Last Updated on November 22, 2021 by John Moretti
You may want to take your coffee passion to the next level by finally roasting your very own coffee at home and becoming a bit of a coffee maestro while at it!
Regardless, you’ll need a roaster to get you started. And a popcorn popper is a great low-cost tool for beginners who want to get into roasting. I went over a plethora of options on the market to find the most suitable ones for your needs.
This article will contain a detailed review of the six best options as well as a buyer’s guide, so you know what to look for in your first (or next) coffee roaster!
1. Nostalgia APH 200 Red – Most Accessible for Beginners
The first offering on our list deserves this spot for a good reason. The APH 200 offers a user-friendly experience that will go a long way to helping beginners get the hang of roasting their coffee.
This design features a transparent plastic screen through which you can keep a constant eye on the state of your roast. Due to this, even without advanced knowledge of roasting times, you can simply achieve the roast you want by looking at the color of the beans.
Moreover, the APH 200 features a rotating hot air column which will help ensure an even roast among all individual coffee beans. Although how long it takes to roast beans can change depending on the type and quantity you put in, there is a general rule of thumb you can follow with this device.
Four minutes will be sufficient for a light roast, whereas a dark roast will need seven to nine minutes.
This device has two cool qualities that make it a worthwhile purchase for anyone looking to roast their own coffee.
Firstly, it is one of the easiest devices to use. All you have to do is follow a few steps to get the roast you desire. Turn the roaster on, wait for it to get up to temperature, put in your green beans, and voila! Your roast will be ready in the next four to nine minutes.
Moreover, the APH 200 features a detachable cord for easy storage and is overall a very lightweight device. This makes transportation and handling significantly easier (your back will thank you, trust me).
The second standout quality is the fact that it uses no oil. Yes, you read that right, no extra unhealthy fat entering your body because you want a little cup of a pick-me-up in the morning. This is all down to the fact that the APH 200 uses hot air to roast beans instead of the traditional methods employed by most other roasters.
Although one drawback to keep in mind is that, when active, the APH 200 can get a little loud. Hence, with this device, midnight or early morning roasting sessions may not be the best idea.
2. West Bend Stir Crazy 82505 – Best Recommendation for Power Users
If the last roaster was a beginner-friendly device designed to roast a few days’ worths of coffee, the West Bend is a goliath, able to set you up for months in one roast. With a gargantuan capacity of six quarts of beans in one roast, this offering is suitable for power users and true coffee connoisseurs.
Just because this device is bigger and better does not mean it’s not easy to use. In fact, the West Bend also comes with a transparent plastic housing which allows you to view the coffee beans as they are being roasted. This way, you can ensure that your coffee comes out exactly how you want it.
This roaster’s claim to fame, however, is the thoughtful design that makes it a convenient device to use. Firstly, the West Bend has an in-built stir road that helps move the beans around during roasting, ensuring that no bean is leftover or undercooked.
Secondly, the machine’s frame is also built out of aluminum. Thanks to this conductive metal, heat is radiated evenly, once more ensuring that your beans get the roast that you desire. Finally, thanks to a non-stick coating within the West Bend, it is easy to clean between uses (although I suspect that with the colossal roasting capacity, you won’t need to clean too often).
Very few things (other than coffee) are perfect, however, and this machine is no different. One drawback that you will have to watch out for is the heavyweight of the device, which clocks in at 2.7 pounds. This may make lifting and storage a little difficult, so we suggest caution whenever moving it around.
3. Franklin’s Original Whirley – The Purist’s Dream
Sometimes in life (and most times with coffee), simple is better.
This is the philosophy that the Original Whirley seeks to embody with its classic retro design. Built like a simple popcorn popper, this roaster has a wooden handle and dual metal lids, just like vintage poppers from days of old.
However, just because this device has a simple design, it does not mean it can’t make a mean cup of joe when you need it the most. Thanks to all-metal construction, you will get an even cook throughout your beans.
Moreover, it has a large internal volume permitting you to roast up to 6 quarts of beans at once.
Franklin’s offering is particularly good for getting light and medium roasts. Although with darker roasts, it can be a bit iffy as you run the risk of some scorching on the beans. Fortunately, this device also comes with a heat-resistant wooden handle which will prevent your fingers from getting scorched!
It is a particularly good fit for coffee purists who are looking to roast their brew at home without having to fangle with the bells and whistles of complicated modern devices. In fact, there are some who swear by the fact that this type of roaster delivers the best flavor from the bunch. However, I will let you be the judge of that.
4. Great Northern Popcorn Stainless Steel Stovetop – A Classic with Modern Innovations
The Great Northern is another good choice for those looking to buy something simple yet elegant. As the name suggests, this popper is made with stainless steel, which gives it immense durability compared to other construction materials.
Furthermore, this device makes a few small innovations to improve on the poppers of old and make your life easier. Firstly, it includes metal gears for the hand-cranked stirring mechanism. This, once more, adds durability to the popper as these gears are less likely to be worn down than cheaper plastic ones.
Secondly, the exterior pedals are coated in a rubber polymer which improves handling. With this feature, it’s possible to easily turn the crank even if you have wet or greasy hands (an all too common circumstance in the kitchen).
Lastly, the equipment rod of this popper is attached to the lid of the device. This innovation improves ease of use as now it’s possible to pour in beans without the risk of them falling all over the floor of your kitchen. Not only is this convenient, but it also speeds up the roasting process as you do not have to constantly stop stirring every time.
