Buying a roaster is often expensive. Coffee roasters are on the whole manufactured with the wholesale market in mind.
However, more and more people have realized that the technology is more or less the same as some popcorn poppers, meaning you can use these to start out your roasting hobby at home. our review covers some of the best popcorn popper for roasting coffee beans.
|Hamilton Beach 73400||$|
|Original Wabash Valley Farms||$|
|Presto 5204 Orville Redenbacher’s||$|
20 years ago most people were content with instant coffee, but now the world has opened up to the possibilities and it seems lots of people are considering coffee a hobby as well as a beloved drink.
Because of the passion people have for coffee, many have become more interested in the processes.
Barista style coffee is not reserved just for the coffee shops out there, and people can learn everything from latte art to coffee roasting at home.
There are lots of benefits to roasting at home, as well as being able to learn more about how the coffee you are drinking is made, you have more control over the flavor and even the blends of coffee beans you’re using if you choose to home roast.
People who want to learn a little about how the roast works can start out using home methods and even explore a career in it if they wish.
One important aspect of roasting coffee is buying beans to roast. Many are unaware that coffee beans are actually green prior to roasting, and you will have to buy them either wholesale or in smaller batches online.
Having a variety of different origins (the country the beans are from) will give you a larger palate of flavors to work with and mean you can experiment far more.
Features to look out for
Type of Popper
There are a few different types of popcorn popper out there, and differing designs in terms of their vents and exactly how they provide the heat to warm your popcorn (or in this case, unroasted coffee)
Many of the poppers work by using hot air. Hot air poppers have flat, metal bottoms and the vents are on the side.
These vents are key to allowing the coffee to move around as it roasts and ensure that it doesn’t burn in one area without roasting in another.
As a word of caution, if a popcorn popper happens to have a mesh bottom or holes on the bottom then it isn’t suitable and can even be a hazard.
Fortunately, we haven’t included any of these risky styles on our list of the best poppers.
Stovetop popcorn poppers are another popular design. These often allow you to see what is going on so you can watch out for color changes and even let you control the stirring throughout so you can focus on getting an even roast.
Many are of the opinion that a stovetop popper is the closest to a traditional coffee roaster you can get without the expense of a professional machine.
Warning! Absolute no-go options for roasting are oil based and microwave based poppers. The oil base is only an option if there is a choice of whether you put oil in or not.
For coffee, nothing needs to be added at any stage. Microwaving your coffee is not an option and will not create a roast which is even drinkable, let alone enjoyable!
Watching and Listening
A key criteria for buying a popcorn popper for roasting coffee is to get one you can closely keep a track of during the process.
The coffee roasting process, if being done manually without a proper coffee roaster, is a very visual and even audible experience.
Coffee roasting involves listening out for the ‘first crack’, similar sounds to a bowl of rice crispies! It also involves visual checks.
The time window between perfectly roasted coffee and completely burnt and ruined coffee is very small.
Because the process requires a watchful eye, it is best to have a popper which allows you to see and hear exactly what is going on through the process, this way you can ensure the coffee doesn’t get ruined, and that you don’t have to trust the machine to do a good job without you seeing what’s going on.
Hamilton Beach 73400 Hot Air Popcorn Popper
Hamilton Beach are a big name when it comes to kitchen appliances and there’s every chance you may already have something they have manufactured sitting in your kitchen!
Their popcorn maker offering, the 73400, ticks a lot of boxes for coffee roasting. On top of this, it is extremely good value for money.
Because this is an air popper and uses no oil or other lubricants it is perfect for putting coffee in.
You can roast 3-4 Oz at a time with no issues at all, and due to the fact that you can see right in the top there is a good opportunity to oversee the roast, listening out for the cracks and watching the coffee reach the color you prefer.
As some have said that this roaster lacks a little in terms of power, and therefore heat, it may well be a good idea to put more coffee in there if this is becoming an issue.
While it may seem counterintuitive, this is a way to trap more heat in the machine and let it build up and roast the coffee more thoroughly.
The fact that no oil is involved makes the clean up process really simple. While there are some slightly better popcorn poppers out there, we can safely say that nothing at this price range offers so much for those wanting to give coffee roasting a go.
