It all started with a sip.
And for many people, that’s where it ended. They pursed their lips and decided that coffee isn’t for them. Or they fell into a big pot of stale, hours-old coffee and never climbed back out again.
Not you, though.
You kept going, wondering if you could get a better cup. You tried drip, espresso, cold-brew. You started to notice where the beans were coming from, the other flavors in there. You started working out what you liked. You bought a grinder and a coffee machine and started making coffee at home.
Before you knew it, you had a semi-automatic machine, and every day now starts with the whirr of freshly ground coffee. You’re making microfoams, looking for single-estate beans, chasing that elusive last step to the perfect cup.
Then it hits you. You could roast the beans yourself.
Eyes bright with the slight mania only ever seen in enthusiastic hobbyists, you start to go over the benefits of home coffee roasters:
- You get complete control over everything. Short of growing the beans yourself, this is the most you’ll ever be able to influence how the final cup tastes.
- Your coffee is always going to be freshly roasted.
- Green coffee keeps for over a year without a noticeable decline in flavor.
- You’ll often get more coffee for your money if you’re roasting it yourself.
Best Home Coffee Roasters: Quick Picks
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Home Coffee Roasters: Quick Picks
- 2 How to roast coffee at home
- 2.1 Step 1: Buy green, unroasted coffee beans
- 2.2 Step 2: Roast 3-4 minutes to 240°F
- 2.3 Step 3: Continue roasting to 300°F
- 2.4 Step 4: Continue roasting to 330°F
- 2.5 Step 5: First crack at 385°F
- 2.6 Step 6: Light-to-medium roast at 400°F
- 2.7 Step 7: Medium-to-dark roast at 410°F
- 2.8 Step 8: Second crack and dark, oily beans at 445°F
- 2.9 Step 9: Overroasting after the second crack
- 2.10 Step 10: Whenever you choose to stop roasting, begin the cooling process
- 3 Types of home coffee roaster
- 4 Which home coffee roaster should I pick?
- 5 Best home coffee roaster: Our 6 top picks
How to roast coffee at home
So, how do you roast your own coffee? There are 10 simple steps, that will take you from bean to cup.
Step 1: Buy green, unroasted coffee beans
They can be quite hard to find in person, but they’re easily purchasable online from sites like SweetMarias.
Step 2: Roast 3-4 minutes to 240°F
You’ll need a home coffee roaster. If you don’t have one, this guide will help you choose the best home coffee roaster for your needs.
After 3-4 minutes of roasting, you’ll produce pale white beans, ending around the 240°F (140°C). This is a very important stage because it’s here that the bean begins to lose moisture and begin absorbing heat into its center. The smell here is going to be grassy and fresh.
Step 3: Continue roasting to 300°F
Coloring begins and the beans become yellow. It’s here that the Maillard Reaction starts to happen.
This chemical reaction, sometimes referred to as browning, creates new flavors and aromas in food, and occurs in everything from cookies to steaks. The beans will now start to smell more like fresh hay.
Step 4: Continue roasting to 330°F
At this stage the beans orange or very light brown. It’s here that caramelization starts to happen and the aroma turns from something vegetal into something sweet and appetizing!
Step 5: First crack at 385°F
The beans will start to pop! This is called first crack and is a key moment because it marks the beginning of the development stage.
The minutes that follow require the most finesse and knowledge because it’s after first crack that the coffee will change the most.
Steps 6-9 describe how to achieve varying roast levels. You can stop at any time after reaching the desired roast (e.g., light, medium, dark, French, or Italian) and proceed to Step 10.
Step 6: Light-to-medium roast at 400°F
The beans develop and darken to a light brown. Shortly after the first crack, you’ll reach what’s called the city or medium roast.
Step 7: Medium-to-dark roast at 410°F
The beans develop into a medium brown as further caramelization occurs. This is called a full city roast and it’s here that the roast starts to affect the bean with notes of chocolate, caramel, and nuttiness.
A little oil will begin to leak from inside the bean, and the overall acidity of the bean will start to drop.
Step 8: Second crack and dark, oily beans at 445°F
The beans will become dark brown and oily, then undergo second crack. This is exactly what it sounds like: a second, quieter crack of the coffee bean.
It marks the French or dark roast stage, where smokey flavors really start to dominate and the sugars in the bean almost begin to burn.
Developing the beans even further will give you an Italian roast, which is very dark brown and begins to become quite bitter and even charred. Once you reach an Italian roast, it’s time to stop.
