Popper is a Coffee Roaster: Information and FAQ page

A review of a new home coffee roaster called Popper; moderately priced, manually controlled.

We are excited to launch a new home roaster that offers roast control at a moderate price. It’s a great option for those who what to upgrade from air popcorn poppers, those who want to try coffee roasting for the first time, and some experienced folks who want a simple, intuitive way to roast their coffee.

Popper, as the name makes pretty clear, is based on the hot air popcorn poppers so many people use to roast coffee. Unlike those popcorn appliances, Popper allows user-control of the heat level, fan speed (just high and low really) and the roast time. These can all be fluidly adjusted during the roast cycle. (And in case you are wondering … Popper can pop corn too, not that you would want to!)

The capacity is 100 grams, which equals 3.5 ounces or 3/4 cup by volume. (In some situations, and with some big bean coffees, 90 gr is better). You can check out Popper on Sweet Maria’s shopping site

Popper Coffee Roaster Front View

Not high tech … but easy to operate and user friendly

Popper has no automated roast cycles, beyond a default 7:00 roast and 3:00 cool. You, the user, can “profile” the heat curve and set roast parameters using the front control knobs. But nothing is “preset” for you. If you want a roaster that saves programs, has automated roast curves, or connects to your phone app, Popper is not for you.

Turn on the Popper and you see 0:00 on the timer and a green light – the Off position. When you start a roast batch, the maximum time allowed will read 10:00 on the digital count-down timer. But that is not 10:00 of roast time. The final 3:00 on the timer is the cooling cycle. During the roast the light is red, and when the timer reaches 3:00 it turns blue for cooling. So yeah, you gotta do a little math: 5:00 on the timer clock means you have 2:00 more of roasting and then 3:00 of cooling. You can handle it!

The nice thing here is, unlike some other roasters, you can use the time dial to add and subtract roast time during the roast whenever you want. Even if Popper goes into cooling mode, just turn the dial above 3:00 and you can roast more.

In other words, Popper is pretty intuitive for you to control. It’s not high tech but -pretty ok in terms of human tech. And we still think humans controlling and making decisions about the roast process is the best way.

A Quick 2:00 Popper Roast Run-through

Popper is a coffee roaster, a quick 2:00 video run though
Want to see Popper roasting in more depth? See our 2 Part Popper Roast Demo Video.

Popper Quick Start Guide and Safe Use Instructions

Popper comes with some printed guides to get you started and offer safe use advice. Here are some image highlights, and the full PDFs are linked below-

Popper PDFs

These come with the machine, but here are printable PDF versions in case you misplace them

A Quick Note on Agitation!

Not emotional agitation, nor political agitation … we’re talking green coffee agitation. In air roasting it is really important that your coffee moves, right from the get-go. Here is a quick clip showing good agitation versus more “marginal agitation”. I would make sure your coffee is moving no slower than the “marginal” example here. But even if you need to back off your roast weight by 5-10 grams, it’s best if it looks like the “good” example!

Examples of green coffee movement in Popper. The right is excellent movement. The left is okay, but ideally it moves a bit more rapidly than that. If it is moving less than the example on the left, or not at all, STOP the roast and take green coffee out so it moves more rapidly!

Popper Coffee Roaster Pros and Cons

Popper Pros:

  • Moderate price compared to other home roasters
  • Even roasting in a hot air stream
  • Simple controls to adjust heat level and fan speed
  • Flexible control of roast time, allowing you to add time easily
  • Decent visibility of the roast in progress
  • Best for light and medium roast levels, City to Full City+

Popper Cons:

  • Air roasters are not that quiet.
  • 100 gram batch limitation. Some people get better results with 90g!
  • No automated programs, no saving of roast profiles
  • Not a “set it and forget it” machine
  • Not the best option if you only want dark, dark roasts
  • Not for use with extension cords.
  • Best on newer circuits with actual 118-120 volts.

Popper is a Coffee Roaster -Image Gallery

Popper FAQ – Your Questions Answered…

What is the electrical rating of the Popper coffee roaster?

The Popper is 1200 watts. The heating element is 1150 watts and the fan is 50 watts. The fan is DC, while the element is AC.

Popper is UL listed for safety.

What are the dimensions of the popper

7.5 inches deep x 7.5 inches wide x 15.75 inches tall. The base is 12″ tall. It is larger than typical air popcorn poppers. This is to make it stable and accommodate the increased height of the roast chamber.

How much green coffee can you roast in a batch with Popper coffee roaster ?

