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I’ve roasted coffee at home dozens of times, admittedly it’s not something I do often anymore, but definitely a coffee activity that I would recommend at least once in your life if you’re really into coffee. It can be fun, interesting and certainly impress your coffee-loving friends. But before you learn how to roast coffee at home, allow me to give you some tips and tricks so you don’t waste an entire bag of beans. I will be the first to say, roasting coffee beans is not for everyone.
I haven’t personally roasted my own beans since I moved into an apartment and now live in the city, that was over 3 years ago. The three methods I’ve listed in this article are the ones I’ve tried, Popcorn, SR500/540, and cast-iron. There are many ways (and many roaster devices) to roast coffee, I’ll list a few additional ways, but I can’t really give recommendations based on lack of experience in other methods. However, the process of roasting beans is smokey, can be messy and ultimately you’ll need very good ventilation. With that said, roasting your own coffee is absolutely worth it if you are curious and have the time.
3 Ways of Roasting Coffee At Home
Method # 1: Roast Coffee Beans with a Popcorn Popper
I used the popcorn popper for years to roast my coffee before biting the bullet and buying an actual coffee roaster. When I roasted my first batch of coffee beans, I made the grave mistake of doing it inside the house away from ventilation. A good coffee friend of mine told me about the method and after going to my local big chain store to get a popcorn popper, I thought I already had it figured out. I didn’t.
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Mistakes I made roasting coffee at home
- 1. I burned the crap out of the beans, it wasn’t just a dark roast…
- 2. I set off the fire alarm from all the smoke
- 3. Chaff was EVERYWHERE (some beans make more chaff than others)
- 4. I didn’t cool the beans fast enough
- 5. I decided to grind the coffee right away and make a cup, 30 mins after roasting
From my experience, the popcorn popper machine will last about 9 -10 months on average with moderate to heavy usage, that means roasting a couple of times a week. If you’re roasting coffee beans more than 4-5 times a week, I doubt the popper will last more than 6 months. But on average expect 9 months from your popper and it’s probably time to get a new one. I ended up buying 2 poppers during my roasting journey and it was fun, easy and I made many great cups of coffee using this method. After my 2nd popper, I broke down and bought a Fresh Roast SR500 (now SR540) which I continued to use for about 1.5 years until I sold it on Craigslist. I’ll go over the SR500/540 later in this article. You’ll know when it’s almost time to replace the air popper because the roasting, color and roast temp will be less consistent and the popper will start producing a subpar coffee roast. You’ll have some beans that are underdeveloped, while others might be burned. Once this happens, it’s time to replace the air popper with a new none.
Tips & tricks before roasting your first batch
- Do it outside the house! The amount of smoke billowing from this little popper can be too much. You might need to run an extension cord.
- Use a timer, and check the roast at 1:30 min, 2:00 mins and finally 4:00-4:30 mins depending on your roast preference
- 3/4 of a cup unroasted green coffee beans is a good starting point
- Be prepared to clean up tons of chaff
- Have a pyrex bowl or a colander ready to catch the hot beans. I preferred to use a colander
Get Coffee Roasting Tools Ready
- Presto Air Popper
- Ziploc bags
- Wooden Spoon
How to Roast Coffee with a Presto PopLite Hot Air Popper (check price)
I’ll go over the roasting process that I used to make medium roast coffee beans, how to cool the coffee beans & finally storage solutions for your freshly roasted coffee. For roasting, I used two types of beans exclusively at the time and I did a lot of research (after I burned my first batch), which beans would work best for home roasting with a popcorn popper. Costa Rican & Nicaraguan beans consistently popped up as the recommended beans. Smaller beans will burn quickly if you’re not careful, so pay very close attention to your popper and the color of the beans. You may end up trying out different bean exporters to find the right beans for you. This process can be fun, but if you end up with a batch of beans you don’t like, it sucks because you’re stuck with those beans until you’re out. I recommend starting with these two types of beans:
- Single Origin Unroasted Green Coffee Beans, from Nicaragua (medium roasting)
- Southern Central American – Costa Rica (dark roasting)
15 Steps to roasting coffee with Presto PopLite Hot Air Popper
- Step 1: Get your air popper and colander set up outside. Place the colander where the popcorn would normally pop out to catch beans and chaff.
