Home coffee roasting, once considered an exotic practice only for the hardcore coffee drinker, has seen a rebirth in recent years. Coffee lovers everywhere are embracing this surprisingly simple and efficient way to enjoy the best tasting coffee around. Once a common practice in American households, the 20th century onslaught of commercial coffee roasters and instant coffee virtually wiped out the custom and coffee drinkers became used to drinking bland, bitter coffee.
However, many Americans, tired of processed and tasteless food, are demanding a return to the authentic, natural way to prepare their beloved coffee. The flavor of coffee peaks at 1-7 days after roasting, then begins to decline depending on storage. A cup of coffee brewed a day or two after roasting is guaranteed to knock your socks off.
Roasting coffee beans at home is economical as well. Depending on the beans you purchase, you can save anywhere from 25-50% per pound. There are a multitude of choices in green beans, including organic, that can be purchased on Sweet Maria’s. This allows you to create your own blends, something you can’t get in a store. Fancy equipment isn’t even really necessary to roast your own coffee beans. It can be done with a heavy skillet and a heat source. A simple, do-it-yourself way is to use a re-purposed air popcorn popper. However, if you decide that home roasting is the right enterprise for you, a home coffee roaster can be beneficial. Expense can get quite high on these, but we’ve chosen 5 efficient home roasters that are competitively priced.
Behmor 1600 Coffee Roaster
The Behmor 1600 is a drum-style coffee roaster at a more affordable price than other drum roasters. For those looking to roast larger batches than an air roaster can do, the Behmor 1600 is a good choice as it offers roasting options for 1/4, 1/2, and 1 pound batches. The Behmor 1600 contains a smoke-reduction feature, though don’t expect smoke-less, especially for darker roasts or larger batches. You can experiment with a variety of roast styles using the 4 pre-programmed roast times combined with the 5 power level profiles. The Behmor 1600 is quiet which allows the experienced user to hear the 2nd crack of the bean and hit the cool button at the right time. This may be necessary before the program stops as the beans will continue to roast even in the cool down mode. Other features include efficient quartz halogen heating elements, glass window with interior light bulb to view the roast, digital display for settings and countdown clock, and comes with a limited one year warranty. Reviewers on Sweet Maria’s were impressed by the consistency of their test roasts and said that the flavor compared well with their commercial roaster. You can read their extensive review on the Behmor 1600 here.
The Behmor 1600 retails for $299.00 on Sweet Maria’s.
The latest model from Fresh Beans Inc., the FreshRoast SR500 is a hot air or fluid bed roaster and a great choice to get started in coffee roasting. Based on the concept of the air popcorn popper, air roasters tend to produce brighter coffee and in smaller batches than drum roasters. The FreshRoast SR500 makes 3-4 oz. batches at a time, which would be great for households with one or two coffee drinkers. Features include 3 settings for temperature control, a rheostat to adjust fan speed, and a digital timer. The biggest complaint about this roaster is that it doesn’t move the beans well in the beginning stage of the roast, which can make for an uneven batch. There are methods to get around this such as stirring the beans during the first couple minutes or hitting the cool cycle a minute after start-up, which makes the beans drier, and therefore lighter. Even with this drawback, Sweet Maria’s recommends the FreshRoast SR500 as a good, economical choice. Members of CoffeeGeek have rated it an average 8.33 out of 10.
Sells for $159.00 on Amazon.
Gene Cafe Roaster
In general, drum roasters are more durable and last longer than air roasters. The Gene Cafe Roaster is a good choice if you need to make larger batches (up to half a pound) and budget allows. The off-axis agitation feature allows for an even roast and the ability to see the beans through the clear Pyrex roasting chamber. One of the best features on the Gene Cafe Roaster is the extra-large chaff collector which uses a metal wiper to scrape and collect the chaff. The analog dials allow the user total control over temperature and roasting time throughout the process all while showing on the digital display. The one negative pointed out by Sweet Maria’s is that the cool cycle was not quite rapid enough. You can read their full review here. Amazon reviewers gave the Gene Cafe Roaster an average 4 out of 5 stars. And it received an overall rating of 8.33 by CoffeeGeek reviewers.
The Gene Cafe Roaster can be purchased on Amazon for $495.00.
Nesco Coffee Roaster
While the Nesco Coffee Roaster (formerly known as Zach and Dani’s) has received some unsavory reviews on Amazon, reviewers at Sweet Maria’s say it’s caught a bad rap. They highly recommend this newest model with a couple of conditions. The major drawbacks reported by Sweet Maria’s are that darker roasts take too long and a full French roast is difficult to achieve. However, the light and medium roasts are consistently even. The major advantage to the Nesco Coffee Roaster is the catalytic converter which reduces the majority of the smoke, making it one of the least smoky home roasters on the market. Features an auger-driven agitator, making for quiet operation. The concerns on Amazon have been about the durability of the product. However, some of these issues are associated with lack of cleaning and maintenance. It’s received an average of 3 out of 5 stars by Amazon reviewers. The Nesco Coffee Roaster is made in America and offers a one year limited warranty.
The Nesco Coffee Roaster sells for $129.69 at Amazon.
Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popper
Want to try out home coffee roasting without the expense of a home roaster? The 6 quart Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popper from Wabash Valley Farms is perfect for creating larger batches of roasted coffee beans, especially if you like dark roasts. This is the true hands-on system- you control the heat, you crank the handle consistently for 8-12 minutes, then use a colander for cooling. Stovetop roasting works best with a gas stove and produces much more smoke, but offers a certain nostalgic effect and you can truly call yourself a coffee roasting artiste. The Whirley-Pop is made of aluminum, is easy to clean up, and offers a 25 year warranty on moving parts. Sweet Maria’s says the Whirley-Pop is the best stovetop popper for roasting coffee and Amazon reviewers have given it a 4.5 out of 5 star rating (for popcorn). The stirring mechanism that evenly pops the popcorn works to create an evenly roasted batch of coffee beans.
Sells on Amazon for $22.94.
Home Coffee Roasting, Revised, Updated Edition: Romance and Revival: by Kenneth Davids
Need more info? This guide by coffee connoiseur, Kenneth Davids, has been described by home coffee roasters as the home coffee roasting bible. Chock full of tips for making the perfect roast, choosing and storing green beans, creating blends, and picking a home roaster, Home Coffee Roasting: Romance and Revival will direct you on your home coffee roasting path. This 2003 paperback edition has been revised and updated since it was originally published in 1996. Amazon reviewers have given it an average 4.5 out of 5 star rating.
Can be purchased on Amazon for $15.34
11 thoughts on “Home Coffee Roasters: 5 Efficient Choices”
What is up with the nearly invisible light grey font??? I have mild cataracts and it’s nearly impossible to read/see!
Send me a notice when you’ve purchased some black ink so I can read it.
I made it darker for you!
I like being able to roast my own coffee for my own consumption when I get up at 4 in the morning. I also like being able to make a gift of freshly roasted coffee to my friends. Semantics aside, this was a useful article, and I thank you.
Something that has worked well for me over the past several years is a used popcorn air popper. These can often be found at thrift stores for a few dollars. To use simply remove to plastic deflector and roast coffee to desired amount while stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. It will however take a few batches to roast a pound of beans.
As I mentioned, meta-efficiency is not about evaluating a product’s energy efficiency, rather it is about evaluating the overall effectiveness of a product. I used the word efficiency in the title of the website, simply because “MetaEffective” didn’t have the same ring to it.
Ideally, every review we post would address all the topics listed on the About Us page. However, we do not have the budget of an organization like Consumer Reports. If you’d like to make a donation to help our efforts, you are welcome to do so.
Wow. This seriously dulls the credibility of Metaefficient.
A review of roasters whose best qualities are that they are not too outrageously expensive is not efficiency. A home coffee roaster is the antithesis of efficient, especially when you can use a cast-iron frying pan. Please note the frying pan will never break down and will get better and better over time.
Coffee roasting is best done by professionals in large volumes. Enjoy their fresh wares in a delightful café where you can interact with your friends and neighbours. Imagine the silence if each of those people were to roast at home. Further imagine the silence of formerly verdant areas stripped for resources to build mile after mile of single-use devices that waste space except for the five minutes a week they are used. Efficiency, if you are going to use such a dubious term, must be about more than the sticker price at WalMart.
While I appreciate the notion of people enjoying their roast coffee in a local roasterie, not everyone has this luxury. I know the closest one for me is over 20 miles away. For many, home coffee roasting becomes a hobby, one that they can share with friends and neighbors. This review was for the home coffee roasters who are contemplating moving beyond the cast iron skillet and weighing the pros and cons, answering the question what’s the most effective design at the best economical price.
While it is great to find the best roaster at the best price, that is why we have Consumer Reports. I do not have MetaEfficient in my RSS so I can read reviews of standard consumer products, I am here for the efficient products. And while even the notion of efficiency is contested at least it has some useful meaning around energy or materials. However, this review made no mention of energy consumption by each model, did not look at the materials embodied in the products and did not compare to the energy use of commercial roasting. So, there is really no efficiency here–this should be on MetaAffordable.
While I do appreciate the important attention to durability, I come to MetaEfficient for LED lights, bicycles and accessories, water-saving showerheads, microwaves with no clocks so they use less energy, et cetera. Efficiency.
I appreciate your attention to detail on the subject of embodied energy and energy consumption. However, if you read the “About” page on MetaEfficient, you’ll see this site is about finding the best available options. As a result, our choices are almost always a compromise — that is I why I use the term “meta-efficiency” rather than just “efficiency”.
You’ll also notice that we feature a manual pop-corn roaster for those who choose to avoid dedicated gadgets.
Home coffee roasting is a tradition, practiced extensively in Europe and other parts of the world. It is about customizing your own roasts, and getting a level of freshness which is often not available elsewhere.
Your About page is very interesting indeed.
“We evaluate products based on on their effectiveness. We ask the following questions:
Does it actually work? And does it work well?
Is it simple to use?
Is it inexpensive, and does it require upgrades?
Is it non-toxic?
Is the design universal?
Is it green?”
Nowhere on the About page is efficiency mentioned, which is interesting. Instead, the much more nuanced word ‘effective’ is used. The authors of Cradle to Cradle have quite a bit to say about effectiveness vs. efficiency.
I would also note the last three questions on your list are in no way addressed in this review. Arguably, I think home roasters fail the test of the last three questions under most circumstance. Again, I think this focus is what separates (or what should separate) MetaEfficient from Consumer Reports.
People new to the hobby of home roasting should be warned that it is a very smokey process best done outside unless you have a strong range hood to vent the smoke. Otherwise, you will set off all your home smoke detectors.
The Behmor and Nesco have catalytic convertors to reduce the smoke output.