Roasting coffee beans in a pizza oven on Bequia

Today I’m featuring a guest post by Dennis Ference!

It all began when my neighbour, Rodger, called and asked if I’d like to visit a coffee plantation on St. Vincent.

A coffee plantation? I had no idea anyone was growing coffee on the mainland, although I did know they had the soil, altitude and climate suitable for maturing beans. I was intrigued. I immediately checked online and discovered that green coffee beans can be roasted in a wood-fired pizza oven. I happen to have built one of these.

We met with Duke and his wife at their property in Green Hill and they gave us an over-whelmingly accommodating tour that was filled with every bit of information to do with coffee.

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I mentioned to Duke that I was interested in experimenting with roasting coffee in my pizza oven and he provided me with a pound of green beans. As well, I bought a half pound of the roasted, ground coffee Duke is selling.

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First thing I had to do was design and build a roasting container. It needed to keep the beans moving and allow for even heating and exposure to the fire. So I ended up with a design that’s kind of a cross between a squirrel cage and a paint roller.

IMG_0727IMG_0732Next I had to fire up the pizza oven and keep it at the consistent temperature of 500F, at which point I began the process of roasting the beans.

IMG_0734IMG_0735IMG_0733Here’s a short video of the roasting process … essentially just rolling the roaster back and forth across the floor of the oven until you hear a distinct cracking sound as the beans expand and turn brown.

As soon as the desired darkness was reached, I removed the roaster from the oven, spread the beans out on a tray and sprayed them with ice water to stop the roasting process. Once they were cooled, I winnowed the remaining chaff off the beans by tossing them into the air in a colander.

IMG_0744IMG_0746IMG_0748Finally came the real test – grinding the beans and brewing a cup of coffee …

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SUCCESS!!

I enjoyed what I thought to be an outstanding cup of coffee! Absolutely no bitterness or acidity, and it had kind of a mocha aftertaste, despite the fact that I purposely dark-roasted it. Which says a lot for the quality of the beans themselves. Would I do this again? For sure! In fact, I’ve already planted some of the raw coffee “cherries” Duke gave me and I should see the first sprouts in about a month. I never expected when I moved to Bequia in 1996 that I would ever become a coffee nabob …

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5 responses

  1. Or, you could use an old popcorn popper

    1. You probably could … if you had one šŸ˜‰ We also saw online a homemade coffee roaster that was simply two metal sieves locked together. We need to do some reconnoitering the next time we’re in Canada. Do you remember the old Robtor store on 11th Ave. SE in Calgary? I bet they would have had exactly what we were looking for when this whole project came to life.

      1. I eventually upgraded to a Behmor 1600 drum roaster, which does about half a pound of beans. Mind you, it’s over $300.

  2. Dennis – This is fantastic! I am so impressed. Congratulations! Once an engineer, always an engineer, I guess. : ) I know someone with a wood-fired oven on Dominica. Coffee beans grow abundantly here. I wonder if I can convince him to do the same thing! There are a couple of companies who roast local beans here, but I find that the taste is bitter and acidic. Therefore, I won’t buy their product. Hope you’ll put the coffeepot on with your specially roasted beans when I return to visit you and Sue on Bequia – someday – sooner than later, I hope! Gwen

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