The Best Popcorn Popper for Roasting Coffee Beans

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Using a popcorn machine is a unique way to roast coffee at home.

Using a popcorn machine is a unique way to roast coffee at home.See the West Bend 82416 Air Crazy 3.5 Quart Corn Popper on Amazon

 

There’s nothing better than waking up to the smell of freshly-brewed coffee in the morning. Or maybe there is. What about the smell of freshly-roasted coffee?

Trendy coffee shops and fancy brews have become more popular over the past few years. As such, the price of both coffee beans and a cup of coffee has subsequently risen—by almost 90%, in fact! Instead of paying astronomical coffee shop prices or buying pre-roasted grocery store beans, often already past their peak freshness, why not roast your own beans at home?

While this may sound like a complicated and time-consuming undertaking, it is a lot easier than you might expect, and the results are definitely worth it! Roasting your own coffee will save you a substantial amount of money over time. Plus, it’ll greatly improve the quality of your coffee!

From berry to mug

The lifecycle of a cup of joe begins with the green berries of the Coffea plant. The berries are picked (often by hand), de-fleshed, sorted, and fermented. The seeds are then left to dry. Unroasted coffee beans are known as green coffee.

The next step in coffee production is to roast the beans. The temperature inside the beans is brought to approximately 392 °F. Raising the internal temperature causes caramelization to occur and breaks down starches into the simple sugars, which changes the color to the familiar brown. The longer the beans are roasted, the darker the roast. How long the coffee is roasted significantly impacts the flavor. The oil caffeol, which is produced during roasting, is largely responsible for coffee’s distinctive aroma and flavor.

Most commercial coffee roasting is done on a very large scale, using industrial sized electric or gas powered coffee roasters. However, coffee roasting can also be done on a much smaller scale, right in your own home!

If you are struggling with coffee stains, head on over here to find out the best way to deep clean your coffee pot!

Why a popcorn popper is the best option

While there are many ways to roast coffee, one at-home method that’s quite popular is to use a popcorn popper. Using a popcorn popper gives you fine control over the quality of your roast. You can roast the beans as light or as dark as you like! Due to the relative simplicity of this process and the commonality of the necessary supplies, this method can convert any coffee fan from a coffee-lover into a coffee aficionado.

Can’t get enough espressos and lattes? Check out the best espresso makers under $200 that won’t break the bank!

What Type of Popper Should I Choose?

It's the breakdown of sugars during roasting that changes the color of coffee beans from green to brown.

It’s the breakdown of sugars during roasting that changes the color of coffee beans from green to brown.

When it comes to choosing the type of popcorn popper to use for roasting your coffee beans, the commonly-accepted thought is older poppers best. Older popcorn poppers tend to be more powerful and have stronger fans. They also feature thermostats with greater ranges and higher watt motors.

These characteristics are important because they allow you to roast more beans at one time. They also give you greater control over the quality and condition of your roast. While newer models can work for roasting beans, the older models allow for greater flexibility. Not to mention, the older ones are usually significantly cheaper.

Of course, there’s also the traditional use of a popcorn machine. Check out these models that will produce perfect the perfect popped snack for movie night!

Hot air popcorn poppers

The best style of popper is, indisputably, the hot air popcorn popper. This type of popper usually has a flat, metal bottom and vents on its sides. The vents allow the coffee to move in a circular motion as it roasts. Be sure to inspect the bottom of a potential popper. Some hot air popcorn poppers have mesh bottoms or bottoms with holes.

This design is NOT safe for roasting coffee beans, as it could possibly cause safety hazards. To ensure the best roast, it is crucial that the air enters your popper through the side vents and that the bottom of your popper has no holes and is completely flat and smooth. As long as your popper fits these qualifications, it should be adequate for successful roasting.

Is it too late in the day for coffee? Learn about the French presses that will make you the best soothing cup of tea!

The Best Models

If roasting your own coffee sounds good to you, all that’s left is choosing a specific brand and model! Here are a few front runners, both in design and quality.

West Bend Poppery II

The first and most popular is the West Bend Poppery II. This popper fits all the necessary specifications and has the best overall design. At 1200 watts, it’s powerful enough to ensure adequate roasting.

See the West Bend Poppery II on Amazon

There is a catch, though. This popper is no longer being manufactured.  However, it can be easily found on eBay, Etsy, and other second-hand sites online. Or, if you’re lucky, you might be able to dig one up at your local thrift store. If you purchase from a thrift store, be sure that all the parts are undamaged and in good working condition. If the popper doesn’t reach adequate temperatures, you’ll end up with an unsuccessful roast.

Fortunately, West Bend does produce a POP-ular, newer model. When you’re not using it for coffee, it will pop 3.5 quarts of popcorn in just three minutes!

See the West Bend 82416 Air Crazy 3.5 Quart Corn Popper on Amazon

Hamilton Beach 73400 Hot Air Popcorn Popper

Another excellent choice is the Hamilton Beach Hot Air Popcorn Popper, which is very similar in style and power to the Poppery II. The device pops popcorn directly into a bowl, and features a handy buttercup that doubles as a measuring cup. It can produce up to 16 cups of air-popped popcorn per batch.

See the Hamilton Beach 73400 Hot Air Popcorn Popper on Amazon

Best of all, this compact popper works just as well for coffee as it does for popcorn!

Presto PopLite Hot Air Popper

If you’d prefer to get right to roasting and don’t want to scour the Internet for a vintage popper, consider the Presto PopLite Hot Air Popcorn Popper. This highly-recommended popper can make up to 18 cups of healthy, gourmet corn in less than 2 1/2 minutes! 

See Presto PopLite Hot Air Popper on Amazon

As great as the PopLight is for its intended use, this model will speedily and effectively roast those coffee beans too.

Testing the Popper

Once you have chosen your popper and purchased unroasted, green coffee beans (easily found online), it’s important to test your popper. Set up your popper outside or in a well-ventilated area and drop in a few of the beans.

Check out Primos Coffee Co. Single Origin Unroasted Green Coffee Beans on Amazon

You’ll also be able to observe whether the beans come out unevenly roasted or under-roasted, at which point you can make the necessary adjustments. This might include increasing airflow, adjusting the overall temperature, or changing the quantity of beans used. Once you’ve found the perfect balance with your popper, your first batch of roasted beans should be roasted and ready to brew in under 10 minutes!

Pop till you drop!

Armed with just a few simple tools, you can roast your own coffee beans and brew the freshest, highest quality coffee in your pajamas. Once you’ve mastered the technique, home roasting will save you time and money and give you the perfect cup of work fuel every time. Finally, getting out of bed in the morning just got a little bit easier.

For more great appliances that will produce delicious coffee for those morning commutes, check out the cheapest espresso machines worth buying! You might also be interested in my reviews of the best coffee cups to keep coffee hot.

Or, take your brew to work with you with the best Thermos for coffee!

Do you want to always have a pot of coffee at the ready, even in the office? See the best single-cup coffee makers here!

While you’re roasting that coffee, why not also roast something more substantial? Impress your guests with a bird cooked on the best roasting rack for turkey!

Additional Resources

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Bob, Aidan and Bertalan S.

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