- Step 2: Turn on the popper
- Step 3: Add 3/4 cup of unroasted coffee beans into the popper and begin the roasting process (you’ll immediately start to see the beans being agitated)
- Step 4: Stir the coffee beans (15 seconds)in the bottom of the popper, this step is optional, but I usually did anyway to ensure even roasting
- Step 5: Put the popper cover to prevent beans from ‘jumping’ out during the agitation/roasting process. It’s natural to see some beans pop into the colander.
- Step 6: At about 45 -1:30 second mark, you’ll start to see a large amount of chaff from the beans, this is normal.
- Step 7: Check timer & roast at 2:00-2:15 minute mark, this should yield pretty close to a light roast at this point. If your goal is a Light Roast, turn off the popper and pour beans into the colander, stir the coffee beans immediately with a whisk or a wooden spoon. Let beans cool. If you’re doing a light roast, skip to Step 11.
- Step 8: Check timer & roast at the 3:00-3:15 minute mark, this will usually start to yield a light-medium roast (this will depend on your choice of bean size), the smaller the beans the faster it will go from LIGHT to DARK. If your goal is a light-medium roast, check the beans to see if it’s the color you’re looking for.
- Step 9: 4:00-4:15 minutes, most smaller beans will already be close to a MEDIUM roast at this stage if you put 3/4 cup of beans from the start. If you put less than 3/4 cup of beans for your coffee roast, it will probably take less than 4:00 mins to get to medium. At this stage, you should be ready to pour all of the coffee into your colander or pyrex. Get a whisk and stir the beans vigorously without breaking the beans into pieces.
- Step 10: After 4:15+ minutes, you’re looking at a very DARK roast. Remove beans and begin the cooling process. Do the same steps from previous directions, whisk and let the beans cool.
- Step 11: Let the beans cool
- Step 12: Get a Ziploc bag or a canister with a C02 release and place cool roasted coffee beans in your container of choice. You want the container to be AIRTIGHT, with a little air as possible.
- Step 13: Let the beans DEGASS (letting gas escape the coffee), the roasted coffee beans will naturally emit C02 as part of the finished roasting process. This will take about 24-48 hours. Beans will continue to emit C02 all the way through the brewing process, you’ll actually see bubbles form from the coffee if you pre-soak your brew.
- Step 14: After 24 hours, you should be able to grind and brew your first cup!
- Step 15: Marvel at your work and enjoy your amazing home-roasted coffee beans.
Things to look out for during roasting with the Air Popper
You’ll hear the coffee beans cracking at about the 2:00 minute mark, this is called ‘The first Crack’. The cracking is essentially moisture leaving the beans. At close to the 4:15-4:30 minute mark, you’ll hear the ‘2nd Crack’ and this is an indication that beans are ready and usually indicate that it’s closer to a Dark Roast rather than a medium. If you don’t have space outside to roast your coffee, make sure you do it right under a stovetop vent or close to a window as possible. The beans will produce a lot of smoke as it progresses through the roasting process. I always suggest to do it outside or under very good ventilation. Also remember the smaller the beans, the faster the roasting process will be.
Final Notes on using Presto PopLite Hot Air Popper
Roasting 3/4 cup of coffee will typically yield between 100 grams-110 grams of whole coffee beans, depending on the roast type and bean size. For reference, a typical coffee bag that you buy from the stores usually comes in with 340g of coffee (larger bags are about 454 grams). So to achieve a typical 1 bag of coffee from your local roaster, you’ll probably need to roast 2-3 batches of coffee. I would still suggest to only roast as much as you can drink in two weeks. If a bag of coffee usually lasts you 1 month of coffee drinking, you’re probably okay roasting 3/4 cup of coffee once a week or every two weeks.