Popper batch size 100 grams cup measure

We recommend 100 grams (3.5 ounces). In some cases you might want to reduce this to 90 or 95 grams, if the green coffee is not moving sufficiently when you start the roast. You can always check whether there is too much coffee loaded in the roaster by running it in cooling mode a few seconds. Fan speed in cooling mode is same as fan speed on High during roasting.

Our experience is that after a few batches, you will see a new machine start to rotate 100 grams easier. In fact we have had units where we can increase the batch size because of this. I think it’s due to some “seasoning” of the roast chamber surface after a few batches that makes it “slicker”, but I am not really sure!

OOPS: In our printed instructions we say you might roast up to 140 grams. That’s likely not the case, but you can roast more that 100 provided that the green coffee is spinning right off the bat when you roast! The 140 grams was from a pre-production unit running on a 123.5 AC volt line. Note that different size beans and coffee density impacts roast batch size. The important thing is that the coffee is rotating in the chamber so it roasts evenly. Also, we notice that when a machine has been used the potential batch size seems to increase slightly, based on how much green coffee it can rotate. We can’t completely explain this though. Here is a video shows good bean movement in Popper.

Can I use an extension cord with Popper?

No, you really shouldn’t. Extension cords aren’t safe with higher wattage appliances, especially thinner gauge indoor type cords. Extension cords can also deliver lower voltage to the Popper so it won’t perform as it should.

Can the Popper roaster be used indoors? How about outdoors?

Yes. In fact it is not intended for outdoor use. But in fact most people will roast on a porch, in a garage or somewhere other than a kitchen. The reason is usually because of the intense smell of roasting (especially darker roasts) and the small bits of chaff can escape the roaster during use. Popper’s chaff basket definitely allows some small bits of chaff through, but unlike a popcorn popper that just blows out the chaff, it does catch 95%+ of it (roughly).

Popper is not intended for outdoors because it should not be exposed to the elements. That’s why roasting on a porch, covered balcony, garage etc seems to be the best place.

What is the warranty on Popper?

The maker (Agnes LLC) offers a 1 year warranty against manufacturer defect, so this includes any failure that occurs do to a bad part (fan, heating element, etc) provided the machine has been used according to the instructions that come with it, and those spelled out in the User Guide / Safe Use Instructions (i.e. not for commercial use etc). The warranty doesn’t cover misuse, dropping it, etc. Contact [email protected] with any issues or questions.

Why aren’t there numbers on the Heat level knob?

Front Panel Explained - Popper Coffee Roaster

It might seem like an oversight, but the lack of lines and numbers is intentional. The short answer is that your roast set to “2” for 7 minutes is not like Joe’s across town or Julie who lives in a 1930s apartment or Jack who roast outdoors in the Colorado winter.
Line voltage, voltage drop, environmental temperature – this and other factors makes one roaster different than another, even when all the heat dials are set to 2 or C or Medium.

What I like to do is make my own marks on the heat knob for settings that work for me. We also include a sort of “template” in the printed material with Popper you could use to add a scale to the knob, if you want to.

Anyway, there’s way more to say on this, but we thought it best that YOU create marks on YOUR roaster so they actually mean something to YOU! That is, if you really want marks. I’ll going deep into this in a separate post.

Do I need to weigh the green coffee for each batch?

green coffee volume measurements

Yes you should …but you can roast by volume instead of weight, by using a scoop or other measure of your choice. Green coffee types vary by volume more than weight though, but we find that 100 grams = 3/4 cup = a heaping 1/2 cup measure (as pictured). It is better to use weight measurement for accuracy though.

No matter how you prepare your batches to roast, two things are very important: 1. Don’t roast too much coffee: the coffee should move when you turn on the roaster. If it doesn’t it will scorch. 2. Be consistent with how much you roast. Weigh or measure the exact same amount each time. The green coffee batch size is a big variable in roasting, and your roasts will be inconsistent and unpredictable if you vary the amount of coffee you roast. This video shows good bean movement!

PS: In our printed instructions we say 3/4 cup = 100 grams. It does – a wide heaping 1/2 cup measure as pictured = a level 3/4 cup!

My roasts are too fast with Popper!

It’s entirely possible to roast too fast with this machine. There won’t be anything wrong with the coffee per se but super fast roasts aren’t usually the best tasting. You should not use the highest heat setting ( 3:00 position) generally. In all my testing, with appropriate line voltage, I have never had to use 3:00. In fact even 2:00 can be too fast, at least for the entire roast. But this depends greatly, in the case of air roasters, on what you are plugging it into, where, and ambient conditions. In any case, that’s why Popper gives you control of heat, to start out at 2:00 for example, reduce to 1:00 as coffee yellows, and drop to 12:00 just as first crack starts (and for me that’s been a good roast strategy generally).

