Roasting Coffee Beans in an Iron Skillet


I’ve been thinking about roasting my own coffee beans at home for a long time–ever since Cathy (CATRAY44 on the forum) posted about it on the Chickens in the Road forum last year. Several months ago, CindyP posted about it on Farm Bell Recipes. CindyP even gave me some organic Arabica green coffee beans to get me started, but I always have about twenty new things I want to try so I don’t get to things right away. Recently when I started making homemade vanilla Frappuccinos for Morgan at an alarming daily rate (recipe here), I realized she was going to drink me out of house and home if I kept buying her that expensive vanilla-flavored ground coffee at the store.

I knew how to roast the coffee beans–I had Cathy’s and Cindy’s help! I just had to figure out how to get the vanilla part in there. I dragged out my green (aka raw) coffee beans and got to work. Luckily, green coffee beans store well for a long time. In fact, coffee beans stay quite fresh until they’re roasted. After roasting, coffee beans start losing freshness. This is one of the best reasons for roasting your own. Fresher coffee. It’s also less expensive. (Especially if you’re talking about the specialty flavored coffees.)

And it’ll also make you feel like a pioneer, because this is how our great-grandmas did it.

If you’ve never roasted your own coffee beans, it’s easy. You can buy green coffee beans all over the internet (just hit a search engine with “green coffee beans”)–but the least expensive I’ve seen are on ebay. (I also buy my bulk vanilla beans on ebay.) Once you’ve got your beans, all you need is an iron skillet and about half an hour.

I used a pound of green coffee beans in a 9-inch iron skillet. Heat the skillet to around medium–this will depend on your stovetop, so you may have to experiment a bit. You should get to first crack in about 5-10 minutes. Start on medium-low. If it’s taking forever to happen, turn it up.

Heat the skillet first then pour your coffee beans in there.

Stir constantly–you don’t want to burn the beans. You’ll see the “chaff” start to release from the beans.

When you start hearing a popping sound, you’re at what’s called first crack. The beans are expanding in size and giving off heat, causing them to crack. The beans will be changing from green to a light brown.

Depending on what level of roast you prefer, you might want to stop here, at a light roast. If you prefer a deeper roast, keep going. A few more minutes will give you a medium roast. Be sure to continue stirring constantly. A second round of cracking (“second crack”) will occur–at this point, you’re reaching a full roast. Go even longer for a “double” or “French” roast. It all depends on how intense you like the flavor in your coffee. I stopped right at second crack.

Let the coffee beans cool a bit after you turn off the heat. Keep stirring a few more minutes as the pan–and the beans–are still hot then pour the beans into a colander. I tried using a smaller colander then switched to a big one so it was easier to shake vigorously without worrying about the beans falling out.

Take the colander outside and shake out the chaff. This takes a few minutes and it’s the only annoying part of the process. I would pay a five-year-old a quarter to shake the chaff off for me if I could find one. That’s probably what they did in the old days. Minus the quarter.

Back inside, store the coffee beans in a jar, without a lid, in a cool, dark spot. Wait 10 hours as the beans are continuing to release carbon dioxide–then close tightly with a lid. Your coffee beans are ready for the grinder!

But wait!!! What about the vanilla?

This process is similar to making vanilla sugar. You can infuse the scent and flavor of vanilla into your coffee beans by storing the roasted coffee beans with vanilla beans! Simply split the vanilla beans to release the scent and flavor and close them in with the roasted coffee beans.

Wait at least 24 hours (after putting on the lid) before making your first grind to give time for the vanilla to infuse the coffee beans. I use six split vanilla beans in my jar of roasted coffee beans. (Use more or less, up to you.) As when making homemade vanilla, the vanilla beans will give off flavor for a long time. Just keep adding new roasted coffee beans, replacing the vanilla beans when you notice the flavor starting to drop.

And wait, there’s more! You can do the same thing with whole nutmeg, whole allspice, cocoa beans, cinnamon sticks, and so on, to make whatever flavored coffee you like. The longer you infuse the beans with the spice, the stronger the flavor will become. You can also combine spices to make your own unique coffees.

Now Morgan’s homemade vanilla Frappuccinos are even more homemade. Milk from my cow and home roasted vanilla coffee. Next thing you know, I’ll be growing the coffee beans myself!