Presto PopLite Hot Air Popper should last you for months, but I’d be shocked if it lasted more than a year of constant roasting, 9 months is what I would expect from this product and or process. Roasting on a popcorn popper was my first foray into home roasting and I must admit, I had a lot of fun doing it. My only regret is not having pictures of my roast during that time and I didn’t really document the process. I have the tasting notes & roasting times for different types of beans, but unfortunately no photos. If you’re just getting into home roasting and you’re looking for a cheap method to get started, using Presto PopLite Hot Air Popper to roast coffee beans in the comfort of your own home or backyard is a great place to start.
Roast Coffee Beans in a Cast Iron Skillet
This method requires you only buy beans and a good airtight container for your coffee. Probably the most affordable way to start roasting coffee at home if you don’t want to spend cash on an air popper or an actual coffee roaster setup. I’ve roasted coffee beans a few times on a cast-iron skillet, this isn’t my preferred method and definitely has some serious drawbacks. But you can still make good home-roasted coffee through this method. I suggest using a cast iron pan for this for consistent/even heat distribution. You can certainly use a non-cast iron pan if you don’t own one, it would still work, but it might trickier to get the heat just right. For roasting with cast iron, it’s also easier to use a gas burner/flame burner. An electric glass stovetop or electric coil is harder to control when it comes to just the right amount of heat. My setup for roasting coffee at home was using a cast iron pan + gas burner. I used an 8 in. a cast-iron skillet, pictures in the affiliate link below, I’ve also tried a 12 in. cast-iron skillet and found the 8 in. skillet to be the optimal size based on the number of beans I was roasting at a time.
Tips & Tricks for Roasting Coffee on an Iron Skillet at Home
- Don’t use any oil, the pan should be dry. If you’re cast iron is seasoned, that’s okay. The oil may impart flavor into your beans
- Use an 8-inch pan. ideally, but 12-in. pans are okay you’ll need to add more beans
- Use smaller size beans to get an even roast. Again Costa Rican or Nicaraguan beans would work well
- Try to use a gas burner if at all possible. Glass or electric stovetop will still work, but heat control might be an issue
10 Steps to Roasting Coffee at home with a pan/skillet
- Step 1: Measure out 3/4 cup (8-inch pan) of unroasted coffee beans of your choice. Again if you’re using larger coffee beans, you may run into issues with uneven roasting. If you are using a 12-inch pan, you may want to consider 1 full cup of unroasted coffee beans.
- Step 2: Place your pan on the burner, turn the heat know to MEDIUM heat and let the pan heat up for approximately 1:30 – 2:00 minutes before adding your coffee beans. Don’t forget to turn on your ventilation, if you have one.
- Step 3: Once the pan has heated up, add your coffee beans slowly and immediately start stirring the coffee beans in a circular motion. Stirring the coffee will ensure an even roast across all the beans. You can use a metal whisk (no plastics, it may melt) or a large flat spoon.
- Step 4: Continue to stir the coffee beans, you’ll start to see color changes as the time goes on.
- Step 5: At about 9:15-9:30 mark, you should see consistent coloration on the beans, and the roast should start its “First Crack” which usually means the beans are at a LIGHT ROAST. If this is your desired roast, remove beans from the heat immediately add the beans to a pyrex or a colander.
- Step 6: At about 11:00 minute mark, you should reach MEDIUM ROAST. If this is your desired rost, remove beans from heat and pour beans in the colander. If you’re looking for a dark roast coffee, stir the coffee beans longer until you reach your desired roast.
- Step 7: Once the beans are in the colander, whisk vigorously to remove as much chaff off the beans and begin the cooling process.
