Licensed Q Arabica Grader, M.A. Journalism
- December 10, 2019
It’s one of those annoying coffee cliches, but it’s true: Freshly roasted coffee is one of the most delicious things in the world.
In spite of what many people think, coffee has a rather short shelf life.
It starts incredible, and within two weeks much of that magic is gone.
It’s similar to baking bread: The difference between fresh and old is dramatic.
If you never want to drink stale coffee again, there’s only one way to be entirely sure that you’re getting the fresh stuff: Roast coffee at home.
Roasting coffee is not rocket science, but I wouldn’t say that it’s child’s play either.
Treat it like a hobby with a bit of a learning curve, and before long you’ll be rewarded with some pretty magnificent home-roasted beans.
My top pick:
Roasting in its purest form is all about transferring heat to the green coffee bean. Within minutes the green coffee turns from dense and undrinkable into the brown, porous coffee bean that you know.
However, only looking at coffee roasting this way is too simple: Coffee roasting is a craft, and getting a good result is all about applying just the right amount of heat. That is why many home coffee roasters quickly graduate from typical beginner methods such as oven and popcorn roasters to dedicated tools.
Coffee roasters can be found at all price levels. You can get the ultra cheap models that are basically just glorified nut roasters, and go all the way up to fancy devices with built-in motor and roasting profiles. You can go from $30 and up to thousands of dollars if you go for a model like the Aillio Bullet.
The price level will largely be determined by the type of coffee roaster you go for. There are three common types of home coffee bean roasters available:
Coffee roasting is not only a fun hobby; it also makes sense financially. Typically, two pounds of really good green coffee will cost you about the same as 9 oz of roasted beans from your local specialty coffee dealer. In other words; you save a lot of money by roasting at home.
Of course, you also have to factor in the time spent roasting, but generally speaking, it’s worth it to roast at home.
One of the most important things to consider when shopping for a small coffee roaster is the capacity.
If you drink much coffee on a daily basis, you don’t want a machine with a low capacity.
I used to roast coffee in a popcorn machine, but with a capacity of around 100 grams/4 oz, it quickly grows cumbersome.
100 grams of coffee will turn into 85 grams of roasted coffee, which you’ll probably be able to drink in a day or two.
Many coffee roasters work better when not loaded at full capacity, so you want to have a bit of wiggle room.
Coffee roasting typically takes between 8 – 12 minutes. If you go faster, you risk either scorching the bean or underdeveloping it; both are roast defects that will give you unpleasant flavors. If you roast the coffee too slow, you’ll end up baking it. This will make the coffee taste dull and less vibrant than it ought to.
The devil really is in the details, when it comes to coffee roasting. One or two extra minutes, can make a significant difference. This is because the beans have what is called en ‘exothermic’ reaction when the first crack occurs. At this point the beans will develop rapidly. A skilled roastmaster is able to navigate during these crucial minutes.
If you want more info on how to roast coffee, then check out my guide right here.
Even though a roasting sessions might only take 10 minutes from load to drop, all the small details in your workflow will add extra time:
Even though effective roast time is short, preparation and cleaning add time to the process.
For those reasons, I wouldn’t recommend a roaster with less than a 300 gram capacity. While it’s fun to roast, you also want to see (and drink) the fruit of your labor.
The more control you have over temperature and airflow, the more you’ll be able to tweak your roast profiles. For those reasons, I’d highly encourage you to get a device that has a digital thermometer and a dedicated temperature control.
If you don’t have any of these tools at your disposal, you’re going to be less consistent. Even though it is possible to roast purely from sensorial cues, it’s not recommended. To learn and adapt your roasting style you need a bit of data.
|KALDI WIDE size (300g) Home…|
|Coffee Bean Roaster Barrel…|
|Gene Cafe CBR-101 Home Coffee…|
|FreshRoast SR500 Automatic…|
|Korean Ceramic Handy Coffee…|
|Behmor 1600 Plus Customizable…|
The Kaldi Wide is a quality home drum roaster produced by the tiny Korean company, Kaldi. I have owned this model for almost two years, and it has stood up to two-three back to back batches virtually every week in that period.
In certain perspectives, you get an expert machine in a small form. There’s a thermometer and a trier, so you can monitor bean temperature and check the color as you go along.
The capacity is quite good for a home roaster (you can get away with up to 330 grams), and the machine is put together exceptionally well. I have dropped mine on the floor on one occasion, and it survived with just minor scratches.
The Kaldi Wide has started to become a cult favorite among home roasters since it offers the best combination of value, sturdiness, and hands-on roasting experience.
Keep in mind that you need a separate gas burner for this roaster – the heat source is not included.See more reviews
In spite of the latin-sounding name, the BocaBoca Roaster, is also from Korea.
It’s a relatively new model that’s only recently gotten a name among American coffee geeks.
The Bocaboca is quite unique since it relies on infrared radiation as the heatsource. This means that a glass drum can be used instead of steel.
Why is this so cool?
There are two different sizes of the Bocaboca — a 250 and a 500 grams version.
The design is user-friendly and cute, the price is right, and the coffee is tasty (according to the reviewers on various coffee forums). I think this roaster has a lot of things going for it.
If I didn’t already own the Kaldi Wide, I’d probably get this device for myself.See more reviews
The Gene roaster is one of the most popular home models, and it’s easy to understand why. It mixes a lot of nifty innovation with handiness. If you want a workhorse for your home, this is a good bet since it’s almost smokeless, easy to clean, and also has a chaff collector. With a capacity of 250 grams it suitable for many coffee geeks.
It has a slightly unusual off-axis drum. The reason for this design is to get more even roasts. According to the reviews, it seems to work very well. Visually, you can follow along in the roasts very well both judging bean color and temperature, but sound-wise the device is a bit loud which might obscure the first crack; which for a roastmaster is seriously annoying.
Some customers also raise concerns about the longevity of this roasting machine.See more reviews
The Fresh Roast is a brilliant first roaster for someone who wants to try roasting some beans without getting too committed. It’s budget-friendly and easy to use since you can see the beans in the glass container while they are changing color.
The roaster also has a chaff collector which is fantastic if you’re roasting indoor at home (trust me on this one). There’s also a cooling cycle built in.
The main problem with this roaster is that the capacity is low at around 90 grams, even for just a single coffee addict that is a bit on the small side.See more reviews
This is an incredibly simple small batch coffee roaster for somebody who wants to try roasting at home without any real illusions of producing something outstanding. It’s easy to pour the beans in and out. Aside from that, the main point of this thing is that it’s cheap.
Some skilled people with powerful hands might be able to get an even roast of out of this, but the chances are that your beans are going to get burnt. If you have an oven, I will use that over this apparatus.See more reviews
The Behmor is one of the grand old men of home coffee roasting. There are some GREAT things to say about it but also some more negative ones.
It has an enormous capacity for a home roasting device with up to 1 pound per batch, which is the most appealing thing about it. With this model, you’ll be self-reliant when it comes to freshly roasted beans!
However, many customers complain about the design — notably, the safety feature where the roaster shuts off in the middle of the action. In the event that you don’t cautiously watch out for this, your entire set may be messed up.
Also, some reviewers complain that it’s hard to get consistent results.
The last con for some people will be that this device isn’t suitable for darker roasts.See more reviews