Best Popcorn Popper For Roasting Coffee

If you’re like me, you obsess over the coffee-making process. It’s pretty easy to wet your feet with grinding your own beans and trying different ways to brew.

Now you want to take it to the next level by roasting beans just how you like ’em. Congratulations, you’re edging into full-on coffee aficionado territory!

Now, you could buy your very own coffee roaster, but you’re here because it’s expensive to roast your own beans. Sheesh. So now you’re looking for an alternative. There should be one that doesn’t feel like it has to be an investment right?

And I have your answer.

So if you’ve ever wondered, “Can a popcorn popper roast coffee beans?” – Yes it can!

How and which one to buy? If you’re in a rush here’s my top pick below otherwise keep on reading for more:

Top Pick
Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper - Metal Gear
$41.61 ($41.61 / Count)
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The Best Popcorn popper for coffee roasting Alternatives

Budget Pick
Cook N Home 6 Quart Aluminium Stovetop Popcorn Popper
$27.66
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Alternative Pick
Norpro Old Time Popcorn Popper, large, Silver
$42.70
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Best See Through Option
Zippy Pop Red Stovetop Popcorn Popper, 4-Quart
$40.99
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4 Picks For The Best Popcorn Popper for Roasting Coffee

There’s a bunch of ways to pop popcorn. I am a connoisseur of popcorn de microwave.

But, a particular type of popper called the stovetop is known for being not just a popcorn maker, but the best kind of popper for roasting coffee beans at home on a tight budget.

I took a hard look at some of the more popular choices for the job. To be honest, I couldn’t find one with any important unique features.

But some people just don’t know where to start looking, and these would be good starting points. Here are some of the best popcorn poppers for roasting coffee at home.

1. whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper

The Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper is made of metal gears. These don’t corrode over time, and can make the popcorn maker last longer than the other options.  Within 6-9 mins to achieve second crack and a 0.5lbs capacity is the perfect starter roaster!

Best Overall
Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper - Metal Gear
$41.61 ($41.61 / Count)
SEE NOW ON AMAZON
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you. July 9, 2020 6:22 pm UTC

Pros

  • Aluminum offers even heat distribution
  • Solid gears which don’t slip
  • Many people have used it for roasting coffee

Cons

  • A little less budget friendly than the other options

It even comes with a 25-year warranty (although if it’s voided for being used to roast beans is unknown) so you can be sure its well crafted.

2. Cook N Home Stovetop Popcorn Popper

The Cook N Pro makes an excellent Moka pot we liked in another review so we hoped this one would live up to the same hype.

Budget Pick
Cook N Home 6 Quart Aluminium Stovetop Popcorn Popper
$27.66
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Pros

  • Large
  • Stainless steel option available for induction hobs 

Cons

  • New to market so little known use for coffee

With similar credentials as our top pick but being more budget-friendly thankfully we aren’t disappointed by this popper!

The aluminum version is on par with our top pick at a slightly more affordable price point – winner!

3. norpro Old Time Popcorn Popper

The most affordable of the bunch, and will work well if it’s all you can afford.

Alternative Pick
Norpro Old Time Popcorn Popper, large, Silver
$42.70
SEE NOW ON AMAZON
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you. July 9, 2020 6:22 pm UTC

Pros

  • All metal gears
  • Non rusting aluminum

Cons

  • Attracts more chaff than other options

The most affordable of the bunch, and will work well if it’s all you can afford.

It’s not the most carefully made, but it gets the job done for a super budget price point. Still, worthwhile considering if it’s your first foray into roasting at home.

4. Zippy Pop

The Zippy Pop has a tempered glass lid that you can monitor your beans through. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy watching the process whenever I can!

Best See Through Option
Zippy Pop Red Stovetop Popcorn Popper, 4-Quart
$40.99
SEE NOW ON AMAZON
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you. July 9, 2020 11:47 pm UTC

Pros

  • See through tempered glass lid makes checking on your roast easy

Cons

  • Turning mechanism quickly gets too hot to touch

Without the see through functionality, you would have to open the lid when observing the beans, allowing heat to escape the popper. Having a tempered glass lid can also make your roasts more consistent.

The Verdict

Personally, my choice for the best popcorn popper coffee roaster would be the Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper – especially as you can pick (if you’re worried about oxidation) between aluminum and stainless steel.

I’ll really only need one popcorn/coffee maker for the rest of my life, and it’s the most dependable one I could find.

