In this episode, we’re join by Kyle, The Ghostly Roaster, who is an avid at home coffee roaster to discuss the different levels of at home coffee roasting equipment available. Roasting coffee at home has never been easier than it is today
Highlights & Takeaways
Home roasting is an easy hobby to get into
If you’re looking into roasting coffee at home, the investment can be minimal, but you can also get into machines that cost in excess of $1,000
Examples of home roasting equipment, from low cost to high cost:
- Cast iron skillet
- Stainless steel bowl with a heat gun – use gloves or channel locks or vice grip to hold the bowl
- Pop corn popper (Toast Master / Poppery II)
- Bread maker + heat gun
- Fresh Roast SR-500 Home Roaster
- Behmore 1600 Home Roaster
- Gene Cafe Home Coffee Roaster
- Hottop Roaster
Episode 34 Transcript
Brendan Hanson: All right, welcome to the Drips and Draughts podcast. As always, I’m Brendan Hanson. Today, we’re joined by Kyle. Kyle is a avid home roaster. He reached to us as had many of you after Episode 29 where Cary and I roasted our — we did our first batch of roasting in our office where we consequently learned that coffee roasting produces a lot of smoke. We got a lot of laughs. Kyle was one of those who reached out and said he couldn’t help but laugh at us when that happened. Kyle, thanks for joining me today. Great to have you on the show.
Kyle: It’s great to be here. Thank you, Brendan for having me. Look forward to talking about this home roasting and everything involved in that.
Brendan: Right on, would you mind giving us a brief background on yourself, how long have you been roasting at home and how often you roast maybe?
Kyle: About two years ago, I started getting into this way with coffee and I started out buying pre-ground artisan roast from a local roaster here in Pearland Texas, Pearland Coffee Roasters, and fell in love with artisan coffee and start to act with Guatemalan that just got me hooked. I went from reusable k-cups to basically building my own roaster and roasting my own coffee. I’ve been roasting for about a year or so. For about the last four, five months, I’ve been heavily building my own roaster and using it.
Brendan: Nice. I’m sure we’ll get into this more later, but when you’re roasting, how frequently are you doing that?
Kyle: I do it at least once a week. I will do about a 250-gram green [unintelligible 00:01:57] batch at a time. It will last me about a week. I try to get into rotation of having about three to five days. I try to get it to about five days of roast before I really start enjoying my coffee, but that’s not a hard fact to role. I try to keep that [unintelligible 00:02:16] about once a week.
Brendan: Keep it pretty fresh.
Kyle: Yes, you got to keep it fresh. Yes, absolutely.
Brendan: [laughs] Nice. We’ve been going back and forth for a week or two now talking about different ideas for show episodes and what we kind of settled on was the different levels of home roasting equipment. Today, we’ll discuss all the different stuff that people can roast coffee in. Cary and I used that Gene Cafe Home Roaster which turned out to be great. It was simple, easy, intuitive and it took all the guesswork out of it for us, which was nice. Yes, we’ve discussed there’s a lot of different options out there. Let’s go through the list that we came up with. We’ll start with the most basic, and then get into your set up that do it yourself that you’ve completely built.
Kyle: Sure, yes. If you don’t mind, before we get started, do a little housekeeping here. If we’re going to talk about coffee. We got to have something to drink.
Kyle: My little housekeeping this evening is going to be a nice Monsoon Malabar that it’s about three, four days of roast and having it in my nice yeti cup with delicious coffee. This is actually my favorite coffee, top two, and got a half of cup for this evening. What are you having?
Brendan: I actually got a small cup of the Klatch Coffee winning cold brew. They were on the show last Friday with us. They left me a couple of small growlers. I’ve got some of that. I’m actually enjoying a beer as well. I’ve got a lot of drinks here. I’ve got a small tea. Cary and I just used one of our cold brew systems to do 10 gallons of cold brewed tea.
Brendan: Yes, I’ve got an assortment in front of me.
Kyle: That’s good. You’re going to need it when you talk a lot, keep the pallet fresh. I actually listened to that episode I think twice in the last couple days. That’s a great episode. I really enjoyed listening to them talk about their cold brew.
