I began roasting coffee at home the way that many people, from what I have read, began home roasting: with a side vented hot-air popcorn popper. As I said in my first post, the first time I had ever seen someone with home roasted coffee I was intrigued. I did some research on line (Sweet Marias has a wealth of information) and learned that many people used a popcorn popper. I remembered that I had seen our old popcorn popper in the basement just a few days earlier (cleaning up after our basement flooded). I went downstairs, found the box that had some old small kitchen appliances and pulled out the popcorn popper.
I was in luck, it was a side vented hot-air popper. Some hot-air poppers blow the hot air straight up from the bottom through a screen. Other poppers vent in hot air from the side creating a “cyclone” action that not only heats the beans, but keeps them moving in a circular fashion. I took it upstairs, cleaned it up, opened a can of soup (which I forced myself to eat) at both ends, cleaned the can, and placed it on top of the popcorn popper to create a sort of chimney. In the meanwhile I had ordered some green coffee beans (a sampler) from Burman Coffee Traders in Madison, Wisconsin.
So far, so good. To this point I was doing quite well, and was pretty pleased with myself. Once my green coffee arrived (after what seemed like months – although I think it arrived the next day or the day after that) I took the popcorn popper over to the counter near the outlet, and plugged it in. I measured out what I thought would be an appropriate amount of coffee beans, dumped them in the popper, and hit the switch. For the next few minutes (I am going to guess three or four minutes) things were still going quite well, and I was still rather proud of myself. Then the beans began to roast. I had no idea that roasting coffee, unlike popping corn, would generate that much smoke. There I was, all alone in the house, coffee roasting – and progressing quite quickly – and the smoke detectors beginning to scream at me as if to remind me how stupid I really was.
I wasn’t about to leave the coffee to fan the smoke detectors or pull the batteries, so I stood there roasting coffee in the midst of what sounded like an air raid. After about seven or eight minutes the coffee was ready to be cooled, I dumped it into a colander and raced outside with my smoking colander of coffee beans in hand. Once I had sufficiently cooled the beans it was time to go inside and stop the wailing smoke alarms. At that point I am not sure if I was glad no one else was home, or disappointed, but it really did not matter. I had roasted my first batch of coffee beans and twenty-four hours later; I was hooked.