Roasting Coffee Beans in Tanzania – And How You Can Do it Too!

Did you know you can roast your own coffee right at home? I had never even thought of this.

The Backstory: Why was I roasting coffee beans?

When I first arrived in Tanzania the coffee options were limited. And when I say limited, there was only one option: Africafe Instant Coffee. For a coffee drinker such as myself, this was not good news.


I couldn’t wrap my head around it – how was it that I couldn’t get coffee in a country that grows so many beans? It didn’t make since.

But actually it does make since. Most Tanzanians don’t drink coffee; instead they start their morning with tea…tea with a lot of sugar.  Because if you live in a rural area, without electricity, tea is easier to make. All you have to do is boil water and soak the leaves.

So what next?

While we couldn’t buy coffee at the local market, we could buy raw beans straight from the farm. And we got giant burlap sack of beans for about $5 USD!

Now we had the beans, but we still had more problems to tackle:

  • First, when you get the beans from the farm, they have an outer shell that needs to be removed.  Not an easy task.
  • Second, we didn’t have a coffee bean grinder and we couldn’t get a coffee bean grinder.

I mean seriously, what’s a girl gotta do to get some coffee? That bag of beans must have sat at the house for a couple months without us knowing what to do with them. But Mama Baraka, our homemaking genius, solved all our problems. She came up with a way to magically shuck the beans and got us a mortar & pedal.

I’m not gonna lie, this was a lot of work in order to drink good coffee, but, it’s the most delicious coffee ever! And since shucking and grinding is the hardest part, most people can do it at home rather easily.

How to Roast Your Own Coffee Beans

Step 1:

Purchase raw, green coffee beans. You can get them online through places such as The Coffee Project  or Sweet Maria’s.  You can choose beans based on where they’re grown and select different kinds, (maybe you want to try beans like mine straight from Tanzania.)

Raw coffee beans

Raw, green coffee beans before they are roasted.

Step 2:

Place an even layer of beans in a skillet and turn the temperature to a Medium High setting. For even roasting, don’t put too many beans in the pan, you want all the beans to be in contact with the surface.

Starting to roast the beans

You should have about this many beans in the pan.

Step 3:

Continuously stir the beans with a wooden spoon or spatula. After about 5 minutes the beans will get color, start smoking, and begin to pop. You may want to turn on your vent or open a window if you have a sensitive fire detector. And if there is too much smoke, turn down the heat.

If you like dark roasted coffee, like me, roast them until they are very dark, practically black. You’ll think you’re burning them, but you’re probably not. This process will take around 15 minutes.

If you want a medium roast, stop roasting when it’s a medium, dark brown. It’s a matter of preference and might take some practice to find the level you like.

Dark Roasted Beans

Dark roasted coffee beans. These are about ready.

Step 4:

Take a moment to notice how good it smells in your kitchen!

Step 5:

Let the beans rest 24 hours, and then grind with an electric grinder.

If you happen to be using the manual mortar & pedal method, you have to grind immediately while the beans are still hot. You will then need to sift the grounds to make them a fine texture.

Hard at Work Grounding Coffee

Natural living – hand grounding coffee as my laundry is hangs in the background.

Sifting the grounds

Sifting the grounds after manually grinding.

Step 6:

Make your coffee per usual and drink up!

During my time in Tanzania I also learned how to use a French press, as it was our only coffee maker. I have to say, a French press is easy to use and produces really good coffee. Now owning an expensive Keurig makes me feel a little ridiculous. But I’m sure I’ll get over that once I’m home.

The Final Product

We saved the good stuff for weekends and holidays.

There are also other methods of roasting coffee at home.

The skillet method is the most basic, rustic way to roast your beans. If you want to experiment further you can roast them in the oven, use an old school popcorn popper, an outdoor grill, or buy a fancy pants coffee bean roaster. I haven’t tried any of these methods but there are several videos on You Tube.

Why Roast Your Own Beans?

It’s fun to do and makes the freshest cup of coffee you’ve ever had. In reality, it may not do it all the time, but give it a try. Let me know how it turns out!

Have you ever roasted your own coffee beans? What did you think?















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