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Roasted by Rich Helms

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Crystal Caffeine – Angel Hair

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Caffeine is released during roasting. Some of this caffeine crystalizes on the outside as the smoke escapes.

Temperature Probe Setup on HotTop Roaster

This is a HotTop roaster. The yellow devices on top are temperature probes. As the roast progresses, smoke escapes from the probe holder. Over time, amazingly intricate white crystal structures appear. These caffeine crystals are know as angel hair in coffee jargon.

Caffeine Angel Hair formed on the bean temperature probe handle

These are microscope shots of the crystals after removed from the probe.

Caffeine Crystals under a microscope

Same cluster under higher power.

Caffeine Crystals under higher power

Filed under Roasting Coffee
Dec 14, 2011

Surprise Roasted Coffee Bean Degassing Discovery

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Degas 3 Setup

The degassing experiment three was drawing to a close. To recap 100 grams of dark roasted beans were put in one flask, 100 grams of the same beans but ground were put in the other flask. After 24 hours 294 mls of CO2 were released from the ground coffee. Even after 3 days the ground coffee maxed out at 300 mls supporting the literature (1) that ground coffee degasses in 12-24 hours depending on grind.

The whole beans were a different story. The 130 ml of day one grew to 290 mls in nine days. The literature said about 7 days for most degassing. I was getting ready to clean up the experiment when I had an idea. Just for “shits and giggles” why not grind the nine day old beans. They had stopped releasing CO2 but was there any inside that grinding would release? Using the same grinder settings as previous experiments I ground the 100 grams and quickly returned to the flask and stoppered. I was surprised to see gas released with a similar curve to freshly roasted coffee.

In one day 112 mls of CO2 were released. Like fresh roast beans almost all of the release was in the first 24 hours. While only 38% of what a fresh roast grind release, the total release was 406 mls versus 296 for fresh ground.

Grind Nine Day Old Beans

I have not found any literature on CO2 degassing in older coffee. I am going to continue other degassing experiments to open up the parameters of cause/effect.

My color spectrometer has not arrived yet. Really looking forward to experimenting with it.


  1. Development of an apparatus for measuring the degassing behavior of coffee with the option to examine the influence of protective gases for aroma preservation : KOZIOROWSKI, Thomas; BAUMEISTER, Heinrich; JANSEN, Gerhard; BONGERS, Sandra; PROBAT-WERKE, Emmerich, Germany – Probat
Dec 10, 2011

Coffee Degassing Experiment 3 – Ground vs Whole Bean

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Experiment three was a chance to apply all of the lessons learned in measuring CO2 degassing of roasted coffee.

Degas 3 Setup

Lesson 1: A photo copy stand was used to support the graduated cylinders. Fill the cylinders with water and place upside down in the tank. Lower the photo rack then support the cylinders with square wooden rods, hold with several rubber bands then raise the attached cylinders with the camera holder adjuster.

Eye Droppers on Tubing

Lesson 2: Using eyedroppers is very effective but you have to slightly point them downhill or the air will escape, just slower. The most effective dropper has a turn on the end pointing down. This made it easier to prevent gas escaping and water filling the line. The eye droppers were purchased at Walmart for $2 a pair. Keep the eyedroppers as close to the cylinder bottom without touching. Water pressure becomes a factor if you put them deep in the water.

Flask with Funnel on Scale

Lesson 3: The critical timing is from grinding the coffee, place in the flask, weigh and stopper. By putting a funnel in the flask on the scale ground coffee could be scooped quickly and accurately.

Lesson 4: I wrote a trivial program to log the time vs the readings. This meant recording readings was just typing in the levels. The program tracked the time. For the time value I used a Unix Timestamp, the number of seconds since January 1 1970 00:00:00 GMT. So to calculate offset is simple subtraction from the first reading. The data was then copy/pasted into a spreadsheet for calculations and graphing.

Costa Rica Degas Exp 3 w Degas 2 in Background

Lesson 5: Track as many variables as possible. By using Artisan I could compare degas roast 2 to degas 3 roast.

Hours Ground ml CO2 Whole ml CO2
30 0
0.05 45 0
0.10 58 0
0.12 62 0
0.13 66 0
0.18 75 0
0.20 80 0
0.27 90 0
0.34 100 0
0.44 110 0
0.51 118 0
0.53 120 0
0.65 130 0
0.75 136 0
1.04 154 0
1.17 160 0
1.28 165 0
1.76 183 15
1.94 190 18
3.79 226 37
11.69 270 89
12.12 280 94
22.12 290 124
23.36 290 126
24.04 290 128
24.58 294 130
25.61 296 132
27.25 296 135
35.65 296 145
36.87 296 154
46.35 300 170
47.62 178
48.65 182
50.75 182
59.44 188
60.89 194
72.75 198
85.32 210
91.38 220
100.10 227
108.91 236
111.60 240
114.28 243
117.01 246
120.31 248
155.70 264
157.01 267
166.09 270

Hours vs ml CO2 Ground (Blue) vs Bean (Red)

Conclusion 1: Ground degassing is pretty well complete in this experiment at 12 hours. 280 ml of CO2 released at 12 hours while 300 by 48 hours. After day 3 the whole beans are still degassing but slowing down.

