In the world of coffee, there is a wide range of different preferences. Some people like light, subtle flavors while others want the biggest jolt of caffeine possible with a thick, decadent flavor. One thing that everyone can agree on, though, is that fresher coffee just tastes better.
That’s why your simple cup of black coffee or your fancy vanilla lattes at your local coffee shops just simply taste better. It is also why we choose to brew and grind our own coffee at home, so there is minimal time between pulverizing the flavorful, fresh coffee beans and drinking your desired beverage.
Roasting your own coffee at home is the perfect way to make it both fresh and customizable. Coffee has a long way to travel to make it from its native plant all the way into your coffee cup, and along the way, exposure to oxygen and other external contaminants can ruin the flavor.
Roasting, grinding, and brewing your coffee in short succession is one way to ensure maximum freshness, and roasting your own coffee gives you the added perk of letting you choose your preferred coffee roast.
Why Roast Your Own Coffee at Home? Is It Worth It?
Roasting your own coffee at home might seem like a big hassle, but if you take the plunge and find the best coffee roaster for you it has some big payoffs. Most people dive into the world of coffee roasting for a combination of three reasons:
Taste and Freshness
As with most things coffee-related, the switch to making it fresh will almost always result in a more complex, flavorful taste. If you’ve recently made the switch from buying pre-ground coffee to grinding it yourself, you have probably vowed never to go back to your bland-coffee days again.
At-home coffee roasting is similar. If you learn how to do it right, it can result in coffee with much more complexity and depth.
We know that the flavor of coffee starts to be affected as soon as it begins to be processed into the typical coffee we see in grocery stores. This means that roasting, grinding, brewing, and drinking freshly roasted coffee provides a much greater experience than sipping a stale brew made from grounds that have been on a shelf for months.
The enhanced taste can be compared to the difference between baking fresh bread at home and buying a day-old baguette from the grocery. Sure, you don’t have to do it and the store bought version tastes….fine, but fresh bread, hot out of the oven? Heavenly.
Drinking coffee made out of the beans that just left the roaster yesterday… well you’re going to have to experience that yourself.
It’s important to note that, depending upon which at home coffee bean roaster you choose, you might be making relatively small batches of coffee. This can be a blessing or a curse.
Small batch is usually a selling point at the fancy coffee place downtown because it usually means more care was put into the process. Plus, you are getting a fresher final product if you roast your beans every few days as you use them.
If you go through a lot of coffee, however, you’re going to want to get a coffee roaster with a larger capacity so you don’t find yourself stuck in need of a caffeine fix and with nothing but green coffee beans in your cupboard.
Cost of Your Final Product
Yes, the best home coffee roasters are pricey, and even a small start-up model is an investment. Just like with anything else in your kitchen, though, the right tool for the job can lead to a really fantastic result.
We were actually surprised when we first learned that green coffee beans cost so much less than the roasted version. Some coffee vendors sell green coffee beans at about half the price of their roasted blends. As with everything else in the coffee world, high-end varieties will fetch more, but it’s not uncommon to purchase unroasted coffee beans for as little as $3 to $6 per pound.
Keep in mind that you might have to order your beans online if you don’t live near a big supplier. You don’t want to buy massive amounts at once, since storing the beans for a long period of time will affect the freshness, and that’s the whole reason we’re roasting our own coffee beans to start with!
If you roast all of your coffee yourself, you could be cutting your coffee bill in half. Let’s face it: for many of us, the coffee portion of our weekly budget is sometimes embarrassingly high.
To think about it another way, a coffee roaster can seem like an extravagant splurge. But, if you think about the savings in terms of less expensive coffee, your machine could pay for itself in a matter of months.
When you stop to think about it, this makes sense. Buying the basic ingredients for most food ingredients tends to be more cost-effective in the long run. Returning to our freshly-baked bread example, flour and yeast are a fraction of the cost of a loaf of freshly baked French bread. Of course, you need to factor in the cost of your own time. If you’re strapped for time, adding the extra step of roasting might just be too much. But for a lot of people, coffee roasting becomes an enjoyable creative outlet, not a kitchen chore.