What is the Low setting on the fan for?

Low setting doesn’t always come into play when roasting. I do not use it when starting out a batch, as I usually want to be sure the green coffee is rotating initially so it heats evenly in the early stages. You could use Low if you only have 50 grams to roast for example. But that probably won’t be the case often.
Again … to be clear … do not use low setting if it is not moving the coffee adequately, as shown in our video! If the coffee isn’t moving it will burn on the bottom later very, very quickly.

Low fan setting is very useful later in the roast though, for people who want darker roasts, or find their roast has stalled and isn’t progressing. It might seems counterintuitive, but Low fan speed will heat the roast batch to higher temperatures, because less heat is being pushed past the coffee and out of the roaster.

What’s with the name “Popper”?

The idea was to name it what it is, a popper with features. It’s better than GloboCorp TurboRost 5000 (Hmm… wait, that would have been pretty good too!)

The makers of Popper literally sent the best air popcorn poppers to engineers to try to replicate what the old first-generation poppers could do. That’s because the current poppers on the market are pretty weak. And now those old 70s air poppers are selling for $50-60+ on Ebay. The idea was that the home roasting community needed some better material to work with, and something not super high priced. At the top end, there are options these days, but not so much at the affordable level. If you want an app, get an Ikawa!

Can Popper be used without the chaff collector, or without the whole top hood?

Definitely, and if you roast somewhere the chaff can just blow out into the environment, you might prefer that. The advantage is improved visibility of the roast, and you can hear the cracks better too. I also use a long wooden spoon to simply reach down and pull out beans to during roasting!

The drawback on this could be that more heat is escaping the roaster, so roasts are slower, or don’t progress. The hood and chaff collector help to restrict some heat from leaving the machine. I use one unit with just the transparent hood and no chaff basket, and during the roast I remove the top to inspect the roast, and replace it. Works well for me…

Can Popper be used with a glass chimney instead of the top hood and chaff basket?

Definitely, and if that’s the way you have been roasting with a air popcorn popper, I think you will find the same glass chimney fits the Popper roaster too. (Such as the one SM stocks).

Can I add a thermometer to Popper?

Yes it is quite simple to install a thermocouple type thermometer. SM sells a sheathed stainless thermocouple and a digital thermometer that is well suited for this purpose.

Can I pop popcorn in Popper?

Popper can pop popcorn

First things first … yes you can!

Should you? No. Plus switching between coffee roasting an popcorn popping would mean your coffee tastes like popcorn and your popcorn has coffee roasting residue on it! ?

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The timer in the photos has a maximum of 10:00 minutes. Can it go higher?

No, 10:00 is the highest value and it goes to cooling cycle. But that doesn’t mean you can’t roast longer! You simply add time during the roast to extend the roast time. You can surely do 10:00 or 12:00 for example.

The default maximum timer setting is 10:00. So can I do a 10:00+ minute roast?

You can! That initial 10:00 on the timer means 7:00 roast and then 3:00 of cooling. (The count down roast timer always includes those last 3:00 as for cooling).

To roast longer than 7:00, such as 10:00 roast time, you simply add time using the knob once the roast has started, and at least 3:00 has elapsed. You can add time to your roast as often as you want to continue extending it.

If the default roast time is 7:00. Is that a good amount of time to produce a quality roasted coffee?

Yes, when the timer reads 10:00 that means 7:00 roast plus 3:00 cooling cycle at the end. In our experience 7:00 is indeed a good roast time for an air roaster such as Popper, though we have done some really nice extended roasts of 9:00 to 12:00 range. It depends on the coffee and of course, how you adjust the heat along the way.

To be clear, just because 7:00 is the initial roast time, that doesn’t mean we think that’s what you should use all the time. We have done faster roasts that are great, but when roasts finish below 5:00 they start to have a certain taste that doesn’t seem to maximize coffee sweetness. Their can be some green or grainy notes because of the bean interior being roasted much lighter than the outside. It can look fine, but the roast taste isn’t at it’s best. We like the City roasts when first crack starts at 5:30 into the roast (that means 4:30 on the count-down timer!) and then 1:30 of further development. That’s a 7:00 roast in total that works out well. We also like an extended roast with a slower warmup phase, targeting a 7:00 first crack (that would mean 3:00 on the Popper clock, right when cooling kicks in) then extending the roast 1:30 to 2:00 longer for further development.

Why is the clock / timer limited to 10:00? Why does it count down, not up?

