Coffee is a vice that a lot of us have in common.
There are a lot of people that don’t drink or smoke but they do rely on that daily cup of java to get them started and maintain energy levels throughout the day. Good quality coffee is not cheap when you go to the grocery store.
Of course, good is relative to your own taste profile so maybe you think some cheaper brands are ok. During a survival or emergency situation coffee can be a major morale booster. Going without it when you are used to it can make life seem a lot more bleak and let’s be honest, makes plenty of people grumpy and not necessarily the easiest to deal with.
Roasting your own coffee is something anyone can do and it helps reduce the cost of coffee on your grocery bill. At the very least, you can afford to drink better quality coffee if you roast your own at home.
- Green Coffee Versus Roasted
- In the past, most people roasted their own coffee in small amounts at home. The reason for this is that green coffee beans have a longer shelf life than roasted. As you might know coffee that is roasted goes stale rather quickly when not vacuum sealed or kept in an air tight jar.
- Green Coffee Beans Sealed In Mylar
- Keeping coffee in unroasted form sealed in mylar with oxygen and moisture absorbers is going to provide the longest shelf life. The downside is that you have to have a way to heat beans to roast them when you get into that bag.
- Roasted Coffee Sealed In Mylar
- This is good for those that want ultimate convenience and like to roast a lot at once.
- Splitting The Difference: Some Roasted & Some Not
- There is an argument to made for having some unroasted and some roasted coffee in mylar. The green coffee beans will be the coffee you have for the far out future whereas the roasted you can have on hand for convenience and short term emergencies.
Coffee is an excellent barter item
Having some roasted coffee put back means you have something a lot of people might want. The average American keeps very little put back so coffee supplies might run out pretty quick. Unroasted is good for trade too but let’s be honest about how much people like convenience and the fact that to roast coffee you have to have fuel and a pan to do it with.
For bartering, you might want to seal up some mylar bags that are no larger than a quart or pint. Small quantities can sometimes be nice to have sealed if you only drink small amounts of coffee yourself as well because you won’t have a large bag open for a long time.
For trading purposes, grinding after roasting and then sealing in mylar with oxygen and moisture absorbers is the way to go. If you store your coffee in whole bean form roasted or unroasted then I highly recommend you have a food grinder that is manual or at least operable with a back up power source.
Our little electric coffee grinder doesn’t burn that much power. When we were at Prepper Camp we plugged it into our Jackery 500 power center and it worked just fine!
My husband and I definitely used a grain mill to grind coffee in the past and that can be nice because it is a multi purpose device during a long emergency or crisis.
There are a lot of sources for green bean coffees. Here are some suggestions but I encourage you to search around some yourself since there are just so many suppliers. You may be able to get a good deal from your local food cooperative for example.
This is my new favorite place to get green coffee beans. The prices and the selection is amazing. Yes you do have to pay shipping so it is best to buy 10 lbs at a time for the best deal. If you want to explore different varieties of green coffee beans they have excellent sampler packs that allow you to experience 1/2 lb packs of 5 different types. You can also pick and choose 1/2 lb samples. Recently Matt and I bought 15 different types of certified organic free coffee to try out. It has been a lot of fun but our favorite still tends to be Bali Blue Moon.
This used to be my favorite for buying our daily coffee from because I can get Bali Blue Moon coffee that is certified organic and free trade .
The one issue I have with this company is that they do not sell coffee in larger bags. At the same time, this coffee is sealed in a vacuum bag already for this price so you could just put it back as is.
For large quantities of coffee, it is hard to beat Java Bean Express. They have all types and price ranges of coffee.
If you are a fan of flavored coffees or tea they sell all that stuff too. Choose from 5, 10, 25, 50, and 154 lb bags. You get a price break that increases the larger the bag you buy.
If you are planning on putting back a lot of coffee for trade, you will be amazed how inexpensive it is to buy 20 lbs or more at a time.
Organic Versus Conventional
I try to encourage people to buy organic and free trade coffees because they are produced using higher standards and quality control measures. As a lot of my fellow preppers know, the better the quality of foods when putting back, the better they will keep over the years and maintain good flavor.
