Home roasting coffee in a popcorn popper

Did you know you can roast coffee in a hot air popcorn popper? It helps to have a West Bend Poppery II model and a spouse who can remove the thermostat in the popper and modify the chute. Once those requirements are met, you are on your way to having freshly roasted coffee on a weekly or daily basis.

Here we were, living in the Mexican state of Nayarit, a state known for growing organic coffee for export, and we were going to the store like everyone else to buy ground coffee. How long can self-respecting foodies keep this up? Locating green coffee beans grown in our state was easy. Figuring out how to roast them wasn’t. A skillet on the stove was a hot, smoky, messy process. Back to the drawing board, I mean internet.

A quick search gave us information about modifying a hot air popcorn popper to roast coffee. The West Bend Poppery II was the hot-air popper of choice. Didn’t we have a hot air popper around, one we didn’t use because neither of us was really into popcorn? A quick search located the unused popper, and I couldn’t believe it! It was a West Bend Poppery II, bought for a few dollars from a yard sale when we thought popcorn was a good idea.

The same internet site gave directions for modifications. You don’t exactly dump coffee beans in and plug it in like you would with popcorn. Some changes were in order. I won’t get into the details, mostly because they are beyond my sphere of knowledge, but it involves removing the thermostat and installing a non-plastic chimney. If you try to use the plastic chute, it will melt with time. Ours did.

While roasting, the beans release chaff. For this reason, I do it semi-outdoors, on a low wall in my laundry room, where the popper fan blows the chaff  over the ledge. The top of the chute has an angled part to direct the chaff outside.

Coffee goes through several stages in the roasting process, two of which are “First Crack” and “Second Crack”. You can hear very audible cracking sounds. After the first crack, it is roasted enough to make a cup of coffee, but you will want to continue to the second crack if you like a dark roast. Unplug the popcorn maker when smoke starts pouring out of the chimney. The beans will be fragrant and dark. The roasting needs to be stopped immediately, so put your coffee on a pan (I use a pizza pan for a large surface area) under a fan.

Roasting Coffee in a Popcorn Popper

  1. Measure 2/3 cup of organic green coffee beans into a modified popcorn popper.
  2. Plug it in and stay close to listen and watch. After 2-3 minutes, you will hear the first crack.
  3. Second crack happens soon after. Smoke starts during second crack. You can either stop it during second crack or let it go all the way through for a very dark roast. I alway watch for smoke. When it gets serious, the popper is unplugged, interrupting the second crack state.
  4. Immediately cool the beans on a shallow pan under a fan. Use a hot pad to handle the pan.
  5. If you are really into the ultimate cup of coffee, keep the roasted beans in a container that can ventilate for 24 hours to allow release of carbon dioxide. Then, and only then, will the beans yield an incomprable cup of coffee.
  6. For long-term storage, the beans can be frozen, but need to be at room temperature to be ground. If you are roasting small batches, roast enough for one week and keep the beans at room temperature, tightly sealed.

You are in for a treat if you have never made cinnamon flavored Cafe de Olla, the way it is made in Mexico.

More Reading:

Getting Started Roasting Coffee at Home (Sweet Maria)

How to Roast Coffee in a West Bend Popper (eHow)

Coffee Roasting CoffeeResearch.org

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20 thoughts on “Home roasting coffee in a popcorn popper

  1. Pingback: The mystique of making café de olla, Mexican coffee « Cooking in Mexico

  2. Hi Kathleen, a very interesting post, but the best of al is that i JUST discovered your blog, and I am soooo jealous, I am an expat in London (I’m spanish) and dying to go back to Mexico, lucky you! I will be back here, to your site and enjoy life as mexicans do….Saluditos desde Londres!

  3. I love Mexican food (used to eat it from a Mexican cook, an owner of a small restaurant in Germany) and I’m pleased to have come across your Mexican Food blog :)
    –> I’m newly subscribed!

  4. Darlene

    This article makes me miss the shop that used to roast their own beans. It was located miles away but, when the breezes were just right you could smell the wonderful aroma of coffee beans being roasted. Sadly, they are no longer open. Your visuals are terrific. I can almost smell the beans again.

  5. neil braun

    I’ve been tempted to try this for a while now, but I am lucky enough to have a roaster that delivers freshly roasted espresso beans to my house in Bragg Creek every week – really! I’m not sure what I will do for coffee during our month in La Cruz this winter though…do you think my condo board will be ok with the smoke?

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Hmmm….not sure about this. I know from experience that it is possible to do a lot of things in Mexico– noise and commotion — that would not be tolerated for an instant north of the border. It depends on how strict your condo board is, I guess. You could bring enough roasted coffee with you to last a month. Or you could buy freshly roasted coffee beans from Hikuri in La Cruz. Their coffee is very good. They are close enough to us that we can smell the aroma when they are roasting. They use an organic bean from Oaxaca.

    2. Vicki in GA

      Is Bragg Creek coffee in Alberta?
      According to the Internet Bragg Creek is outside of Calgary? Yes?
      My cousin lives in Calgary and i’m going to ask her to send me some coffee from Bragg Creek.

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