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This post will be documenting my first coffee bean roast using a hot air popcorn machine.
I am really excited to be writing this post. I will be documenting my first experiment in experience in roasting coffee beans with a popcorn maker To be honest, I am doing this is as an experiment.
I seriously doubt it will be my preferred method of Ross roasting coffee beans. But, in the progression of a newbie it seems a lot of people move from pan or walk roasting, two popcorn roasting up to using a dedicated coffee roaster.
I’m going to actually roast my first batch of beans at the same time I’m writing this. This post will be a combination of actual experience as it happens. I will also provide proper instructions for any reader wishing to try this on their own.
The Proper Popcorn Popper For Roasting Coffee Beans
Before we get going – try saying proper popcorn proper 5 times as fast as you can. I discovered there are experimental coffee bean roasters who try a popcorn machine as a roaster. they then move on to bigger and better things.
There is another group of people who swear by them and use it as their primary method of roasting. I discovered theat quite a number of people in this group started with a heat gun and pan and ‘stepped up’ to a popcorn popper.
Since I am in the experimenter group I bought the least expensive popcorn machine I can find and will find out what kind of job it can do .
I purchased a West Bend “Air Crazy” hot air popcorn machine for my experiment. It is not the preferred Popper of choice but had the advantage of costing only $18 at Target. It was an impulse buy. We were both soon learn how works
Wabash Valley Farms Original Silver Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper (Includes Popping Kit)There are some however who swear by popcorn machine roasting of coffee beans. In my extensive research, I discovered there were two schools of thought generally among serious popcorn roasters and the equipment they like to use:
For serious popcorn machine roasters:
- 1500 Watt West Bend Poppery 1 (the original) is the gold standard in the holy Grail of popcorn machine coffee roasters. This model is no longer sold and is now a bit of a vintage item. It was originally made in the 1980s. You can still find it on eBay but the current prices have risen from being in the $30 range to the current $70-$80 range. Frankly, for just a bit more you can buy a dedicated coffee being roaster These units are sturdy and bulletproof. If you are into yard sales or have friends who are, keep an eye out for these. Even if you don’t want it you can sell on Ebay for a hefty profit. There is a lesser 1200 Watt West Bend Popper 11, which will work in a pinch. In the video below notice the hurricane glass he uses to contain the beans.
- Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper. A turn crank on the handle spins the key element: the stainless steel stirring system that keeps the coffee beans moving across the bottom of the pan, for even heat distribution, ensuring the best roasting results. The lid has steam vents, to help keep the popcorn dry and crisp. This is a hybrid between a true popcorn popper and a pan method of roasting.
Check out this video showing a modified West Bend Poppery roasting in real time
The Universal Method Of Roasting Coffee With a Popper:
This is a ‘How to’ by the book guide. My actual experience follows – things did not go well.
Gather your materials. Beyond the obvious, the Popper and the coffee ,you’ll need a wooden spoon with a long handle, a colander, a timer (I use the one on my iPhone), oven mits or towels, a roasting log or pen and paper and a storage container or Ziploc bag.
Use a well ventilated space to roast. A lot of fumes and potentially a lot of smoke is generated during roasting. Ideally, it is recommended to do it outside or on a porch. If you’re going to do it inside make sure you do it under your hood vent on high or in front of a window with a fan sucking the air out.
Preheat the Popper. Let it run for three or four minutes to get warmed up.
Add your coffee beans. The proper amount of coffee beans to add is really a matter of eyeballing the coffee in the machine. You’ll want to slowly add enough coffee beans so there is a gentle movement to the beans.
On the one hand they are not flying all over the place and on the other hand they are not just sitting there. You’ll want to know with accuracy the amount of beans you use and documented for further roasting’s.
Depending on what type of Popper you have up to about 6 ounces (170) grams could be used. My suggestion would be to start with that amount in a container, & gradually add beans from it to the popper until the proper amount of bean movement in the Popper occurs. Weigh the amount of beans left over and do a simple subtraction that will give you the amount of beans you used. Write that down for future roasts.