Brendan: Yes, they’ve got a ton of knowledge between the two of them. They were great to have on the show. Couldn’t been nicer people because they obviously know a lot more about coffee than I do. They were more than willing to answer all my stupid questions.
Kyle: [laughs] Yes, that was a great episode. As far as getting started in home roasting, you talk about kind of roasting 101, if you will, starting from the bottom. One of your other episodes that I actually listened to today, you talked about cast iron. I’ve never even done it either. I took the time to roast some coffee in the cast iron and [laughs] it’s the best cup of popcorn you’ll ever drink in your life. That’s kind of the long and short of it. It actually wasn’t too bad, didn’t get a lot of chaff, but it was hot. I didn’t take it too far, so it wasn’t smoky, I didn’t want to stink up the house, but it was actually fun. It really was. I’ve never done that before until you asked in, I don’t know, one of the previous podcasts.
Brendan: So, the cast iron skillet, that would probably be considered the most base level roasting equipment that you could get for home roasting, I imagine. Not a whole lot involved there. I’ve got to imagine that absolutely is an art if you can roast good consistent coffee in a cast iron skillet.
Kyle: You know one of the things that I did, I should’ve done that first long time ago, but I actually did the whole stainless steel big bowl and a heat gun. That actually worked really well. For those who have that around, everybody probably has the stainless steel bowl and a heat gun, and if they want to try and get started in the hobby, and just gives [unintelligible 00:06:33] or whatever to hold the bowl so you don’t burn yourself, use the heat gun and it works really well. Actually, you can agitate the beans especially if you have big enough bowl.
Brendan: So just like a big mixing bowl?
Kyle: Big mixing bowl. Big stainless steel mixing bowl, absolutely.
Brendan: Nice, and then the heat gun just directly on to the beans or is that going to be under the bowl? On to the beans?
Kyle: Right, just directly on to it and works great. I’ve done that two or three times and —
Brendan: I don’t think we have that listed here, but that’s got to be a pretty affordable way to get into it as well.
Kyle: It is. It’s really nice. Just to see if you like the coffee, if you like the process. Can’t get probably any cheaper than just a couple of bags of coffee for sure.
Brendan: No doubt. That’s got to be a step up from the cast iron skillet, because as you mentioned, you’ve said you never done that before, but you did it prior to this episode and it was a little bit uneven?
Kyle: [laughs] Yes. It was quite uneven. It really was, but it was fun. It definitely was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. The next level would be the corner stone of home roast would be the air popper. Everybody talks about it, talk about the old school SIRCA ’80s style with the vent. I actually have mine. Everybody talks, the Poppery II. I think it’s what everybody talks about. The one I have is actually a Toastmaster. I’m looking at mine right now and it’s a 1,200 watt. You need something that’s about 900 watt. W
When you’re looking for these hot air poppers, which is a really great way to go obviously, take a look at the wattage on those to make sure you can get about a 1,200 watt or so. So, you’re not necessarily disappointed if you can only find a 900 watt. That’s wonderful as well. You may have to just adjust your batch size a little bit.
Brendan: Smaller batches for longer time?
Kyle: Yes, there you go. Those are great and I’ll tell you where I got mine. If you ‘re not in a hurry to get into the hobby is go to a estate sales. Those are great places. That’s where I found mine, at the estate sale. I think it’s like seven dollars for mine. I couldn’t beat it. It worked great for months and months
Brendan: I bet. We had Gino Coralles on back on Episode 25 and he mentioned that he has a couple Poppery II at his roasting company just to do quick tests of new beans that they get in. One thing he mentioned was that, those are old machines that you likely cannot buy anymore unless you getting them used.
Brendan: Yes, good thing to note there.
Kyle: I think I would go with the double barrel [laughs], I thought that was great, very nice. If we talk about from the pros and cons, the only cons that I found with the hot air popper and it’s more of a thing to be aware of is it’s a lifespan of — if you go to estate sale, a couple of estate sales, have two of them on hand at all times, because once you get into the hobby and you’re going to use this and you’re going to get used to it.