Morgan: “You’re so insane.”

But she always says that, so don’t pay any attention to her. She loves her homemade vanilla Frappuccinos. Go roast some coffee!

For more info:

Cathy’s home roasting instructions at Farm Bell Recipes (with handy print page): Home Roasted Coffee

CindyP’s post on the Farm Bell Recipes blog: Create Your Own Coffee Boost

The original home roasted coffee discussion at the CITR forum is here. You can also find a guide to color and degree of roast here.


  1. lauren says:

    This is the next “thing” I want to try but had only seen it done with one of those handcrank popcorn poppers so I was waiting, not now Im ordering beans today!! 🙂 thanks

  2. Runningtrails says:

    Great post! Thank you so much for this info! I have been wanting to try this, just haven’t had the courage to push on! I drink a lot of coffee and I am picky about coffee freshness and quality. I would love to try coffee from my own roasted beans! I plan to do this as soon as I get a space in my plans large enough…

    I have also thought about growing my own. It would take some inside growing at either end, I think, so would need to be in a pot. Hmmmm…I’m gong to continue looking into that. Please post if you grow some yourself.

  3. Runningtrails says:

    Can you plant the green coffee beans to grow plants? Will they germinate. Someone with green coffee beans should try it for us 🙂

  4. CATRAY44 says:

    You aren’t insane, you are BRILLIANT! Going to go order more vanilla!
    (my kids say the same, to me, btw, lol.)

  5. susan arkles says:

    That is awsome! We love to grind our own beans, this is even better. One thing I need to know is where do you buy your vanilla beans? They are super expensive here in Michigan. I do like the idea of growing your own coffee, but I think you would have to do it inside because of the cold weather here in the US….But as long as you are thinking of growing your own coffee, take it up a notch and grow your own vanilla too.

  6. Carol Langille says:

    What a wonderful idea!!! I do have a question, Suzanne, and maybe you said it and I overlooked it but, when you make the vanilla bean flavored coffee, when you grind the beans, you take the vanilla bean itself out? I mean you don’t grind it in with the beans, do you?
    Lord, I bet this is one of those ‘on my gosh…how goofy is this woman?’ questions and you’re rolling on the floor among the chickens and cats and goats, laughing at it!
    Have a beautiful day…spring IS coming!

  7. bonita says:

    Is there ANYthing that can’t be done in an iron skillet? Anything?

  8. Karen Anne says:

    How about dumping the coffee beans from a few feet onto a cloth a few times. Isn’t that how they get rid of chaff from wheat?

  9. Myrna Mackenzie says:

    Suzanne, you had me at “coffee.” Today my life will change. Today I will roast my own coffee beans (or…as soon as I get the coffee beans, I will).

    As a suburban girl, I mostly come here for the stories. To me, your blog is like one of those wonderful diaries pioneer women used to write, only with more animals eating cookies, fewer “stopped work to have a baby, then went back to work” moments, and funnier. But today, I’m printing out this page, taking the instructions to my kitchen and using it. Awesome! Thank you!

  10. CindyP says:

    I tried infusing the beans with homemade vanilla…had me some liquored coffee…I could actually taste the vodka and rum once I perked a pot of coffee.

    Using the coffee bean itself sounds so much easier and better! Thank you!

  11. Bev in CA says:

    I truly learn something new everyday. I love grinding coffee beans, it is the aroma. Your kitchen must have smelled so good. To be able to make my favorite cheaper is great. Also ike the idea of being able to reuse the vanila bean for several times.
    Thank you, Suzanne

  12. Ann Wurden says:

    Can you grow coffee in a greenhouse??? Also, check out a friend’s coffee, Hilo Coffee Mill – YUM! You can get green coffee beans there. Where do you find the vanilla beans?

  13. Flatlander says:

    Coffee beans (berries) grow on a tree/bush, so it might take some effort to actually harvest your own beans.
    And if you live in a colder would be an indoor project.

    I love the idea of roasting your own beans, but don’t think I will ever really do it.
    I did try your recipe of Morgans coffee and OMG is that ever good.

  14. Jane says:

    I’ve been curious about doing this, and now you’ve done it I will be all the more comfortable trying it. I have heard not so good things about the smell impregnating EVERYthing in the house (curtains etc). How did you find that?

