How To Roast Coffee in a Hot Air Popcorn Popper

UPDATE 12/17/2012: My hot air popper died on me. See my new blog post on coffee roasting.

Roasting my own coffee has been one of the most satisfying and easy homesteading projects I’ve ever taken on. I look forward to my delicious, freshly roasted coffee every morning. Roasting your own coffee is so simple, I can’t believe that more people don’t do it.

Here’s how I do it:

1. Every couple of months I order green beans from Sweet Maria’s in Oakland. I’m particularly found of their eight pound sample pack. They choose the varieties–usually from multiple continents, carefully sourced and half the price of what they would cost roasted (if you could even find these interesting coffees). One of these days I’ll find a local source for green beans, but until that time I’m very happy with Sweet Maria’s.

2. I roast a couple of days supply of coffee maybe twice a week. I do it with a West Bend Air Crazy popcorn popper. Note that not all hot air poppers will work. Sweet Maria’s has a complete list of the right kind of hot air poppers here. One drawback is that you can only roast a small amount at a time–no more than a half cup. It takes about 6 minutes for the roast that I like. I keep the kitchen doors closed to prevent the smoke alarm in the hallway from going off. You would probably better get better results with a manual, hand-cranked popcorn popper such as the Jiffy Pop popcorn popper, but I like the convenience of the air popper. I just dump the beans in and in a few minutes I’m done. One drawback is that the West Bend popper is poorly constructed. Repeated use has sort of melted the top a bit. If you roast coffee with and air popper and have a better suggestion for a popper brand, please leave a comment. Despite the slightly deformed shape of my West Bend, it still works fine.

3. Once the roast is complete I dump the beans into a metal colander to cool them off. The beans out-gas CO2 for a few hours so after they cool they go into a 75¢ foil valve bag that Sweet Maria’s sells. I roast in the evening before going to bed. By morning the coffee is ready to use.

4. I make my coffee in a stainless steel French press. And, while I enjoy my fresh roasted coffee I’m also aware that it’s a bad habit. From a prepping perspective it would be much better not to be addicted to caffeine. But it sure is tasty!

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25 Comments

  1. I used to use a stovetop popper but was frustrated with the small batch size as well as all the smoke and chaff that was produced. For a relatively small investment ($300), I picked up a Behmor 1600 drum roaster from SM and increased my batch size to 1 lb. It’s about the size of a small microwave and has different roast profiles and time controls, so it still is a fun challenge working out the best process (which is the one thing I liked about the popper).

    I also cut out the one way valve out of a bag of coffee and hot-glued it onto the top of a mason jar for storage for the first couple days, then I just switch the lids for longer storage (if the beans actually last that long).

  2. I started with a $100 coffee bean roaster. When that wore out after 2 years, I switched to a Whirlypop (hand-cranked popcorn popper) that I found for $3 at Good Will. When the hand crank broke, I switched to a pan on top of the stove. I just stir for 10-15 minutes and that’s it. I do a whole quart at a time. I LOVE IT! By far the easiest, best way I’ve roasted my coffee beans.

  3. Hi Erik,

    I ordered some interesting flavors of green beans from Klatch Coffee. I know there are locations in San Dimas and Upland. You can pick up or mail-order from their website.

  4. I’ve seen way more research expounding the many health positives of coffee drinking than warning about possible negatives. I’m convinced that, barring any unique caffeine sensitivities, the benefits far outweigh the risks. (Of course, I might be subconsciously cherry-picking my information :) ) I’m going to send this to my coffee loving father who lives in Oakland – see if I can get him to drop his decades long loyalty to Peet’s, which long since went the corporate-crap way of Starbucks…

    • If you live in Oakland you can just drop by Sweet Maria’s and not have any shipping charges. Than it really is a bargain. And I agree, I think coffee in moderation is probably ok from a health perspective.

  5. I also use the air crazy popper for small batches. The top of my popper is melted and misshapen now after a couple roast so I leave the lid off.

    How do you control the chaff in the house? Do you just sweep up afterwards? I roast on my deck in nice weather and in the garage when it is cold.

    • I meant to say something about this. My top is still usable so I direct the chaff towards the sink. I’ve also roasted outside which is probably the best way to stay in the good graces of your housemates.

  6. From the sound of it, you’re leaving the plastic “redirector” on.
    Take it off! If you don’t like the husks flying all over the place,
    put something with a screen over it to catch them. I use a flour
    sifter. :)

    Another tip: Roast in the bathroom with the fan on. Gets rid of
    the smoke, but leaves the bathroom smelling like Starbucks instead
    of a bathroom. :) :)

  7. After you use your popper to roast coffee, can you still use it to pop popcorn or does your popcorn start coming out smelling/tasting like coffee?

  8. Pingback: Using a Whirley-Pop to Roast Coffee | Root Simple

  9. My spouse and I stumbled over here coming from a different page and thought I may
    as well check things out. I like what I see so now i am following you.
    Look forward to exploring your web page again.

  10. The link is not working “My hot air popper died on me. See my new blog post on coffee roasting.”
    The error message says something about a draft.

  11. Hi! Thanks for this site and this blog on coffee. Has anyone used the West Bend 82306 Stir Crazy 6-Quart Electric Popcorn Popper for roasting coffee beans? I am new to this and hope to start roasting my own beans soon and currently shopping for a machine. One reviewer on Amazon said this was great for roasting but I’de like other opinions. Does the volume capacity for popcorn correlate to the amount of coffee one can roast at one time? Is the smoke and chaff dispersion really bad? I almost started to buy a $161 coffee roaster with catalytic converter to control smoke until I read about popcorn poppers. I live is SF so may be able to go to Sweet Marie’s to get coffee myself;-)) Thanks again for this site. It’s great!!

    • Hi Mary, I strongly recommend the manual stove top method using a Whirley-Pop. You get much more control over the roast. Speaking from experience, electric popcorn poppers are not made to roast coffee and they will burn out after repeated use. And lucky you living so close to Sweet Marias. They are a great company.

  12. Pingback: How To Roast Green Coffee Beans At Home In A Hot Air Popcorn Popper — Homestead and Survival

  13. I use a Presto air popper (1440 watts) which I modified by bypassing the heat resistor and thermal coupler (easy to do). I use a small lantern chimney in place of the plastic top and roast outside to dispose of the chaff that flys out of the top (beans don’t fly out).

    I can easily reach past second crack in under 10 minutes, depending on the type of green beans used.

    I get all of the equipment at a thrift store for under 10 bucks and have been doing it for years. Many types of poppers will work as long as they are at least 1200 watts and you bypass the thermal protections. Let the popper cool for about 10 minutes between roasts, you can do a little aver a pound in about an hour.

    Another trick is using a George Foreman roaster (GR82B) with the round rotisserie basket. You can do about a pound at a time and it takes about 45 minutes. The chaff is caught in the drip tray. This method is ok for a decent high altitude bean and will get you to a full city roast, very near second crack, but I prefer the smaller batches roasted quicker.

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