Month: January 2014

heat gun roaster

This looks like a real nice set up. I like the flour sifter!

The Contented Squirrel Trading Company

dewalt heat gun
One of my early favorite methods of home coffee roasting was with the Dewalt D26950 Heat Gun,
heat gun label
coupled with an 8 cup flour sifter.
sifter 2
This setup will evenly roast 1/2 pound of beans in about 10 minutes (for darker roasts).

The cool thing about the Dewalt D26950 heat gun is that it comes with fold out legs so you can easily stand it upright.
dewalt standing
While you could roast over the gun by holding the flour sifter…I built a little wood “table” that fits around the gun…
gun under table
This allows you to rest the sifter on the table while you’re busy cranking the handle.
full setup one
The Dewalt D26950 heat gun features a “high” and a “low” setting via a trigger switch…and it also features a variable heat dial to control things even further.
After setting up the equipment I like to run the gun on “low” with the dial setting at just…

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Equal Pay?

Equal Pay?

From the 2014 State of the Union Address:

You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.

Women deserve equal pay for equal work. (Cheers, applause.)

You know, she deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. (Cheers, applause.) A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship. (Applause.) And you know what, a father does too. It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. (Laughter, cheers, applause.) This year let’s all come together, Congress, the White House, businesses from Wall Street to Main Street, to give every woman the opportunity she deserves, because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds. (Cheers, applause.)

I’m all for people getting paid properly for their work.  And I’ve been in the workforce my whole life so I have seen problems with business practices.  I hope I’m not looking at problems with rose colored  glasses.

I don’t understand the equal pay/equal work issue.

I try and see the world logically. The marketplace likes to find inefficiencies and exploit them.  If women really get paid 77 cents on the dollar, why would a business ever hire a man?

You and I  should start a kickstarter campaign to buy out a Fortune 500 company.  After we acquire this company, we will reduce men’s pay by 23% (for fairness of course).  Instant improvement in corporate performance.  We’ll make tons of money! Although if you are a women, I guess I won’t have to give you nearly as good of a return.

I see this issue as one of those “how can you be opposed to fairness?” issues.  Everyone thinks they are underpaid.  And the reason they are underpaid is they are being unfairly oppressed.  I’m sure it has nothing to do with their performance.  That would be heartless and unkind to say.

I like reading things that challenge my thinking.  If you have a link that can substantiate how there can be a stable market for a two-tiered pay scale I’d love to read it.  The math must be interesting!  Or if you want to help me set up a kickstarter campaign to buy out a Fortune 500 company, that would be fun too.



PS: I promise I’ll post more coffee stuff.

Drum roasting challenges


One of the challenges I’m working on with my drum roaster is accurately predicting the roast level. I spent years doing dog bowl roasting. Turns out I was doing my roast evaluation based on a visual inspection. I could hear the crack, but I really was watching the beans.

With my drum roaster, the magic is done in secret behind the stainless steel lid of the grill. I’ve lost my ability to do a visual evaluation. Even when I peak, the drum itself obscures the view of the beans. It can be frustrating — I’m experimenting with larger batch sizes. I hate tossing $20 worth of beans in the trash because I messed up.

With the larger batch size, it seems that the right amount if heat is critical. I tried to raise the average heat to 550 and I ended up with some beans blacker than coal and most beans barely roasted to light cinnamon shade. When I carefully monitored heat and kept it at 500, I was able to get a consistent roast.

The other ‘fun’ thing that occurred now that I have to rely more on sound is my last roast came out much darker than ever before. Usually the beans come out as a deep dark brown, but this time they came out black.

This roast level makes an awesome strong Capp. The espresso now cuts straight through the milk and lets you taste the espresso. Yum. So much so that people that prefer “expresso” drinks didn’t really like the taste — they had to add a lot more sugar.



pros & cons

The Contented Squirrel Trading Company

home roasting setup
(my current coffee roasting equipment)

As with pretty much anything, there are pros and cons to home coffee roasting and as I see it the pros outweigh the cons. In the “pros” column, I feel that home coffee roasting brings you the freshest coffee possible, at an economical price (4-7 dollars a pound typically). The time commitment to roast your own is minimal (about a 1/2 hour per week)…and as it turns out it is not only a useful hobby, but gives you ultimate “do-it-yourself” satisfaction. However, the best part of home roasting is that you know exactly what is in your cup of coffee. You get to decide what beans to use, and at what level to roast them, all tailored to your tastes.

As for the “cons”, the process of roasting is pretty smoky (although steps can be taken to alleviate this) and can be somewhat messy from…

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Drum roasting

Drum Roasting:

I used my dog bowl setup for years. However this method limits the volume of beans you can roast in one session. And it isn’t very fun to roast during the winter months. I previously read about BBQ roasting, but at the time I didn’t want to build or invest in the necessary equipment. But after a particularly crummy day I decided that it was time to take my roasting to the next level.

I used my google-Kung-fu and I found a drum roaster for my grill that was inexpensive (

My first few months with this roaster were very disappointing. The setup of the equipment was unreliable and worse, the drum lid wouldn’t seal properly allowing my beans to escape into the grill. These problem were largely self-inflicted.

I couldn’t get the spit to work right, it would fall off the motor or the handle would come lose. I couldn’t get the drum off the fire hot spit at the end of the roasting session. I was so familiar with dog bowl roasting that I could do everything with my eyes closed. I was excited about having a new toy to play with so I was rushing through all of the set up. This problem had a simple solution: slow down. I now progress through these steps methodically and have much better results.

I was having some success doing 1-2 cups of beans. But when I put in 3-4 cups into the drum, the beans would force their way out of the drum during the roasting cycle. My expensive CoE beans from would catch fire in the grill. Not good. Fortunately, Len from was quick to respond to my frustrated emails. He suggested that I make a slight modification to the lid, which I of course ignored. However, after burning another few batches of expensive beans I repented and got out my drill.

With the modification to the drum in place and a steady methodical approach, I’m now having a consistently good product. And I am looking forward to a more comfortable winter roasting season.