Stainless-Steel Stove-Top Popcorn Popper and Coffee Roaster

Roasting coffee at home is one of the best kept secrets. You get far superior coffee at a much lower cost – and I live in Seattle so I’m comparing this with the best roasters around. It’s easy to do, takes about 20 minutes (basic instructions and links below) and produces about a pound at a time. I’ve been roasting 1-2 times a week for over 2 years.

This popcorn popper is much like the previously reviewed Whirley-Pop Theater Stovetop Popcorn Popper but it is significantly more durable in material (stainless steel vs aluminum), gauge (much thicker) and gears (metal vs plastic). This is important when roasting coffee (vs. popcorn) because it is much heavier and puts significantly more strain on the parts. Also, heavier pots distribute heat better.

Why Roast at Home? Because you have a far bigger selection of beans to choose from so you can cater to your personal taste (chocolate, lemon hints, molasses, florals, etc.). Grean beans are much cheaper than roasted. Freshness is probably the biggest factor in coffee taste and unless you are picking your coffee up from a roaster the chances are you’ve never had really fresh coffee.

Why Stovetop? Many home roasters use old air poppers as roasters. These can work fine but you need to get the correct air popper (new ones usually don’t work). They are much harder to control and they make a serious mess (when fresh beans are roasted the outer skin cooks off as a light chaff which air poppers blow all over the place). Home roasters (previously reviewed here) give you far less control and typically involve somewhat laborious cleaning of parts. Also the inexpensive ones don’t handle the chaff problem. Air poppers and home roasters also provide almost no way to control the considerable smokiness of the process which is why most people use them outdoors.

Stovetop Method: Sweet Maria’s has a whole section on this as well as adaptations made to this popper (have it do the work for you by adding a drill to do the stirring!) and the many cool devices people have hacked together for home roasting using everything from old BBQs to hot air guns which is one of the reasons they are the best home coffee site around.

Stovetop Popper Options: This popper varies in price so you might want to start with the previously reviewed whirley pop. It costs $21 and I used at the beginning. I switched once I knew I would be doing this a lot and for a long time to come. I’ve been using this popper for almost 2 years and it’s never been cleaned and it works like a charm – well worth it. Replacement gears are available for a few bucks online and they will eventually wear out (especially if you use a drill for stirring instead of your hands).

Jump In!: Reading about coffee roasting is worthwhile and Sweet Marias has everything you need to know. The only problem is that it will make you think it is far more complicated than it really is. The bottom line is that it takes a little practice and once you have done it you realize you just have to get the temperature right and watch/listen/smell for the obvious signs of it being ready. Don’t be put off just jump in and try it. I’ve tried many DIY things from the Arduino to making jam and I can assure you that this is the easiest and most rewarding of all them.

-- Charles Borwick  

[We first reviewed the Stovetop Popcorn Popper and Sweet Maria's here in 2010, but thanks to Charles we're highlighting the wonders of simple home-roasting again!--OH]

Stainless Steel Stove-Top Popcorn Popper
$31
Available from Amazon

Sweet Marias
Available from http://www.sweetmarias.com/index.php