Are you ready to step up your coffee brewing skills? If you are, you need to pick the best home coffee roaster. With a home coffee roaster, you can discover blends you never knew existed. Once you use freshly roasted beans, you will never go back to store-bought beans.
The main benefit of roasting your beans is to have fresh beans every time you need to brew. Another advantage is that the green beans are cost-effective. If you love the aroma of fresh coffee, you’ll love your coffee even more when you roast beans at home. Below is a complete guide on shopping for a home coffee roaster.
Roasters Being Reviewed
- Fresh Roast SR540 – Best Overall
- NESCO CR-04-13
- Whirley-Pop Popcorn Maker – Best Budget
- Hive Roaster Cascabel – Best Value
- Kaldi Mini Roaster – Best Manual Roaster
Which Type of Coffee Roaster Should You Go For?
Coffee roasters are designed as air roasters or drum roasters.
Air roasters are the most common for home use. They are small batch roasters that can only roast a few beans at a time. You can use them to roast just enough beans for one or two people. Here, hot air roasts the beans. The beans do not touch the surface of the roaster, and they, therefore, do not burn. Instead, they circle around the roaster as the hot air pushes them. The roaster is fast and advanced models give you control over the roasting process.
Drum roasters are large batch roasters that come in handy for industrialized processes. These roasters are slower than air roasters. However, they can produce up to 12 ounces of roasted coffee beans. More expensive models give you more control over the roasting profile.
Electric Roasters or Stovetop Roasters?
Stovetop roasters work when placed on an open fire. These are simple to use options when you need a budget appliance. Others use a gas burner while more complex units use electricity.
If you are on budget or need a coffee roaster you can take on the road, a stovetop option will work. However, these roasters require constant attention. You have to listen to the cracking of the beans. You also need to shake the roaster and stir the beans to avoid burning.
Electric roasters are easier to use. They also give you more control over the roasting process. The wide variety of roast settings allows you to try out different roast profiles.
Manual vs Automatic Roasters
Fully automatic roasters are more convenient, but more expensive. They require less attention and even beginners will roast perfectly with them. Manual machines are less expensive, but you have to be there every second of the roast. With a manual roaster, you have to turn the coffee beans inside the roaster and pay attention to any smells and sounds the beans produce as they roast.
This roaster is great for those of you who drink coffee everyday or have multiple people who drink coffee. It can roast up to 4 ounces of coffee in about 10 minutes.
The controls are very easy to use. You have control over the heat, time, and fan speed. Each one of them is adjusted with a knob that goes from 1 to 9. This roaster even provides you with a real time temperature display for those of you who like to be precise.
The Fresh Roast SR540 has a very large roasting chamber. This makes reaching in there and cleaning very easy to do. You can even clean it without having to take apart the unit.
It has a very appealing roasting chamber made of glass, that lets you view the roasting process. This part is very fragile, so I would advise not holding/grabbing the roaster from this area.
The chaff collector on this machine could work better at collecting the chaff. Using a fan to blow the chaff off your beans is an easy solution to this problem though.
This machine also lacks a smoke reduction system. It doesn’t produce too much smoke though, but I would still crack a window or roast in an area with good ventilation.
The Fresh Roast SR540 for those who want to be less involved in the roasting process. It’ll take care of most of the process, with a little setting setup by you.
The Nesco is really great for those of you who prefer small batch roasting. You can personalize the roasting profile of your beans.
The roaster has three buttons, making it super easy to use. Each of the buttons are illuminated, so that they are easily visible. You’ll have control over the roast time and the temperature with this machine. It even has a few pre-programmed profiles, including: medium and dark roast.
This roaster also has a cool-down feature that speeds up the cooling process. This’ll ensure that your beans don’t continue to roast/burn after you stop the roaster. It’ll help with retaining your beans aromas and flavors of whatever roast you want them to be at.
One problem with this machine is that the glass top will break easily if you don’t handle it with care. It looks very appealing, but can become an inconvenience if not handled properly.
If you don’t already have a kitchen/coffee scale, you’re going to want to pick one up for this roaster. The instructions are in ounces for this machine, but the measuring cup is in milliliters. This doesn’t really convert well either, since milliliters is used for measuring liquids.
It has a relatively long roasting time of about 15 minutes for the darker roasts. If you prefer darker roasts, then just keep in mind about the time. If you don’t have a problem with the wait time, then this is overall a great roaster.
If you needed help finding a scale head to one of my other articles here.
