Coffee on the cheap: roasting on the grill

In the Tisdale home, we are pretty particular about our coffee. We could care less about the brand, but the coffee must be very dark or it’s not worth drinking in our book. Every morning, we make one pot in an Italian Bialetti stovetop espresso maker. Technically, it’s an 8-cup machine. But that’s if you are drinking from those tiny little Italian espresso cups. For Mr. Tisdale and me, the little Bialetti is enough for us both to have one bracing cup of excellent coffee each.

For years, we bought whole beans from Sunergos Coffee, either Blend B or Sunergos Blend. Compared to Heine Brothers, Sunergos is a bit less expensive. But a few years ago, a friend of ours, The Scientist, started roasting his own green beans using a converted popcorn air popper. Initially, we thought he was crazy. It seemed like a lot of effort for a cup of coffee! But then we looked into the prices: green beans from Sunergos are half the price of roasted beans. For $13.50, we could get TWO pounds of coffee!

Lured by the idea of cutting our annual coffee bill in half, I started investigating roasting options. Many seemed difficult or expensive. One easy option was using a pan on the stove, but coffee beans give off a lot of odor and smoke that doesn’t go away quickly. Then I came across a YouTube video on how to roast green coffee beans on a gas grill. Luck would have it that we had recently bought a used grill for $20 from a neighbor who was moving.

So I bought a 16 ounce bag of green beans and started testing. I’ve now been roasting beans on the grill for over a year and find it to be super easy, and the results are just as good as what you buy from commercial roasters. We’ve had a few failed roasts (high heat or forgetting about the beans are big “no-no”s, unless you like your coffee to taste like gritty charcoal), but overall the results have been excellent. We get to control how dark we roast the coffee, and we can try different beans or blends as the whim suits us.

In case you are interested in roasting your own, here is our super easy, fool-proof method. Start to finish, it takes us 30-35 minutes to roast a batch.

Mrs. Tisdale’s Recipe for Roasting Green Coffee Beans on a Gas Grill

Green coffee beans from Sunergos

Green coffee beans from Sunergos

1. Heat the grill for about 5 minutes on low/slightly medium heat to get the grill warm

2. Once the grill is preheated, turn down the grill to low and throw about 8 ounces of green beans into a roasting pan and place on the bottom rack directly above the flames. Close the grill cover and leave the pan where it is for 5 minutes. Check and stir the beans about every 1-2 minutes.

green coffee beans on the bottom rack

After heating the grill, place green beans in a pan on the bottom rack

3. After 5 minutes on the bottom rack, some of the beans will just begin to look a little toasted. Once that happens, move the pan to the top rack.

green coffee on bottom rack

Keep the green coffee beans on the bottom rack for about 5 minutes

4. Stir the beans every 2 minutes or so and check on the progress, and close the lid between stirs. This is what our coffee looks like after 8 minutes on the top grill:

toasty green coffee beans

Green coffee beans on the top rack getting a little toasty

5. After another 5 minutes, this is what our coffee looks like:

5. Green beans starting to turn light brown

Starting to turn light brown

6. Now the coffee will start to roast faster, and you’ll want to stir the coffee about every minute. This is what ours looks like after another 4 minutes:

6. Green coffee beans looking good

Looking good

7. Here is our coffee ager another 3 minutes. It’s becoming a golden brown color. Don’t forget to stir often!

7. Green coffee beans looking nice


8. Another 5 minutes later, this is what our coffee looks like. It’s getting very close to be done. And if you like a medium roast, you could stop now. But if you like a darker roast, keep going.

Green coffee beans are getting there!

Getting there

9. After another 3 minutes, the coffee starts to lightly smoke from the oils in the beans that are being released. They should not be burning at this point. Keep stirring and watching carefully. Once the majority of the beans are the color you like (we usually have some roasted beans we bring outside to compare color), take the beans off the grill.

Green beans starting to smoke

The beans are a nice brown color and they are starting to smoke from the oils being released from the beans

10. Using a potholder, transfer the beans into a colander. Now it’s time to remove the skins of the beans. To do this, all you need to do is pour the hot beans from one colander to another, letting the breeze remove the chaff from the wheat, or something like that.

Coffee beans are finished roasting

And they’re done

sifting coffee beans

Remove the skins by transferring beans between colanders, letting the breeze help you out.

After the skins have been blown away, bring your lovely brown beans into the house and throw them in the refrigerator to rapidly cool them. Once cool, store and enjoy your freshly roasted coffee.

Beautiful freshly roasted coffee beans

Beautiful freshly roasted coffee beans


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