How to Roast Coffee for Beginners

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Roasting coffee can be as simple as popping corn.

The basics of coffee roasting are very similar to popping corn. Many methods used to pop corn can be used to Roast Coffee ( NO microwave or oil).

To see how easy Home coffee roasting is whatch our Video How to Roast Coffee with a Whirley Pop here


A few things you should know before you Roast.

  1. Coffee roasting can produce smoke, especially if you like dark roasts, and chaff. The aroma of roasting coffee is not the same as brewing coffee; it is a little Smokey at darker roasts. Roasting dark indoors we use the fan on the hood of the stove or open a window.
  2. Chaff – A skin that covers green unroasted coffee beans, when coffee is roasted it dries and separates from the beans. It is very light and will follow the air current. Chaff must be removed from any type roaster before you begin your next roast.

The Good News and Bad News of roasting your own Gourmet coffee at home.

Home coffee roasting is a tremendous value even when taking the roasting weight loss into account, your overall cost per pound and availability of quality beans can’t be beat.

Coffee makes two distinct sounds as it roasts.

First Crack – Begins when your beans reach around 380 degrees F, this may take from 3 minutes to 15 minutes to begin and should last from 1 minute to 3 minutes. These ranges are large and vary depending on roasting method used, amount of coffee, and amount of heat being applied and are only intended as a guide not a rule. The sound is similar to wooden toothpicks being snapped. Like popcorn, it will start slowly, increase in intensity, and then taper off. End of First Crack is a good point to remove your beans from the heat if you like fairly light to medium light roasted coffee. The pace of your roast quickens as First Crack begins, the beans are generating heat due to the chemical reaction taking place in the beans, pay close attention.

You may remove your beans from the heat at any point from early First crack on. If they look good to you, light brown or darker, they can be ground and brewed. Once removed from the heat do not return them to the heat as they will NOT continue to roast.

Second Crack – Begins 15 seconds to 2 minutes after First crack ends, when your beans have reached about 435 degrees F. If the sounds have blurred into one continuous intense crackling you may have the heat too high, and your beans may be burnt (try less heat next time). Second crack should sound more like crispy rice cereal when you pour on the milk, it too will start slowly and intensify. Dark roast lovers should watch very closely as Second crack may allow a very short period to achieve your exact roast. You may learn to remove the beans just before they reach the color you want. Much past Second crack you may have charcoal. By keeping a record of your roasts, and with a little practice you should easily be able hit that perfect roast.

Depending on roasting method (very loud fans or noisy enclosed drums) it may be difficult to hear the Cracks, they do occur none the less, simply watch for color.

Simple coffee roasting directions for most manual methods

Manual methods:

Things you have at home that you could also use to pop corn, requiring you to stir, shake, or turn a handle to prevent the beans from burning on one side.

These items can include; a pot with lid, cast iron skillet with wooden spoon to stir, crank handle (we like the Whirley Pop) stove top popcorn popper.

Even when camping (or prepping) it’s easy to roast coffee just like popping corn on a camp stove or fire. Put about a quarter pound in a pot and shake until the pops of first crack end; pour onto a lid or plate to cool, simply blow across beans to separate chaff from coffee.


Items that you may want handy:

Measure the quantity of beans to be roasted:

For pots and skillets start out small, perhaps three to four ounces of Green coffee beans, leave room for the beans to expand three times original size, and not more than three layers deep to roast evenly.

For crank handle poppers about eight ounces to a pound works well to cover the bottom of the pot so that beans turn over when stirred.

Record your Roast: You will find this information handy for future Roasts. Feel free to download our HRC Roast Log spreadsheet to record your data. Here is the information you should log:

Turn on the heat:

Apply heat to roasting appliance, medium on a stove (a little over 400 degrees F) We start with the beans in the roaster (less chance to get a burn or spill beans), or you can preheat your roaster shortly before adding the beans.

Move your beans:

Stir with a wood spoon, shake, stir the pot of beans, or turn the handle, to move beans in order to heat evenly. You can stop occasionally to look at the beans, check temperatures or record findings.

Use our Home Roast Coffee ROAST LEVELS one page roast comparison sheet to help select temperature, color, and flavor characteristics you want.

Watch, Smell, Listen: Refer to your roasting notes if you have them.

NO ? – Keep stirring, shaking, turning, measuring, and recording.

Yes - Carefully pour roasted beans into colander or roasting pan from roaster.

Cool in colander or roasting pan over small fan or just shake to remove chaff, outdoors or near a sink helps as this stuff floats off in almost any air current.

Caution: Too much fan will blow beans out of colander or roasting pan. Place beans in a container that has room for expansion (zip type bag push air out before closing), or allows gas to escape but keeps air out for at least 4 to 8 hours. We prefer 8 hours to three days rest for most coffees. Your preferred rest period can vary by coffee, roasting method, or roast level, just record what you like best, you may enjoy the difference a day makes. Home roasting makes it your choice, now you have truly fresh coffee just the way you like it.