Original Wabash Valley Farms Whirley Pop Silver Stovetop Popcorn Popper
The Wabash Valley Farms Whirley Pop is a great popper designed with a patented system for stopping popcorn from burning.
Of course, it is marketed for its benefits when it comes to popcorn, but the manufacturers have also inadvertently created something very good for roasting coffee.
The fact that this popper keeps the popcorn (or, in our case, coffee) moving is a great way to ensure that the roast is kept completely even.
This replicates the way many coffee roasters work and ensures that every bean gets the same exposure to the temperature.
The fact that you can heat it via your stove means that you can reach a heat which is suitable for roasting coffee, something which some of the electric poppers struggle with.
Though the lid of this popper covers the whole of the pan, it is easy to lift one half up to keep an eye (and an ear) on the roast and ensure it is progressing as planned.
This is once again a very affordable, easy to use and easy to clean model of popcorn popper.
Though it has the slight inconvenience of not being electric, it does mean that you can pump more heat through it via the stovetop which can lead to better results for roasting.
The constant movement helping to keep the roast even is a big plus point.
Presto 5204 Orville Redenbacher’s Stirring Popper
This popcorn popper is something of a mix between the two already mentioned. It has the electric heating capabilities of the Hamilton Beach, but moves the contents (either popcorn or coffee) while heating to ensure even distribution of the heat and a nice, even roast.
It has more power than the Hamilton Beach product mentioned above, as well as more capacity, so for an electric popper which is intended to do decent sized roasts, the Presto 5204 could be a wonderful choice.
Some users add oil in this system while some don’t. For coffee, a product packed with oil anyway, this is not something you will want to do as it will taint the flavor.
The coffee or popcorn is moved around with a simple rotating arm which helps to push it around and distribute heat evenly. This is reminiscent of many professional roasters and their cooling racks, too.
It has a cover which does a brilliant job of keeping the heat in, while at the same time allowing you to keep an eye on the roast and watch it turn from green to the rich shade of chocolatey brown you are hoping for.
Though a little more expensive than the other options, this has an impressive capacity which can easily roast 6 to 8 Oz of coffee.
The heat comes from one electric source and you can keep an eye on it throughout due to the see through cover, meaning nothing should get out of hand.
Coffee Roasting Tips
If you’re going to roast your own coffee in a popcorn popper, it is important that you do it right. It is quite easy to mess up if you aren’t paying proper attention. The tips below are designed to help.
- Fit a temperature gauge if you can. Coffee’s ‘roast profile’ varies depending on the type of bean you wish to use. You also need to ensure it reaches high profiles to properly get the crack and therefore the rich flavor of the oils being released within the bean. If your popcorn popper isn’t reaching these temperatures it may be time to either turn up the heat, or add more green coffee to build up heat.
- Practise and experiment. There is a lot that can go wrong, and a lot that can go right! This is part of the charm. You are probably looking into roasting for the exact reason that you want to be able to experiment with different roasts and coffee beans. This is one of the benefits of being able to do the roast yourself. Experiment with bean types, roast sizes, roast times, and keep notes of what works well.
- Don’t over roast. A lot of people enjoy a nice, flavorsome dark roast, and there is nothing wrong with that, but as soon as this becomes burning the flavor will be ruined. When roasting, it is better to be cautious, and if you end up with a medium roast this can still be very pleasant, whereas a burnt roast is completely ruined.
- Don’t brew instantly. This can be a temptation when roasting coffee! The smell is lovely and it is an impressive way to wow your guests by roasting and brewing their after dinner cup of coffee. In the two hours after the roast a lot of gases are still being released and the coffee hasn’t reached its potential in terms of flavor. It is best to keep it in a container for 12 hours or more before grinding and brewing.
- 6-12 minute roasts. A lot of people who start out roasting have no idea how long it will take. Though you will be judging between ‘first crack’ and ‘second crack’ noises, the rough time it should take is between six and 12 minutes. Coffee is drinkable any time after first crack, so it is up to you how long you wish to roast.