Air Popcorn Popper Method
Features: We HIGHLY recommend this method because it's easy and it produces very even roasts from the City to the French stages. Used poppers can be found in many thrift stores. They roast quickly, but usually only 3-4 ounces at a time. But since it's so easy, roasting 2 batches consecutively is not a big deal.
What You Need: A hot air popcorn popper of the recommended design. An optional thermometer. A big bowl to catch the chaff, a big spoon, a metal collander (or 2, aluminum is best) for cooling, maybe an oven mitt.
- Set up the popper in a ventilated place near a kitchen exhaust fan or window, if possible. It's nice to have strong overhead light so you can look down into the popper chamber to accurately judge the roast as it progresses. Have all your supplies within reach.
- Put the same amount of coffee in the popper that the manufacturer recommends for popcorn. For the West Bend Poppery II, 4 oz. is the maximum, or 2/3 to 3/4 cup. There is a good trick for figuring out the batch size: with the popper running, add green coffee until the mass of beans just stops swirling. As the roast progresses and the beans lose mass, the beans will begin swirling.
- Put the plastic hood (including butter dish) in place, and a large bowl under the chute. We put our popper by the sink so it blows chaff right into the basin. Or run it outdoors, if the temperature is mild.
- With the machine running, watch for fragrant smoke and the "first crack" of the beans at about 3 minutes. Wait another minute, then start to monitor beans closely for desired roast color by lifting out butter dish and looking into popping chamber, or, better yet, by smelling the smoke and listening to the crackling.
- Total time for a lighter roast should be around 4 minutes, full city roast around 5, and darker roasts closer to 6.5 minutes. Roasts develop quickly, so be vigilant. You want to pour the beans out of the popper when they are a tad lighter than the color you desire, since roasting continues until beans are cool. All poppers are sensitve to both ambient tempature and voltage - so if it takes a long time to roast, try moving to a warmer place, and plug directly into an outlet (using an extension cord can reduce the voltage to the machine).
- Agitate beans in metal collander with a big spoon or toss between 2 collanders until they are warm to your touch. You may need oven mitts for this. You may want to walk out to a porch to aid cooling.
- Coffee should be stored out of direct light (and not in a fridge or freezer) in an airtight glass jar, but with a fresh roast, wait 12 hours to seal the jar tightly; it needs to vent off C02.
- Warm, fresh roasted beans are wonderful, but the coffee attains its peak 4 to 24 hours after roasting. If you store it as recommended, we'll call it fresh for 5 days. When you open that jar in the morning, you will know what fresh coffee truly is.
Modifications and Refinements: We recommend Home Coffee Roastingby Ken Davids to find out how to modify your popper by adding a thermometer, and to refine your knowledge and ability to produce wonderful coffee.
Postscript: For legal reasons I can't talk about air popper roasting too much. Believe me, my (well, our) primary interest is having people enjoy this great hobby, and we really don't care about selling tons of fancy roasting appliances. I used to keep a load of poppers around and give them away, but they are becoming harder to find (try your local thrift stores!) Anyway, there are great online resources and one of the best West Bend Poppery modification pages is Espresso Mio!
Here are some tips on cooling the roast from Kevin Nicholson 5/29/05:
I have a tip for small batch home-roasters. I stumbled upon the heat-dissipating properties of the WearEver CushionAir pizza pan ($12.00). I can almost immediately halt the roasting process just by dumping hot beans onto this pan and gently shaking it until they are arranged in a single layer. This is an aluminum pan that has perforations in the middle which allow a lot of the heat to escape. The aluminum also transfers heat amazingly. The pan gets very hot, very quickly and the beans cools very quickly. This pan has allowed me to take a lot of the guesswork out of my roasting.. when the beans look good in the chamber, I dump em' and they don't really change after hitting the CushionAir pan.