For those unfamiliar with how to roast coffee using a popcorn popper, I strongly recommend reading Ryan Jacobs’ Roast Your Own tutorial before proceeding. That article provides a detailed step-by-step walk through of the roasting process and is the perfect starting point for any new home coffee roaster.
This article picks up where that one left off. Experience has provided me with a few minor enhancements that will make home roasting in a popcorn popper even better. Like the original tutorial, these tips are also geared toward the beginner. The popper used in this tutorial is the West Bend 2.
Yanking The Cord
It didn’t take too many roasts before I got sick of pulling the cord out of the wall to stop the roast. Unlike other roasters such as the Fresh Roast or the Hearthware, the West Bend 2 doesn’t have an OFF switch. Note: the original West Bend Poppery does have an off switch. The way to stop a roast is simply by pulling the cord out the wall. Pulling on anything electrical isn’t my idea of fun. The simple solution here is to get a dedicated power strip for the roaster. This will allow the roaster to manually turn on and off the roaster from a switch. Far more elegant and if you’re roasting multiple batches it becomes a slight time saver.
Use a power strip (AMAZON.COM) to turn the popper on and off.
Cooling the Beans Method 1
The common method of cooling beans is using a cookie tray and the wind. This works fine enough unless it’s a warm day without a breeze. In a previous article we learned that cold weather is an enemy for roasting. On the flip side, hot weather is the enemy for cooling. If the freshly roasted coffee doesn’t cool, then it’s still roasting. And if it’s still cooking the coffee will end up over-roasted and flat.
Cooling the beans quickly is essential to great tasting coffee. I found that a perforated metal colander works best. Because of the dish shape the roaster can shake the beans around more than a flat tray. The perforations allow air to get to the bean and accelerate cooling. Another added benefit is that rolling the beans around will shake off some of the chaff.
Use a perforated metal colander to cool your coffee roast.
Cooling the Beans Method 2
The next method of cooling is by spraying a light mist of cold water onto the beans immediately after the beans have been placed into the colander. Only use this method if you are in a very warm environment with minimal air flow. I used this method when I lived in Florida. A fine mist of cold water will evaporate immediately and cool the coffee beans in the process. Don’t drench the beans, just lightly mist the cold water over them. If your squirt bottle can’t mist, don’t use it. Anything more than a mist will do more harm than good.
A cool technique that I’ve read about, but never implemented is using a shop vac to remove chaff. Holding a shop vac up to a perforated holding tray or colander will strip off any excess chaff. It has the added bonus of immediately cooling the beans. My guess is that this method would work extremely well for cooling oven roasted coffee which doesn’t lose any of it’s chaff during the roasting process.
Volume or Weight
Coffee beans will vary in size from country to country. Although using the 1/2 cup rule is fine, you may be able to achieve better results by measuring out the coffee beans by weight. A small kitchen scale like the one shown below will work best. If you would like to test the accuracy of your equipment, place 11 US pennies in the scale. It should measure exactly 1 ounce. The popper should be able to roast 4 ounces. Some models such as the West Bend Poppery can handle up to 5 ounces. Experiment and keep a journal to find your popper’s limitations.
The EatSmart Precision (AMAZON.COM) is an excellent scale for weighing coffee beans.
There are always innovative ways to improve the home roasting process. As you gain experience home roasting you’ll be able to not only enjoy delicious fresh home roasted coffee but also the joy of discovering new and creative techniques to make your roasting processes better.
Roasting Coffee in a Popcorn Popper – A tutorial on roasting coffee using the West Bend Poppery.
Roast Your Own – Our original popcorn popper home roasting guide.
Winter Home Roasting – Ideas to speed up your cold weather coffee roasts.
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.