The Whirley Popcorn Popper is a very good alternative to getting a roaster. It’s been used by a lot of home roasters for years. This popper can give you roasted coffee in a very short amount of time by just placing it on top of your stove.
It’s very easy to use with only a handle that’s connected to the main part that holds your beans. All you’ll have to do is rotate the handle, so that your beans don’t burn. Just like the simplicity of only having a handle to operate, this is really easy to clean. With a quick wipe down of the inside, you’ll be good to go to start another batch.
This roaster is very durable and will last a long time. This is great for those of you who are on a budget, but want to get into roasting coffee beans. It even has a 25-year warranty as a testament to how long it’ll last.
The only real issue for some I see with this, is that you have to stand and pay very close attention to your roasting process. Other than that, it’s a good option for almost anyone.
The Hive Roaster is for those who want high quality roasted beans at a pretty affordable price for a high quality roaster. This model is a manual roaster that works best with gas stoves.
Unlike the Whirley-Pop above, you have more control over your roasting process. The Hive Roaster gives you control over the air flow into the roaster. Controlling the air flow allows you to get an even roast and develop your profile easier.
It has a “smokeless operation”, but really means that it’ll produce a minimal amount of smoke. Cracking your window or using this in a well ventilated area is your good choice when using this roaster.
If you’re looking for something pretty durable, the Hive Roaster is made out of stainless steel. The stainless steel makes cleaning very easy also. It also has a nice hardwood handle for you to grip onto to rotate your beans.
The Hive Roaster is great whether you’re getting started or are a little bit more serious about roasting beans. It’ll give you high quality roasted beans and could provide you with even more if you chose to upgrade it in the future with the data collection dome.
Last on the list we have the Kaldi Mini Size Home Roaster. It’s a manual roaster that can roast up to 300 grams of coffee, but works best around 200 grams. If you put too many beans in this roaster you could end up with an uneven roast.
This roaster is to be used with a gas burner. I recommend getting a portable one and using this outside. It does not come with a chaff collector, so you will have chaff coming out of the roaster while it is roasting.
It comes with a thermometer to keep track of the temperature of your beans during the roast process. The thermometer is in celsius. That may not be a problem for some, but it might be for others. You can easily use any other thermometer in your home that you already have, like a turkey or steak thermometer.
The unit is quite hefty, at 9 pounds. It’s made of stainless steel, which makes it highly durable and easy to clean.
I’m not going to lie, this roaster isn’t going to be for everyone. You’re going to be very involved with this roaster. If you love the entire roasting process and like a lot of control over the outcome of your beans, this is a great option for you.
Why Roast at Home?
Coffee beans start losing their aroma immediately after the roasting process. If the beans are in the store for a few weeks after roasting, they will not give the perfect cup of coffee as they’ve lost their freshness. This is why you need a coffee roaster. Today, home coffee roasters are compact and affordable. The roaster fits perfectly on the countertop, and you can use it at home or in a motorhome. Large plugin roasters are also available.
While coffee roasting can be fun, you need to learn about the different roasting degrees. You also need to try different blends, origins, and roasting types.
Air roasters are ideal for home use. If you often have guests over, you can go for larger drum roasters.
A roaster with an eight-ounce capacity produces enough coffee for a few people for a week, about 250 grams. You can estimate the coffee you use every week to see the roaster capacity that will meet your needs. There are larger coffee roasters that can accommodate up to a pound of coffee beans. However, these are more ideal for industrial use.
Understanding the Types of Roast
There are four common roast types:
- Light Roast – Here, beans roast at a temperature between 350 and 400 degree Fahrenheit. The beans are taken around the first crack, which is a noise the beans will make during the roasting process. They will only bear a light brown color.
- Medium Roast – You can achieve a medium roast by roasting beans in between 400 and 430 degrees Fahrenheit. The beans will have a darker brown color after the roast. Medium roast beans are less acidic.
- Medium-dark Roast – Here, you up the roast temperature to between 430 and 445 degrees Fahrenheit. The beans assume a dark brown color, and you cool them after the second crack. Some people consider anything after the second crack to be a dark roast.
- Dark Roast – Roast the beans at temperatures between 465 and 480 degrees Fahrenheit. They’re very dark and oily at this point and have lost the original flavor of the bean.
Coffee Beans Roasting Techniques
When roasting coffee beans, time and temperature are going to be very important. If the temperature is too hot, the beans will burn on the surface, but will not roast inside. If the temperature is too low, most of the aroma will escape, and you’ll get a dry flavor.