First, the 10:00 timer does not mean you cannot roast longer! But to add time to the roast, you can’t exceed 10:00. It was hard to get a design that would pass the engineers approval and UL approval, yet allowed for full manual control of the roast. By that I mean allowing the user to fluidly add time or change the heat and fan levels at any point in the roast. If it had unlimited time, beyond 10:00, someone could add say 30:00 and walk away! The way to make the roaster safe, in case someone forgot they were doing a roast, was to make in count down and shut off. Other roasters have an “unattended roaster” feature (Behmor, Bullet) and if you don’t hit a button, the roaster goes into cooling. When that happens, you can’t save your roast by going back to roasting, like you can with Popper. We had to come up with a safe way around that, but allowing the best user flexibility in a clear and simple manner, and this was it!

Is Popper good for roasting espresso?

Yes, we think it is, and certainly better than air popcorn poppers. We think better espresso profiles are slightly longer roasts where the interior and exterior of the bean are developed more evenly. In fact, brewed coffee can be better when there is some degree of difference from inside of the bean to outside, making for a brighter more dynamic cup. But espresso seems to like more parity between exterior and interior. And the fact is, air roasters generally are not the best for creating that type of parity. But with Popper you can extend the roast in a way that can, so for batches intended for espresso we suggest an extended roast time, slowly developing the coffee through the yellow and brown stages, targeting first crack to start at 7:00 to 8:00 and finishing the roast at 10:00 to 13:00, depending on the roast level you are seeking. Always rest batches for espresso longer than brewed coffee… 48+ hours or more!

I can’t see easily through the roast through the hood…

Overhead light source - Popper coffee roaster

The transparent hood is actually tinted a bit yellow (there was no way around this, it is a special high temperature plastic). Even after a couple roasts it can attract some roast residue that makes seeing through it a bit harder. When it is still warm, wipe it with a soft towel. After roasting you can hand wash it with soap to if you like, but do not use any cleaning pads or abrasives!

To see through the hood, the best way is to use a strong LED overhead light. It is amazing to see how a good directional daylight-balanced source can help you see the roast! I don’t recommend it long term, but a decent phone LED light placed on the hood for a few seconds will give you a good indication how much directed light helps.

Another idea (not for everyone) is to go hoodless. Or my version … leave the hood unclipped when roasting and remove it using the small handle in the rear. Removing the hood will bring down the roast changer temperature a little but it doesn’t have a huge impact on the roast process in a cyclonic air roaster like Popper.

I can’t hear the roast over the sound of the fan!

Popper isn’t the loudest roaster. It’s not the quietest either. I don’t have issues with hearing first or second crack in popper, but we know customers who have trouble with this in other air popcorn poppers. (We had a cool prototype version of it that roasted 140 grams, not just 100 – but the fan speed required to do so was incredibly loud. We couldn’t hear the first crack either! Plus the engineers thought the fan couldn’t take it, over time). I don’t have a solution for this, as all air roasters have an issue with hearing the cracks. But I have found some rooms that reflect more sound make it harder to hear. So location might matter on this issue.

Do you have a question or comment?

Contact us and we will answer it in our FAQ!

I was roasting and heard the fan sound change a little, and the roast stopped progressing. What is that?

Popper has a thermal cut out switch. If the roast chamber temperature gets too hot, this could kick in. It cuts out the heat to the electric coil temporarily until the roast chamber temperature comes down. This can take 20-30 seconds. You can avoid this in your roasts by slowing down the roast process. Don’t roast at high temperatures too fast (which isn’t a great roast technique anyway) and the thermal cutout switch should not be an issue.

If it continues to be a problem there is a fairly easy way to re-position the sensor, but this involves opening up the machine so we can’t recommend it.

My roasts are too slow!

There are a few ways to speed up roasts, most obviously to increase the setting on the heat knob. But you can also see an increase in roast chamber heat by changing the fan speed setting from High to Low. This increases the heat because less hot air is being blown past the coffee and out of the roaster. But we prefer only to do this later in the roast when the beans have lost weight and are moving freely. Low fan speed at the start of a roast will usually not agitate the green coffee effectively.

If your roasts are too slow or aren’t getting dark, it might because of low electric line voltage to the machine. Don’t use extension cords! And try another outlet closer to your electric panel / fuse box.

It also might be due to cold ambient temperatures. There is a big impact on roasting if the air drawn into the machine is frigid. Some ways to address roasting in the cold are to use an open-sided box around the machine so it draws in warmer recirculated air. But be fire safe if doing this!

Is it possible to roast TOO FAST in Popper?

Yes, it definitely is. I see the main feature of Popper as the fact you can take the air popcorn popper type roast and slow it down with the basic controls Popper offers. But in order for Popper to work well, it also had to have the heating properties to roast fast. If it was just super under-powered and forced you to roast slow, that wouldn’t be good.

