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A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

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  • A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

    I decided to start this thread after seeing alot of the same questions from people new to roasting. In the few months I have been roasting I have kept a journal so have used this to come up with a guide to *starting out. If anyboody else has anything else feel free to add them.

    The Popper
    Firstly, have a look at the specs of your popper (wattage) from my own reading of the many different poppers used by roasters this seems to really affect the time of your roast. I may be wrong but a higher wattage seems to give a higher temp in a shorter time than a lower wattage popper.

    I myself have a Cascade Popper that I bought at the Warehouse. It is a bit smaller than the breville poppers and only 1100 watts compared to the breville which is 1200. The cascade will only do a maximum of 100g of beans at a time, however my roasts do take longer usually up to about 7 minutes depending on the ambient temperature on the day. A longer roast is what you are trying to achieve so the sugars in the beans have a chance to develop their subtle individual flavour with out overroasting and burning.

    The Chimney
    Make a chimney for your popper, do this by getting an old soup can and cut a few slits in one end. Bend these in so the can fits snugly into the top of the popper. I also use the plastic dooflicky thing that came with the popper to act as an extra holder just in case you knock the chimney and stops it from falling off too easily, this is also great to help hold my thermocouple in place.

    Personally I have found a popper tha best thing to start out with as it is cheap, you can really see what is happening, it is relatively hands free with no stirring except maybe right at the beginning. I have found that I also really started to get an understanding of the roasting process too

    Thermocouple and Data recorder
    Let me start of by saying that this is not someting you need to have, but I have found mine invaluable when I first started roasting. It was a useful guide in getting to know my popper and also knowing when to judge when to expect first and second crack to start and finish and the temperatures the popper and beans are at when this occurs. The majority of people here use these, they cost about $25 and pay for themselves.

    I bought a cheap sportswatch with a stopwatch facility on it from Target and use this to make a minute by minute temperature recording throughout my roast.

    Using this I can record the time and temp of the first pops of first crack, the main part of first crack and the end of first crack. Likewise with second crack. You can also write down any points to remember such as long first crack, short fist crack followed by long gap to second crack etc. Here is an example of what I do

    Ambient temp 17
    Time 0930 hours

    Time (mins) * * * * * * Temp(C)
    1 * * * * * * * * * * * * * *145
    2 * * * * * * * * * * * * * *184
    3 * * * * * * * * * * * * * *201
    4 * * * * * * * * * * * * * *212
    5 * * * * * * * * * * * * * *220
    6 * * * * * * * * * * * * * *228
    7 * * * * * * * * * * * * * *233

    1st crack : 212C/3.44 (first snaps)
    * * * * * * * * 211C/3.57 rolling first
    * * * * * * * * 223C/521 finish

    2nd crack : 233C/655min first snaps
    * * * *
    Roast finished @ 7.05 min/235C - did not reach rolling second crack.

    Roasting Notes:

    Long FC
    nice long gap between FC @ SC
    Distinct first and second crack
    Even roast

    Tasting Notes

    Smooth, mocha flavours with hint of sweetness on the end of the palette. Lingering Vanilla flavours.

    First roast follows
    Attached Files
    Last edited by Javaphile; 7 May 2013, 03:52 PM. Reason: Change text colors for readability

  • #2
    Re: A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

    Your First Roast

    First of all, have alook on here at the variety of beans. If you have bought a starter pack, do a search to find if others have roasted these beans and what results they have had. Pick a variety that others have said they have had good roasting results with. If you cannot find anything, then ask. Even than people may not have roasted *the varieties you have and that is not a problem.

    Weigh out 100g of beans and place them in the popper which has the thermocouple lead in it (this prevents the wire from resting against the side of the popper giving you an inaccurate reading.

    Turn on the popper and the stop watch at the same time. You may need to give the beans a wee stir with the handle of a wooden spoon to get them moving.

    Record the temp at one minute, 2 minutes etc etc. Look at the beans and watch the colour changes they go through during the roast.

    At about 205 - 208 degrees C you will hear the first pops and crackles of first Crack (FC) this can take anything from 2 - 4 minutes depending on your popper and the ambient temperature (the heat of the day), FC will reach a crescendo of popping and crackling and then die down to almost nothing with the occasional pop.

    Once these have settled down is the time when the beans start to develop thier different flavours and this is where you want the roast to take its time. It is very hard to control with a bog standard popper, though it can be done. ( I will discuss this in the next post)

    At about 230 -235C you should hear the first sounds of second crack. This may be very muted and hard to hear and quite often is more of a snapple sound than a distinct crack. On a popper this where you need to be fast, as if you go too far into second crack you can risk over roasting and burning your beans.