To perfect your roast, you’ll have to monitor, track, and measure the key milestones in the roasting process. Here are a few things to consider keeping track of:
- Temperature at every minute of roasting
- Bean color changes
- Time until the first crack
- Time until the second crack (if you’re going to a darker roast)
- Total time of the roast
- Size of the batch
The factors above will vary depending on the type of coffee beans you have. If you are trying different blends, you have to track the factors above every time you introduce a different blend. With advanced machines, you can save the roasting profiles for consistent results.
Tracking the above factors gives you control over the roast. Having a notebook or some way to track your roasting processes, is a good way to see how you can experiment and change your next roast.
However, if you do not want to pay so much attention to the process, you can buy a fully automatic coffee roaster.
How Long Should You Keep the Coffee Beans after Roasting?
After roasting the beans need to go through a process called degassing. For a few days up to a couple weeks your beans will degas. If you want to know more, I go into a little more detail down below in the FAQ section.
So, during sometime in the degassing period, you’ll want to use your beans. Since you’re roasting at home it’s best to use your beans within 12-14 days after finding that sweet spot during degassing. Even with proper storage for your beans, they’ll continue to lose CO2 and you will start to lose flavor.
If you’re not too worried about having optimal and perfect flavors, your beans will probably still taste fine after the 12-14 day mark. It’s not like they’re going to taste disgusting after those days. But I would try to use them up within 3 weeks.
Quick tip, grind your beans when you’re going to use them for brewing. Grinding it all beforehand will release all your CO2(which you don’t want) and you’ll be losing almost all the flavor and aroma within 15 minutes.
Coffee Roast Settings
How much control do you want to have over the roast profile of your beans? Do you want a click and forget kind of a roaster or one that allows a host of settings. If you go for a budget roaster, it might only allow you roasting time control.
More advanced roasters feature more controls. You can control time, temperature, smoke suppression, regimes, and more. With such a roaster, you can create and save roasting profiles to make roasting easy. The more the money you are willing to spend on the best coffee roaster, the more the control you have over the roasting process.
If you’re just starting out, I would recommend getting a basic roaster. It’ll give you time to learn the little details about roasting and will be easy on your bank.
Ease of Use and Cleaning
Most roasters are easy to use. You might only need to set the roasting time and temperature, and you are good to go. In these roasters, you only have a button or two to operate it. Different roasting profiles only need you to manipulate the time and temperature, and you are good to go.
A wet cloth is enough to clean a roaster after roasting. It’s a good idea to have your roaster professionally cleaned once a year.
Roasters produce a little smoke when roasting. Modern units come with a smoke reduction system. Even with a smoke reduction system, roasting darker coffee beans will still see the roaster produce smoke. You can ensure smoke doesn’t fill your kitchen by buying one that absorbs smoke.
My Roaster Pick
The Fresh Roast SR540 is my top pick out of these roasters. This roaster is great for those who are just starting out or those who are already more invested in roasting.
It’s easy enough to use with a couple buttons and a knob for dialing in your temperature, time, and fan speed.
There is a lot of flexibility with this machine that if you’re just starting out, you can test out multiple settings to find out something you like. Or if you’re already experienced it’ll be easier for you to replicate a roasting batch you’ve already done.
Hope you found a roaster you like on this list!
Does The cooling process matter?
The process of cooling coffee beans has an effect on the aroma of the beans. Most modern roasters have a separate tray where beans move to after roasting for fast cooling. To get the best results, you need to be keen when cooling your beans. If you fail to cool the beans immediately after the roast, they will continue roasting and probably lose their aroma.
Cold air cooling is common in most home coffee roasters. Here, the roaster passes cold air over the beans immediately after the roasting process. This process is slow and not effective. Some roasters transfer the beans to a special tray outside the roasting area where they cool fast.
How Noisy is the Roaster?
It really depends on the model that you’re looking at. Some of them can be very noisy, but there are some that are a lot quieter.
Degassing Coffee Beans
When roasting coffee beans, some gases form within them. Carbon dioxide is one of the main gases that form. Brewing your coffee with a lot of carbon dioxide ruins its taste.
The bubbles formed by the carbon dioxide during brewing, can cause uneven extraction. Uneven extraction will leave you with gross tasting coffee.
It’s best to let your coffee degas for a few days up to a couple weeks. It really depends on how you want your coffee beans to taste.
You’ll want to properly store your beans while they are left alone to degas. A container that has a one way valve to release the excess CO2 is a good choice. If you want to see some recommendations, you can head here.