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Roasting with a popcorn popper.  Is it worth it?
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MikeSD
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Joined: 10 Jan 2013
Posts: 53
Location: Florida
Expertise: I like coffee

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Roaster: Homemade SC/CO
Posted Tue Jan 15, 2013, 10:40am
Subject: Roasting with a popcorn popper.  Is it worth it?
 

Okay, so I'm fairly new to the world of premium coffee.  I'd like to experiment around with home roasting, and I'd like to get started for fairly cheap.  I'd hate to drop hundreds of dollars on something I'm terrible at.  I've heard/seen some videos saying that home roasting in a popcorn air popper is a good option.  

My question to you all is, have any of you had experience with this.  What are your successes and failures?  Is it worth the trouble of trying to get something decent with an air popper?  I'll be honest, I'm not going to spend the money on a pro roaster.  At least not now.  I'd like to dip my toe in the water, as it were, and see how I do.  Any thoughts/comments are much appreciated.
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Prof
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Prof
Joined: 10 Sep 2004
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Location: Seattle
Expertise: Pro Roaster

Espresso: PV Lusso
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Roaster: Behmor 1600+
Posted Tue Jan 15, 2013, 10:48am
Subject: Re: Roasting with a popcorn popper.  Is it worth it?
 

Many of us got started on popcorn poppers.  It's easy to do a roast and you will learn quickly the basics.

Thrift stores usually have decent Poppery II's, Proctor-Silex, Popcorn Poppers, etc.  Just look for the vents to be on the sides, and not the bottom of the chamber.

Then you'll start thinking about:
- extension cords to slow things down a bit
- variacs to control the voltage
- tipping (leaning) the popper for some reason (I can't remember)
- raising the chamber height by using a soup can to keep more heat in the chamber and also to prevent beans from jumping out

From there you might cobble together a turbo oven/stir crazy system that will roast much more at a time.  That's pretty cheap compared to getting a Behmor or Gene.

I'm glad I started with the poppers.  It felt like being an apprentice by learning the art step by step.

 
LMWDP # 010
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MikeSD
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Joined: 10 Jan 2013
Posts: 53
Location: Florida
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: De'Longhi EC155
Grinder: Hario Skerton, Baratza...
Vac Pot: Yama Stovetop 8 Cup
Drip: Hario Pourover
Roaster: Homemade SC/CO
Posted Tue Jan 15, 2013, 11:02am
Subject: Re: Roasting with a popcorn popper.  Is it worth it?
 

Prof Said:

Many of us got started on popcorn poppers.  It's easy to do a roast and you will learn quickly the basics.

Thrift stores usually have decent Poppery II's, Proctor-Silex, Popcorn Poppers, etc.  Just look for the vents to be on the sides, and not the bottom of the chamber.

Then you'll start thinking about:
- extension cords to slow things down a bit
- variacs to control the voltage
- tipping (leaning) the popper for some reason (I can't remember)
- raising the chamber height by using a soup can to keep more heat in the chamber and also to prevent beans from jumping out

From there you might cobble together a turbo oven/stir crazy system that will roast much more at a time.  That's pretty cheap compared to getting a Behmor or Gene.

I'm glad I started with the poppers.  It felt like being an apprentice by learning the art step by step.

Posted January 15, 2013 link

Awesome.  Thanks.  I'm a science teacher, so I kind of like the idea of cobbling together some contraption, but I would kind of like to know what I'm doing first.  This sounds like a good starting place.  Thanks again.
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CraigA
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CraigA
Joined: 19 Dec 2001
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Location: Rexdale, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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Posted Tue Jan 15, 2013, 11:27am
Subject: Re: Roasting with a popcorn popper.  Is it worth it?
 

MikeSD Said:

Awesome.  Thanks.  I'm a science teacher, so I kind of like the idea of cobbling together some contraption, but I would kind of like to know what I'm doing first.  This sounds like a good starting place.  Thanks again.

Posted January 15, 2013 link

Hi Mike!
This is a good place to start: Air Popcorn Popper Method by Tom Owen of Sweetmarias fame.

 
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MikeSD
Senior Member


Joined: 10 Jan 2013
Posts: 53
Location: Florida
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: De'Longhi EC155
Grinder: Hario Skerton, Baratza...
Vac Pot: Yama Stovetop 8 Cup
Drip: Hario Pourover
Roaster: Homemade SC/CO
Posted Tue Jan 15, 2013, 12:23pm
Subject: Re: Roasting with a popcorn popper.  Is it worth it?
 

CraigA Said:

Hi Mike!
This is a good place to start: Air Popcorn Popper Method by Tom Owen of Sweetmarias fame.

Posted January 15, 2013 link

I saw that.  I'm getting the variety pack (forgot what it's actually called) from Sweet Maria's for my birthday.  Looks fun.
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dyqik
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Joined: 7 Oct 2011
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Roaster: Gene Cafe, Modded Poppers
Posted Tue Jan 15, 2013, 2:05pm
Subject: Re: Roasting with a popcorn popper.  Is it worth it?
 

