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A New Hobby: Roasting Coffee

November 1st, 2011

I’ve talked about our love of coffee several times before. Mr Chiots and I are coffee aficionados; we drink coffee like other people drink wine, talking about the depth of flavor, the crema on the espresso right after brewing, and on and on. We were super happy to find a local source for the most wonderful micro-roasted coffee, but sadly Al quit roasting to sell and we were left sans good fresh micro-roasted coffee beans. Rather than settle for mediocre, we decided to take our normal path and simply start doing it ourselves.

We spent some time researching beans sources and coffee roasters then we took the plunge. There are many people that roast their coffee in an air popcorn popper. Since we’re espresso drinkers and like a dark roast, that wasn’t an option for us. We needed a drum roaster.

After doing much research we found CafeCoffees which is a guy who builds them on a small scale. What we really like about this roaster is that he makes them repairable with parts from the local home improvement store. Whenever possible we like to buy appliances sans electronic controls and made to be repaired. They’re usually more expensive initially but end up being much cheaper over the long term. As small business owners, we also appreciate supporting a small business. The 3 pound roasting capacity of the roaster we purchased was an added benefit since it will save time and money over roasting in smaller batches.


We ordered a collection of espresso beans from Sweet Maria’s, some single origin and some blends. Then we waiting for our roaster to arrive, eagerly anticipating the wonders of home roasted coffee. Our beans arrived about a week before our roaster. To fill in the gap, we had to buy beans from another small local roaster to get us through. Needless to say, our decision to roast at home was backed up by the flat flavor to of that coffee.



Our roaster arrived last Saturday; we set it up and roasted two pounds of coffee on Sunday afternoon. We were happy with the roaster that we chose and were also pleasantly surprised by our roasting results (especially since it was our first batch). Technically you’re supposed wait 2-3 days after roasting for the espresso to “bloom” fully, but we couldn’t wait. We brewed some on Monday morning.


You may think roasting your own coffee at home is difficult and you need special equipment – but it’s not and you don’t. There are some people that simply use an air popcorn popper and some that even do it in a cast iron skillet (which I may try someday when we want some coffee to brew in our Chemex). Basically you put your green coffee beans in your roaster and roast until desired doneness, we like a darker roast so we wait until they start the second crack (sounds like popcorn popping). Then you cool as rapidly as possible and you’re done. We were actually amazed by how easy it was!

Roasting coffee at home also saves money! We purchase our green coffee beans for between $5-$6/lb and our roaster only uses about 5 cents of power for each batch (we can roast up to 3lbs of coffee). Of course it will take us a while to recoup the cost of the roaster, but since we invested in a roaster that will last for years to come so it will save a lot of money over it’s long lifetime.

Our initial efforts aren’t as good as the coffee we used to get from Al, but they’re better than any other coffee we’ve purchased. We’re also using single origin beans at the moment and we like a blend of beans for more depth of flavor. We have a few blends to try as well and we will most likely come up with our own blend with much experimentation. It looks to be a fun and delicious hobby! I’ll keep you posted on our adventures (Oh and I’m planning on making a how-to video someday for Ethel so I’ll let you know when that happens).

Have you ever roasted your own coffee or do you know someone that does? Have you ever considered roasting your own?

Making Your Own Whole Grain Mustard

June 7th, 2011

I posted my recipe for Whole Grain Stout Mustard on the Your Day blog at Ethel so head on over there. If you remember I talked about my love of condiments one Friday. Of all the condiments mustard is my favorite. I love a good hearty whole grain mustard, but they can be pricey in the store. Making your own is quick and easy.

I get my organic mustard seeds from Mountain Rose Herbs in case you’re wondering, they’re inexpensive and you can buy in bulk. People will certainly be impressed when you take homemade mustard to the next cookout you attend.

Head on over to the Ethel Blog and tell me what your favorite condiment is.

Homemade Potting Soil

May 18th, 2011

I grow a lot of things in containers each year and if I bought potting soil I’d spend a small fortune. So I make my own every spring. I also like knowing exactly what’s in it so I don’t have to worry about chemicals and other weirdness.


Mixing up your own potting soil is actually very quick and easy if you keep the ingredients on hand. I always have a stash of peat moss and vermiculite so I can mix up a batch whenever I need it.


I won’t write an entire post explaining how I make my own potting soil. I filmed a video explaining the process. Head on over to the Your Day Blog to watch the video on how to mix up your own potting soil.

Do you grow a lot of plants in containers?

Friday Favorite: Homemade Ice Cream

May 6th, 2011

I have fond memories from my childhood of Saturdays at the family cabin with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. All of us kids would spend our days running around the acres of woods, collecting rocks, feathers, bones, and all kinds of things children find fascinating. We built dams in the little creek, caught crawdads and gathered berries along the edges of the woods.