Best Overall
Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper - Metal Gear
$41.61 ($41.61 / Count)
SEE NOW ON AMAZON
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you. July 9, 2020 6:22 pm UTC

Roasting coffee may be more taxing on aluminum than popcorn is, so the durability of stainless steel could help with its longevity but this will impact heat distribution. 

But maybe you already have, say, a hot air popper lying around at home. Could you use that to roast your coffee instead?

Buying Guide: Not All Popcorn Poppers Are Created Equal

You might be wondering if that hot air popper would work just the same. The hot air popcorn popper is another possible alternative to roasters for coffee roasting.

The hot air popper roasts the coffee beans more slowly than through the direct heating of a stovetop.

Ideally, this would allow the beans to roast more evenly. But the problem with the new models of the hot air popper is that usually, it doesn’t get hot enough to roast the coffee beans. 

So if you’re going to buy a hot air popcorn popper to roast coffee in, I would suggest looking for an older model to use.

Like the hot air popcorn popper, the temperature setting that the electric popper comes with is usually too low for coffee roasting.

Like I mentioned earlier, the microwave popcorn popper isn’t a recommended alternative either. This popper cannot heat coffee beans evenly. To be fair, there aren’t many things that heat up in the microwave evenly.

This is why an aluminum stovetop popcorn popper is the best popcorn popper for roasting coffee.

Stovetop Poppers for the win

This is why the stovetop popcorn popper is the best popcorn popper for roasting coffee on a tight budget.

First, the stove helps you achieve the level of heat you need for your coffee beans to roast and not just bake. The popper, usually made of stainless steel or aluminum, lets the beans heat up quickly.

Remember, when I mentioned that coffee beans needed to be agitated, which is just another term for stirred during the roasting process? This process helps ensure that the beans are roasted evenly.

Stovetop popcorn poppers have stirring mechanisms that do precisely that. Stirring or turning is a vital feature in any roaster, and luckily this comes as standard with many stovetop poppers.

So even if you’re a coffee lover like me, it doesn’t make much sense to purchase an expensive roaster to roast some coffee. You don’t need one, just like you don’t need a sous vide machine because you love eating steak (well need and desire are different right?).

I’ve tasted some fantastic coffee from beans roasted inside a stovetop popper, and it’s a great alternative to owning an expensive roaster. 

Although an old model of the air popper can sometimes do the trick, stovetop poppers are still the best popcorn poppers for roasting coffee.

Now we can live like kings and roast our own coffee. Ask me how.

What You Need to Know About Roasting Coffee

Make no mistake. The coffee roasting process, like popping popcorn, is no simple affair if you want to do it well. And if you’ve made it this far, you probably do.

Here’s what you need to know so you can roast a batch of great-tasting coffee.

What Beans to Use

The main (and lone) ingredient in roasting coffee is green coffee beans—fun but-not-surprising fact: green beans only turn brown throughout the roasting process.

Good quality green beans come from high-quality plants. But the coffee plant’s climate, altitude, humidity, and of course, parents (among other factors) all play an essential role in determining the green coffee bean’s resulting aroma and flavor.

So what is roasting even for?

Let’s think in terms of steak. You have your premium cuts and your less desirable cuts. If you eat meat, you know that if you buy a side cut, a common practice is to cook it well done. You get less of the natural flavor, and more of the “burnt” taste.

When the meat is from a premium cut, you have the option of cooking it less. Here, natural flavor is your friend, and you are trying to highlight it rather than “complement” it with the burnt taste.

Roasting coffee beans is not so different.

For lower quality coffee beans, baristas usually prefer going with darker roasts. The higher the beans’ quality, the more you can afford to roast them lightly and fuse the oils in the coffee.

After all, why highlight the bean’s flavors unless you think they’re worth highlighting?

The home roasting process

This is an essential factor in determining whether you’re going to roast your own coffee beans at home. How difficult is it to do in a popcorn popper?

The difference is 5 whole minutes of slight cranking. So is that work you’re willing to put in? Are you ready to switch arms every 30 seconds, 10 times?

If not, you can stop reading. Give up on your home-roasting dreams because this life isn’t for you. But if having slightly more toned arms is something you think you can live with, by all means read on.

What to look out for

Professional roasters have come up with as many as ten stages to look out for when roasting beans. But I think these three are the most essential to take note of for home roasters.

first crack

After a few minutes of putting your coffee beans in the popper, the oils in your bean will start to push outward. Ever wondered why some beans are more oily than others?

After some time, the sugars inside your coffee beans will also start to caramelize. When you begin to hear cracking, this indicates that the heat has caused enough pressure to break through to the bean’s first layer of flavors.

