Photography by Larry Cotton.

Photography by Larry Cotton.

Lots of folks think that quaffing a cup of coffee from boutique beans comes close to nirvana, but roasting your own beans will bring you even closer. That’s why I call this roaster the Nirvana Machine.

I didn’t drink coffee for most of my life, and I even survived without it in the Navy. But when my son introduced me to a cup of legendary West Coast java (OK, Peet’s), I began to understand what all the fuss was about. Soon, I too became fussy about excellent coffee.

Beans lose flavor after they’re roasted because all of those delicious but volatile aromatic compounds dissipate and break down. Roasting your own beans guarantees ultimate freshness, putting all the flavor into the cup; you will not drink fresher, more satisfying coffee!

Home roasting is easy and inexpensive. Top-quality green beans cost less than roasted beans and have a much longer shelf life. You can have fun fine-tuning your roast’s darkness and developing your own blends. Indeed, a growing selection of countertop roasting appliances are now sold, but they’re pricey, non-portable, and very noisy.

Illustrations by Tim Lillis.

Illustrations by Tim Lillis.

The Nirvana Machine uses a battery screwdriver to tumble beans over a camp stove. Unlike commercial machines, the basket is tilted and open-ended, which makes it easier to load the beans and to see and smell their progress during roasting.

When you roast coffee, sugars caramelize, water vaporizes and makes the beans expand, and aromatic compounds are produced, including the ones shown above. The compounds develop at different rates, so varying the roasting time and temperature lets you balance which you want more or less of, to determine the resulting flavor.

The Version 1 basket was a cheap strainer, but the beans broke through that and caused a fire!