The best part of the day was evening when the old fashioned ice cream makers would come out. My grandma would make custard and we’d all have a turn cranking until it got too hard for us kids. Then we’d wait by with bowls in hand for the finished ice cream.

We still make homemade ice cream on special occasions. This past Sunday we celebrated my dad’s birthday and a belated Easter since he just arrived home from Colombia. We enjoyed a delicious meal of ham and other side and had to finish it off with homemade raw milk ice cream.



The kids wanted to help of course, but quickly tired of turning the crank. They played happily nearby while asking “is it done yet?” every couple minutes.

After 20 minutes or so it was done and we dished it up. We all enjoyed a bowl of fresh homemade ice cream with a piece of my mom’s famous pound cake. It was the perfect ending to a family meal.

My ice cream recipe is fairly simple, warm some whole milk with vanilla beans, let steep for 30 minutes. Mix a few egg yolks with some sugar and a dash of salt. Slowly pour in hot milk while whisking. Add some cream and chill for a few hours. Freeze in an ice cream maker, old fashioned or electric. I don’t have specific measurements, I taste and add and taste again and the amount varied depending on which ice cream maker we’re using. Sometimes I add more egg yolks if we can more custardy ice cream, sometimes I add fewer for a lighter ice cream. I also make mine slightly less sweet and with a little less cream than most recipes. This is a great recipe, you can swap the milk/cream to make it less creamy if you want.

It’s nice to know that we’re passing along the love of homemade ice cream to the next generation. I’m sure our nieces and nephew will have fond memories of making old fashioned ice cream just like my brother, sister and I do!

Do you ever make homemade ice cream? What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Make Your Own: Suet Cakes

April 7th, 2011

I’ve been wanting to make suet cakes for the longest time but I had trouble finding suet for them. Finally I broke down and bought a 5 gallon pail of pastured beef tallow from US Wellness Meats (I know 5 gallon is a lot). We’ll be using some of this in our cooking, and some of it will be added to the homemade pet food. It will also be used to make suet cakes for our little feathered friends. We love providing suet because we get a lot of woodpeckers at our feeder by having it. A lot of other birds love it as well and it provides a good source of fat and energy for them during the cold winter months.

One of the reasons I want to make my own suet is because I try not to support CAFO’s in any way – buying ready made suet cakes supports them. I asked around and none of the local farmers were able to get suet from their cows, so local beef tallow/suet was out. I found a small farm on-line, but they were out and weren’t going to get any in until later this year. Finally I decided to purchase some from US Wellness Meats when they had it on sale. US Wellness now has ground grass fed suet for sale (they were out when I bought my tallow). If you don’t want to go to the trouble of melting suet, you can simply put out the suet as is for the birds, they’ll eat that as well.

Another reason I wanted to buy pastured organic tallow for homemade suet was because birds are very sensitive to chemicals (you know the whole canary in a coal mine thing). If you notice your oven booklet will tell you to remove birds from your home when you use the cleaning cycle. This is because birds are very sensitive to VOC’s – which always makes me wonder why they don’t recommend humans leaving the house? I know that the beef tallow I purchased will not be contaminated with any hormones, antibiotics or chemicals that will hurt my feathered friends and their offspring.

Making suet cakes at home is really simple and surprisingly, even with the cost of pastured suet, cheaper. I spent some time researching recipes on-line and didn’t particularly find any that sounded great, so I made my own.

HOMEMADE SUET CAKES
1 1/2 pound of beef tallow or lard (preferable organic & pastured)
2 cups birdseed mix
2 cups black oil sunflower seeds
2 cups organic whole grain flour
1 cup dried fruit or peanuts (I used dried cherries from my bounty this past summer)

Mix all seed and flour in large mixing bowl while melting tallow or lard in a skillet over low heat. When tallow is melted, mix in with birdseed. If tallow thickens too quickly place entire bowl in a warm oven until melted again. If your house it cold it would be beneficial to warm birdseed mix and bowl in oven before adding melted tallow. Pour into 9 x 13 pan lined with a sheet of parchment paper. Let cool for a few hours. Cut into 6 squares, which fit perfectly into a regular suet feeder.

I put some of this out on Sunday and the birds are loving it. They’ve been flocking to the feeder. I haven’t figured up the cost to the penny, but this suet cost me about $5 for this batch of 6 cakes and they’re larger than the ones you buy at the store. This would be a great project to do with your kids, especially for a handmade gift (time to start thinking about your handmade holidays).

My next plan for the birds is to try to find a local source for healthier organic bird seed. When the new garden area is finished I’ll have some space to grow some grains and sunflowers just for the birds. Then the birds will be able to glean naturally. I’ll be adding a lot of bird friendly shrubs to my new garden area as well, I’ll be talking about that specifically soon.

Do you consider the birds when you select plants for your garden? Do you put out suet?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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