You’re going to want your own home roasted fresh coffee. When it goes out like mine did, you’re going to be mad at yourself for not picking that $7 at the estate sale. Why not just spend $7? It really pays off because the one that I had — I actually bought two. I found one on the estate sale and one on a little garage sale site and I picked it up. That was one was expensive. I think she knew what she was selling. It was like $20, which was fine and I let my friend, I gave it to him. He was getting into coffee roasting. It lasted about nine months. Mine lasted around that same time too. They will go out on you.
Brendan: These things are probably going out because they’re — when you’re popping popcorn, you’ve got that thing on for probably anywhere from two three five minutes at the most. When you’re roasting coffee, I’m assuming with those you’re extending the amount of time up to 10 to 15 minutes, maybe more.
Kyle: My roast were four and a half to five minutes. Some things you can do to extend the roast, especially if you’re roasting during the winter. You can get some longer roast and try to develop some flavors. The four to six-minute mark definitely quite long for these little roosters. I think the one I let my friend use or gave him, the motor went out and on mine, the heater element went out on it.
Brendan: So, different points of failure.
Kyle: Yes, different points of failure. They did great until then. They just mainly stopped working and that’s why you have to have your backup plan and for even $20, you can’t go wrong with that.
Brendan: Yes, no kidding. Some pros of the air popper over the cast iron skillet is the fact that it’s air. It’s going to be moving the beans around and I imagine I’ve never done either one of those, but I imagine it’s going to be roasting the beans much more evenly.
Kyle: Absolutely, it does a great job. I have my little wooden stick to start at the beginning because the beans need to lose some of the water weight to help it along, but once you get a minute in roughly it just takes over and it takes care of itself.
Brendan: Got you. Let me go back to the cast iron skillet real quick. When you tried roasting that way, were you stirring the beans or were you know like one of those teppanyaki chefs that was just flicking everything up in the air and you have it going on.
Kyle: I wanted to do that darn it, but with the 25-pound cast iron skillet, I continuously stirred it. I had a long wire whisk, so it didn’t get too hot, and I think I stood there for 10 minutes or so, and started. Honestly, it didn’t come out too bad. It’s just I didn’t feel like drinking popcorn.
Brendan: Going back to the air poppers, what would you say are the biggest cons of that?
Kyle: It’s a pro and con at the same time. It’s the quick roast. As you learn getting into the coffee roasting hobby, you learn you want the 12 to 15-minute roast, that sort of range. You’re never going to get out of the hot air popper. That doesn’t mean you can’t have great coffee though. When you really start yearning, you see all these pictures everywhere. These huge roasters dumping kilos of coffee at a time, you want that sort of roast range and you want to see the trends in these sorts of things because you’re into that stuff.
Getting started with the quick roast are great for sampling, from your previous guests I have talked about for their professional, but you can do that as well with — when you get a sample pack from Sweet Marias. You can get an 8-pound sample pack and you can just do 80 grams at a time. That’s what I did. With the volume that my roaster had, 80 grams worked perfect because anything more than that, it would come out of the popper. The beans will swell like they always do, and then it blows them out and it’s a big mess. The quick roaster great for one thing, but it’s also a con because you can’t get that 12-minute time.
Brendan: Not to get onto a tangent, but what is it with the 12 to 15-minute roast time? What makes that the sweet spot for — because I did notice that when Cary and I were roasting is whether we went light roast or extra dark. There really wasn’t too much time difference. There was like a three to four-minute time difference that took it from pretty light to extremely dark and an office full of smoke.
Kyle: Yes, I had to snicker a little bit when you filled the office up with smoke, but all the professional roasters out there are going to take me to task here. Learning from people like [unintelligible 00:15:43] and watching their videos and things and listening to people on your podcast, and talk about the roasting process.
You get a good drying time, but you control your heat, and then you get these other phases of drying, or this phase of drying, then some development in all the other stages that many people know a lot more better than me, but really just that drying time and the development time to get those flavors going into the coffee. Like right now, for example, on my roaster, done a lot of podcasts listening and video watching and learning how the drying process is really important to maybe heat, but have less airflow so you can get a nice drying period. It just makes the roast come out better. I wish I could talk and speak better about it, but I do know that much right now.
Brendan: All right. I know nothing about this, but I imagine you’re almost locking by doing that in a slower manner. You’re almost locking flavors and stuff into the coffee beans before they start to roast.
