Those who want to be certain their coffee is fresh — in fact, anyone who wishes to drink the best cup of coffee possible — may want to experiment with roasting coffee at home. Home roasting takes about as much time and skill as cooking spaghetti, and is considerably simpler than other, more fashionable back-to-basics activities, such as baking bread or making beer. Any small mistakes in the roasting process are far offset by the advantages of freshness.
Ground, roasted coffee is actually as much a convenience food as instant coffee or frozen foods are. Americans roasted their own coffee until the late nineteenth century, and many people all over the world still do. Jabez Burns, inventor of the continuous roaster, the first modern production roaster, insisted that some of the best coffee he ever tasted was roasted in a corn popper. On a recent visit to the Ethiopian countryside I was treated almost daily to servings of coffee that had been roasted on the spot in shallow pans over coals, and that coffee, despite what appeared to be a scattering of black, over-roasted beans, invariably tasted superb.