    Once you hear second crack stop the stop watch, turn off the popper and very quickly pour the roasted beans into a metal or wire colander. Do not use plastic as the heat of the beans can melt it as some people have found out. *

    Cooling the Beans
    I use a plastic colander and a metal colander, other people have their own methods. After initially tipping the beans into the metal colander, move them around to take the worst of the heat off them. then tip them into the plastic colander from a height of about 10 -20 cm blowing gently to remove the remaining chaff. Keep doing this until the beans have cooled down and leave them in the plastic colander to cool to room temperature.

    Once they have reached room temp, place them in oneway valved bags to De Gas for a few days (or at least 24 hours if you cannot wait. )
    Last edited by Javaphile; 7 May 2013, 03:56 PM. Reason: Change text colors for readibility


    • #3
      Re: A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

      Ambient Temperature and time of day

      It is my belief that this really will affect your roast using a popper. As there are no other ways to really control temperature, I have found that by choosing the outside temp and the time of day I roast to be the most helpful.

      Ambient Temperature
      Ambient temperature is the temperature it is where you are roasting -eg the temperature outside under the patio or in the shed.

      I have found that the cooler the ambient temp the longer the roast. I am now in the habit of not roasting when the temp is above 20C, 25C at a push. 30+ Days make the roast too fast and hard to stop the beans from over roasting.

      Time of day/humidity
      I have found that this does affect the roast - in summer, I havent been roasting in the winter yet so it will be interesting to know what other popper users have found. The dryer the heat of the day, the faster the roast seems to go. I have found that roasting very early in the morning, when there is some humitdity in the air and it is quite cool helps a lot.
      Last edited by Javaphile; 7 May 2013, 03:57 PM. Reason: Change text colors for readibility


      • #4
        Re: A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

        For those of you who want to know where to get a thermocouple I got mine at Jaycar.

        You have the choice of two that I have used This one :  about $20

        Or the one posted below which is pricesd at about $25. I got this one as it has a little inbuilt stand and has a rubber casing so it will not break as easily if dropped. It also has a little backlight.


        • #5
          Re: A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

          Nice work lucinda. As a brand newy to the forum and roasting (only completed my 4th roast today) that is a really handy guide. Im currently working my way through the starter pack.

          I definately recommend that people take note of the effect ambient temperature has on roast times. After reading the forums for a while i was a tad worried when my roasts where going much longer than others 3-6 minutes. Then i checked the temp outside where im roasting. Im down in Hobart and the roast i completed tonight took 18 minutes until 2nd crack in a breville crazy popper with 80g of beans. Ambient temp ... a chilly 12 C

          This may seem slightly odd, but straight after my roast has cooled ive been biting off half of a bean and just tasting the differences in flavor between roasts and also noting the texture & inner color of the bean after roasting. Not sure if others have done this but out of curiosity what texture roughly should a bean have just prior to 2nd crack? ie crumbly? still quite woody? etc



          • #6
            Re: A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

            That was good lucinda.
            Im going to look for that thermocouple.
            Online they are marked down to $14-95 at the moment.

            Originally posted by Andy Freeman link=1174563227/15#15 date=1174735506
            So Lucinda and TG, it appears that you could both add something to the home roasting sections.
            Heres my article (recently published online).
            It has a slightly different perspective (no thermocouple).

            Coffee: Roasting your own

            The best coffee is FRESH.
            Freshly roasted coffee from a local roaster may be a little bit more expensive than supermarket bought coffee, but it is worth it.
            Freshly roasted coffee is generally at its best until about 3 weeks of age.

            Green coffee beans can be found at up to a quarter of the price of freshly roasted ones.
            A cheap and easy first step into home roasting is using a popcorn machine; the air roasting type.
            These can be quite cheap to buy new and occasionally you can find them even cheaper second hand.

            You need to make sure the fan holes in the roasting chamber are on the side, so that the hot air spins the beans around the chamber. This type of popper would seem to be the most common type, however you need to make sure the popper is not the other type with the holes in the bottom of the roasting chamber. If you look down into the machine and see holes at the bottom it is the wrong type. The holes you are looking for will be around the sides of the chamber and look like little angled vents.

            Once you have found yourself a popper you’ll need to find some green beans.
            If your local roaster won’t sell you some (don’t blame them, they’re in the business of roasting beans for profit), you may be able to find an online seller; the internet is a wonderful thing. Even with postage costs, green beans will still work out cheaper than buying commercially roasted ones.