Start your timer. Keep an eye on it because at the 2 ½ to 3 ½ minute mark you’ll reach a critical stage of roasting, “the first crack”. It will last for about a minute and then fade away much is popcorn in a bag slows down and stops popping after a while. If it doesn’t seem that you’re getting the agitation of the beans you need use the wooden spoon to gently stir them.
You really can’t miss the first crack as, to me, it sounds like popcorn popping. Some people state they think it sounds like twigs snapping. Either way you’re listening for. From the moment of the first crack on you can pull your coffee beans and they will be drinkable. That first crack is like a plateau after the first crack, the beans will just get progressively darker annual move into stronger roasts. Pull your beans off the heat when they are just a tad lighter than you want them to end up. As the residual heat will continue to darken them slightly.
If you have a thermometer, first crack will occur at about 375 to 380 degrees Fahrenheit. After that, a medium roast would occur at about 410 to 415° in a dark roast would be 435°. Higher than that and you’ll probably end up with charcoal bricks.
Air cool the beans. Remember your colander or strainer? Pour the hot beans into it and gently agitate them to help them cool to room temperature as quickly as possible. Do not store them when they are hot. Do not put them in the refrigerator.
Store the beans. The beans should be stored in an airtight container or Ziploc bag and be allowed to sit undisturbed for 6 to 12 hours before roasting.
My Experience With The Popcorn Coffee Roasting Method
My first roasting experience was somewhat hilarious. I will just outline my experience versus the corrected theoretical how to guide discussed in the previous section.
Here is what happened when book learning was confronted with real-world experience.
Equipment Selection: It didn’t take but two seconds after attempting to add coffee beans to my popcorn popper to realize the diet made a poor equipment decision. The problem was my machine was cheap and the blower unit in it was cheap. The hot air was forced directly from the bottom up to the top of the machine. Picture holding a hairdryer vertically and trying to pour coffee beans in it. The results were predictable they blue all over the place.
The recommended machines have an angled screen so the hot air is forced out laterally in a swirling motion. The coffee beans will rotate in a circle and fold in on each other just like water going down the drain in a whirlpool. Not so with my corn Popper. It had a vertical blower that just blew straight up.
I am not so sure how you could buy a brand-new Popper and determine whether it has the right type of blower in it or not. I understand now why people are dedicated to the Original 1500 Watt West Bend Poppery. It has the proper action.
Here is the right type of popper being used:
Use a well ventilated space to roast. From my research I expected lots of smoke, it was marginal. I was glad I roasted on my porch not because of smells or smoke but rather the HUGE mess I made.
Add your coffee beans. The how-to guide says to add the beans slowly. I followed that advice, in the beans refused to stay in the hopper. In my machine I was pouring beans against a vertical air column that just blew the beans in the center all over the place. The coffee beans by the side stayed motionless. I knew that they would burn unless I did something quick. So, in a panic, but quick as a Bonnie, I just dumped them in all at once. They were still jumping out. So in a moment of sheer brilliance I grabbed my towel & wrapped around the opening poked my wooden spoon through it and started stirring like a maniac. I got the beans moving but now I couldn’t see anything.
Start your timer. In my panic with the “add your coffee beans” disaster I forgot to start my timer at the beginning. So I started it when I had things settled down with a towel wrapped around the opening and try to mentally estimate when the first crack should occur.
OMG. I started smelling beans burning in this dust was blowing all over the place. Once again I launched into panic mode. Then I remembered why I was out in the porch in a well vented area. This was supposed to happen. But it sure took me by surprise.
First Crack. Don’t worry about missing the first crack, you will definitely hear it. Luckily I remembered that from that point onward the beans would be drinkable and it was just a matter of how darker roast I wanted. I would caution anybody that after the first crack the time for beans to darken happens very quickly. If you are at the second crack stage be really careful because you can end up with burnt beans very quickly. I pulled my beans off about 45 seconds after the first crack.
What a mess! It took me longer to clean up my mess than it did to roast the coffee beans.