Next experiment is to repeat this setup but with a medium roast (430o drop.) I also ordered a school grade color spectrometer and am investigating roast colour analysis.

Most Important Conclusion: Crawling into the raw science basics of roasting is really fun.

Dec 2, 2011

Ground vs Whole Bean Degassing

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In this experiment, I roasted Costa Rica coffee to Full city. I dropped the roast at 450oF. While I normally do not roast so dark, I knew from documentation this would result in more CO2 to be released.

Ground on left vs Whole Bean on Right

I placed 100 grams of ground coffee in the the left flask, while 100 grams of whole beans were placed in the right flask. I loaded the ground coffee into the flask as quickly as possible, but the degassing speed surprised me. In one hour of capping the flask, 120 ml of CO2 was already released. This is much faster than whole bean degassing. In the previous whole bean experiment with a medium roast and twice the coffee it took 24 hours to release 120 ml.

Another change from the previous setup was to add eye droppers to the end of the tubes. This made it easier to see the bubbles form. Play the video to see how fast the ground coffee released CO2.

Eye Droppers on Tubing

Hours ml CO2
0 0
0.08 28
0.13 40
0.23 58
0.27 62
0.28 65
0.35 72
0.38 78
0.45 84
0.52 90
0.60 96
0.67 102
0.80 110
0.90 116
0.95 118
1.00 120
1.07 126
1.15 130
1.37 138
1.48 144
1.88 158
2.00 160
2.30 166
3.13 186
3.53 194
5.00 212
6.83 228
8.78 238
19.00 256
31.00 268

ml CO2 Released vs Hours

Roast profile from the Artisan tracking screen.

Costa Rica Roast Profile for Degas 2 Experiment

Degassing Grind w 1/16" Scale

This shot image was captured with a Celestron digital microscope. The scale on the right is 1/16″. The beans were ground with a Macap MC4.

Nov 28, 2011

Measuring Roasted Coffee CO2 Degassing

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As I read more and more on how CO2 is released from freshly roasted coffee I decided to try my own experiment. Basically the experiment is to measure the captured CO2 as it is released. A basic experimental approach is to use an eudiometer.

Eudiometer as shown in Wikipedia

My setup is not quite as elegant.

First Degas Measurement Experiment Setup

The purpose of this test is to try the setup. The flask is 500 ml with 211 grams (~7.4 oz.) of medium roast Costa Rica coffee. The beans were loaded 5 minutes after dump with a temperature of 94oF. The graduated cylinder is 250ml and the tubing 1/4″ OD flexible copper. I am concerned that the inside diameter is large enough that air will escape up and water flow down. I will add a water dropper on the next version to keep water from going in and the air bubbling out. Also the tube should be shorter so that it is easier to get into the graduated cylinder.

12 hours into degassing

Hours ml CO2
1.4 20
3.7 29
11.7 76
13.0 80
19.0 100
22.0 112
24.0 122
24.6 124
26.0 129
36.0 152
37.0 154
46.5 172
48.0 176
49.5 180
59.5 194
61.0 200
71.0 214
84.0 224
94.5 236
104.3 246
108.0 250

ml CO2 Released vs Hours

The papers I found said the degassing would continue on whole beans for 7 days. Now that the output reached 250 ml, the capacity of the graduated cylinder, I am going to end this experiment and set up one comparing whole bean and ground coffee. To avoid the 250ml capacity I will put in 100 grams of coffee.

Nov 24, 2011

Vacuum Bagging Fresh Roast Coffee Beans

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On the commercial coffee LinkedIn group, there was a question on vacuum packing freshly roasted coffee to keep it fresh. When I was at roasting school, we learned how freshly roasted coffee gives off CO2. This is why you need a can or bag with a gas relief valve. Recently, I decided to get a hand vacuum bagging system. It is a low-cost unit available in Canada from Home Hardware for only $20. For a small cost I could experiment with vacuum packing coffee. The bags are reusable but not cheap, at about $1.25 each. As I just want to use the bags for my coffee at home, the price per bag is not a factor. If the coffee was for resale, a much lower cost per bag would be needed.

Vac N Store system from Home Hardware

The Vac N Store kit comes with three bag sizes. My sample roaster does 1/2-pound roasts that fit nicely in the small bag. By sealing the bags, the coffee is not exposed to oxygen, which is what contributes to making coffee stale. What surprised me was how much gas is released by the beans. Here is a bag of just-sealed, freshly roasted coffee. The little hand pump does a fair job of removing air, but is not commercial grade.