Which brings us to our next consideration…
Creativity and Customizability
Sure, you could buy your coffee already roasted and flavored from one of thousands of retailers, both in your local grocery store and online. But lots of us choose to roast our own, for the same reason that many people also bake their own bread and make their own jam. It’s relaxing, it’s fun, and you can get it exactly the way you like it.
Plus, you can seriously impress your friends by the fact that you’re a small-batch coffee roaster in your spare time, in addition to all your other many talents (we’re sure there are tons of them).
Roasting coffee doesn’t take that long – normally under 10 minutes for the total roasting time. Tinkering with small increments of time, the type of bean you use, and the type of roaster can allow almost infinite variations in your roasting.
If you like to keep things simple, you can choose a basic personal coffee roaster, figure out how long you like your beans roasted, and do it the same way every time. If you want to expand your repertoire, there are models available that allow you to create customized, pre-programmed settings. This allows you to produce a wide variety of flavor profiles.
If you enjoy roasting coffee, it can even become a fun part of your annual gift-giving traditions. Receiving something homemade always feels special, and creating your own personalized coffee blend to treat your friends and family makes the experience next-level.
Different Types of Coffee Roasters
All right, if you’re eagerly filling your online shopping cart with unroasted coffee beans as we speak, just hang on for a minute. We need to cover the different kinds of coffee roasters available.
Coffee roasters are classified according to a few different criteria:
First, you want to look at the power source: electric or gas. Second, there are programmable coffee roasters and there are manual roasters. Third, we look at how the beans are actually heated: directly or indirectly. This is called convection (direct heat) or conduction (indirect heat).
You might recognize these terms from other household appliances, like ovens.
We’ll look at each characteristic in a little more detail.
Electric vs Gas Coffee Roasters
Since we’re roasting coffee beans, we need a heat source. Some of the most popular coffee roasters require a gas burner – and this is often not included with the product itself. If you opt for a small, stove top coffee roaster, you will almost always need to use a gas stove because electric burners do not allow enough control of the heat.
An electric coffee roaster, on the other hand, pretty much just requires an outlet. Some of the more customizable roasters with several programmable settings are electric.
So what’s the difference? Is one better? We would say that if you like the convenience of a push-button-and-roast machine, an electric model is the way to go. If you want more control over the process, a gas-burner model gives you more options and a more tactile, hands-on experience.
Programmable vs Manual Coffee Roasters
This part is pretty self-explanatory. If you’ve ever used a programmable kitchen appliance before, like a bread machine or Instant Pot, you know that there’s a lot to be said for the convenience of pushing a few buttons and being able to trust the outcome.
On the other hand, you might have significantly different tastes than whoever it was that programmed the machine in the first place.
The best home coffee roasters can be either manual or programmable – it really all comes down to personal preference. Programmable models are usually electric, and come with several different roast settings ranging from light to dark. You just turn a knob or push a few buttons and go. The downside to this is that if you find setting 3, for example, to be too light and setting 4 too dark, there’s usually not a whole lot you can do about that.
Manual coffee roasters can be either gas or electric. It’s up to you to keep an eye on your coffee beans to ensure that they get beautifully roasted and not burnt. The beauty of this is that you have a lot more control over the final product, including how evenly the beans get roasted. The downside is that you might end up with some sub-par batches before you really get the hang of it.
Hot Air Coffee Roasters
Hot air roasters usually contain a small compartment of liquid that gets quite hot, which forces air upward to roast the coffee beans. This is an indirect way of heating the beans, so it’s considered convection heat. A fan blows the hot air into the roaster to heat the beans.
This is usually a pretty good way for beginners to get started roasting coffee.
Drum Coffee Roasters
A drum roaster is the perfect example of conduction heat roasting.
The technique is pretty simple – you fill the drum with beans and the drum itself gets hot, and rotates or tumbles the beans around to make sure they all have contact with the hot drum to ensure an even roast.
This makes drum roasters great for beginners because it is a pretty hands-off technique.