Kyle: Yes. The people out there who want to get started, it gets you away from not getting a popcorn popper. It’s a great thing, but once you get into it and you get all these little nerdy things and you learn all this stuff, and you’re going to want to do it. You put your 80 grams in, you roast it for four minutes, and you get some great coffee.
Brendan: It’s like home brewing. My brother and I started on our stove top and now we’ve got this giant system. We’ve built a huge fridge for fermenting. You get way into it once you start. Moving on from the popcorn popper, you noted a bread maker on here. You said you had a friend who uses one. Did you get any more information on that?
Kyle: I did. I talked to him last night and had a great conversation. The bread maker is interesting because if you’re out hunting these estate sales and you don’t see Poppery II like mine, the Toastmaster, look for bread maker. Here’s the pros and cons he told me.
He roast on his quite a bit. The low entry cost, he got here is for probably five bucks. He got his at a thrift store. One of the things about it is it’s easy to heat control. You use the heat gun and you can — like the bowl, you can put the heat closer or farther away. It’s really easy just to make minute changes very easily.
For him, because he stores it in a nice big rubber-made container and keeps it tucked away until he is ready to roast. The portability of it. He goes to his friend’s house sometimes and takes his roaster. That was good pro for him is the portability. The con, the heat; he told me is that a small back side is 160 grams and that’s double from what the popper is, but it’s about a little over a half from what I do. I do 250. I’m probably going to get up to about 300 grams very soon. So, it’s about half of what I can do as far as my homemade roaster.
Brendan: What’s 250? 80 grams is about half a pound?
Kyle: Yes. A little over half I think. The con for him was obviously the storage and what his thing was he had to set it up every time. He didn’t have a dedicated place for it. It’s kind of big anyway and bulky. One of the things he did say you have to look for is one that has maybe a couple different cycles or pounds, like a one pound or two pound. One that can go longer in time period, a kneading time. It don’t cut off in the middle of your roast.
Brendan: Got you.
Kyle: The other con he talked about is not to be able to have a good temp reading.
He does have an infrared gun. You have to get the one that will read up to a 1000 degree range because there’s a whole another tangent, but infrared guns, like ones for food, they tip going on about 200 degrees or so. Which the one I had. I had the older one that would read up by 900 degrees, which is only about $25.
Brendan: Not too bad. With the bread maker, it’s got an agitation arm in there that’s going to be mixed in the beans, right? It provides its own heat? You did mention a heat gun. Do you have to put in external heat as well?
Kyle: I asked them the same thing. I thought it would have [unintelligible 00:20:38], obviously, it’s going to bake bread, right? But no, it didn’t. He put it on the knead cycle, just to get the agitation, and use his heat gun as a heat source
Brendan: It basically, just serves as a stainless-steel bowl plus a mixer?
Kyle: That’s it. That’s basically a motorized bowl mixer, yes. [laughs] Absolutely.
Brendan: All right. I guess, it’s easier than the cast iron skillet. It could be a step-up from the popcorn popper. Then let’s see, next in line we got the Gene Cafe Roaster, which Cary and I tried on Episode 29. Anybody interested can listen to that in dripsanddraughts.com/29. From somebody who’s never roasted before, this thing was awesome. It was so simple. It’s literally just take the chamber out, fill it with about a half pound of beans, I think it was, and just turn it and set, dial it in to your temperature and your time, and turn it on. It does the rest.
Kyle: I wished I knew somebody that had one, other than yourself. When we started talking about the episode, I did some research on this roaster. I was really impressed with their website, because their parts replacement list is amazing. You can buy probably any part, replace any part on that roaster. It looks really straightforward, for those who do their own, hands-on sort of thing in fixing things. What a great product. It’s awesome.
Brendan: Yes. Like I said, we were happy with it. We were very impressed with the coffee that came out of it. We did everything from, a really light blonde roast up to a — whatever we did, a French roast. [inaudible 00:22:39]
Just to describe it a little bit, it’s got a blower motor on one side, and then it’s got a cylinder in the middle that the beans go in, with the kind of divider, and it’s off-access. When you turn it on, it tumbles the beans. They’re constantly getting turned tumbled, and the blower motors, blowing hot air through the cylinder. There’s a chaff collector on the other side. It literally, is a very, very simple machine to use, operate. Man, I was happy with it. It did a good job, but you start talking about a price point, that’s well beyond all the other options we’ve currently discussed.