When we say “too fast” in an air roast like Popper, I would define that as 3:00 to 4:00 roast time. Air popcorn poppers are often known to roast that fast, and Popper can too, depending on the settings you choose and the coffee load you put in. It’s up to you to control the roast from progressing too fast. I address this quite a bit in the longer 2-part Popper roast videos I made.

Can I set the roaster temperature and time and walk away?

You should never, ever walk away from a coffee roaster while it’s in use. Coffee roasting in its essence is drying out a woody plant material and bringing it to the brink of fire. No commercial / professional roaster ever leaves a roasting machine unattended, and you shouldn’t either! While the beginning stages of a roast can progress slowly, called the drying phase, things happen very fast at the end of a roast: each 10 seconds that elapses can produce a different taste result. You need to be there for it!

Can I start a new roast as soon as the previous one cools down?

You can do so, but it will produce less consistent results, and could cause more wear to the machine. It is best to allow the machine to cool an additional 5-10 minutes between each batch, after the cooling cycle ends, and before starting the next batch. This is better for the machine and it means each of your batches will be have a more similar starting temperature, thus more consistent results.

Also, Popper is intended for home use, and to produce a personal supply of coffee. The warranty doesn’t cover you otherwise.

Is Popper a good machine for dark roasting?

Popper is better for light to medium roast levels, City to Full City. It is great for espresso too, but not for that ashy dark oily type of coffee.

Full French and Italian roast levels are not really easy to attain in home roasting appliances generally, because when you roast to those levels you are very close to incinerating coffee. (Perhaps roasting in a iron skillet outside, or roasting on a barbeque in a drum is best suited for that type of roasting.)

My roast curve for espresso and darker roasts in Popper is simple. (I prefer just entering 2nd crack and stopping- the coffee will show some surface oils after 1-2 days rest).

I start my roast at 1:30 on the heat dial and High fan speed (always use High fan to start your roast!).

When the coffee is into first crack, I start to lower the heat down to 1:00 or 12:30, and I also change the Fan speed to Low. I check that the coffee is agitating well. For this profile I am usually targeting about a 8.5 or 9 minute roast, so I am adding 1:30 to 2:00 minutes to the timer.

This allows for a really nice gentle approach to the start of 2nd crack and does not trigger Poppers thermal safety cut-off. It’s a better roast for flavor quality! (If you do use Low fan speed in the roast, remember to turn it back to high for cooling.)

I notice when setting the heat level, the increase as I turn the knob doesn’t seem to be linear. For example the change from 1:00 to 1:15 on the heat knob isn’t the same as 1:45 to 2:00?

Any electric heat control (that we know of) isn’t going to be perfectly linear in terms of the resulting heat change. We need to map out the Popper heat adjustment on the final version, because we too notice some ranges that have increased impact and ones that have less. Another way to say this is that, for each degree of change in turning the knob, it’s not like the heat increases at a constant rate, such as 10 degrees turn = 20 degrees farenheit increase in burner temperature.

In a way this is another reason we did not include marks or numbers on the knob, and feel it’s better if people mark it themselves (I used a dry erase initially and then marked with a black sharpie to record settings on the knob I liked for warmup and finish roast stages. The black sharpie on black can be seen in the light, but isn’t too obvious.) Anyway, number or marks would infer that each change from 1 to 2 or from 6 to 7 would have the same impact on burner output, and that wouldn’t be true for Popper, nor is it for any electrical heat appliance!

Perhaps this is part of the reason some cooks like gas stovetops?

Does the chaff building up in the basket impact the roast?

During a single roast the buildup of chaff doesn’t seem to impact air flow. We checked this with an anemometer to measure air flow and could not see a difference. Between roasts always empty the chaff basket.

If I want to roast another batch after the prior one cools, what do I need to do?

First: You MUST empty the chaff basket between each roast. The chaff basket is only intended to hold the chaff that comes off one batch of 100 grams. Second: You should allow additional time for the machine to cool before starting your next batch. This helps your roast-to-roast consistency, and is also good for the roaster. We recommend 10 minutes between batches, or 5 minutes if you also run an additional cool cycle with the roaster empty.

I am starting a small coffee business. Can I use Popper to roast and sell coffee?

Popper is not intended for commercial purposes. So you can use it that way but it voids the warranty … plus the 100 gram capacity is going to make it challenging to roast coffee for others. It’s made to just supply you and your household with coffee!

Neal asked, “I was just wondering if you’ve done any stress or endurance testing with it. I know nothing lasts forever and each model may vary, but I’m just wondering how much the estimated lifespan is expected to be?

For example, I’m likely going to be roasting three 100g standard length batches per week in mine. 2x on the weekends with 15-20 minutes between and a supplemental batch midweek. Is a two year life on the roaster probably a safe bet or a stretch goal?

Thanks for this question Neal! The short answer is no, the final production machine it has not been truly stress tested. 

Here’s some better news though … I have been testing this design for about 1.5 years now, and through many prototypes. We had some snags right at the end which led me to test 6 units pretty exhaustively for about 100 roasts, and those were basically made from the final production components. On top of that I hired a company called ITS that’s independent but has full factory access: They pulled random units and quality tested them pretty extensively, which was about 5% of the production. They were looking for assembly flaws and ran roast tests etc. Not stress testing but definitely helped to keep the factory on their toes for QC ! Anyway I feel the design is really sound, and has been proven for years in air poppers, which this factory also makes. The part I fear most for failure in time is the fan, but we chose a better quality part at the beginning of the project to address that.

Anyway, just some thoughts. I feel 2+ years of that kind of usage is very reasonable to expect. I think it will be much more… Popper is based off such a long-standing design, but has upgraded components versus any other modern day popcorn popper. So I expect much better long term durability than those machines…

I was roasting for a long time at high heat and Popper just turned off completely!

Yes, that can occur. There is a safety feature to prevent a fire that results in total shutdown. It’s as if the machine completely loses power or is unplugged. I have only been able to trigger this during high heat testing with no coffee in the roast chamber, and extending the roast for 20 minutes. If you have triggered this feature, you are likely using the machine in a way that is not safe or not necessary to produce a good roast. So please email us about the circumstances and we can advise you on your roasting technique.

The good news is your machine is fine. Unplug the machine. Dump out coffee of chaff safely. Let it cool down completely, to room temperature. Plug it back in, and it should power on just fine. But please think about not doing whatever you did to trigger this safety function!

I was trying to roast dark and the temperature stopped rising, and the roast seemed to stall?

You hit the 465 temperature mark which is an overheating protection. This happens mostly with long roasts that are aiming for a dark level, but can also happen with roasts that are very short and too fast. (That’s why I don’t use the max heat level at the 3:00 position as it tends to trigger the overheat protection). To avoid this, roast more gradually at a moderate dial setting, which is the best way to get a good quality roast anyway.

You can also roast your initial warmup, until the coffee is light brown and starts first crack, using a heat setting of 1:30 to 2:00 or so, and the fan on High (always start roasts with fan on High to move the coffee!) This is good for an even roast that is not too fast. Then without changing the heat level, and now that the coffee has lost some of it’s water weight, change the fan speed to Low. Make sure the coffee is still moving well. Low fan setting, used in this way, increases the heat in the roast chamber and helps your roast get darker, without an adjustment to the heat setting.

My roast curve for espresso and darker roasts is simple. (I prefer just entering 2nd crack and stopping- the coffee will show some surface oils after 1-2 days rest). I start my roast at 1:30 on the heat dial and High fan speed (always use High fan to start your roast!). When the coffee is into first crack, I start to lower the heat down to 1:00 or 12:30, and I also change the Fan speed to Low. I check that the coffee is agitating well. For this profile I am usually targeting about a 8.5 or 9 minute roast, so I am adding 1:30 to 2:00 minutes to the timer. This allows for a really nice gentle approach to the start of 2nd crack and does not trigger Poppers thermal safety cut-off. It’s a better roast for flavor quality! (If you do use Low fan speed in the roast, remember to turn it back to high for cooling.)

Can I modify the popper to control the heat source by computer?

Probably, but you do void the warranty by opening up the machine. People have modified air popcorn poppers to be controlled with Artisan software via Phidget or Arduino. There’s a lot of that discussion on homeroasters.org

Is there an app I can use to control the roaster?

Maybe. Let us know if you find one.

Where is Popper for sale now? You can check out Popper on Sweet Maria’s shopping site .

27 Responses

    1. The hood is the main part we wanted to have spares of but our first shipment did not include spares. With popcorn poppers used as coffee roasters, the hood often is an issue, and warps or even completely melts. Thats because they aren’t made for the sustained heat of coffee roasting. This hood is designed for coffee roasting though, so it can take the heat without warping etc… just FYI

  1. WOW! A controllable popcorn popper for roasting coffee. I’ve been home roasting for over 20 years now and would’ve loved to have this back in the day. Roasting with the old poppers was a labor of love that lead to a welcome divorce when I got my first Behmor Drum Roaster. I’m so excited to rekindle that love and receive my first controllable popper. The novelty air roaster worthy of showing off. Thank you.