Conduction Coffee Roasters
Lots of different models qualify as conduction roasters. When something hot touches something colder and transfers heat, that’s conduction.
If you spread your green coffee beans out on a baking sheet and stick them in the oven to roast, that’s conduction roasting because they are touching the hot surface.
Like we already talked about, drum roasters are a classic example of conduction roasting.
How Long Does It Take To Roast Coffee Beans?
The most important thing to remember is that small increments of time make a huge difference when it comes to coffee roasting. If you leave the beans in the roaster for too long, you’ll get burnt coffee that tastes a bit like charcoal.
Unless you like coffee reminiscent of your grill, we really don’t recommend this. On the other hand, under-roasted coffee tastes too acidic and has a signature “raw” taste. Both are pretty undesirable tastes when it comes to coffee.
The appropriate roasting time will depend on the type of roaster you choose along with the type of coffee beans you use and your desired flavor. Most machines can actually roast the beans in 9 to 13 minutes.
This isn’t the whole story, though. Keep in mind that the machine needs to heat up and the beans need an amount of time to cool down. Add in the measuring and recording portions of the process, and you will need to set aside about a half hour for the whole process.
Some electric roasters can get the job done quicker, while some machines can take upwards of twenty minutes for the complete roast. It really just depends on your machine’s requirements and the desired flavor you are looking for.
What Makes a Good Coffee Roaster?
Although you can chalk a lot up to personal preference, some coffee machines just perform better than others. So how should you judge between the different roasters on the market to pick the best coffee roaster for you.
While there isn’t a flood of products on the market currently for us at-home consumers, more models are being released all the time as home roasting continues to grow in popularity. Here are a few things to consider before you pick out your at home coffee roaster.
This is a good place to start evaluating coffee roasting equipment. How much coffee do you actually plan to roast? Most experts recommend roasting coffee about once a week to ensure peak freshness. So, you will need a roaster that fits about the amount of coffee beans that you typically go through in a week.
If you choose one with a low capacity, then you’ll have to roast coffee several times a week. Now, if you like making super-small batches to experiment with flavors, that might be fine. On the other hand, it is more efficient to just get all the roasting done at once.
Bigger isn’t always better though. If you choose a roaster with a really large capacity, you might end up with more coffee than you’re physically capable of using before it goes stale.
Higher capacity machines tend to be pricier as well, so you might be able to save a little if you are reasonable about how much coffee you actually want to grind.
Size is related to capacity, but they are not exactly the same thing. Capacity refers to how many beans the machine can hold. Size just means how large the actual machine is.
Of course, a large machine will likely have a larger capacity, but the heating mechanism can take up a lot of physical space as well – we’ll get to that in a minute.
This is important when you’re thinking about where you will actually roast coffee. If space is at a premium in your home, then you will probably need to opt for a small coffee roaster that you have room to store.
Additionally, some roasters do best when used outdoors, so it’s good to think about how much space you have on whatever outdoor surface you might use to roast.
Like we talked about previously, drum roasters are different from fluid bed roasters. Fluid bed coffee roasters use a very hot water bath at the bottom to produce heat and a fan distributes the heat evenly across the beans. A drum roaster, by contrast, roasts the beans evenly as they touch the hot drum.
Some notable differences: Fluid bed roasters tend to roast a bit faster, however, drum roasters tend to be a bit more economical.
Coffee roasters operate with either electric or gas heat. Some coffee roasters actually operate by being placed directly over a gas burner, while others use a separate gas burning unit. This can be either included with the roaster unit or bought separately as a different unit.
In general, a gas-powered roaster gives more control, though there are programmable versions available. Some people like the simplicity of an electric roaster, but keep in mind that voltage does vary from home to home, so that can affect total roast times.
Ease of Use and Automation
If you’re just getting started out with coffee roasting, you might want something a little bit more “push-button to get started”. On the other hand, you might be eager to totally immerse yourself in the process and go for a fully tricked-out and customizable machine.
Keep in mind that a complicated machine isn’t necessarily better. Just like with any other kitchen appliance, an overly finicky machine will ultimately be no fun to use.