There is also the issue of ethics in that free trade coffees mean that the person growing it is more likely to be getting paid decently enough to make a living for them and their families.
Loss of weight during roasting
One thing that needs mentioning is that you do lose some of the green coffee weight during the roasting process. So if you buy 5 lbs of green coffee then plan on the roasted quantity being less.
The amount of weight you lose does depend on factors such as how long and dark you roast it. A good safe number to assume is a 15%-20% loss.
There are a lot of different coffee varieties out there and I would not be surprised if the amount of weight loss could be influenced on varietal and how the beans were processed after being picked plus the additional factor of storage conditions and how long the beans have been stored in a warehouse or other storage before making it to you.
Like many do it yourself types of things the process of roasting can either cost you a lot or basically nothing. A cast iron frying pan works fine for me to roast in. A roaster made just for coffee is quite expensive. I have a good gas range and that works well.
Coffee roasting can be smoky and the smell can be overwhelming even if you normally find the smell of roasted coffee somewhat pleasant. A range hood is a must if you are roasting inside. A propane burner or camp stove eye can be bought for less than $30 and be used to roast in a pan outside without making your whole house smoky, set off smoke alarms, and create an odor that can last for more than a day.
- First, get your cast iron pan really hot and then fill no more than an inch deep with coffee beans.
- Reduce to medium heat.
- A metal slotted spoon or spatula should be used to continuously stir the beans over medium heat. Keep doing this until beans start changing color. You will hear beans start to swell and make a cracking sound.
- Keep stirring and roasting until you get the desired level of roast you want. It may take you a few batches to figure out what you like so you might want to roast several small batches to different roast levels and do a coffee taste test. Sometimes if coffee is roasted too darkly it can develop bitter notes where there were more nutty and smooth overtones.
- When coffee is dark enough for you then transfer to a colander for cooling.
- Shake the colander over the sink or outside to remove any of the light and airy hulls that come off the beans during roasting. If you using a colander, you will see it fall out the bottom as you lightly shake.
Grinding Beans: It is very important to remember to let beans cool well before grinding. They are difficult to grind and the coffee clumps up in the grinder more readily. If you want to cool a few off for a pot sooner, then just put a few in the fridge for a few minutes. This is what we do if we forget to roast and want a pot of coffee more quickly in the morning.
Green coffee beans in heated cast iron pan. I use the Lodge Cast Iron usually just because it does a lot of coffee at once. You can see that that they get a little bit brown on the edges as roasting starts to commence.
Beans approaching a medium roast after being continuously stirred with slotted spoon.
Transferred to colander for removal of chaff and to cool. Coffee beans do not grind well when really hot.
Roasting On A Grill: If you have a propane grill then you can roast a bunch of coffee. I mention this because a lot of people out there may have a grill already set up and ready to go so they can use that instead of buying a propane burner.
There are a lot of ways to do it on a grill from using a popcorn popper that has a crank-style stirrer to using a rotisserie and drum over the propane flames. Youtube has a lot of videos that show you how and since there are plenty of methods and different grills out there you should search around and watch a few videos.
Trying Out Different Varieties
There is a whole world of coffee out there and I encourage you to explore it!
Some companies may offer samplers or at least individual sample packs of different green coffees so you can try them out before buying a larger bag. Unless something is actually wrong with the coffee like mold or bugs then you cannot return a bag just because you don’t care for the flavor profile. Reading descriptions and reviews carefully can give you a broad idea of what to expect in terms of flavor so take the time to do your research.
Adding Up The Savings
Just as an example, I am going to break down your coffee savings based on buying a 50 lb bag of Columbian Organic & Free Trade Coffee Beans from Java Bean Plus.
Cost of 50 Lb Bag: $274.50 shipping included
50 lbs of green coffee with a 20% loss during roasting will yield 40 lbs of coffee. This is a high loss rate so you will likely get more.
40 lbs of roasted gourmet coffee @ grocery store prices of $10-$15 per lb: $400-$600
This means you are saving $125-$325 or more by roasting your own.