Step 9: Overroasting after the second crack
You won’t get much time after Italian roast before the beans begin to overroast and become extremely dark brown, almost black, and oily.
At this point, smoke and acrid flavors will overpower everything else and you’ll have ruined the batch.
Step 10: Whenever you choose to stop roasting, begin the cooling process
Once you’re satisfied with your roasted beans, immediately place them into a large colander, and then tip them into a second one.
Continue to transfer the beans between the two colanders for 1-2 minutes. This allows them to cool much more rapidly and shakes loose all the outer bean-skin (chaff) that has come loose during the roasting process.
After this, you’ll want to wait 3-4 days for the gases in the beans to disappear.
Types of home coffee roaster
There are 3 main types of home coffee roaster:
Manual coffee roaster
As you might have guessed from the name, manual machines put most of the workload onto you.
The most common variety is the drum, which consists of a simple metal drum over a propane burner. You hand-crank the drum to keep the beans moving and air circulating.
You’ll also see waffle style ceramic roasters, which are essentially enclosed ceramic pans with a textured interior. You place the beans inside, place the roaster over the heat and toss them yourself.
Both options are quite fun and novel but may grow tiresome after repeated use. They also lack any technical assistance. Both control of heat and timing are left entirely up to you.
Pros of manual coffee roasters
Cons of manual coffee roasters
- Limited technical assistance
Drum coffee roaster
More sophisticated drum roasters come with a number of extra features to make them a good upgrade to a manual machine.
First and foremost, the drum is powered by the machine, meaning you don’t need to constantly watch and turn the drum yourself.
Drum roasters also benefit from less extreme heating elements, which allow the drum to heat more evenly and gently.
A drum roaster will typically take 12-20 minutes depending on its capacity, which gives considerably more time to play around in the development stage.
Pros of drum coffee roasters
- More precise control over speed and temperature
- Longer roasting time makes it easier to play around with different roast levels
Cons of drum coffee roasters
- More expensive
- Require an electrical outlet
Air coffee roasters
Air roasters work just like popcorn machines, pushing hot air through a chamber to roast the beans.
In fact, many people choose to use high-powered popcorn machines to roast their beans if they’re on a budget!
Air roasters are less visually appealing but are generally a little easier to use than drum roasters as there are fewer variables to control.
Pros of air roasters
- Harder to get an inconsistent roast from batch to batch
- Cheaper than most drum roasters
Cons of air roasters
- Less aesthetically appealing
- Popcorn machines lack precise controls
Note about air roasters: We discuss the possibility of using a popcorn machine as a low-cost air roaster several times in this article. Used carefully, it can be a great way to roast your own beans at home on a very tight budget. However, you must take the relevant precautions and be responsible. It will output a decent amount of smoke, and if you don’t supervise the machine it will carry on roasting the beans until they are burnt to charcoal or it starts a fire.
Which home coffee roaster should I pick?
Picking the right roaster can feel overwhelming, but it’s actually surprisingly simple. You just need to ask yourself 4 questions.
How much do you actually want to do this?
Countless cabinets around the world are lined with machines gathering dust. If you’re just curious about the idea, spending upwards of $500 on a machine probably isn’t the best idea. Roasting is a fickle art that requires time, patience, and a strong will to really get into.
If you’re not sure this is something you really want to commit to, choose one of the cheaper options to get a taste for it. A manual drum or a cheap popcorn maker will help you to see how keen you really are. It will also help you see if you’re a fan of either the drum or air roasting style.
What’s your budget?
Precision-controlled drum and air roasters aren’t cheap with upper-range models costing as much as a good home espresso machine.
If you have the money and enthusiasm, drum roasters are a great bet, but for those with more limited budgets, either a ceramic manual roaster or a popcorn machine may once again be the right choice.
How much time do you want the roast to take?
Air roasters tend to complete their process in 8-10 minutes whereas drum roasters will take up to 20. This can make all the difference if you’re lacking free time, or if you make the fatal mistake of letting your reserves run dry on a weekday morning!
How ergonomic do you want the roaster to be?
Is it something you’d like to be able to take to work or to a friend’s house? Do you have a lot of counter space for it to live on or are you looking for something to tuck away when out of use?
Air roasters tend to be smaller and more portable, so they’ll better suit frequent movement but are often less visually appealing to keep out on a counter.
