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 are the most important factors to consider when buying your first home coffee roaster.
#1 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?
Some coffee roasters work indoors. Many or most would be better set up in a garage, a patio, or a porch. The reason is roasting coffee produces smoke. More smoke that you get when cooking food. Coffee also releases a thin paper like chaff during the roast that can add to the cleanup.
The darker you roast your coffee or the more volume you roast, the more I would encourage you to not to roast indoors. An exception would be kitchens with extremely good vents. Most dedicated home roasters will have some filter to catch the chaff. They also clean the smoke to differing degrees. Popcorn poppers won’t.
The downside to outdoor roasting is if you live in a cold environment, you will need to come up with hacks to keep your roaster warm enough without creating a fire hazard.
Coffee roasters can be somewhat quiet or extremely loud. Air roasters tend to be loader than drum roasters.
Noise can be a problem for the new home roaster since you are learning how to listen for the first and second crack. The quieter the roaster is, the easier it will be to hear those cracks. As a general rule, drum roasters tend to be quieter than air roasters. They also tend to cost more, but they also last longer.
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.
Different roasters have different volumes. Some coffee roasters roast too little for some households. Although there is something to be said for starting off small while you are learning, you also don’t want to spend a lot of money on a small volume roaster that you are certain to outgrow.
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.
The Poppery 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 not an indoor roaster, but 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 a solid coffee roaster. My Poppery roasters 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. Knowing how much money you have to spend, your noise sensitivity, how much coffee your home consumes, and if you have access to a porch or patio with an electrical outlet will help guide your search for your first home coffee roaster.
Westbend Poppery 1500 (eBay)
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.
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.