Home coffee roasting can be extremely rewarding. Taking green coffee beans and roasting them to produce your very first roasted coffee is a momentous moment in the life of every coffee lover. There are a few different types of coffee roasters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. This article is about helping you to choose the right coffee bean roaster for you
Is buying a coffee roaster worth it?
Will it save money?
The honest answer is no, but it shouldn’t cost you much more and you will end up with home crafted beautiful aromatic coffee.
The usual price for a pack of ground coffee is about £3 for 250g, or £12 a kg. The raw (green) coffee beans you’ll need also cost about £12 kg. However the process of roasting coffee will reduce this weight by about 10%-15%.
Although you can roast coffee in almost anything if you want to stand a chance of producing anything worth drinking you will need to buy a home coffee roaster. Basic stove top coffee roasters start at just over £30.
How long does it take?
The short answer is not long. The roasting process itself can take as little as 10 minutes and the equipment is usually easy to clean.
What takes longer is learning how to perfect your prefect roast. This can involve researching and buying the beans you want to use, understanding the roast process, and finally thinking about creating your own blend. Think of it as a voyage of discovery, the destination being your perfect cup of coffee that only you now how to create. If this sounds exciting and rewarding then coffee roasting is for you, if it sounds like a chore the perfects stick to buying ready roasted coffee.
Can home roasted coffee be as good as I buy?
Yes it can. After a bit of practice your own roasted coffee will taste better than anything you can buy in the supermarket, and may even be a match for some artisan coffee roasters.
Today coffee is usually roasted in massive quantities using commercial machines that can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. These produce the well-known brands that we all see on our supermarket shelves. It would be wrong to say that these brands don’t value quality, but it would be right to say that ensuring consistency of flavour and having an efficient roasting process is very important to them.
There are smaller speciality coffee roasters, many here in the UK. These may all have different roasting philosophies and favoured beans and blends. Some even offer coffee roasting courses to the keen amateur.
The key point to remember is that although these coffee roasters can produce excellent blends with a consistent flavour the first coffee was roasted at home, over an open fire, in some sort of pan. So, home coffee roasting has a fine tradition going back centuries. Don’t be daunted! With perseverance you can produce a coffee of the highest quality suited perfectly to your tastes.
How to choose a coffee roaster
Although using a pan, even a regular frying pan or baking tray, will roast coffee for you the truth is that it is worth investing a bit of money, otherwise you will likely end up disappointed. This is because the key to a good roast is having control over the temperature and being able to keep the beans moving. Coffee roasters that make this easier for you are more likely to produce a quality roast for the enthusiastic beginner.
To make things simple there are two broad categories of home coffee roasting equipment. Firstly, some sort of pan or tray and secondly a small coffee roasting machine built for the job.
When choosing it is worth considering the following;
- Keep the Beans Moving; Without the beans moving some will become burnt and others will hardly cook at all. Electric coffee roasters will keep the beans moving all the time while they roast and this generally produces better results. You can of course just shake the pan yourself, but this tends to produce less reliable and repeatable results.
- Control the Temperature. As with all cooking, or roasting, adjusting the temperature and hence the time something takes to cook can have a massive impact on the final taste and quality. This is the same for coffee roasters. The better you can control and measure the temperature during the roast the more likely you will end up with better coffee.
- Coffee Roasting on the Move. It’s getting common to see people take stovetop coffee makers camping. How about not only brewing your coffee in the fresh air but roasting it too? If you fancy this or just want a roaster that’s a lot more portable, then a stove top coffee roaster may be for you. Although remember the newly roasted beans will need to rest for 12 hours or so before they can be used…..
- Your budget. Stove top coffee roasters are a much cheaper way to start home coffee roasting and can produce great coffee. Prices start from as little as £30 for a great quality product, whereas the cheapest coffee bean roaster machines will be in the region of £60.
- Batch Size. Have a think about how much coffee you will be using. Pan coffee bean roasters will only take 70g of coffee (which weighs 10%-15% less after the roast). If you want to do more in one go you should buy an electric home coffee roaster, these typically take upwards of 250g per roast.
- Smoke. Roasting coffee beans produces lots of smoke. Although your kitchen extractor fan will help with this many coffee roasters have smoke suppression technology. If you’re home coffee roasting regularly this is well worth the investment.
Stove Top Home Coffee Roasters - our recomendations
We’ve reviewed the market and found our recommendations. The reality is that as it’s a simple piece of equipment there is very little difference between all of the ceramic coffee roasters on the market, that’s why we’ve only included 2. Your choice may well depend on which one you prefer the look of. Personally, our favourite is the Nuvo Eco Ceramic.
This is a good value roaster that works well on both electric and gas cookers. It’s fairly small taking 30-70 grams per roast and hence only produces enough beans for a few of cups of coffee. The base of the pan is waffle shaped and this it is claimed helps to keep the beans circulating.
It’s a popular choice and generally gets very good reviews. Expect to pay about £40.
Another good value roaster with good reviews. It is heavier than the Nuvo Eco Ceramic at 640g rather than 340g, however still only expect to be able to roast up to 75g of beans. It doesn’t have a leather grip, and this gives it a much more sleek and stylish look.
It’ s a popular choice, expect to pay just under £40.
Electric Coffee Roasters
Although you can roast coffee in almost anything that has enough heat, for a really great roast you will at some point want to get your own home coffee roasting machine. These are a step up from pan roasting and allow more control over the roasting process.
For the home coffee roaster there are broadly two types of machines; the hot-air roaster and the drum roaster. Both these types mimic what larger commercial machines do. Luckily there is a lot of choice with prices starting from as little as £60 and going up beyond £1,000.
Drum Coffee Bean Roaster
Drum roasters have a rotating drum above a heat source which tumbles the beans to ensure an even roast. Home coffee roasters are heated by an electric element whereas commercial drum roasters use gas.
There is also a distinction between single and double drum roasters. Double drum roasters allow for better heat transfer and produce a much better roast.
It is the type of roaster used by much of the coffee industry and is generally preferred by speciality roasters for its ability to control and customise the roasting process. This is great for the amateur roaster as for a relatively small cost you can with perseverance start to roast coffee of an exceptional standard.
Hot-Air Coffee Bean Roaster
If you know how a popcorn maker works, then you will understand how hot-air roasters work. Basically, hot air is pumped into the roasting chamber at a high enough rate to both move the beans around and to roast them. Usually you can control both the temperature and the fan speed.
Better machines will be able to reduce the smoke from the roasting process. Roasts with a hot-air coffee bean roaster are generally quicker than a drum roaster and take 8-12 minutes.
Electric Coffee Roasters - our recommendations
We’ve reviewed the market and selected a variety of coffee roasters. We think these are all great, which one you choose will depend very much on your budget and ambition.
The pick of the bunch for us is the Gene Café CBR-101 Coffee Roaster. Although some may say at over £450 it’s costly the reality is it will probably be the only coffee roaster you ever buy. We’ve included just 3 in our list but there should be something to suit every budget.
If you are serious about roasting, then this is the machine for you. It is easy to operate and customisable enough that you can produce great roasts. It’s hard to tell but we believe this is the best-selling roaster of its kind, its combination of flexibility and price makes it one of the best value roasters you will find on the market.
Key features we like include;
- Ability to change both the temperature and time during the roast.
- Not only can you have it in black, but it also comes in a stylish red too.
- You can see the beans as they roast.
Expect to pay £450-£500. It’s a lot, but if you’re sure you’ll be roasting for years then it’ll payback time and time again.
For the price this is an amazing machine. It is a drum roaster but rather than a cylinder rotating over a heat sauce it has a pan where the coffee beans are moved with a rotating paddle over a heated plate. It’s a very popular choice for the occasional coffee roaster or for those just tentatively starting to roast.
The capacity is good at 500g for raw coffee beans and the temperature range at 100 degrees to 240 degrees should cover nearly all of the roast types you want to experiment with. We like the transparent lid as it helps you keep an eye on how the roast is going. To some extent you get what you pay for and we have seen some concern about build quality as well as users having to spend some time working out how to get a good roast. Nonetheless it’s a good product and worthy of inclusion on our list.
Expect to pay £90.
This is a great drum roaster, if the price of the Gene Café CBR-101 seems too much then this offers a great compromise. It’s actually a general roaster and can be used for a number of food products. The product description says it can take up to 1.5kg – 1.9kg of ‘food’. However, we would expect the capacity for raw coffee beans to be much less, perhaps 700g, which is significantly more than the 275g roast batch size of the Gene Café CBR-101.
Although the price point is better than the Gene Café CBR-101 this roaster has less customisable controls for the roast, and the barrel isn’t transparent (we like to watch the roast!).
Expect to pay £290.