City” and enjoy all the flavors of the season in a given region while looking out at Mount Diablo before a ride. This apposed to slamming a sugar laden cup of “joe” because I need the caffeine.
About price: obviously, there’s a substantial savings to be had by roasting your own beans. If you order in bulk with a friend you can get the cost per pound of green coffee down to an average of $5.50 /lb. It took me less than six months to pay off my roaster. I go through about 10oz of green coffee per week. Depending on your consumption habits, you might pay off your machine in more or less time.
More important is the price paid to the grower. You’ve no doubt heard of the fair trade agreement made by sellers and buyers. Well, this, like the organic movement, has its roots in good intentions. Over time, greed has crept into this label. As a result, there is less fair trade going on than one would expect. Sweet Maria’s believes whole heartily in paying farmers a fair price for their goods. As a result, they have established their own label for “fair trade” calling it FarmGate. Tom goes straight to the farmer, paying him or her full wholesale value for their goods. For this reason, my cost of green beans is much higher than what many others might pay for green coffee. I am happy to pay it simply because I can.
I purchased my machine three years ago and have never looked back. I have personal communication with Tom at Sweet Maria’s and Joe Behm, the manufacturer of the coffee roasting machine. Not because we are personal friends, but because they are both small business owners and remain a part of their company and therefore their customer relationships.
Sweet Maria’s caries the Behmor. Last I checked, if purchased through them, you also receive a sample pack of nine varieties of coffee (hence the “sweet” deal aspect in the name).
As for coffee extraction preference, yes I prefer espresso for its rich creamy boldness. But also use full-emersion methods like French Press and The Clever Coffee Dripper to brew my coffee too.