When it comes to flavor, there’s nothing quite like freshly roasted coffee beans. To get the absolute freshest coffee, you may want to take the extra step of roasting your beans at home. Luckily, this is easy to do using an old-fashioned stovetop popcorn popper.
Keep reading to learn how to perfectly roast coffee beans in a popcorn popper, and stick around for the FAQ at the end if you still have questions. You’ll be roasting delicious, aromatic beans in no time!
What you’ll need:
This process will produce quite a bit of smoke. Before you start, you may want to turn on a stovetop fan or hood, open a kitchen window, or even temporarily disable your kitchen smoke detector. If you have a stovetop outside, even better! You can also do this over a campfire or on a camp stove.
For this guide, we purchased a classic Whirley-Pop popcorn popper from Wabash Valley Farms and used the side burner on an outdoor grill. If you don’t have a popcorn popper yet, you can find our guide to the best popcorn poppers for coffee roasting here. Keep in mind that using a popcorn popper to roast coffee will void its warranty.
Preheat your stovetop popper over medium-low to medium heat. This works best on a gas or propane stove, because you can quickly adjust the temperature, but it will also work with an electric coil stove. If you’re using a thermometer, wait until the temperature stabilizes at about 450°F.
Pour in about eight ounces of green coffee beans. Shake or stir the pot so that your beans are spread evenly across the bottom. After you pour in the beans, the interior temperature will drop below 300°F.
Close the lid and begin turning the crank. You don’t need to go too quickly, but you’ll want to keep up an even pace throughout the roasting process so that your beans don’t burn. The more you stir, the more even your roast will be. Try not to open the lid very often, as this will allow heat to escape.
A few minutes in, your beans should start turning brown and letting off a grassy smell. If you’re using a thermometer, this will happen when they pass 300°F.
After about five to seven minutes, you’ll start seeing smoke coming out of the beans and smelling a chocolatey, toasting aroma. Listen for the first crack, which will sound just like popcorn popping. At this point, your beans will be between 350 and 370°F. Let your beans crack for a few seconds. When the frequency of cracks slows down and stops, your beans have passed the first crack and will be at a light roast level. If that’s where you want to stop, turn the heat off and skip down to step eight.
Keep roasting and stirring for another minute or two if you’re looking for a medium roast. The temperature for a typical medium roast is around 430 or 440°F.
If you’d like a darker roast, keep roasting for another couple of minutes, for a total of seven to nine minutes. Listen carefully for the second crack, which has a lighter sound, similar to an electrical spark. This will happen around 450°F. As the second crack winds down, turn off the heat and remove your pot from the stove. Your beans will continue to roast a little even after you remove them from the heat, so you may want to remove them slightly before the roast color you’re looking for.
If you’ve been roasting inside, you may want to go outside for this step. Open your pot’s lid, keeping in mind that quite a bit of smoke may emerge, so you’ll probably want to keep your face and hands away from the opening to prevent burning. Pour your beans into a metal colander to cool them. If you have another colander or metal bowl, you may want to pour the beans back and forth between them to speed up the cooling process. The chaff, which is the outer layer of coffee bean skin, will have fallen off of the beans at this point, so separate it by pouring the beans back and forth or blowing on them.
Enjoy your fresh, aromatic beans! Because freshly roasted beans have such a wonderful aroma, you may be tempted to brew them right away, but your beans will have the best flavor between 12 and 24 hours after roasting. Store them in an airtight container away from sunlight, but leave the lid off for the first day to allow the beans to off-gas.
While they’re still green, coffee beans can be stored for months without losing flavor. As soon as you roast them, though, they begin to lose flavor through contact with oxygen. For the strongest, most interesting flavor, you’ll probably want to brew your beans within one to two weeks of roasting.
If you roast coffee beans at home, you can be sure they’ve been very recently roasted. But be warned: once you’ve tasted freshly roasted beans, you may have a hard time going back to the store-bought variety. Beans roasted in a popcorn popper have a smooth, full flavor and low acidity. Plus, you’ll be amazed at the size of the bloom!
Roasting your beans at home can also be cheaper because you’re doing some of the work yourself. You can buy green coffee beans in bulk at a lower cost, and with some practice, you can produce gourmet, well-roasted beans at a fraction of the cost.
Finally, if you’re a hands-on home brewer, roasting your beans will allow you to control every step of the brewing process. You can choose your variety of green beans and roast them to just the level you prefer.
You can read more about the benefits of roasting at home here.
Now that you know how and why to roast coffee beans using a popcorn popper, you may be wondering where you can find green coffee beans. The bad news is that they can be a little more difficult to find than roasted beans. Typically sold directly to commercial coffee roasters, green coffee beans are often sold in wholesale quantities that may be too much for a home brewer.
The easiest way to buy green coffee beans is online. You can buy them from companies like Sweet Maria’s or a variety of vendors on Amazon. For this guide, we purchased single-origin Nicaraguan beans from Primos Coffee Company.
If you prefer to shop in person, you may have a harder time finding high-quality green coffee. You may not be able to find the beans at the grocery store, but if your local coffee shop roasts its beans, you can ask if they’ll sell you some.
Stovetop popcorn poppers are great for roasting coffee because of their built-in stirring mechanisms and lids. If you don’t have one, you can also try a popcorn air popper, which will use a fan to keep the beans moving.
Roasting coffee at home in a stovetop popcorn popper is a surprisingly easy process. In about 10 minutes, you can have aromatic, fully roasted beans. We hope this guide helps you learn how to easily roast coffee beans in a stovetop popcorn popper. But don’t blame us if you can’t go back to pre-roasted beans!
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