Bean Roast Level for Arabic “Yellow” Coffee
April 12, 2022 8:54 PM   Subscribe

So recently I have learned about Arabic coffee (qahwa/gahwa with cardamom) and I want to try making it at home! But apparently it requires extremely lightly roasted coffee beans, at least for the “yellow” style made in, say, Qatar. If I go to my local coffee bean roaster, who roasts the beans while you wait, what roast level should I ask for in order to make this style of coffee? Or should I just buy raw beans and try roasting them at home in a frying pan? Really, just give me all your yellow/green Arabic coffee knowledge!
posted by DoctorFedora to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You should be able to ask for a yellow tan roast and get what you're looking for. But also green beans are cheap and roasting at home can be fun!
posted by Jairus at 9:14 PM on April 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Concur with @jairus, it is indeed "yellow tan" roast, based on the "roast curve" chart.

According to Nordic Recipe archive, it is indeed pretty easy to roast it yourself in your home oven at 375 F (190 C) and just remember to check it periodically.
posted by kschang at 9:49 PM on April 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yellow tan, eh? I'll see how that works out! Is this effectively equivalent to (or at least similar to) "white coffee" beans?

Separately, should I be worried about grinding them at home? I have a pretty good hand-crank burr grinder (1Zpresso K-Pro) and I found myself thinking about if maybe it might be good to initially do a really coarse grind, then re-grind finer.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:40 PM on April 12, 2022

Friends of mine use a popcorn popper to roast beans at home. If you already have one that could be a fun way to get coffee flavoured popcorn :)
posted by Arthur Dent at 4:59 AM on April 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I tried a popcorn popper once, years ago! It made a huge mess as it flung chaff all over my kitchen and also kept shutting off because of the temperature safety cutoff. Very exciting! I would probably just use a frying pan in this case
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:05 AM on April 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Roasting on a cast iron pan or in the oven, may not necessarily abate the chaff issues; this is a thing with lots of DIY home roasting methods, until you hit the $650 mark with a Gene Cafe. I wouldn't do either of these methods unless you have extremely good ventilation in your kitchen.

Roasting with a whirley pop stovetop popcorn maker is a significant upgrade from a cast iron skillet, or an oven. But, don't plan on using it for popcorn if you do.

Grinding is going to be an issue. Coffee roasted that light can fuck up a grinder. Most, even nice, coffee burrs are not designed to cut through the texture of a coffee that lightly roasted. Not sure how expensive those burrs are, but I would consider picking up a spare pair before you do. This is the one area where a cheaper blade grinder may be a better tool than a burr grinder. I have not found that re-grinding coffee is kind to grinders, and that they seize readily when this is attempted (in fact, most manufacturers consider this a warranty-voiding activity).

This preparation of coffee is pretty old; and dates back further than 'washed' processed coffees were a common thing (not really common until the 1900's on out, mostly starting in the Americas); you may get more traditional results with a 'natural/dry/unwashed' processed coffee.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:02 AM on April 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

When I did this I "ground" the roasted beans with a large granite mortar and pestle. As everyone else has noted, if you haven't done this before, they're going to be much harder than you expect.
posted by pullayup at 8:34 AM on April 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Piggybacking to ask, if anyone sees this: why would regrinding already ground coffee break your coffee grinder? I believe y'all but I can't get this to make sense in my brain.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:05 AM on April 13, 2022

Best answer: fiercecupcake; specifically for burr grinders, the burrs are designed to break down stuff that is a certain size (generally, coffee bean sized for coffee grinders). Whole bean coffee has a lot of space between each bean; you decrease that void when dealing with finer and finer powders. When you grind coffee thorugh a burr grinder, only a few beans are let in at a time.

If you put smaller particles inside a grinder, they can act like sand, and seize up the burrs resulting in all sorts of issues depending on the exact setup of the grinder. Electric grinders often have breakers, and burr keys installed to prevent massive damage, but you will need to likely reset something internally at minimum, or replace some low cost pieces at maximum. Hand grinders might not suffer from these issues, but they'll still bind up, and potentially cause problems to certain pieces not designed for stress.

I have, in commercial settings, seen burrs cracked in half by attempting to re-grind coffee.

Grinding greener, extremely lightly roasted coffee on a burr grinder will just straight wear out the burrs much much much faster; this may not be perceptible to a home user, because even smaller burrs have rather long lifespans, but this is the equivalent of running a chain saw through gravel. They will dull much quicker than anticipated by the manufacturer.

A blade style coffee grinder does not suffer from these issues; this is typically a burr-grinder issue. I would not use a nicer burr grinder to grind this kind of coffee; it is the wrong tool for the job, and not what any coffee grinder manufacturer was anticipating when they designed the device.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:05 AM on April 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Okay that’s really useful to know that this is a situation where a blade grinder would actually be preferable
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:28 PM on April 13, 2022

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