The key thing to remember if you do go the automation route is to never to take your eyes off your roast! That’s how burnt beans happens, and burnt beans taste bad.
When coffee beans are roasted, a thin piece of protective covering slides off the bean. This is called the chaff, and it gets discarded during the roasting process at some point.
If you’re roasting outside, collecting and cleaning the chaff isn’t such a big deal. If you roast your coffee inside, a roaster with a chaff collection is a huge time-saver. Of course, you will still have to empty the chaff collector and clean it each time to prevent bad tastes due to build up from previous roasting cycles.
In the giddy haze of buying your first roaster, you might think about the fact that you’ve introduced a new appliance into your home that also has to be cleaned regularly. Pay attention to how easy it is to take the parts apart so you can wash them.
Dust and oils from coffee beans can build up in your roaster, so it’s a good idea to clean it after each use. Buying a machine that’s easy to clean will shave precious time off of your roasting experience.
9 Best Home Coffee Roasters
Selecting the best home coffee roaster is a big decision, because the roasting process will affect all subsequent steps in your coffee making. Whether you’re just getting started or you’re looking to step up your game, we’ve got the perfect pick for you.
Best Overall Coffee Roaster: BocaBoca
It was a tough choice, but the BocaBoca is one the best home coffee roasters out there. We loved the combination of the clear glass drum, smoke management system, and cooling tray. There’s also a chaff collector, and that along with the glass drum makes it much easier to clean.
It can handle about 8 ounces of beans at one time, which works great for personal use. It’s not automated, but the controls are pretty intuitive and allow you to customize the roasting time and flavor profile. It’s also very easy to use indoors: quiet and low mess.
Best Budget Roaster: JIAWANSHUN 250g Household Coffee Roaster
If you have access to a gas burner and like a quieter coffee roaster, the Jiawanshun is a great pick for you. The perforated drum lets you keep an eye on your beans during the roasting process and the large capacity lets you handle a lot of beans at once.
We will say this probably isn’t the best pick for a beginner, since it relies quite a bit on pre-existing coffee roaster know-how to put this thing together. The controls aren’t incredibly customizable, but the machine does deliver a reliable and evenly roasted light, medium, or dark roast.
There isn’t much of a chaff collector per se, and you’ll want to make sure that you use a really good vent since there isn’t a smoke management system either.
Overall, a few more features would kick this machine up a notch but it is a great budget pick if you have some experience roasting coffee already and aren’t looking to break the bank.
Best Designed Coffee Roaster: Sandbox Smart R1
If you’re wanting to up your coffee roasting game, the Sandbox Smart R1 has all the bells and whistles. This is the only app-controlled coffee roaster on our list. The Sandbox is so named because you can create literally anything in here with it’s infinitely customizable controls.
The Sandbox Smart RI is a drum roaster with a built-in chaff catcher. Our only major complaint is that it could really benefit from having a smoke suppression system built-in.
One awesome feature though is that the app records every data point from your roasting process. From the time of the first crack to the temperature throughout. This allows you a degree of control and record-keeping that’s hard to match with other conventional roasters.
Best Beginner Coffee Roaster: Fresh Roast SR800
The Fresh Roast SR800 is an improved version over the smaller Fresh Roast SR540 model. We like that this machine has an impressive degree of customizability, but is still very easy to learn. There are separate knobs for heat, fan, and time, so you can alter each factor individually to achieve different roast profiles.
The Fresh Roast SR800 is a fluid bed roaster, so the roasting time is generally faster – under 10 minutes for a small batch. Keep in mind that this also makes it easier to burn a batch if you’re not careful.
It doesn’t hold as much as a drum roaster, but at a 6oz to 8oz capacity, depending on how your green coffee beans are, you can roast a decent amount for personal use.
The SR800 has some really great convenience features that make it nice for a beginner or casual roaster who doesn’t want to devote hours to the process. A chaff collector and tight lid makes the clean up easy.
We were especially impressed by the instant-read LCD screen and the automatic cool-down function, which combines to help get you the perfect roast. One drawback we noticed is that it doesn’t have a complete smoke-management system.
