Air Roasters: An Overview

Roasting with hot air is a great way to get high quality, even roasts.

Air roasters (or fluid bed roasters) are loved by home coffee roasters. They are great at creating even roasts, have small footprints and most have chaff collection.  All the air roasters we sell come with a free green coffee sample set. Here’s a list of the units we offer so you can do some quick comparing and contrasting.

Nostalgia Electric Popcorn Popper – Somehow, someway, back in the day, someone discovered it was possible to roast coffee with an electric popcorn popper. Lucky you! This means you can roast amazing coffee at home without dropping a lot of cash. We carry a specific model made by Nostalgia because of it’s durability and the design of the roasting (popcorn popping) chamber. It will roast about 3oz batch sizes. Roasting with any popcorn popper is a DIY experience so we put together a few adjustments to add to you popper’s performance. See our resource page for Air Poppers to see the many articles and videos we have about this low cost way to roast coffee!

Fresh Roast SR540 – The SR540 air roaster features 9 heat and fan speed adjustments, a glass roasting chamber that offers great visibility and a chaff collector that makes clean up easy.  It roasts 5oz batches, offers an effective cooling cycle, has intuitive controls and is easy to clean.

Air Roasting Starter Kit – Everything you need to get started air roasting! This kit includes a FreshRoast SR540, an 8lb Green Coffee Sampler, ten 1/4 pound valve bags for storing your roasted coffee, and a Sweet Maria’s Roast Log for recording your roasts.

Fresh Roast SR800 – If you are impressed with the Fresh Roast SR540 but want a larger batch size, check out the SR800. It too, features 9 heat and fan speed adjustments, a large glass roasting chamber and a chaff collector…and it roasts up to half a pound! It’s also a great choice for those wanting more features than what their popper can offer.

Gene Cafe – We’ll feature this hybrid machine in a future post dedicated to drum roasters but felt it deserved a shout out here. Although it  operates like a drum roaster, it uses hot air flow to heat up the beans. Features include an 8oz batch size, chaff collection, intuitive controls and an option to connect a dryer hose for ventilating smoke out of your kitchen.

6 Responses

  1. I purchased the Gene Cafe over a decade ago, maybe it’s been almost 2 now. I was a beginner having never roasted a bean in my life. The Coffee Gene is remarkable, easy to use and a reliable roaster. Other than a heater repair for about 55 bucks and replacing several of the rubber bumpers it has worked flawlessly. Perhaps you may remember me as the buyer that had the roaster ignite in flames, in the kitchen, on a very, very cold Iowa night. My first roast, I couldn’t wait. I remember reading the manual and the part about having a fire extinguisher handy and not to roast in the house. I was so excited to get started roasting that I totally ignored the warning and-WHAT, a fire extinguisher!! Give me a break, no way was I gonna wus out with a fire extinguisher roasting coffee! Well, while roasting and after I set off every smoke alarm in the house, I was running around trying to get all the windows open, smoke was pretty thick too. As I ran to open the front door I glanced over my shoulder and I was horrified to see flames coming out of the chaff collector box. If I remember correctly I ended up with a ‘crazy first time roast +++++ ‘ with overtones of charcoal and burnt toast. But I didn’t burn the house down, another testament to the machine, not the man… Regardless of me being a nitwit on roasting my Gene Cafe has been a great roaster and if the purchase price doesn’t scare you off you’ll never regret buying it.

    1. Great to hear about the long-term longevity of the Gene Caffe … not that it’s without a learning curve as well as some care and repair. I think the design, an air roaster with a mechanical drum, is still brilliant. In fact it is the basis of a commercial roaster too, the Loring

  2. Hi!

    I have an old school Westbend Poppery II. I roast with it multiple times a week. For about 9 months the coffee was turning out fantastic but lately it has had a burnt taste. This burnt taste is strong for all roasts, from light to dark. Is this solved by something as simple as cleaning it? Do you have any tips for solving my burnt tasting beans? Thank you!

    1. Yes, give it a good cleaning, especially if you are seeing a lot of oil buildup. If there haven’t been any changes to your roast profiles, this could be the culprit.

  3. I purchased my Gene Cafe from you about 7 years ago. I had started out with the Fresh Roast units available in 2011. I went through 2 of the Fresh Roast units in about 2 years. In both cases, the heating elements started to die after a year. In my opinion the Fresh Roast systems do not move the beans around enough to roast evenly. The small 1/4 pound batch size and short overall heater lifetime was also annoying.
    The results I have consistently obtained with Gene Cafe are far superior to anything I had accomplished before.
    The key to getting great roasts from the Gene Cafe is attention to detail and patience. I start out at 300º to get 8 oz of beans heated up and any excess moisture eliminated, then slowly advance the temperature setting: 350, 400, 420, 460, and finally to the max, 482. As the internal temperature begins to get close to or within 10º of the heater temperature, I advance to the next heat level. Total roast time for City+ is typically around 15 minutes. This technique produces a very even roast. If you put in on 482 to start with, the innermost part of the bean is not roasted to the same level as the outer parts of the bean and you get a mediocre cup. While you cannot automate this process with the Gene Cafe, it becomes a culinary art ritual that is quite enjoyable in and of itself. In terms of bang-per-buck, the Gene Cafe is the clear winner in my experience. It is true that the beans tend to coast to the next roast level when cooling phase starts, and this needs to be taken in consideration when you decide to hit the “cool” button.

    1. These are some great pointers on the Gene Cafe … I want to try out your method myself! It reminds me how each roaster needs a different approach. In some drum roasters, I start with higher heat and then scale back as it approaches frist crack … but the Gene cafe really needs to opposite!

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