I've heard that roast coffee should be treated like fresh bread. It's only going to be at its best for a few weeks after roasting. You don't have to have special coffee roasting equipment to make a small batch of coffee, but it does help. I have a special pan with holes that help ventilate the beans as they roast inside another pan on the stovetop.
I wait for the beans to make a cracking sound, then I keep a very close eye on them. If you're looking for a medium roast, then the beans should look tan or light brown after the first crack. If you want a darker roast, wait for a second cracking sound and look for a dark chocolate brown color. The difference between a dark Italian roast coffee bean and a burnt coffee bean can be a matter of seconds, so be ready to remove the beans from the heat source immediately.