The Fresh Roast resembles a countertop blender and takes up about the same amount of space.
Best Intermediate Coffee Roaster: Gene Cafe Home Roaster
So you’ve mastered both the drum roaster AND the air roaster? How about combining the two? The Gene Cafe Home Roaster is a fun machine if you want to combine approaches to get a more customized roast, since it incorporates both a drum and air roasting components.
Home coffee roasters love this machine for its consistency. Once you get the roast the way you want it, it’s very easy to replicate it using the push-button controls. Plus you can watch the whole process take place through the see-through drum.
We also like how quick this roaster finishes a batch – under 15 minutes in most cases. It’s 9-ounce capacity is more than many other home coffee roasters and will probably yield enough roast coffee to last you several days.
Best Advanced Coffee Roaster: Huky 500T Professional Roaster
This next one is definitely not for the beginners among us, but if you’re thinking of setting up shop as a coffee roaster for small businesses, this might be a great upgrade for you.
Fans of the Huky love to customize it. You can use the included vent hood, fan, cooling tray, and even roast-tracking software. The software allows you to take digital heat readings at different points of your roast and create a custom “roast profile.” You will definitely need a gas heat source for this one..
This machine is 100% manual, which is great if you love to tweak things like the roast speed or the flame heat. If you’re looking for something with a lot of pre-programmed settings, this one is probably not for you.
If you’re just getting started, we suggest leaving this one to the pros.
Best Hot Air Coffee Roaster: KALDI WIDE Roaster
This drum roaster can hold a serious amount of coffee per roast – a 300 gram capacity in the WIDE model. It does take a bit of time to master compared to some of the simpler roasters out there, but we did appreciate the included accessories, like the thermometer and probe. We really liked the drum, which has perforations, to give a more even roast.
It’s not the best beginner’s roaster, since it requires hands-on control. It doesn’t come apart very easily, so cleaning is somewhat difficult and the chaff tends to get anywhere. There also aren’t smoke controls built into this roaster.
Best Large Capacity Coffee Roaster: Behmor 2000AB Home Coffee Roaster
The best coffee roaster if you really want to roast a lot of beans at once is the Behmor 2000AB. This drum roaster looks a bit like a toaster oven and fits a whopping one pound of raw coffee beans. The perforated drum is made out of steel mesh that can be a bit tricky to clean, but it will give you a nice even roast.
The pre-programmed settings are pretty simple to use, though five choices might not be quite enough for those who like the ability to customize a bit more. Built-in smoke suppression technology makes this a pretty self-contained unit.
Best Alternative Coffee Roaster: Nuvo Eco Ceramic Handy Coffee Bean Roaster
It’s true, the Nuvo Eco looks a little bit like a weird clay pipe, but it’s a lot of fun to roast coffee with. A small, ceramic roaster that fits overtop either a gas or electric burner, the Nuvo Eco has a small capacity, typically roasting less than 1 cup of beans at a time. In terms of affordability, you really can’t beat it. Some coffee hobbyists even buy one to take camping with them.
This is a pretty hands-on roaster, since you need to jiggle the roaster continuously to move the beans around and roast them evenly. The benefit of the opening at the top is that you can keep a close eye on the roasting process. The chaff-removal process is manual, too.
Other Notable Coffee Roasters
Some of our honorable mentions include:
The Nesco Coffee Bean Roaster was clearly built with design and ease in mind. While it’s small and the glass top can be a bit delicate, the built-in chaff remover makes this appealing for casual roasters.
So this one just looks super cool on the kitchen counter. You have to turn the drum manually over the butane heat source, but the classy glass design looks like something out of a steampunk lab.
An easy to use roaster for a beginner on a budget. It might resemble a rice cooker somewhat, but you can get a good, even roast in its large capacity hopper.
With our lineup of the best home coffee roasters, you can find the best one for your kitchen setup and preferred batch size. Your days of trying to roast beans on a baking pan or in a popcorn popper are over! While it might take a little while to find the magic amount of roasting time, we know that you will be cranking out perfect beans in no time.