Once a bean undergoes its first crack, that means it’s lightly roasted. Some baristas even choose to stop right before the first crack when using great-quality coffee beans. But that’s not always the case.

Second crack

After a few minutes of putting your coffee beans in the popper, the oils in your bean will start to push outward. Ever wondered why some beans are more oily than others?

After some time, the sugars inside your coffee beans will also start to caramelize. When you begin to hear cracking, this indicates that the heat has caused enough pressure to break through to the bean’s first layer of flavors.

Once a bean undergoes its first crack, that means it’s lightly roasted. Some baristas even choose to stop right before the first crack when using great-quality coffee beans. But that’s not always the case.

Dark Roast

If you keep the beans in the popper, after a few minutes, each bean will undergo a second, more violent crack. This reveals yet another layer of flavors in the coffee.

But remember: not all flavors go together.

You will find that some coffee beans taste better, with only the flavors from the first layer revealed. A common type of light roast is when the beans are taken out right in between the first crack and the second crack.

But some people want their coffee “strong”, not flavorful.

how to get good at roasting

If you want to be able to properly experiment and be consistent (once you know what you like) with the flavors of your coffee beans, you’ll want to record both your observations and your progress.

Like I said, it’s just as much a science as it is an art.

The time it takes to get to the first crack. Then there’s the time between the first and second crack. Accompany this with changes in color. The time it takes for those changes in color to occur. All this information is valuable if you want to get the most of the flavors you want out of your coffee beans.

Now all you have to do is get your popcorn (equipment) ready.

How to Use Your Popcorn Popper for Roasting Coffee

Materials:

  • Popcorn popper
  • Stovetop
  • Green coffee beans
  • Laser thermometer (optional)
  • Metal colander or baking sheet

Step-by-step:

  1. Set up your popcorn popper, preferably somewhere outdoors. This is just a precaution as roasting coffee tends to be smoky. If you don’t have an outdoor burner, roast under your range hood and crack open your windows.
  2. Pre-heat your popcorn popper for 5 to 10 minutes. Light roasts require a lower temperature, and dark roasts require a higher temperature. For consistent quality, I suggest using a laser thermometer to monitor the temperature of the popper. 
  3. Measure how much coffee you want to roast. Coffee beans can lose 15 to 20% of their weight during roasting. Do the maths accordingly if you’re want to be precise.
  4. Load the green beans into your popcorn popper. Make sure to learn how your popcorn popper works before using it. It may not be expensive, but it’s worth doing so for safety reasons.
  5. Switch on your popcorn popper, and get cranking! Switch hands every 30 seconds so one arm doesn’t get bigger than the other (optional).
  6. Roast your coffee. Observe them and wait until you feel like they’re ready. This will vary as you gain more experience. Again, track your progress. Observe and identify smells, sounds, changes in color, and everything in between. The better you get at roasting, the more fun it becomes.
  7. Dump all of the coffee beans into your colander or baking sheet, and shake. Do this so you can cool your newly roasted coffee down and prepare it for storage.
  8. Store the beans in airtight containers. As soon as the beans are done roasting and have cooled, they begin a process called “degassing.” 

Oh No, a New Word! This Deserves a Heading

Just kidding. All you need to know is that right after being roasted. Beans are very gassy. While they’re still too gassy, it’s difficult to extract their full flavor from them. Degassing can take anywhere between three days and two weeks, depending on the beans you’re using.

That being said, how do you know how long to degas your beans?

Experiment with it yourself! Like I’ve mentioned, coffee is both a science and an art. It’s an exercise in both creativity and discovery, and a world I don’t think I’ll ever get to explore enough of.

Get Crackin’

It doesn’t matter which popcorn popper you end up deciding to buy.

Popcorn poppers had initially allowed me to venture into the world of coffee roasting without considering it an investment.

The Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper for me is the best popcorn popper for roasting coffee, but like I said, any stovetop popper will do. As long as it gets hot enough, you can agitate the beans while roasting and is not so expensive. You can use it to roast your own coffee at home.

If you feel like doing so, I highly encourage it. Roasting and brewing your own beans is every bit as fun and rewarding as it sounds.

Miguel Papa

Miguel Papa

Barista and coffee writer

Miguel Papa is a coffee fanatic with a passion for brewing. During the weekdays, you can find him experimenting with different drinks while he works as a barista. Otherwise, he’s likely writing here for Sip Coffee or enjoying the outdoors.

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