However, because this popper is made of stainless steel, there is the possibility of corrosion over time. This can introduce rust in the machine and render it useless for roasting purposes. This is not the case with aluminum devices. Thus, if anything, the Great Northern has this Achilles heel that you should watch out for.
5. Hamilton Beach Electric Hot Air Popcorn Popper – Perfection Every Time
Perfection is the name of the game with Hamilton’s offering!
This hot air popper is designed to apply a gentle breeze of warm air to slowly caramelize your coffee beans without running the risk of scorching or burning them.
Moreover, this method of slow and gentle cooking allows the flavors to develop in a rich and complex manner, providing you with a perfect roast almost every time.
The Hamilton Beach comes with a transparent screen to allow you to monitor progress and get exactly the roast you want. Moreover, the device also features a flat bottom on the roasting chamber. This is made from metal, and hence provinces even heat throughout the process.
Lastly, thanks to the hot air design, your beans are never going to settle on the bottom where there would be a risk of scorching one side and leaving the other raw.
A drawback to note, however, is the fact that this design of the roaster can create a lot of noise due to the sound of the blower fan. This makes it unsuitable to use at certain times of day (or all the time if you have a young infant who finds it difficult to sleep speaking from experience).
6. Norpro Old Time Popcorn Popper – A Compact Powerhouse
Sometimes you do not need the biggest popper to roast a month’s worth of coffee. For users who need only small batches or have to work in a compact space, smaller can indeed be better. For exactly such circumstances, Norpro’s Old Time popcorn popper is one of the best choices on the market.
This popper comes in an all-aluminum construction which helps it get up to temperature quickly. Not only does aluminum save time but it also improves the quality by providing an even roast.
This is due to the better heat distribution characteristics of the metal. Instead of heat contacting the beans from only the bottom of the pan, the heat is radiated from all sides, providing a perfect finish every time. In case you want to be extra sure of even heating, Norpro also provides users with a crank to stir the beans.
This crank, like the rest of the popper, is aluminum, adding to its durability. Moreover, the handle itself is wooden. This is an extremely useful feature as wood is an insulator so the handle remains at a comfortable temperature even when coffee beans are roasting inside.
Finally, the designers of the Norpro made sure to include a rust-resistant version of aluminum. This adds to the durability of the popper and helps ensure that it will last you a while before needing replacement.
One drawback to note, however, is the fact that aluminum is a relatively soft metal. This makes it very vulnerable to dents and other physical deformation over time. Thus you will have to be relatively gentle when handling this popper.
7. Presto 5204 Orville – The Spaceage Roaster
Although classic metal poppers used over a stovetop are the old-school way of roasting coffee beans that many purists might prefer, these do not always have the same charm as some newer models on the market. One such new popper is the Presto Orville.
This popper comes with an innovative design where the top half is made of transparent plastic. This allows you to view your beans as they are being roasted, letting you keep a close eye on the progress and ensure that they come out exactly as you want them.
Another feature worth noting is the fact that Presto’s offering is an electric popper, unlike some other models. This is a huge plus for fire safety and means you can use the popper even when a proper stove is not available.
Moreover, you will no longer need to micromanage the flame to try and ensure that you get the right temperature. Instead, the machine will take care of everything for you. Just put the coffee beans in, and take them out when you feel they’re ready.
Unfortunately, however, no machine is perfect. It is worth considering that this is a Chinese manufactured machine that occasionally has been known to have some quality control issues. Moreover, unlike a lot of old-school poppers, there is no lifetime warranty with this one.
Before you make your final decision about which popper to purchase, here are a few additional details that will help you make a better and more informed decision.
Types of Popper
There are four types of poppers that you should be aware of, and each type has its own advantages and drawbacks. Hence you should consider your requirements and use case before making a final decision.
1. Stovetop Poppers
These are the classic poppers that everyone has seen at carnivals. Although they have the simplest mechanism and are generally the most affordable, they also require the most experience to use.
As the name suggests, stovetop poppers need to be used in conjunction with a gas or electric stove and thus might not be suitable for some people living in apartments or college dorms.
Moreover, with these devices, it is very easy to overcook or burn your beans, particularly if you do not have prior experience using them. Thus we would recommend a stovetop popper such as numbers three and four on this list for more experienced roasters.
2. Hot Air Poppers
Once more, it is all in the name. Instead of using a heat source, these poppers use indirect heat to roast your beans by blowing hot air over them. This is a neat feature, particularly for beginners, as it lowers the risk of overcooking or burning your coffee.
One thing to note about this type of popper, however, is the fact that it uses electrical energy to carry out heating. This presents a bit of a fire hazard; after all, these machines are not designed to roast coffee.
Although the chances of such an accident are minuscule, having an open flame, such as a stovetop popper, is more dangerous.
3. Electrical Poppers
These poppers are about as space-age as it gets. Usually, with automatic stirring, easy-to-clean mechanisms, and even heat distribution, they offer the most convenience to the user.
Not only do they offer peace of mind, but they save the user time as well since you do not have to monitor your beans, the temperature, and the roast. You can set a timer and then forget the rest while the machine takes care of everything.
Although at times a little pricey, if you can splurge, this category of poppers is recommended due to the advanced design.
The Final Word
With the wide variety of options available on the market, it can be overwhelming for first-timers to know what to get. This is especially pertinent as no type of roaster is the ‘best’ depending on your experience, usage requirements, and time availability; each option may prove to be the best in your situation.
However, we hope that after reading this article, you are now armed with the information required to make an informed decision and purchase the right roaster for you.