Popcorn Popper as Coffee Roaster

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I wanted to try roasting my own coffee but was reluctant to plunk down $100 just to try it. The solution: a hot-air popcorn popper. Sweet Maria’s web site has detailed instructions on how to use a popcorn popper to dry roast coffee beans. I already had a popper (a $3 “Presto” I got at a thrift store), so I ordered a pound of green beans. Turns out it’s very easy. No tinkering, hacking or rewiring necessary.

Measure the beans as you would popcorn. Same amount.

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Tilt back the popper a little so the beans won’t bounce out.

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As the beans roast, the chaff separates, so it’s important to point the popper towards a sink or garbage can. You can also do it outside and the chaff just floats away in a slight breeze.

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Time it for 6-8 minutes, depending on how dark you like your roast. I usually timed mine about 7-7.5 minutes, but a few trials will get you to a place where you like it. Experiment! Roasting doesn’t produce a lot of smoke, but does produce enough to set off a smoke detector. Be sure to disable it while you’re roasting inside.

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Half a cup of fresh-roasted coffee (above) is enough for two days in our house; I store it in a tight-sealing mason-type jar to keeps it fresh.

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Sweet Maria’s recommends cooling off the beans so they stop roasting. I do this by shaking them in this jelly-making collander, but really, for my simple tastes, it’s not completely necessary.

It’s best to wait 12 hours or so before brewing. This allows all the gasses from the roasting process to escape. Again, to my simple taste, it tastes the same. In the photo below, the beans look like they are different colors. This batch (below) was from a blend of different beans. Normally, if the beans are the same, they will all be the same tone of brown.

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As you can see, it’s a bit of work and requires clean up, but for me, it’s well worth it. Coffee roasters have to be cleaned as well, so either way, the process is not for someone in a hurry. Once I figured out that I was going to stick with roasting (who wouldn’t? it tastes so much better), I bought the previously-reviewed Fresh Roast Plus Coffee Roaster. It’s quieter and has it’s own chaff collector. Sweet Maria’s has more elaborate roasters. They even have one with a catalytic converter so no smoke comes out. If I had more money, I might buy a better one. But for under a $100, the FreshRoast Plus 8 is great. If I hadn’t been able to afford it, though, I’d still be roasting with my popcorn maker. It worked great and tasted great. It fills the house with the lovely aroma of coffee. It also makes for a great conversation piece for people who never have ventured beyond their local coffee house in search of that excellent cup.

-- Bingo Wright  

More info available from Sweet Maria’s

How to tell if your popper can be a roaster