Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

The Best Popcorn Popper for Roasting Coffee Beans

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?

green coffee beans
Using a popcorn machine is a unique way to roast coffee at home. See the West Bend 82418 Air Crazy 4 Quart Corn Popper at Amazon

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!

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.

What Type of Popper Should I Choose?

green coffee beans scoop
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 let you 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 have 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.

Learn more about burr grinders for the money. If you’re roasting coffee, then you’ll want to have an excellent grinder.

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.

PopAir Electric Hot Air Popcorn Popper by VICTORIO VKP1162

The first is the PopAir Electric Hot Air Popcorn Popper by VICTORIO VKP1162. This popper fits all the necessary specifications and has a great overall design. At 1040 watts, it’s powerful enough to ensure adequate roasting.

Time for Treats PopAir Electric Hot Air Popcorn Popper, Makes 3.5 Quarts, Red

View on Amazon

This popper is a great addition to your kitchen appliances! It’s easy-to-use, easily washable and has no chance of overheating for easy roasting of beans. This popper also comes with a melting chamber, to melt butter for popcorn for your movie nights in with your friends or family. One last great thing about it, it’s ETC certified for optimal safety in your kitchen!

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.

Hamilton Beach Electric Hot Air Popcorn Popper, Healthy Snack, Makes up to 18 Cups, Red (73400)

View 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.

Presto 04820 PopLite Hot Air Popper, Yellow

View 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

3 Lb, Single Origin Unroasted Green Coffee Beans, Specialty Grade From Single Nicaraguan Estate, Direct Trade (3 Lb Caturra)

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 at 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 number 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.

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.