I started home roasting coffee in June 1998. Since then I’ve used a number of different roasters and methods. I’ll be the first to confess that I haven’t kept up on all the different machines available to home coffee roasters. What I have learned is the most important factors to consider when buying your first home coffee roaster.
- Indoor, Outdoor or Somewhere In Between? – The most important factor in deciding on a roaster is answering the questions: Where do you plan on roasting? Coffee produces chaff and smoke. If you like darker roasters, it produces a lot of smoke. The electrical home roasters will have some filter to catch the chaff. They also clean the smoke to differing degrees. If you want to use a more classic method of roasting or if you plan to roast a lot, you should have access to the outdoors. And if you live in an extremely cold or hot area, that can be problematic.
- Noise – Coffee roasters can be somewhat quiet or extremely loud. My tolerance for noise is low, so I personally don’t like loud roasters. My I-Roast 2 does a fine job roasting, but it is as loud as a hair dryer, so I tend not to use it much. This is problem for the new home roaster, since you are learning how to listen for the first and second crack. Others may be willing to sacrifice noise for convenience. The Behmor 1600 is about $100 more than an I-Roast and is very quiet.
- Price – Home coffee roasters can be as cheap as a tray in an oven or as much as you want to spend. The Hottop Programmable is about $1000. Roasting coffee is an intense process. Don’t expect your roaster to last as long as your coffee pot. It won’t. Almost half the roasters I’ve owned have died shortly before or after the warranty expired. If the machine you buy has a 2 year warranty, expect 2 years of life and no more. Start saving for your next machine as soon you pull it out the box.
- Volume – How much coffee do you drink?
Once you’ve answered those four questions, you can then drill down on the home coffee roaster best for you. CoffeeGeek has a section dedicated to extensive reviews of different coffee roasters. Keep in mind that most of the home roasters I know will experiment with many different roasting methods. It is too much fun not to experiment with new methods.
Westbend Poppery 1500 Watt – Best For Beginners.
However, if I were to plug a single home roasting method for the beginner it would be the Westbend Poppery 1500 Watt popcorn popper. It is super quiet and hands on, so you can hear and see the coffee roasting. They are available on eBay for about $60. That is too expensive for a lousy popcorn popper, but a bargain for solid coffee roaster. My Popperys have outlasted every other coffee roaster I’ve ever owned. The Poppery does require access to the outdoors, as it throws chaff and produces smoke.
I hope this helped. Now that it is spring time, you should have no excuse not to start home coffee roasting.
Roasting Coffee in a Popcorn Popper – My tutorial on roasting coffee in the Westbend Poppery
Hottop KN-8828P Coffee Bean Roaster First Look – Overview of the Hottop coffee roaster.
I-Roast 2 Coffee Roasting Guide – Tutorial on roasting with the IRoast 2.
Home Roasting Coffee in an Oven – Tutorial on how to roast coffee in an oven.
Behmor 1600 Coffee Roaster Tutorial – How to roast coffee using the Behmor 1600.
CoffeeGeek – Roasters, Accessories & Misc review section.
eBay – Place to bid on old popcorn poppers you wish to roast coffee with.
In 2007, Michael moved to America's coffee capitol Seattle, Washington. He has visited close to two hundred different coffee places in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver and met many of the top roasters and baristas in the country. Since 2009, Michael has been the Organizer of the Coffee Club of Seattle, which is a Meetup group of over 600 coffee enthusiasts. Besides the social aspect of the group, the Coffee Club of Seattle partners with local coffee professionals for educational events such as coffee cuppings, brewing demonstrations and roasting tours.
Unrelated to coffee, Michael has a personal blog at CriticalMAS.com which covers several topics including fitness, cooking and economics.