Kyle: Yes. I think it’s a little pricey, but you get what you paid for though. It’s obvious that it’s a great machine.
Brendan: Yes. It was a set-it-and-forget-it.
Kyle: There you go, that’s right.
Brendan: [laughs] Let’s see. What else do we have here next? You’ve mentioned a couple other ones here.
Kyle: The one that we did forget, I didn’t add until just recently, is a barbecue pit. I have a friend that actually does all of his roasting in a barbecue pit. He has a little rotisserie, he bought it, him and his dad. I honestly think that he bought a Behmor drum. I don’t know that for a fact, but it looked like it. They welded surrounds on the end and had some — that helped them make a stand for it with some bearings. He actually took — now, this is getting the DIY. He took a windshield wiper motor, if I’m not mistaken, for his drive motor. Hooked it up and it works great. It works great. [laughs]
I reached out to him as well, and his pros to that were the cost, rather than a barbecue pit. His is actually, it’s not coal, it’s just propane. The cost, and ease of use, but the cons were — temp control was very hard. It’s very hard to hear first crack, no visibility. I guess he keeps his lid down. Then you just don’t have the ability to do practically, do any temperature control on that, but he loves it.
Brendan: Yes. I Imagine another pro would be — if you’re out on a barbecue pit, you can roast marshmallows.
Kyle: [laughs] Yes you could. Absolutely. Like a day of it.
Brendan: Yes, exactly. Some other commercial kind of home roasters you mentioned were the Fresh Roast SR500. I see it’s also an air popper in the notes here. Is it a roaster or air popper that’s marketed as a roaster or?
Kyle: Yes. I think if I’m not mistaken. I should look it up, but it’s like a little column, it’s has an auger in it. It turns the beans over, and turns them over and over. It’s about $179. It looks great. It looks like it does a great job. Actually, I found somebody and I asked him about it and he was very happy with it. He got his for a pretty good price. That one looks to be a great one as well.
Brendan: All right. I’m going to have to look all this up and compile a list of links for the show notes on this. Just a little beyond on that, is the Behmor roaster that you got here.
Kyle: The Behmor comes in about 369. It’s also a drum roaster. I reached out to my good friend and he gave me a real nice list of the pros and cons. His pro was that, you’ve got some roast profiles, which they get pretty intense in being able to interface with some apps and stuff, but it has roast profiles. It’s probably more like going to be a person to next step after a popcorn popper.
He says that this is the most bang for your buck when it comes to home roasting coffee. I agree. It’s heck of a price for it. His biggest con is that is the cooling process. It’s sort of on the same page as the Gene Cafe. You really have to know when to stop the roast. If you’re just going to leave and let it coast to the whole cooling cycle, you really have to know when to stop because obviously, everything need to cool down.
He was telling me that, he’ll be eight to nine ounces just passed first crack and let the cooling process go for two to three minutes. Have some welding gloves, and take them out, and then transfer them to colanders, shake them back and forth to get the chaff off. He doesn’t actually let it go through the whole cooling process. That was just his biggest con, but it’s still a great machine. You can’t beat it at all for if you don’t want to do a DIY sort of thing. This is the perfect product.
Brendan: Nice, yes. I mean it is pricey, but definitely a lot more reachable, I supposed. If you’re looking to upgrade.
Brendan: All right. I guess this brings us to the final, kind of a commercial hobby roaster and you listed the Hottop roaster.
Kyle: Yes. I see this all the time on the websites and play some good videos on it, but for $1100, it’s probably a little bit out of somebody’s range for just dropping to being a hobby of coffee roasting. It looks really nice, got a little cooling tray, a little drum, got a sight window on it. It looks awesome. I wish I had one to roast on.
Brendan: You know what? I overlooked this one when I was reading through all these notes prior. I’m going to have to pull that one up and check it out after the show. To be honest, this one I did not see.
Mentioned in this Show
Examples of home roasting equipment, from low cost to high cost: