If you’re even considering roasting your own beans at home, you’re already on a whole new level of coffee appreciation. Whether it was fleeting, momentary, or determined, the mere idea of buying green coffee beans and slow roasting them to perfecting right in your own kitchen is tantalizing— but it’s alright if that’s as far as the dream goes.
Roasting coffee beans is an art, and people spend lifetimes perfecting it. They traverse treacherous mountains for high altitude-grown beans, they build special machines and processes, and they divine their own special trade secrets.
That being said, you’ll never taste a fresher bean than one roasted in your very own kitchen. If you’re dedicated to walking in the footsteps of your favorite roasters, then let’s talk about how you can roast your own coffee beans at home!
Before even considering getting newly gathered beans near any sort of heat source, there’s an entire process that comes beforehand.
Coffee beans are encased inside a small, red fruit, of which the outer skin, pulp, and inner parchment skin need to be removed. What’s left is something similar to the coffee bean we know and love, but not quite. It must be left to dry, at which point it turns a lovely shade of green.
Green coffee beans can be stored for extensive periods of time, much like dry pinto beans. Until they’re roasted, they don’t begin to degas, or release carbon dioxide.
Now, when the beans are roasted, moisture is forced out of the bean so that it dries and expands. Natural sugars play a large role at this stage, some being released as CO2 and other caramelizing, creating the complex flavors that we know and love.
Once the roasting process is complete, the beans will ultimately weigh less than they did in their green state while doubling in size—an impressive feat.
Just like anytime you cook or bake, food tastes different depending on the time it spends in contact with heat. There are three huge milestones for coffee roasting, which are the First Crack, the Second Crack, and Past the Second Crack. They correspond (predictably) to Light Roast, Medium Roast, and Dark Roast.
While there are a few stages between these three milestones, these three are the biggest and most common. The “cracks” are exactly what they sound like— like popcorn popping. The very first crack sound is the light roast, the second crack is medium, and, if you like your coffee dark, you roast beyond that.
Be wary of burning the beans, though. For the health of your nose and ability to smell, remove those beans before they burn.
That’s a tough question, but largely because you have to ask yourself a couple of questions.
It’s going to largely be those answers that dictate your choice, but there’s sort of a caveat here. The cheaper options for roasting (ones that barely extend beyond using your own oven, which, yes, you can do), will require you to cultivate a decent level of skill while simultaneously testing your patience. The more expensive machines will do a lot of the more finicky aspects automatically, but they simply don’t come cheap.
Examine your habits, search your mind, and check your wallet! Let’s take a look at some coffee roasters!
If you’ve never roasted coffee before but are curious and considering making it a weekend routine, the Nuvo Eco is one of our favorite beginner options. It’s very affordable and easy to use—as long as you’re an active participant in the process.
The Nuvo Eco is a uniquely shaped ceramic pot. The body is circular with a hole in the top, not unlike a one-sided donut, with a convenient handle featuring a leather grip. You’ll need an open flame to operate this, such as a flat top grill or stove burner. Using thermal conductivity (and a lot of vigorous arm strength), your green beans will be roasted into coffee beans in no time!
This gadget really gives total control over the process, though, since its movements are entirely in your hands. Given the fact that even roasting is a key factor in good coffee beans, you’ve gotta keep those arms swinging so none of the beans spend too long over the flames.
The hole on the top allows you to hear the popping so you can determine when to stop roasting, as well as letting the aromas out so your nose can be on high alert for a sniff of the just-right smell. It’s easy to clean, too, which is always a bonus.
Obviously the most grueling part of manually home roasting (i.e. using the method above), is the 10 to 16 minutes of constant arm work that has to go into it. Obviously that’s the first thing everyone went about automating.
This affordable nugget doesn’t entirely automate the process, but it does alleviate some of the burden of eveningly dehydrating the beans.
Made of stainless steel, this ferris-wheel-esque coffee roaster still requires human input to rotate, but less so that the Nuvo Eco. The mesh sides give a good view of the beans as they roast so you can frequently check their color, but it also leaves the chaff free to fall off into the fire, so be aware of that.
This product comes with the wheel, handle, and an alcohol lamp (alcohol not included).
This Stainless Steel Coffee Bean Roasting Machine has a low-decibel drive motor attached to a stainless steel roller that evenly rotates the beans for you. Evenly spaced vents allow smoke to discharge without fuss, as well as often removes the chaff, which is a nice perk.