            Most poppers should be able to roast 100 grams (3.5 ounces). When you get used to your popper you can experiment with how much or how little it will roast. More beans will roast quicker, less beans will roast slower. 5 to 6 minutes from beginning to end is average for popcorn machine roasts.

            You need to make one modification to make sure your beans don’t jump out as they expand in size and lose weight as they roast. Remove any lid/butter dispenser from the popper and find a tin can the same diameter as the popper’s hole and fit it into the top of the popper. You may have to snip the sides of the can to make it easier to fit if it is not the perfect size.

            Roasting is best done outside as the beans will lose a thin skin, called chaff, in the process. This can be messy and a breeze or fan will help disperse it. Also, as ambient temperature can affect roast length times, I find it best to try roast when the temperature is 20C / 68F or less; evenings or early mornings are usually best.

            Add your beans to the popper and switch it on.
            If the beans don’t start spinning around the roasting chamber straight away, stir them with a long wooden chopstick or similar item until they start spinning by themselves.
            If it takes a long time for them to start spinning, make the next batch a little smaller.

            Now you need to listen for the cracks. First crack is fairly easy to hear. It will be a popping sound like in “snap, crackle, pop”. This will likely happen around the three minute mark. When all the beans have stopped popping, there may be some silence for a few minutes (except for the sound of the popcorn machine and your fan). The second crack is more of a crackle or crinkle. It will be faint; you need to listen closely for it. Around the same time as second crack there will be a lot more smoke. Be prepared to turn off your popper and cool your beans when second crack has been happening for about 10 to 20 seconds on your first effort or if the beans look like they are dark enough compared to what you’ve previously bought or if there’s plenty of smoke.

            To cool them you should empty the beans into a large metal strainer or bowl and pour them back and forth to a second bowl, preferably in front of your fan if you are using one. If not, don’t worry, they will cool as they fall through the air between bowls.

            Hopefully they’ll cool to room temperature within a few minutes. When they are cool you should out them in an airtight bag for a few days before grinding some and trying them. If you can get your hands on some bags with one way valves, they are best because they will allow the beans to de-gas and keep the oxygen out.
            If you can’t get the one way valve bags, use a normal resealable plastic bag and prick a couple of small holes in it to allow the gas to escape. The escaping carbon dioxide will push itself out and keep any oxygen from getting in. Keep your coffee in a cool dark place, not the refrigerator.

            Your freshly home roasted coffee should be ready to sample in two days, as I said above, but will probably continue to improve in flavour until it’s about 10 to 14 days old. After that it may start to lose flavour but, depending on the bean type may still be acceptable until three weeks of age.

            Give it a go. It’s fun and in the long run you’ll save money and should never run out of fresh coffee ever again.


            • #7
              Re: A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

              Thats great TG. It seems that we have both been thinking the same thing lately.

              I hope it really helps others as a quick guide for people who havent a clue.

              Geniuses we is ;D


              • #8
                Re: A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

                Thanks Cindy.
                We geniuses have to stick together.

                Actually, Id written an article for an online game I part-own and after it was published I decided Id try this one as the site had a sub-category specifically for coffee and there were no popper articles amongst the very few on roasting.

                It didnt take very long at all to write, as all I was doing was brain dumping what Ive learned here and from experience.

                It took longer to find the Fahrenheit figures for the Yanks.  ;D


                • #9
                  Re: A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

                  Celsius  = (Fahrenheit  less 32) times 5 divided by 9

                  Fahrenheit  = Celsius times 9, divided by 5,  less 32.


                  Celsius = (Fahrenheit less 32) times  .555555

                  Im glad I did science after all.



                  • #10
                    Re: A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

                    I just used Google cause I took biology. :P


                    • #11
                      Re: A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

                      My son did biology -- which set him up to run computer support. Eh?



                      • #12
                        Re: A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

                        Well I also work with computers and picked up popper roasting rather quickly.
                        There must be a connection.


                        • #13
                          Re: A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

                          I just use the conversion widget on my Mac.


                          • #14
                            Re: A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

                            Originally posted by lucinda link=1174699442/0#12 date=1174832608
                            I just use the  conversion widget on my Mac.
                            Off topic....Widgets also live in the bottom of Guiness cans...

                            Back to thread...


                            • #15
                              Re: A beginners guide to Roasting using a popper

                              I roast 2-3 times a week; tried a few methods to cool down the beans and found the best to be a large blackened heavy cast-iron skillet. The dark metal will suck the heat out of the beans like a black hole, almost instantly. Keeping the skillet in the fridge, or even the freezer for a few minutes will, no doubt, improve its performance, not only because of the lower metal temperature but also the thin layer of condensed moisture on the surface which will evaporate while sucking even more heat from its immediate surroundings.