Home coffee roasting, once considered an exotic practice only for the hardcore coffee drinker, has seen a rebirth in recent years. Coffee lovers everywhere are embracing this surprisingly simple and efficient way to enjoy the best tasting coffee around. Once a common practice in American households, the 20th century onslaught of commercial coffee roasters and instant coffee virtually wiped out the custom and coffee drinkers became used to drinking bland, bitter coffee.
However, many Americans, tired of processed and tasteless food, are demanding a return to the authentic, natural way to prepare their beloved coffee. The flavor of coffee peaks at 1-7 days after roasting, then begins to decline depending on storage. A cup of coffee brewed a day or two after roasting is guaranteed to knock your socks off.
Roasting coffee beans at home is economical as well. Depending on the beans you purchase, you can save anywhere from 25-50% per pound. There are a multitude of choices in green beans, including organic, that can be purchased on Sweet Maria’s. This allows you to create your own blends, something you can’t get in a store. Fancy equipment isn’t even really necessary to roast your own coffee beans. It can be done with a heavy skillet and a heat source. A simple, do-it-yourself way is to use a re-purposed air popcorn popper. However, if you decide that home roasting is the right enterprise for you, a home coffee roaster can be beneficial. Expense can get quite high on these, but we’ve chosen 5 efficient home roasters that are competitively priced.
Behmor 1600 Coffee Roaster
The Behmor 1600 is a drum-style coffee roaster at a more affordable price than other drum roasters. For those looking to roast larger batches than an air roaster can do, the Behmor 1600 is a good choice as it offers roasting options for 1/4, 1/2, and 1 pound batches. The Behmor 1600 contains a smoke-reduction feature, though don’t expect smoke-less, especially for darker roasts or larger batches. You can experiment with a variety of roast styles using the 4 pre-programmed roast times combined with the 5 power level profiles. The Behmor 1600 is quiet which allows the experienced user to hear the 2nd crack of the bean and hit the cool button at the right time. This may be necessary before the program stops as the beans will continue to roast even in the cool down mode. Other features include efficient quartz halogen heating elements, glass window with interior light bulb to view the roast, digital display for settings and countdown clock, and comes with a limited one year warranty. Reviewers on Sweet Maria’s were impressed by the consistency of their test roasts and said that the flavor compared well with their commercial roaster. You can read their extensive review on the Behmor 1600 here.
The Behmor 1600 retails for $299.00 on Sweet Maria’s.
The latest model from Fresh Beans Inc., the FreshRoast SR500 is a hot air or fluid bed roaster and a great choice to get started in coffee roasting. Based on the concept of the air popcorn popper, air roasters tend to produce brighter coffee and in smaller batches than drum roasters. The FreshRoast SR500 makes 3-4 oz. batches at a time, which would be great for households with one or two coffee drinkers. Features include 3 settings for temperature control, a rheostat to adjust fan speed, and a digital timer. The biggest complaint about this roaster is that it doesn’t move the beans well in the beginning stage of the roast, which can make for an uneven batch. There are methods to get around this such as stirring the beans during the first couple minutes or hitting the cool cycle a minute after start-up, which makes the beans drier, and therefore lighter. Even with this drawback, Sweet Maria’s recommends the FreshRoast SR500 as a good, economical choice. Members of CoffeeGeek have rated it an average 8.33 out of 10.
Sells for $159.00 on Amazon.
Gene Cafe Roaster
In general, drum roasters are more durable and last longer than air roasters. The Gene Cafe Roaster is a good choice if you need to make larger batches (up to half a pound) and budget allows. The off-axis agitation feature allows for an even roast and the ability to see the beans through the clear Pyrex roasting chamber. One of the best features on the Gene Cafe Roaster is the extra-large chaff collector which uses a metal wiper to scrape and collect the chaff. The analog dials allow the user total control over temperature and roasting time throughout the process all while showing on the digital display. The one negative pointed out by Sweet Maria’s is that the cool cycle was not quite rapid enough. You can read their full review here. Amazon reviewers gave the Gene Cafe Roaster an average 4 out of 5 stars. And it received an overall rating of 8.33 by CoffeeGeek reviewers.
The Gene Cafe Roaster can be purchased on Amazon for $495.00.
Nesco Coffee Roaster
While the Nesco Coffee Roaster (formerly known as Zach and Dani’s) has received some unsavory reviews on Amazon, reviewers at Sweet Maria’s say it’s caught a bad rap. They highly recommend this newest model with a couple of conditions. The major drawbacks reported by Sweet Maria’s are that darker roasts take too long and a full French roast is difficult to achieve. However, the light and medium roasts are consistently even. The major advantage to the Nesco Coffee Roaster is the catalytic converter which reduces the majority of the smoke, making it one of the least smoky home roasters on the market. Features an auger-driven agitator, making for quiet operation. The concerns on Amazon have been about the durability of the product. However, some of these issues are associated with lack of cleaning and maintenance. It’s received an average of 3 out of 5 stars by Amazon reviewers. The Nesco Coffee Roaster is made in America and offers a one year limited warranty.
The Nesco Coffee Roaster sells for $129.69 at Amazon.
Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popper
Want to try out home coffee roasting without the expense of a home roaster? The 6 quart Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popper from Wabash Valley Farms is perfect for creating larger batches of roasted coffee beans, especially if you like dark roasts. This is the true hands-on system- you control the heat, you crank the handle consistently for 8-12 minutes, then use a colander for cooling. Stovetop roasting works best with a gas stove and produces much more smoke, but offers a certain nostalgic effect and you can truly call yourself a coffee roasting artiste. The Whirley-Pop is made of aluminum, is easy to clean up, and offers a 25 year warranty on moving parts. Sweet Maria’s says the Whirley-Pop is the best stovetop popper for roasting coffee and Amazon reviewers have given it a 4.5 out of 5 star rating (for popcorn). The stirring mechanism that evenly pops the popcorn works to create an evenly roasted batch of coffee beans.
Sells on Amazon for $22.94.
Home Coffee Roasting, Revised, Updated Edition: Romance and Revival: by Kenneth Davids
Need more info? This guide by coffee connoiseur, Kenneth Davids, has been described by home coffee roasters as the home coffee roasting bible. Chock full of tips for making the perfect roast, choosing and storing green beans, creating blends, and picking a home roaster, Home Coffee Roasting: Romance and Revival will direct you on your home coffee roasting path. This 2003 paperback edition has been revised and updated since it was originally published in 1996. Amazon reviewers have given it an average 4.5 out of 5 star rating.
Can be purchased on Amazon for $15.34