Stand up foil pouches (see Accessories) with valves are excellent for storage.

Enjoy your fresh roasted coffee!

Simple Coffee roasting directions for Hot Air popcorn poppers

Hot Air popcorn poppers:

Available used on the internet, yard sales, or at resale shops for $20 - $40. The West Bend Poppery 1500 Watts model works well. Look for at least 1200 Watts and slots around the sides of the roasting chamber, rather than round holes on the sides or bottom (that small beans will fall into). With a little practice and record keeping you can produce very nice roasts of about 4 ounces of coffee.

Click on this link to watch our Video How to Roast Coffee with a Hot Air Popper 


Chaff must be removed from any type roaster before you begin a new roast. It can start on fire, always check before you begin a roast.

Read directions above for most manual methods, they apply here except the machine does the stirring.

The Key to roasting with a Hot Air popper is to find the amount of coffee beans that traps enough heat to roast properly. Generally you should start by adding coffee beans to the preheated roaster until the beans barely move (remain fluid). You can stir with a wood spoon if needed.

Fluid Bed Coffee Roaster – Any coffee roaster which heats and moves the Coffee beans (makes fluid to roast evenly) using a stream of forced hot air. This method generally produces a brighter roast than a Drum roaster. Air poppers are Fluid Bed roasters, as are the Fresh Roast SR300 and Fresh Roast SR500 Home Coffee Roasters available on our Home coffee Roasters page.

Drum Roaster – A Drum containing the coffee beans is heated directly while being rotated to prevent site burns where the beans touch the metal. Often used in very large commercial roasting operations, and by Specialty Coffee Roasters when more complex roasts are desired. Crank handle popcorn poppers and a simple pot and lid are similar to Drum roasters in roast profiles. Hottop KN-8828B-2K and Hottop KN-8828P-2K Home Coffee Roasters are Drum roasters available on our Home coffee Roasters page.

Both types of roast methods can produce Exceptional fresh coffee, try them both.

Place your Hot Air popper near a sink (Not near water or a wet surface) or bowl to catch the Chaff which will fly out of the Popper’s chute as the coffee beans roast.

Be certain your popper is clean and has no leftover coffee, or chaff from previous roasts.

Cover (not necessary outdoors) the popper and turn it on for a minute or two to warm up.

Slowly pour your green coffee beans into the roasting chamber, watch closely as they will swirl around the chamber. You can remove the cover or butter warming tray to access the roasting chamber, replace it if you like to direct the chaff. Carefully watch the beans as you pour to be certain they are moving in the chamber and stop adding beans when the movement becomes labored or slows significantly. 1,500 Watt vintage Hot Air poppers may be able to roast 4 or 5 ounces of coffee. You can use less than the maximum amount of beans your popper can handle, watch closely as the volume of beans will affect the rate of the roast.

Most Hot Air poppers allow a good view of the beans and may even permit access to direct temperature readings with an infrared thermometer. You should also be able to distinctly hear the Cracks as they occur. Be careful most surfaces and the Air coming from the Popper will be HOT, do not put your face, nose, or ear directly over the vent or spout.

Use our Home Roast Coffee ROAST LEVELS one page roast comparison sheet to help select temperature, color, and flavor characteristics you want.

When your beans are done unplug the popper. Use oven mitts or hot pads to remove the cover and pour beans into your colander or roasting pan.

Cool in colander or roasting pan over small fan to remove remaining chaff (outdoors, or near a sink helps as this stuff floats off in almost any air current)

Caution: Too much fan will blow beans out of colander or roasting pan. Place in container that allows gas to escape but keeps air out for at least 4 hours. We prefer 8 hours to three days rest for most coffees; your preference may vary by coffee or roast level.

Stand up foil pouches (see Accessories) with valves are excellent for storage.

Enjoy your fresh home roasted coffee!


Coffee roasting directions for home coffee roasters

Watch our Video How to Roast Coffee With a FreshRoast SR300 just click the Link.

Start by becoming familiar with the directions above for most manual coffee roasting methods, many will apply to any method or roaster you chose.

Home coffee roasters will automate the roasting process, but more importantly they help you to accurately reproduce a roast profile with very little practice and recording. You can also expand and more accurately measure the parameters of your roasts, time, temperature, varying heat or fan levels, etc... However the process is essentially the same regardless of the roaster used. Outcomes will vary by coffee and numerous variables. Either way you can achieve superb tasting Gourmet coffee by roasting your own Specialty coffee beans (available on our Green Coffee Beans page) with very little practice.

READ the directions (we know, but trust us on this) for the home coffee roaster you select, each has its own distinct requirements and abilities. You will want to know your machine well to get the most from it. No matter which roaster you chose, a little practice will soon make you the master of your own coffee.


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