Best home coffee roaster: Our 6 top picks
Ready to jump into home roasting? You’re sure to find something you love among these six machines.
Critically-acclaimed and much-loved, this beast of a machine can roast up to 1 lb of beans at a time–the highest quantity among home roasters.
You can directly control the heat and speed of the drum, allowing for endless experimentation under precise conditions, letting you dial in every roast until you have something spectacular.
It’s an expensive bit of equipment, though, and has a safety feature that’s a real double-edged sword. Around three-quarters of the way through roasting, you have to manually confirm that you’re still there or it will stop the roast. Some love the safety, others hate not being able to leave the machine to complete the cycle on its own.
Who’s it for? Serious enthusiasts who want precision and the capability to roast a large quantity of beans.
This hybrid model combines both drum and air roasting in a single machine.
Instead of heating the drum and browning the beans through contact, the CBR-101 blasts hot air through the rotating drum. This, combined with its patented drum design, is designed to deliver evenly roasted coffee every time.
Said drum is made from transparent glass and allows you to see the beans fully during the roasting process. This makes it easier to judge the beans’ color and the current stage of roasting. Plus, it looks quite pretty when in use.
Again, it’s at the upper end of what many people are willing to pay. It’s also only capable of roasting half the amount of beans that the Behmor is, although we have to say that a half-pound of beans is normally more than enough for most households.
Who’s it for? Passionate coffee aficionados who don’t mind paying a premium for quality.
The SR-540 is the successor to the popular SR-500, and it maintains all the things that people loved around the original.
Fresh Roast SR540 The Fresh Roast SR540 is a fluid bed air roaster featuring 9 heat and fan speed adjustments, respectively, an improved glass roasting chamber for visibility, and a nifty chaff collector that makes clean up easy.
A transparent chamber makes it easy to observe the beans during roasting, and the chaff collector makes cleanup a lot less messy.
New to this model is a range of extra heat and speed options that really elevate it to a new level. There are nine levels for both, allowing curious roasters to control the process with a lot of precision. It also offers real-time temperature readings from inside the chamber.
The only real downside is its relatively small size: a 4oz capacity will need pretty regular roasts to meet the needs of a coffee-loving household.
Who’s it for? Roasters who want reliable control over their roasts and prefer air roasting to drum.
This is a drum roaster with a twist. Instead of being heated by its own internal elements, the Kaldi is instead placed over a burner.
This gives it a considerably lower electric consumption rate than other drum roasters. It’s also an absolutely gorgeous machine that will look great on any countertop.
It does come with a few downsides. The drum is well and truly hidden, so you’ll need to insert a scoop to visually assess the beans as they roast. The need to have both a power supply and a burner can be problematic in some kitchen setups, and the hot machine has to be left on the stove after roasting to cooldown.
Who’s it for? Roasters that want to use little electricity (this machine is a godsend for van-lifers, for example) and people who want an extremely elegant-looking roaster.
Cutting things down to the bare basics, this roaster allows almost anyone to roast coffee in their own home.
It works equally well on a naked flame or on an electric stove element, so you can just pump the extractor hood to maximum and roast your beans in the kitchen.
You will, of course, have to agitate the beans yourself to ensure an even roast. This can be a fun, theatrical experience that wows guests and lets you feel a bit closer to the process. Or it can be irritating. It depends on your personal preference.
The main issue with this roaster is timing–you’ll need a few tries to really get an idea for how quickly it browns the beans. The design makes checking them mid-roast distinctly difficult, so you’ll generally have to be guided by your intuition and that tell-tale first crack.
Who’s it for? Roasters on a budget, people who want a rustic experience.
Let’s address the elephant in the room before we start: Yes, this is a popcorn maker.
As we said earlier, though, the fundamentals are pretty much the same. It moves hot air upwards to heat whatever is in the chamber and keep it moving. It’s also less than half the price of the next cheapest option, making it a good choice for those that are just dipping their toes in to see how they like the water.
On the downside, it has literally no features. It won’t tell you how hot it is, it won’t beep when the coffee is done, it won’t turn itself off, and it won’t allow you to control the temperature or airspeed.
Who’s it for? Coffee lovers who want to see if they like roasting, people who enjoy a challenge, people who want to roast their own beans but aren’t too concerned with repeated experimenting to get things perfect.
If you’re ready to get into roasting coffee beans at home, you’re sure to find a model on this list that suits your needs. If you have any questions, comment below!