6 Home Coffee Roasting Methods Tested

There was a time in America when if you wanted coffee, you had to roast it yourself.

The now-ubiquitous brown coffee bean used to ship to general stores green, with housewives usually roasting at home with a frying pan or — if she was lucky — a crank-turned home roasting system. With the advent of high-volume roasting companies in the mid-1800s and ever-improving freshness-sealed packaging, consumers no longer have to worry about roasting (or grinding for that matter) their coffee before brewing it.

Recently, the micro-roasting movement has brought roasting back into the home. For many coffee-lovers, home roasting is a way to ensure the freshest coffee in a rural areas, in the vast suburban Starbucks Sahara, or even just as a cheaper alternative to pricey high-end coffee mail-order services.

We tested six different home roasting methods. First, I tried four commercial options: the Nesco Professional, a Fresh Roast SR500, the Behmor 1600, and a Hottop. I also tried two DIY methods: a cast iron pan on a gas stovetop, and Whirley Pop popcorn maker I modified to work as a coffee roaster — a popular hack I found on the web. I did two or three test roasts on each machine with some green beans I grabbed from the show floor at this year’s Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) expo. Then, for the final run, I roasted some high-quality beans given to us by the fine folks at Sweet Maria’s, a Bay-area coffee supplier.

Read the reviews of each individual roaster by clicking through the product photos at the top of this page. We also took a look at Bonaverde’s much-ballyhooed new machine that roasts, grinds and brews your coffee all at once. We didn’t get the chance to test it alongside these other home roasters — the 3-in-1 machine is still an early prototype — but you can read Mat Honan’s impressions of the Bonaverde on Gadget Lab.

The ratings of each tested roaster are based on four factors: ease of use, evenness of roast, cleanliness — roasting produces both smoke and chaff, and each roaster manages them differently — and the taste of the brewed coffee it produces. To keep things consistent, we roasted the same coffee (washed-processed Guatemala Huehuetenango Xinabajul, in case you were wondering) on each of the different machines to about a city roast level, or just after first crack. The next day, we cupped the coffees according to SCAA standards at the tasting lab of San Francisco roasting company Four Barrel Coffee. The resulting tasting notes were given by a round table of coffee professionals, home roasting enthusiasts, and one coffee-loving WIRED editor.

These reviews are written for those with some knowledge of home roasting. So if you’re interested in getting into home roasting but you aren’t familiar with the process, start by reading Sweet Maria’s guide to the basics. That link will also get you up to speed on all the lingo.

This entry was posted in Food and drink. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply