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, aFresh 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.