Vacuum bagged coffee

Here is the bag 5 days later.

Vacuum bag with released CO2

I was surprised how much air was in the bag. This is not from leaking. Here is a large bag of decaf green coffee beans that I packed several weeks ago. The vacuum seal is still tight.

Decaf Green coffee beans in vacuum bag

I put the bagged roasted coffee in my grinder this morning, and it was very nice. Did it hold the freshness better? I am not sure. I need to do a side-by-side on the same coffee, one roasted a week ago and stored, the other roasted the day before.

My question coming out of this is how do companies like Illy vacuum pack coffee? I believe theirs stays tightly packed because the coffee is ground. Perhaps on the next roasting batch, I will bag 1/2 as beans and in a second bag, 1/2 ground and see how it compares.

Nov 5, 2011

The computer is up

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Computer/TV monitor mounted

The computer and monitor are mounted. Also a new device came today, my Celestron Digital Microscope. Very interesting device. It is sitting in front of the keyboard in the picture. Here is a picture from my first experience playing with it. These are some defect beans.

Coffee Bean close-up

Filed under Roasting Coffee
Sep 2, 2010

Moisture testing Analytics

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I am looking into getting a precision scale so that I can do green coffee bean moisture content analysis. Determining moisture content is a simple process. Samples of green beans are collected. Each sample set is weighed. The sample are then ‘cooked’ for 8 minutes at 160o F and the result weighed. The weight lost is the water. There are traces of volatiles lost also but water is the main content lost. For heating I am planning on using an infrared oven I have.

iBalance 601

In looking at scales, accuracy is a key factor in cost. As a scale handles more weight, it is harder to get accuracy. As an example I am looking at the My Weight iBalance 601. This scale has a 600 gram capacity, can be connected to the computer via RS232 but only has a .01 gram accuracy. The iBalance 211 is twice as expensive, has only a a 210 gram capacity but is accurate to .001g.

The i601 is attractive as it could do both moisture measurement but also could do before and after roast weighing to record % loss due to the roast. My HotTop has a capacity of 250g. The key question is what is the accuracy of moisture content I could calculate with a scale of .01g accuracy.

In this table I assume 10 grams of green beans in and 8.9 grams out for an 11% moisture content. Then I vary the 10 and 8.9 values by the stated accuracy of the scales and calculate the moisture. The swing values are 10+ accuracy with 8.9- accuracy and the reverse 10- accuracy with 8.9+ accuracy. With .01g accuracy the moisture reading could vary by .4% while .005g accuracy reduces that to .2% accuracy.

From what I can see the lower end moisture meters use .01g accuracy.

10 grams in 8.9 grams out 11% moisture content
Weight in Weight out Percent Swing Swing rounded
0.01 Accuracy
9.99 8.91 10.8108% 10.8%
10.00 8.90 11.0000% 11.0%
10.01 8.89 11.1888% 0.3780% 11.2%
0.005 Accuracy
9.995 8.905 10.9055% 10.9%
10.00 8.90 11.0000% 11.0%
10.005 8.895 11.0945% 0.1890% 11.1%
0.002 Accuracy
9.998 8.902 10.9622% 11.0%
10.00 8.90 11.0000% 11.0%
10.002 8.898 11.0378% 0.0756% 11.0%
0.001 Accuracy
9.999 8.901 10.9811% 11.0%
10.00 8.90 11.0000% 11.0%
10.001 8.899 11.0189% 0.0378% 11.0%
0.0001 Accuracy
9.9999 8.9001 10.9981% 11.0%
10.0000 8.9000 11.0000% 11.0%
10.0001 8.8999 11.0019% 0.0038% 11.0%
Filed under Roasting Coffee
Jun 2, 2010

Hoptop KN-8828B Roaster

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Hottop Ejecting Coffee. Notice and smoke rising from the coffee.
I bought a new coffee roaster on the weekend. This is a prosumer level home roaster. It can roast 450 gram (1/2 pound) per roast and is a computer controlled drum roaster.

While it is simple to do the first roast, there is a real learning curve to this unit. You can vary fan speed and temperature by time. The basic automatic program just slams on the heater and turns the fan on full as it enters first crack.

One challenge is smoke. While my smaller roaster was fine under the range hood, this unit just puts out too much smoke for that. I placed it beside an open window with a fan between the exhaust and the window. Perfect. I turn on the fan at the same time as the internal fan turns on. Even as the roasted coffee was ejected in this picture, all of the smoke was pushed out of the window. A cheap and simple solution. In the summer I can see just roasting outside but as we are coming up on winter, I needed a kitchen solution.

I modified my roasting log and am going to modify the plotting program to follow not only the temperature but the heater and fan settings on the same graph. This should be interesting.

Filed under Roasting Coffee
Nov 29, 2009