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Using a handheld fan to control heat during a popcorn roast

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  • Using a handheld fan to control heat during a popcorn roast

    Can a handheld fan, blowing cool ambient air onto the top of the beans, slow down heat and extend roast times during a popcorn roast?

    I’m waiting for delivery of my Sunbeam popcorn maker and first shipment of green beans and have been reading about popcorn mods - and really don’t want to get into electrical wiring changes- yet! Surely a handheld fan might be enough to slow down a roast a little? Perhaps applied after 1st crack?

  • #2
    Might be worth a try. When I was using a popper 10 or so years ago, I used a fan to blow air across the top rather than into the mouth of the popper. I thought this might suck the heat rather than blow it out. Did it work? Not sure. You would need to measure the roast temperature to verify. However, many popper users have successfully roasted without using a fan.

    You preferably need to reduce the heat at the onset of first crack otherwise you could find the roast going straight 2nd crack after 1st. You don't want to stall the roast though.


    • #3
      I have done many popper roasts with a lot of different poppers. From stock standard units to the heavily modded "frankenpoppers" that I use now.
      As flynn said above, blowing the air across the top would be better than trying to force fresh air into the chamber against the hot airflow coming out.
      You also need to have the fan on right from the start, not just towards the end of the roast. In cold weather, if you can't get to the start of second crack with the fan on, the roast may be stalling and you may need to turn it off to avoid stalling the roast and 'baking" the beans.

      I've tried several variations of external fan cooling, and only two made a noticeable difference. One was a fan blowing air through large holes in the upper housing, the other was removing the top half of the case and blowing air directly onto the exposed roast chamber. The bottom half of the case still covered all of the electical connections, so it was safe.

      Here are pics of some examples
      Attached Files
      Last edited by deegee; 1 week ago.


      • #4
        Thanks so much for the advice and photos.
        Making holes and exposing the main cooking metal sounds like a brilliant way to control temperature.

        I'm still waiting for my popcorn maker to arrive from Good Guys - meanwhile I've been cast iron pan roasting... not sure if a popcorm maker is a better technique than cast iron pan roasting or not? Have you tried cast iron pan roasting?


        • #5

          I started roasting with a cast iron skillet before moving to a popper (i'm now using a coretto set up). II got my popper to the point where I could produce a much more consistent roast than with the skillet. But every now and then now i'll roast a batch on the skillet because it's a lot of fun and sometimes its refreshing to roast a batch based on feel and not a formula!

          Personally I think it comes down to how easy you want roasting coffee at home to be. Getting your popper set up right with all sorts of mods can mean it can be pretty hands-off which might or might not appeal to you.


          • #6
            Also from my experience I reckon it's an absolute must to move the thermostat inside the popper. If you don't, there's a high chance that the popper will cut out due to the high temp during your roast and ruin your batch.

            I think moving the thermostat in the Sunbeam one is pretty straight forward. You just have to remove the case (undo screws on the bottom) and unbolt the thermostat from the side of the popping chamber (you can see where it's attached if you look into the popping chamber - you'll see a dot on the side). Just move it to a place wheer it won't heat up too much and you shouldn't have any problems. No re-wiring needed! Good luck.


            • #7
              wirecutter23 thanks for the advice! I will follow it and move the thermostat.
              I suspect the steps are probably very similar to those in this youtube video, which I watched some time ago.


              • #8
                G'day tcab, No - I have never tried roasting in a pan or skillet.

                One downside of using poppers is their capacity. Stock units can usually only handle 60 to 80 grams of green beans in warm weather, and maybe 80 to 100 when it's colder. It can get a bit tedious if you need to do large quantities in such small batches.

                I mostly use a modified popper as it gives me fast response to changes, and very good control. It can handle up to 150 grams (greeen) but I usually do a bit less. I mostly do 125 gram single origin batches and blend post roast. Because I mainly roast just for myself, this is not a problem. For the occasional larger roast I have a Behmor.

                You may find that the thermostat in your popper is attached to the heater coil plate, not the chamber. If it is, don't try to move it, those mica plates are very brittle and quite fragile. The solution is to short out the thermostat by soldering a wire across it, or carefully bend the contacts together, so they cannot open, no matter how hot they are.
                Click image for larger version

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                In this pic the t'stat is the widget between B and D.
                If you haven't already seen it, take a look at this thread - it's a bit dated now, but most of the info is still valid.
                Cheers, deegee.