Dog bowl roasting
The method of roasting I recommend to my friends is dog bowl roasting. I produce (usually) good coffee in about 15-20 minutes. Since you are right in the action, you see how the roasting process works. Best of all this is a cheap entry into roasting as you already have most of the equipment needed in your kitchen and garage.
You need a heat gun capable of reaching 400-500 degrees, a stainless steel bowl (traditionalist will want to use a dog bowl), a long wooden spoon (a plastic spoon will melt and a metal spoon will get too hot), a way to dissipate heat (I use a fan and colander), and 1-2 cups of beans.
Pour the beans into the bowl. Turn the gun on and hold it 1/2 to 1 inch from the beans. Then stir and stir and stir….. I have a friend that stirs with the nose of his heat gun though I’ve never attempted that so your mileage may very. Be careful not to burn the beans. If you hold the heat directly on a bean for too long it will burn.
Depending on the power of your gun, the type of beans, and the quantity you are roasting, roasting will take 15-25 minutes. If you make a dark roast, your beans will progress through two “cracks”. First crack is usually easy to identify -because it’s first. :-). Second crack can be a bit trickier. It occurs closely behind first crack and sometimes even occurs while some beans are still in first. First crack tends to be more “snappy” like a finger snap or a dry twig snap. Second crack is softer, more like wrapping paper crackling and a lot of smoke. After a few roasts you’ll have a good understanding of the different cracks.
The final step is cooling. Dump the beans in the colander (careful as the bowl and beans will be very hot). Set the fan upside down with the air flow going up. Put the colander over the fan and stir.
If you don’t have a fan, spread the roasted beans on a large cookie sheet and stir. You need to dissipate the heat or the beans will “bake”.