  15. Ramona says:

    That’s one lucky child to have you doing that for her.

  16. CATRAY44 says:

    Look out, Myrna, next thing you know you will have chickens! :chicken:

  17. whaledancer says:

    Suzanne, that’s a beautiful picture of a beautiful girl! If she looks at the boys with that smile, I bet she drives them wild.

    Growing your own coffee plant in the U.S. could make you appreciate your coffee more, but it isn’t a practical source of coffee beans. We learned about growing coffee at a coffee plantation in Tanzania. First off, they use fresh coffee berries (that’s 2 seeds inside their fruit) to plant, and the berries take about 4 months to germinate. Then it takes 4 to 5 years before the plants start to produce. One plant yields about 5 lbs of green coffee beans under ideal conditions. To approximate those growing conditions, you’d have to grow them indoors under grow lights, because they need about equal hours of light and dark year-round. It needs fairly high humidity ands LOTS of water. By the time you did all that, it would be a very expensive pound of coffee beans. It is a pretty plant, though, with its bright red berries. I’ve heard of people in Florida growing coffee, but the quality of the coffee isn’t very good. Good tasting coffee grows in a fairly narrow range around the equator, at the proper altitude, where there’s enough rainfall. Maybe roasting your own is enough adventure.

  18. Myrna Mackenzie says:

    CATRAY, Uh oh, I can hear the sound of little clucks right now! 😆

  19. CATRAY44 says:

    I started out just wanting chickens,Myrna…. then I found this site, lol. Things kind of snowballed (in a good way) after that, lol. Now I want a cow!

  20. Cassandra says:

    I’d love to try this sometime! Thanks for showing me how:)

  21. Tina Manley says:

    I bring my green coffee beans back from mission trips to Honduras. We bring back crates full of beans, sell them at the church and return the proceeds to the farmers in rural Honduras. I roast mine in the oven at 500 degrees for 10 to 20 minutes, stirring often. Blow the chaff off on the porch. The women in Honduras roast their beans on a metal plate over an open fire. Makes wonderful coffee!!


  22. Backwoodsdreaming says:

    My dad roasts wonderful coffee using a spit and his gas grill outside. There’s a container that fits on the spits and turns the beans while they roast. It’s yummy!

  23. LisaAJB says:

    How long do your eBay vanilla beans last? I’d like to get some because you can’t find any at the stores in the area, but I’m not sure how to store them.

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Lisa, I’ve kept them as long as a year or so, but I use them a lot–in vanilla extract (and now in coffee) and as gifts, just as a bunch of vanilla beans or in homemade vanilla extract gifts plus in baking etc. I get them so cheaply on ebay, it’s easy to feel free to use them. I keep them stored triple bagged in a cool dark spot (pantry).

  24. LisaAJB says:

    Vanilla extract as a gift is a great idea for next Christmas! Thanks!

  25. CATRAY44 says:

    If I had more land, I would have a cow in a heartbeat! I am trying to talk my oldest into getting one… they have 10 acres. I told her I would be her ‘Ornery Angel’ and help with cost, milking, etc! :moo:

  26. holstein woman says:

    Ornery Angel lives next door to me. She milks my 3 cows for me for milk. At least it works for us.
    I was so intrigued by Cindy P’s post on roasting coffee peas that I bought some and still don’t have them done. Busy, busy, busy, BO has been sick.
    What do I do for Irish Cream, liquor I guess? Huh :dancingmonster:
    That would be me after the liquor, I don’t drink!

  27. granma2girls says:

    I was roasting my coffee beans with a hot air popper for a year and then a family member bought me a home coffee roaster for Christmas. (I put the directions on Farm Bell Recipes for roasting coffee with a hot air popper.) It is great but I still have to roast the beans in a well ventilated porch since it does get a little smoky and sets off my smoke detectors. The smell does linger for a few hours and it isnt pleasant. Like I wouldnt do this just before company comes.But it is fun to try different beans from different countries. I only buy fair trade,organic coffee beans.

  28. Angela P says:

    So what is a good price to pay for the beans and what kind? Bali, Peru???
    Also I think Catray needs a goat! A small one, maybe Nigerian…tell the neighbors its a dog, theyll never know…..

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