Yes, it's worth it.  Even if you have a decent roaster 2 blocks away.  You have control of when and how the coffee is roasted, and high quality green beans are less than half the price of the roasted version of the same.

An alternative to a variac for controlling the heat output of the popper is a 1100 - 1500W lighting dimmer switch on just the heater circuit (assuming that the popper is wired for this).  I have this on my JC Penney branded popper, and it was extremely useful for controlling the heat input, and for cooling after the roast.  After a few years of this in the UK and US, I've now switched to a Gene Cafe, but mostly so I can control the mess and smoke better.
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lifeandpeace
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lifeandpeace
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Roaster: RK Drum, WBP II
Posted Tue Jan 15, 2013, 3:05pm
Subject: Re: Roasting with a popcorn popper.  Is it worth it?
 

MikeSD Said:

Okay, so I'm fairly new to the world of premium coffee.  I'd like to experiment around with home roasting, and I'd like to get started for fairly cheap.  I'd hate to drop hundreds of dollars on something I'm terrible at.  I've heard/seen some videos saying that home roasting in a popcorn air popper is a good option.  

My question to you all is, have any of you had experience with this.  What are your successes and failures?  Is it worth the trouble of trying to get something decent with an air popper?  I'll be honest, I'm not going to spend the money on a pro roaster.  At least not now.  I'd like to dip my toe in the water, as it were, and see how I do.  Any thoughts/comments are much appreciated.

Posted January 15, 2013 link

Been doing it for five years. I still use it for most of my espresso even though I have a big RK drum. I drink a good deal of SM's Liquid Amber. It turns out ridiculously good in the popper. (I use the drum for some espressos--especially the more finicky ones.)

Few tips:

- Find a measure of beans that is neither too much and so prevents agitation, nor is too little so that it's a waste of time. I use 8 tablespoons (four 2 T coffee measures). With this amount and with my popper (I've used three) I have to stir for the first :40 or so before the beans start spinning. My poppers vary between 1100 and 1350 watts.

- I unplug the popper at the time that first crack is firmly established (not at the first pop or two). I then stir like crazy for about :30.  This extends first crack and prevents the train from gaining too much thermal momentum. Substantial dropping of heat after first crack is normal practice for roasting. The beans become exothermic at first crack and can skate along with much less heat being applied. Sometimes I'll do this a second time. Don't let first crack stall. Just moderate it. I could monitor the temps more with my thermocouple, but (1) I get consistently good results and (2) with experience I can rely a lot on time, sight, smell, and sound.

- I used a glass chimney for a while then abandoned it. It kept the beans in, but it prevents me from easily cutting the heat and stirring. Now I lay a steel mesh colander over the top something like this. I don't use it until the beans start flying up in the almost-exit zone. By this time practically all the chaff has escaped, so it won't cog the chamber.

- Dump it out as soon as it's done. Let the beans spread out to cool.

Obviously the drum gives me more ability for control and various batch sizes, but this is where I've landed with the popper after several tweaks through the years. I don't use any variac or wiring modifications, though many here use these things admirably. Notably CG member Frost.

Time for a Liquid Amber macchiato.

Have fun and enjoy.

 
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JPF
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Joined: 3 Jun 2010
Posts: 223
Location: NJ
Expertise: I love coffee

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Posted Thu Jan 17, 2013, 6:42pm
Subject: Re: Roasting with a popcorn popper.  Is it worth it?
 

Best part of an air popper is if you split the heat and fan circuits (very easy on the original Poppery), as soon as you're done, you can cut the heat and you have active air cooling of the beans.  Quick cooling helps retain sugars if you like a sweet roast.

JF

 
Living the caffeinated life.
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roach56
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Joined: 17 Jun 2010
Posts: 137
Location: USA
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Fri Jan 18, 2013, 11:00am
Subject: Re: Roasting with a popcorn popper.  Is it worth it?
 

I use a poppery 2,only because I haven't found an original poppery yet. I just finished roasting with it even though I have a stir crazy/turbo oven and a bread machine roaster. I like the flavor I get from the air popper. Give it a try, but get one with the side vents on the chamber.
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JPF
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Jun 2010
Posts: 223
Location: NJ
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Mini Vivaldi, Pre-millenium...
Grinder: Dosered SJ, Resurrected...
Vac Pot: Yama Siphon
Drip: Technivorm
Roaster: Behmor, Poppery I
Posted Fri Jan 18, 2013, 12:25pm
Subject: Re: Roasting with a popcorn popper.  Is it worth it?
 

The poppery 1 is getting awfully espensive on ebay now that the word is out.  I got a spare a year or two ago before they were too much.

 
Living the caffeinated life.
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