How to Roast Your Own Coffee in a Stovetop Popcorn Maker

Thanks to the Institute for Domestic Technology, I learned roast my own coffee at home in a Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper. It’s a simple, if smokey, process.

You heat up the popper on your stove top over a medium/high heat and dump in 10 ounces of green coffee beans. The beans we used were ordered from Sweet Maria’s who carry a wide selection of high-end beans at inexpensive prices.

The only trick with the Whirley-Pop coffee roasting method is adjusting the stove burner. You’re shooting for “first crack,” the point when the beans pop kind of like popcorn. at around the 6 minute mark. Mine took a little bit longer on the first attempt, but after a few roasting sessions I’m sure I’d get the right burner setting. After first crack the beans quiet down for a few minutes. The next thing you’re listening for is the “second crack.” As soon as those beans start making noise again you dump them on a cookie tray to cool down. That’s really all there is to it. Sweet Maria’s has a pdf sheet with more detailed Whirley-Pop instructions as well as a review of other home roasting methods.

Our instructor at the Institute class, Ian Riley, suggested storing the beans at room temperature in a reusable valve bag (freshly roasted coffee beans out-gas CO2).

Unlike many home “artisinal” food methods (we probably need to retire the “a” word), home coffee roasting saves money and you get a much better product than store bought coffee.

Of course quitting coffee would also save money but you’ll have to ask Mrs. Root Simple about that one–I’m an addict.

If you’re in the LA area, you can take Ian Riley’s home coffee roasting class at the Institute for Domestic Technology. I also teach a no-knead bread class at the institute as part of Foodcrafting 101.

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  1. I don’t drink coffee – John drinks enough for the both of us. However, as a clutter-phobe, I am always impressed when one appliance can be used for a host of purposes, thus reducing the amount of stuff I need to own, as I have become merciless in my cabinet sweeps. I imagine the Holy Grail as the one pot that works for everything.

    I am absolutely no fun in kitchen gadget stores.

  2. Donna, I like to secretly buy kitchen gadgets while Mrs. Root Simple is not watching. I considered sneaking one of these whirley pops into our cramped kitchen while she’s away this week but thought better of it!

    • At least you’re buying them new. I think my husband is picking his up from “free” piles the neighbors leave out on the curb, thus necessitating regular cabinet and drawer purges at our house. It might be a charming quirk of his if the stuff had all its parts and worked, but that’s clearly not a requirement.

  3. lol, I don’t drink coffee either, I’m of the opinion that most people only think they need it 🙂 Like blackberrys and Ipads.

  4. This is how we roast our coffee (complete with beans from Sweet Maria’s). My husband has discovered that the burner on grill (salvaged from neighbors when they upgraded) works perfectly. And then the smell and smoke is all outside! Inside it always sets off the smoke alarms…

    And the whirley pop imparts no funny flavors to popcorn–which we do inside.

  5. I’ve never used this kind of popcorn maker to roast coffee; we use an old electric air popper one and yes, we do it outside because it gets smokey as you say.

  6. We did this for awhile with coffee beans Tom brought home from Ethiopia. Being a total Seattle Coffee Snob, I was sure I would find the result sub-standard, but it was really good, and fun. Even so, with so many expert same-day roasters in Seattle busy exploring the nuance of roasting (small, local folks we like) it really doesn’t make sense for us to keep it up.

  7. I have used a Whirley-Pop for roasting coffee and i think it works great. I’ve since moved into an apartment and got a Nesco so it would be smokeless, but i miss the Whirley-Pop. I’ve been getting beans from burman coffee traders for years and they have great deals on beans too.

  8. I use an old school electric air popcorn popper to roast our coffee. I’m actually surprised that it’s lasted us over a year and a half.

  9. We’ve used this style for about 9 years:

    Anyone trying roasting green coffee beans using a popcorn popper, please, remember to use caution, don’t walk off and leave it unattended and a fire extinguisher would be a good item to have close at hand. That said, I have never had a problem, but you would be using the popper in a manner not consistent with the manufacturer’s specs. I roast 1/3 cup of beans at a time. Too many beans will not allow hot air to circulate.

    I like to be able to look at the beans since I am wanting first crack, then first oil. I place a strainer over the top so I can look at the beans without the bean skins blowing out. There will also be smoke, making you smell like roasted coffee beans. I happen to like the smell, but if you don’t, roast outside in a well ventilated area.

    It takes a little practice, but it is worth the effort. I roast daily and we have great coffee. We bought 200 pounds a few years ago and finally ran out. I wished we’d bought 400 pounds now because prices have gone up quite a bit.

  10. I fully agree re. the Whirley Pop stovetop popcorn popper, that it makes quite good a job with roasting coffee. Only thing, I rather heat the pop at first on a _low_ flame, as I don’t want it to heat too rapidly and scorch the beans once they are added to the “roaster.” Once it reaches about 400F I add the beans and let them roast at medium pace (not too fast nor too slow as I don’t want to “bake” them), but adding the beans does reduce the temperature dramatically, so I adjust the heat to keep it high.

    You’ll learn indeed to adjust the heat during the roast as you gain more experience. It gets more intuitive with the time. It does take a few roasts to “get it right.” When I first started to roast coffee with the Whirley popcorn popper, I have been removing the beans all too quickly, fearing that they have already been burnt only to recognize later that they were far under-roasted so I used to pour them back into the pop and continue roasting the beans ’till they turned much darker, and then the real roast smell (instead of the “grassy” one) started filling the room. Then I realized I’m on the right path.

    With more experience, you’ll also come to appreciate the sense of smell in addition to audible sense for listening to the “cracks” and “snappings,” judging the roast stages also based on the smell quality. Inspecting visually the beans as they advance through the progressing roasting levels also helps, but one risks having the smoke escape into the room. However, I do recommend to peak in past the “second crack” every 30 seconds or so, to make sure the roast doesn’t go too fast and save the beans from getting burnt. The Whirley Pop, here again, comes in handy, as the hinging lid allows for opening and closing it easily.

    Re. the valve bags, I want to add one thing: it’s a good idea indeed, but if you let the beans vent some hours after roasting, you can safely store them into an airtight glass container to preserve the rich aromas of the beans, and they should be stored away from light, heat and moisture.

    Just my 2 cents. BTW, I’ve captured a simple short video in the past of one of my early attempts at roasting coffee on the stove top in the Whirley pop. You can watch the video on my site (roasting coffee beans in the Whirley Pop), or you can find many other good similar videos of using the Whirley popper to roast coffee on YouTube.

    Regards, J

  11. I just roasted my first batch of Costa Rican coffee with the Whirley Popper. First crack came in exactly 6 minutes. I continuously stirred the pot and looked inside till I saw what I thought was a nice dark roast. Total time about 22 minutes. They are sitting now, they look great, we’ll know tomorrow how they taste.

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