- Step 8: Let the beans cool thoroughly
- Step 9: Once the beans cool down a bit, place them in a Ziploc bag or your container of choice. Ideally, you’d want to remove as much air as possible from the freezer bag. If you use a canister, make sure it has a C02 valve. Keeping an oxygen-free environment for your beans is essential, as the air will rapidly stale your freshly roasted coffee beans. Letting the beans sit in the bag, it will naturally emit C02 gasses, this process is called ‘DEGASSING’.
- Step 10: Let the beans sit in the container for at least 24 hours before grinding your first cup. Letting the beans sit for at least 24-48 allows the beans to develop as much of its future flavors as possible.
Final Notes on roasting coffee in a pan
I found this method to be a very good entry to roasting your own coffee beans, with a few annoying drawbacks. Firstly, the chaff released by the roasting of the coffee can’t be avoided. Most of the chaff will end up in the pan adding to smoke emitted by the beans. Secondly, you will need a very good ventilation system if you’re doing it on the stovetop. You could probably do this on a gas grill if you have one, though I’ve never tried it. Thirdly, it was difficult to always get consistent even roast each time I did this method. I’d say 90% of the beans were evenly roasted and the 10% was just between under roasted to over-roasted. This was due to the differences in the size of the beans. Even though they were all fairly ‘close’ to size, the smaller ones in the batch were closer to dark roast.
Fresh Roast SR540 (Check Price)
In full disclosure, I owned the older model the Fresh Roast SR500, but I can’t seem to find it on Amazon anymore since it’s been upgraded to the SR540 roaster. You may still be able to find the older SR500 on eBay, but from all the review and what I can tell, the SR540 is a much-improved version, still, the same great quality and will produce better roasting consistency. There are some functional differences between the 500 and 540, mainly in the button layout for the roasting controls. But since this isn’t an SR500/SR540 review, I won’t go into too much detail about the machine, but rather the operation and how to roast coffee with it.
This is when you know your coffee addiction has reached new levels when you finally purchase an almost $200 coffee roaster. Hell, you might even have to ask the wife to get this one. Fresh Roast 540 is a step up from the air popper for sure and the cast iron pan. When I bought mine (SR500), I thought maybe growing a beard or a mustache at the very least. But I resisted the urge, mainly because my facial hair is not very good and I didn’t want food stuck in my beard. Anyway, roasting on the Fresh Roast is a breeze and it was so easy with all the settings, mine had fan speed setting and three different temperature settings. It also had an ON / COOL function that was nice. The new SR540 has 9 heat settings! DANG. If you want ultimate control? This is it. If you really want to take roasting coffee at home more seriously, this might be the roaster you’ve been looking for. Instead of giving you a step by step on roasting with the SR540, I thought it may actually be pointless to do this since there’s so much going on. Here’s a video from YouTube that will actually do this machine justice instead of me writing about it. I don’t own one anymore, so I can’t make a video of me roasting with my SR500. This machine was a game-changer for me, I sometimes regret ever selling it, but alas, moving to a smaller space meant I had to get rid of some things and the wine chiller won in the end. Enjoy the video, she does a great job going over the functionality of the Fresh Roast SR540.
Tips & Tricks when roasting with SR540
- Start out with medium size beans, maybe explore African beans, like Ethiopia or Tanzania
- Roast a medium first, then explore Light, Dark. This will give you a good baseline
- Just like a popcorn coffee maker, I would suggest doing this in your garage or deck.
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
Roasting coffee beans & learning how to roast coffee beans can be very rewarding. We all start out drinking coffee not even thinking about the entire process it took to get that cup of coffee in your hands. But I think things are changing now and most people are more conscious about where their food & drinks come from; coffee roasting is one of those things. But once you start roasting your own, the coffee bean will open up a whole world of flavors you’ve never experienced before. It also gives you a taste of self-reliance in making your own coffee. I hope this article has been helpful to you, if you have any comments or experience roasting your own beans, please comment below and share with us your experience. We’d love to hear from you.