Of course, you need to add in the cost of mylar bags and other storage supplies but that is not that much. I think most people will save closer to the $250 or more mark because I don’t think the maximum loss happens that often and it is pretty hard to find organic and free trade coffee that is roasted for $10 an lb. Most of the bags you get at the grocery store are 12 ounces.
Let’s do the math for the cheaper conventional Brazil Coffee at $4 per pound or $200 for a 50 lb bag.
40 lbs of coffee at $8 per lb is $320.00 so you would save about $120. The savings is not as noticeable with the more conventional coffees but you might notice a very big difference in quality compared to what you are used to getting at the grocery store.
Having coffee put back means less time at the grocery store and you don’t run out at a bad time. I am not a fan of spending a lot of time at the store or searching the aisles for a deal. Also, it is hard to find a variety of coffee we like best at the grocery store.
Items that you know you are going to use all the time like coffee are nice to buy in bulk and reap the rewards and convenience. No more going to the kitchen only to discover you forgot to buy coffee.
Roasting your own coffee and making your own coffee based drinks cuts down on those fancy coffee visits to Starbucks.
Investing in a good coffee maker or espresso machine and roasting your own can save you a lot more than you realize if you find yourself indulging in coffee at baristas very much.
That fancy coffee drink you love can be made at home for very little and there you are paying $4 at least every time you go to the coffee shop!
If you do that 5 days a week that means you are spending $100 a month or $1200 a year on fancy coffee drinks.
What would you do with an extra $1200?
Remember that if you like to drink coffee during the day then a good thermos will allow you to make your own and take it with you to enjoy throughout the work day.
Coffee Making During Tough Times
1. French Press
This is a classic device for making coffee. Pour coffee and boiling water into the press and allow to steep as desired. Press the grounds to the bottom. In my experience, it takes more coffee to get a good result than with a traditional drip-style coffee maker.
The French Press gets points for being cheap and easy to use under any circumstances where you can at least boil water. The presses tend to be small though so if you are in a household with heavy coffee drinkers than you might want to have two of these. They are made of glass a lot of the time so under very cold conditions don’t go adding very hot water to a cold pressor it might shatter. There are french presses made of other materials if you are very concerned about this.
2. 12 Volt Coffee Pot
If you have some extra 12 volt or solar power to throw around then you can use a 12-volt coffee pot. There are a lot of different varieties of them out there and they are not expensive.
Road ProMakes a model that has a 16 oz metal carafe and uses a standard car charger style plugin.
3. Propane Burner Coffee Pot By Coleman
I am intrigued by this idea. While this coffee pot is heavy for backpacking or anything like that. I do kind of like the idea of a 10 cup capacity. This coffee pot sets on a propane burner. You pour water in the reservoir like any other drip style coffee pot.
The filter is reusable so no need to pack those basket style filters. When water boils it automatically starts making your coffee. I have not used this myself but the reviews I have read have been excellent so this might be worth it to have when the power is out or for big camping trips.
4. Classic Percolator
A good old fashioned percolator pot is another option and it will work with any heat source you have. The filter is stainless and reusable and it is hard to beat this for making coffee just about anywhere. The one above is made by Faberwear and holds 8 cups. I like that it is all metal mostly so no worries about breakage.
Getting Started With Home Roasting
Here is a list of supplies I recommend having for roasting. You may very well have all or at least a few of these already.
- Heavy duty pan made from cast iron if possible. No larger than 14 inches if you have a standard size eye gas stove. Any larger and you risk having too much uneven heating going on. A cast iron dutch oven works well too but makes sure that you only put beans 1 inch thick or less. It is tempting to put more but it is harder to get a consistent and less bitter roast.
- Slotted spoon or spatula. I use metal since too many plastic utensils are not as heat resistant as one would like.
- Coffee Grinder
Besides that, you need your heat source and some green coffee beans. Once you get used to roasting your own coffee it will just be part of the household routine.
Have you any other tips for roasting or any projects that have made your coffee roasting experience better? Please comment below!
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