For coffee geeks, roasting your own coffee might seem like the inevitable end of your obsession. There’s no better way for you to play around with your favorite beverage, experimenting with roast profiles, coffee from different regions, and more. Coffee roasting equipment, though, can get expensive and roasting coffee takes time. Which begs the question, is roasting your own coffee worth it?
In today’s world, there’s probably a small, specialty coffee roaster nearby and there are a number of coffee roasters who can ship freshly roasted coffee to your door within a couple of days of roasting it, and that might just negate the biggest reason to roast your own, which is freshness.
Is roasting your own coffee worth it?
Yes, it absolutely is. Roasting your own coffee gives you complete control over how your coffee is roasted, and it doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. Coffee roasting is one of those hobbies that’s really only as expensive as you want it to be. In fact, if you’ve already developed a specialty coffee habit, you’ll probably find that roasting your own ends up saving you a lot of money.
Why you should roast your own coffee
Even if you have a local coffee roaster nearby, you’ll probably like your own coffee better.
You’ll get to roast it exactly how you like it, and you may be surprised by what your preferences end up being.
You’ll also be able to explore coffee from different regions much more thoroughly.
When you’re buying green coffee you’ll be buying coffee from smaller producers and you’ll have the opportunity to buy coffee from places like Bali, Timor, and India. A lot of the coffee from these places is either overlooked or ends up in blends, and small scale coffee roasters rarely use it. You’ll have a totally unique coffee on your hands that you’d never get to try otherwise.
If you’re already buying specialty coffee, you’ll find that buying green coffee to roast yourself is much cheaper. A coffee that might cost $15 a pound from your local roaster can be purchased, green, for $6-$7 per pound. Cheaper coffees can be had at $5 per pound, and you’ll be surprised at how good these coffees can be when consumed fresh after roasting.
How much will it cost to start roasting my own coffee?
Coffee roasters can get pretty expensive. Top of the line machines can easily be over $2,000, but you don’t have to buy one of these. These days there are options for roasters at nearly every price level, and you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on one to brew quality coffee.
Cheap coffee roasters
The cheapest coffee roasters are usually devices meant for popping popcorn that have been converted into coffee roasters. These come in two forms: air poppers and stovetop poppers.
Diehard coffee enthusiasts have been using air poppers to roast their own coffee for decades now. It requires some modifications, include removing temperature controls and other safety features. These converted poppers are renowned for making excellent, bright, fruity coffee, but they can only handle about 4oz of beans at a time.
Stovetop poppers like this one, which are large pots with a crank handle to stir the contents, can make a full pound of coffee at a time. Although it’s easier to get quality results with just a half pound. These do work a little better for medium and dark roasts than light roasts, but they’ll last forever and require no modifications to work.
There are also coffee roasters based on air poppers, but made specifically for coffee roasting. These tend to be affordable, well-made roasters.
Mid-range coffee roasters
Mid-range priced drum roasters like the Bocaboca Coffee Bean Roaster and the KALDI Home Coffee Roaster are great for those who’ve decided to stick with this hobby but aren’t yet ready to invest a larger sum in their roaster.
In fact, these roasters work so well that you may never see the need to upgrade. They can handle about half a pound at a time, include precise temperature control, and usually have built-in smoke management of some sort.
If money is no object and you want the best home coffee roaster available, you can get some pretty incredible equipment. In this price range, you can get true, miniaturized commercial-style coffee roasters. These come packed with great features that can make the roasting process smoother and give you more control over it, allowing a lot more precision in your roast profiles.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re much better than more affordable roasters, and the jump in price is probably not worth it for beginners. These are for serious enthusiasts who’ve been doing this for years.
Best coffee roaster for beginners
The Whirleypop stovetop popcorn popper is ideal for beginners. It’s cheap, easy to use, and very durable. It’s capable of roasting a full pound of coffee at once, but doing so is likely to damage the gears over time. Stick to half a pound and you won’t have to worry about any damage, and you’ll also get more evenly roasted coffee.
Most people start out with a Whirleypop, and more than a few never bother to upgrade to a more expensive machine. It works well, it’s hassle free, and it roasts a decent amount of coffee at once. Some people find it necessary to use a cast iron pan as a heat diffuser underneath their Whirleypop to avoid scorching their coffee; whether or not that’s necessary for you will depend on the heat output of your stove.
Some online shops that cater to home roasters sell their own, slightly modified version of the Whirleypop. These have stronger gears (metal rather than plastic) and a thicker base for better heat control. They don’t cost much more than the standard stovetop popper, and they’re worth the extra cost.
If you’re roasting your own coffee, you’re also going to need a good grinder. You really want a conical burr grinder for the best results, and the Capresso Infinity is an excellent choice for beginners. It’s much less expensive than most conical burr grinders but it does an admirable job of grinding your coffee evenly.
If you are a coffee lover that is already spending extra money on premium coffee, you may want to consider taking it a step further and roasting and grinding your own beans. This will allow you to explore more types of coffees from all over the world and to have more control over the way your coffee tastes.
Not only can roasting your own coffee save you money, but it becomes a hobby that is quite enjoyable!