Results: I added 125 g of green coffee beans and waited total yield of 70 g. Beans light not been weight as they cook but not that much. I figure I blew 45 g out the top of the popcorn popper all over my table and floor. I got what I believe to be a medium roast. I realize I really do need a color chart to determine the roast.
As you can see by the photo of my results the coffee beans were not a consistent even color. In otther words I won’t be able to replicate the results or taste again.
Pros and Cons Of Popcorn Popper Coffee Bean Roasting
- Very small batches (can be a pro or con).
- The equipment cost is very low
- .It is a safe way to roast.
- Very small batches (can be a pro or con).
- Beans and chaff will blow everywhere.
- Hard to get consistency.
- Don’t even think about walking away during the process.
Conclusion. What I do it again?
The short answer is no.
My goals for delving deeper into home coffee being roasting is to achieve results that I can duplicate. I found the lack of control in the popcorn popper was not in alignment with my objectives.
From my experience, having the wrong type of equipment is a deal killer. I didn’t want to pony up the extra money for a vintage electric popcorn maker that has the right action. They are becoming more and more scarce and the prices are rising to the point where you can buy a dedicated coffee roaster for almost the same amount of money.
FreshRoast SR500 Automatic Coffee Bean RoasterFor this little experiment I did not try the Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper. It sounded almost like cheating. In reality is a pan roasting method with a hand crank stirrer. You have to inside on your stove. You could get the same results with a cast-iron skillet and a wooden spoon.
Now I take full responsible for being an inept newbie. In reading a lot of the forms there are people who are very dedicated to using a popcorn popper in get consistent roasts from. I say God bless and good luck to you. I can’t do it.
Thomas Edison when questioned about the thousands of “failures” he had in his experiments to get a working light-bulb was reputed to have stated “I haven’t failed, I’ve succeeded in finding thousands of things that don’t work.”
In the same spirit, of course I’m not giving up on home coffee Bean roasting. But in this case, I will have to take my defeat like a man. I won’t let it get me down.
Besides, my new FreshRoast SR500 Automatic Coffee Bean Roaster was delivered just as I was cleaning up the mess from the popcorn maker on my porch. Lol.
Take care, and enjoy your coffee
Coffee Lover’s Accessories:
Here are some gift ideas to help make your coffee experiences richer. We selected these gifts based on practicality and usefulness any coffee lover would appreciate.
1. Ground Coffee Dispenser. No need to measure every time.Designed to measure one tablespoon at a time, the dispenser can be used to place ground coffee directly into coffee makers or espresso machines. It is constructed to keep ground coffee fresh for maximum flavor, and the included base keeps counter tops clean of ground coffee spills. Holds up to half a pound of ground coffee. Click & Check it out here. Image below.
2. Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale An accurate scale is a must for precision coffee making and coffee bean roasting. This is a top seller. Precision Tare Button calculates the net weight of your ingredients by automatically subtracting the weight of any bowl or container.Runs on 2 AAA batteries (included) that automatically power-off after 2-minutes to preserve battery life. Click & Check it out here. Image below.
3. Grey Iced Coffee Maker – Travel Mug Pour hot coffee in – get iced coffee out. Make chilled iced coffee or tea in as little as 5 minutes, no ice needed and it works with any brewing method, including single cup machines, drip, and pour over methods 4 designer colors to choose from. Click & Check it out here. Image below.
4. Portable Cup Holder With Clamp – Durable, Portable, and Foldable! This is not cheap plastic – it is aluminum with great clamping power. It fits many sizes of cups and appears safe and secure when holding a 32oz filled cup, a mug (up to 3″ in diameter), a thermos, a water bottle, or a soda can. Click & Check it out here. Image below.
Zevro Indispensable Coffee Dispenser, Silver – 1/2 PoundOzeri Pronto Digital Kitchen and Food Scale, Elegant BlackZoku Grey Iced Coffee Maker, Travel Mug – Hot Coffee In – Iced Coffee OutCup Holder Desk Clip Silver – Durable, Portable, and Foldable!