F. Roasting to 1st Crack

Your Roast has now begun.  Start your stopwatch or wristwatch and monitor your time.  Your temperature will have dropped after opening the lid, this is fine, but you will want to see the grill come back to your target temperature within about 3 minutes.  If you see that you are not coming back up in temperature, then give it more gas to boost it up to temperature.

What you need to do is set your burners up or down to maintain your target temperature.  So adjust as necessary.

You won’t see, or hear much during the first 6 minutes even in the smallest roasts.

What we are going to begin doing at this point is hold our temperature all the way to 1st crack, then we will adjust as necessary.

1st Crack has been said to sound a bit like the popping of popcorn.  This is where the bean is releasing a large amount of its moisture.  As 1st crack approaches, if you stand near the rear of the grill you will begin to smell a rather pungent odor that kind of burns your nose and eyes.  When you start smelling this, we are getting close to 1st.  Light white smoke will gradually increase more and more until the onset of first.  Use this smoke and the pungent odor to help you time the arrival of first crack.

You will want to do your best to time the arrival of first crack, more or less to the numbers in the tables on the previous page.  Let’s look at an example.

Lets take the example of the 4Lb Drum with a 2Lb load.  Here is the data from our table:

4LB DRUM

Finished Roast Volume

Green Load

%Load

Temp

Est. 1st Crack

Est. 2nd Crack

1Lb

1Lb 3.2 OZ

25%

470

8 mins

12 mins

2Lb

2Lb 6.4 OZ

50%

500-525

11 mins

14 mins

3Lb

3Lb 9.6 OZ

75%

525-550

16 mins

18 mins

4Lb

4Lb 12.8 OZ

100%

550-600

18 mins

20 – 21 mins

We are going to run about 500F right up till 1st crack.  We estimate 1st crack at 11 minutes.  If we use the smoke as a gauge, you will start to see the smoke about 1-2 minutes before 1st.  So to clarify, we should be seeing smoke by about 9 to 10 minutes or so.  If we are seeing no smoke at all by say 10:30, we now know we are getting behind schedule as there is usually a minute or two of smoke before 1st.  Let’s crank the heat up a bit to get us back on our schedule.  We are shooting to end the roast at 14 mins in this example so we don’t want to drag the roast out any longer than necessary.  To do so dulls the roast and you loose some of your brightness in the coffee the longer you go past the recommended time.

Conversely, if 1st crack starts at 9 minutes and the interval between the pops is very rapid (like machine gun fire) then you are roasting too hot and you need to back off your temps by 20 degrees or so.

You will initially hear one pop, then two, then a few more and then all the beans will start to go, similar to the way microwave popcorn pops in the bag.

As 1st crack reaches its rolling stage, where it rolls forward seemingly unstoppable, the smoke will be at its most intense.  At this point lets reduce the temperature by 10 to 25 degrees.  Use more of a drop for the larger the roast.  8 Pounds, lets drop 25 degrees.  2-4 pounds lets drop 10 and what we want to do is just reduce the temperature and let the roast coast on its own heat.  The popping will begin to subside and the smoke will taper off.  Now the beans are exothermic and begin to generate their own heat.  Heat is sustained in the bean mass and they sort of cook themselves.  For this reason, we back off on the heat a bit and it also serves to improve the roast.