    1. Thanks – yes in a way it’s a very basic roaster. Nothing new here. But it takes something that has proven to work, air popper roasting, and hopefully fixes the issue with unmodified air poppers. That is, they usually roast too fast, and there’s no great way to control them.

  2. I’ve now done several roasts with the Popper and give it a big thumbs up. Being able to adjust the heat is a big improvement over my old poppers as ambient air temperature in my roasting area can fluctuate a lot. I also think the purchase price is very fair. Wish this product had been available years ago.

    1. Glad to hear it’s working well Jim. I do think it fits a niche at a fair price. Manually extending roasts really opens up possibilities over poppers too. Thanks again

  3. Thank you for this awesome product, you gave me my hobby back! In the three weeks since unboxing this beast I have 48 roasts under my belt and a big smile on my face. I haven’t had this much fun roasting coffee in many years. Roasting with a popper is like riding a bike, but this one beats the heck out of the one I had as a kid!

    1. awesome! the bike analogy is great. I think you can develop a feel for roasting with this machine, and go from there, a lot like a bike…

      Since you did so many roasts already, I am curious what your batch size is. 100 grams? my experience (that i cannot explain honestly) is that my first roasts on a new machine might move 100 grams slowly, but it seems to rotate 100 grams easier after 5-10 roasts. I am just wondering if anyone else is seeing that. Or am i crazy?

    2. I do use precisely 100g each roast, that has been my one constant. I’ve drawn a blue line at about 1:30PM and a red line at about 2:30PM and pretty much stay in that heat range, usually beginning a roast with 1 minute to 1:40 at low fan speed to quickly heat the beans before increasing the fan speed to high (depending on density and intended roast level, etc). The beans are a little “hesitant” for most of the first minute (yet they move enough so that I haven’t seen any tipping or uneven roasting) but they move around more and more as the roast progresses. Before my first roast I tried 85 to 105 grams to see how much agitation there was at each weight, but I went with 100g based on your recommendation and the fact that there was some bean movement, and I figured it would probably increase pretty quickly as water weight was lost and the density started dropping.
      I really do love that chaff collector and cover assembly, that is genius! I always remove it as soon as I switch to cool cycle and run the full 3 minutes of cooling to keep things from getting heat damage ( I’m pretty sure the Fresh Roast machine I burned out in 2004 or so died due to lack of cooling cycle time).

  4. I really like having this basic level of control and chaff management in a low cost roaster. I do recommend purchasing an electricity usage monitor since there appears to be 6 levels of heat on mine. With that in mind, it would been nice if the heat knob had positive engagement points like the fan knob versus the infinite adjustment.

    1. I have been trying to map out the heat profile and share that in some meaningful way, too. What I have noticed just from measuring temperature change in increments I set on the knob is that from 9:00 position to 12:00 on the dial it seems to have 2 distinct heat levels, and after that appears to be more of a gradient. I really want to get this nailed down, as well as looking at the power shift related to this (easier to measure but less useful for people i think). Anyway your idea of the click-set knob is well noted. If in fact there is not a true gradient, and it is as you say distinct levels, I think that a click knob would be much better!

  5. Over the last 15 years of home roasting about once a week, occasionally less, I’ve burned through 4 West Bend Poppery II roasters. I’ve learned to do couple of mods along the way, ones that are addressed with Popper. When my current roaster gives up the ghost this appears to be a solid replacement plan. I’ll only slightly miss the DIY aspect of modding the West Bend.

    1. I feel like the Popper really keeps with the spirit of the modified poppers, and since it’s still a very manual process (no pre-programs) the results are really up to you. Then again. Frankenstein-ed poppers are just cool!

  6. I didn’t think this comment would wind up so long, but I guess I wanted to kind of review some of the benefits and unique quirks of Popper after I got a few roasts under my belt. Hopefully this is useful for folks thinking about trying this device.

    After about a month of use 3-5 times per week, Popper has found a permanent place in my roasting equipment area! Granted, I am not a pro-roaster and am the only person in my house who drinks coffee so my needs won’t match larger or more experienced households. It’s use profile is a little bit specific and niche, but the price and features open up the hobby to folks who might not otherwise get started.

    I have had really great success roasting light city to city+ roasts and a few full city to full city+ espresso roasts as well. But there is a learning curve, and I’ve had batches that came out looking and smelling amazing but tasted flat in the cup. It’s part of the learning curve for roasting and the particulars of both this device as a whole and the user’s specific unit.