Keep in mind that this model doesn’t have any sort of heating element to it and requires an open flame to dehydrate coffee beans. It’s essentially a fancy rotating arm but it definitely makes the job of dehydrating coffee beans easier!
This model of coffee roaster will fit in super nicely with other kitchen appliances, which is a nice switch up after the last two industrial-looking models. Easily confused for a crockpot, the Household Coffee Roaster Machine is essentially a bowl with a mixing arm.
The bowl has a top layer of food grade Teflon and can heat up to 240 degrees Celsius. The rotating lever shifts the beans every 1.6 seconds so they dehydrate evenly. Taking anywhere between 10-40 minutes to roast up to a 500 gram batch of beans, this machine can also handle nuts, soy beans, and more.
This model is great for hitting a sweet mix of affordable and easy, making it a great option for beginners and those on a budget alike.
The Fresh Roast is another roasting option that will fit right in with any array of kitchen gadgets. Most closely resembling a blender, the Fresh Roast is capable of roasting up to 120 grams of green coffee.
Choose between 9 heat settings and fan settings to dehydrate your beans to the appropriate roast, and the default start settings are customizable so it’s rarin’ and ready to go from the moment it’s plugged in. There’s no need for any open flame since the Fresh Roast uses 120V to heat up, and it even boasts a 3 minute cool down stage to halt the roasting process.
The machine also comes with a 1-year warranty (as long as it stays within the US), which is always an added comfort.
This is another option that fits nicely in with other kitchen appliances, but this one would easily be mistaken for a toaster oven. Using thermostatically-controlled quartz roasting elements and a variable speed rotating roasting drum, the Behmor can roast up to one pound of beans in each batch.
You can take advantage of the five customizable roast settings or go more hands-on using the manual override. The removable chaff-collecting tray means an easy clean up afterwards and thanks to a smoke suppression feature, the Behmor can even be used in the kitchen—though using it near a ventilation system is recommended.
There’s really no comparing the KALDI Home Coffee Roaster to anything—if you saw it on the side of the road, you wouldn’t be sure if it belonged in a kitchen, in someone’s garage tool kit for a niche hobby, or if it fell off somebody’s car.
This particular coffee roasting gadget is getting higher on the price scale, and comes with a thermometer, hopper, probe rod, and chaff holder, as well as a free volt adaptor. Note that it does not come with a gas burner, but it’s usable indoors on a standard stove as long as there’s decent ventilation.
For the extra dough, the KALDI offers several features that make the coffee roasting process a pleasurable one. The drum opening gives ample ability to hear the appropriate cracks, the probe rod allows for easy bean sampling, and the machine doesn’t require much cleanup, which we consider a super perk.
It may look like some sort of fancy hand vacuum, but it’d be hard warranting spending this much on something that sucks up crumbs. No, the Gene Cafe Home Coffee Roaster does something way more precious than that: it roasts coffee, and it does it with finesse.
With a clean aesthetic that definitely gives it a household-machine vibe, the Gene Cafe Home Coffee Roaster may have most number of dollar signs next to its name, but it does, however, come with a number of perks.
Roast 300 grams of coffee in 15 minutes or under and watch the entire process’ vortex twisting motion unfold through the fully viewable roast chamber. Adjust the time and temperature for whatever roast you’re looking for, and you can even initiate a cooling process at any point. Using 120 volts rather than a gas burner, this machine is designed to be quiet. Top it off with a 1-year warranty and the Gene Cafe Home Coffee Roaster may be expensive but it comes with a significant amount of value.
Roasting coffee at home is a cool way to up your caffeine obsession, but the route you take depends largely on your budget. If you just want to give it a shot and see if it’s something you want to perfect, the Nuvo Eco is a great place to start. Costing less than three fancy coffees from the nearest java supplier, it’s a guilt-free way to give coffee roasting a shot.
If you’re willing to spend a healthy chunk on this endeavor, there are two fantastic options: the Household Coffee Roaster Machine and the Behmor 5400 1600 Plus Customizable Drum Coffee Roaster. Both are great options on both the affordable and functional scales.
If you don’t care how much you spend, I have no idea why you’re reading the “in conclusion” bit because clearly the Gene Cafe CBR-101 Home Coffee Roaster is the gold standard. I mean, it’s only the equivalent of 120 fancy coffees, so what are you waiting for?