I will be addressing both coffee and tea options that work for us around our homestead. I will start with coffee. I am certainly no coffee connoisseur; I am just a homestead wife trying to make some decent coffee for my hubby. We are not sophisticated in that we try to detect certain acidity, aromas etc. My hubby just wants coffee that he enjoys drinking. I am in no way affiliated with any of the vendor suggestions that I comment about here. Rather, I’m just listing the things that through the research that I have done through this journey. I figured it might save some a little trial and effort.
There are lots of different ways to brew your coffee which I will not be going over since most folks have that system down pretty well at this point.
My hubby is a coffee addict. I wondered a while back what would happen if the coffee beans became scarce or not available for a long period of time–such as in TEOTWAWKI. I have been experimenting with coffee storage for quite some time now. Coffee that has been roasted prior to buying at the store has a pretty short shelf life. After some research online I came up with roasting green coffee beans at home.
My hubby likes a really dark roast, almost espresso dark and was having a hard time finding that roast at my normal stores that I frequent. We got away from going to Starbucks etc. as we did not have that extra money at the time and we live pretty far out of town. That is when I started doing research on roasting at home.
Green coffee beans can be bought in bulk from several sources. I am lucky enough to have a green coffee seller in my area. Green coffee beans keep for years properly stored. I just store mine in 5 gallon buckets with Gamma Seal lids. The coffee itself is placed in mylar bags and sealed. Another option for sealing which I have also done is to store in ½ gallon canning jars and vacuum seal them to keep them fresh with a vacuum sealer jar attachment. Both methods work great. Green coffee beans will store for many years if kept in a cool, dry, dark area. You can get as basic or as sophisticated as you want in the choice you make for your coffee beans. Price can also vary widely depending on the varietal choice that you make.
When I first started, I bought a small amount of beans and had read that you could roast them with an air popcorn popper, the kind where it spins around and spits the popcorn out as it pops. It worked fine for a while but I think the machine did not hold up well to the length of time heating that it was running and died within a couple of months using it. Though it did work well while it did work. It did get me excited enough to want to continue roasting so I looked into other options. There are many options out there and I am only commenting on the ones that I tried. I picked roasters based on how much coffee I need to do at a time and my budget. Some of these units are quite expensive.
I know that you are able to roast coffee beans in a cast iron skillet. I chose not to go that route for two reasons: 1, I did not want to permeate roasted coffee smell and oils into my often used cast iron skillet and 2, I did not want to stand over it stirring.
The second option I tried was to buy a Fresh Roast SR800. The first time I tried this was quite comical (not at the time). It was in the winter time so I decided to roast in the basement since I had awoken early and hubby was still sleeping. There I was just roasting away when it started to smoke. It didn’t seem bad to me but after about a minute all the smoke detectors went off. Another thing I did not think of is that all the smoke detectors are tied together and all went off all at the same time, including the one where hubby was sleeping. I opened up all the doors/windows in the basement to get them to turn off. Hubby awoke with a jolt (no pun intended) and frantically went looking around. We got it under control pretty quickly but it stunk up the house for days. Moral of the story: Do this outside, to avoid my mistake.
The Fresh Roast has worked for a couple years with great results but is limited to 120 Volt AC electricity and it will not function well outside under 50 degrees F. I use this one now for doing a batch quickly but have found another good option: a Whirley Pop. You know, the old time popcorn poppers that you use on the stovetop? Well, I thought I would try one of these. I am very happy with this and feel it fits my needs the best. I chose the Stainless steel option because I am not a fan of cooking with aluminum. I use it outside (in any weather, it will not effect it) and can do 8-10 oz at a time. The concept is so simple and takes no electricity. I use it on the accessory burner that comes on my outdoor grill. This has been my go-to for roasting once a week. It only takes about 10 minutes. You do have to stir the handle slowly through this process but I find it to be not a big deal.
Buying green coffee beans can also be a big money saver. There are several different sources for beans online but it would be worth trying to find someone local and not have to pay for shipping. I usually buy my beans for $4.50 a pound (that was the price the last time I ordered it) and buy 50 pounds at a time. This can be a big money saver for someone who likes his/her beans roasted to a certain darkness and you are able to control the process exactly to your liking. Experiment with different beans and different stages of roasting to achieve your exact preference.
If you are looking for a non-electrical way to grind your coffee, they do make a hand grinder made by Kilner and if your are lucky enough to score an antique from a yard sale or antique store, then even better.
Your Cuppa Tea
Next, I will address tea. This is what I prefer to drink. I started this journey buying tea bags from the store (I like Earl Grey for my caffeine fix in the afternoon slump). As I started the journey of trying to be more trash conscious I thought I would try some loose tea and not have to use tea bags. I know that you can compost your tea bags, and I have done that, but sometimes you have to remove the little staple that comes on them before throwing into the compost pile. I eventually started buying my Earl Grey tea (loose tea) in bulk (along with lots of other teas, medicinal as well, but that is another story). I was able to find a local source to go to buy bulk loose tea and started doing that. I now forego all the packaging that comes with normal store-bought tea. I now buy quite a bit at one time and store in my ½ gallon canning jars. They keep for a long time that way and also take up less room on your storage area shelf.
The next step is how do I brew this bulk tea? I have no tea bag so what shall I use? Well, in the beginning of this journey, I just happened to have one of those little ball type infusers. I have no idea how I acquired it but I thought I would try it. It was less than ideal in my opinion as particles came through it and I had quite a bit of sediment in the bottom of my steeped cup. The next thing I looked into and tried was a very fine mesh tea strainer which has a handle on it on the sides and you just drop it into your cup and then remove when done steeping. I am so happy with this type of strainer. It lets minimal debris through and then you just empty it and throw it in the compost container. I am sure that there are other options out there but I just thought I would write to say what has worked well for me.
What I opted for was a Yoassi fine mesh stainless steel strainer with two handles that just sits on the cup and steeps the tea inside. I have a had hard time finding out where this is made and try really hard not to buy from China but I figured it was stainless steel so I bought it. I have been very happy with the results of this system.
It conclusion, it is worth trying your hand at coffee roasting. I enjoy making a perfectly roasted coffee to my hubby’s preference and knowing that we will be set should things go sideways.