    For example, I can only roast 90-95g per batch in mine (even with lighter peaberry beans), and the temperature control is a little bit finicky; Sweet Maria’s documentation suggests starting the heat at the 2 o’clock position, but if I do that my roasts hit full first crack at ~3 minutes. I have found that my device really needs to be closer to “12:30-1:00” to hit the suggested 4m30s first crack for a brew coffee profile. But then if I go down to noon on the dial I don’t hit first crack until about 7m into the roast. I find this low and slow useful for darker espresso roasts, but will need to do a lot more batches to really dial in the brightness I look for with brewed coffee. I found I have to do everything bean-temp wise with the heat control since the low fan setting barely agitates the beans until they’re nearly done roasting (when I want/need to dial back heat inputs rather than increase temps). I probably won’t ever do 50g batches, but that’s probably the only time low fan would be useful to me.

    While having something plug and play out of the box with prescribed steps for specific profiles would be really nice, I have to remind myself that Popper is under 100 bucks and there’s no world where I want to try and hook it up to Artisan. I am really enjoying the act of experimenting around with it to see what happens as I adjust variables. The smaller batch sizes do increase the need for keeping detailed notes, and I’ve found wide mouth 1/2 pint mason jars to be the ideal batch storage solution (bonus points that I can manage the off-gassing phase with silicone fermentation lids that limit oxygen intake).

    Overall, this is a huge step up from an unmodified air popper that offers a lot more control than heat gun/bread machine setups and keeps some of the DIY flavor of home roasters alive without requiring folks to become small manufacturers/machinists/have a bunch of tools and experience. While I think it’s potentially a key stepping stone to hobby drum roasters or Behmor type devices, it can also stand alone as its own unit either for test batches or just personal use.

    Some other observations: the small footprint is awesome as I live in an apartment with limited space. I choose to roast inside to keep ambient temp as consistent as possible (and also because apartment) and have no issues with either chaff cleanup or my building’s excessively sensitive smoke alarm system (don’t even think about searing in a pan in this building!). Whatever chaff escapes from the mask is easily vacuumed while I wait for Popper to cool between batches, and a 20 year old range fan has no problem distributing the smoke. That may not be the case if I took stuff all the way through/past second crack, but since I would never do that intentionally it’s not an issue. A penlight with an inspection beam is a nearly perfect tool for roast observation through the hood. I’m hoping folks will eventually start sharing roast profiles they develop with Popper and/or we see Tom and the SM crew make some recipe posts to get more inspiration.

    1. Hi Neal – Thanks a lot for the honest, detailed review of Popper. I definitely agree with your findings, and while it is a step up from an air popcorn popper, it definitely isn’t all things to all people. It has limitations. But as you say its reasonably priced and can achieve some good roast with decent control. I am sorry to hear you aren’t getting 100 gram roasts. We tried to test this on as many different ways we could to see what was a reasonable claim with batch size. I was using a “kill-a-watt” to check line voltage and drop in different settings while running the Popper, and 100 gr seemed to work across the board – though I have a circuit that measures 118 and it was slower agitation initially for sure. At our warehouse it is mostly 122v or so, and new wiring.
      One thing I have been doing the past week is trying to “map out” the heat setting in terms of how adjustments change roast chamber temperature. I knew it wasn’t going to be linear exactly, and while it seemed to increase in distinct stages, I was finding that above 12:00 that didn’t seem to be the case. Another person suggested that the heat knob, if it was actually not a continuous gradient of heat increase but rather different stages or steps, why not make it have click settings? I am looking into that too…
      I have 2 thoughts related to this thing you point out where, set to 12:30-1, you have slow progress to first crack, whereas 2:00 gets there very fast. One the one hand, I do admit that 2:00 is a bit high and will roast fast. But I had to err on that side, rather than recommend 12 or 1:00 for the first roast. Imagine someone who never roasted, they set it to 12:00 and the roast just doesnt progress hit first crack by 7:00 and the roaster goes to cooling. They will think the roaster just doesnt work or the coffee is bad! An experienced roaster would know what is going on but not a newbie.
      But the bigger issue here is kinda fundamental to air roasting. And frustrating too. There are these complex thresholds with air flow, the resistance the bean mass provides, and the degree to which the airstream is heated, and heat is retained or lost… it leads to these roast experiences where a small adjustment on one side or another of any of these variables leads to the roast stalling or progressing. The roast rate is hard to control in some way, though not at all as difficult as an unmodified air popper. But i am not sure this roast conundrum is something that can be solved technically. I can imagine how, but it would be pretty crazy and expensive. In lieu of that the judgement of a human operating the system, and the benefit of taking pains to weigh batches, goes a long way toward more predictable roast results.
      Anyway thanks again – your post will be very useful to people I think, and is great feedback for me / us too!

    2. Thanks Tom! While I think there’s a few fiddly things that I highlighted and you’ve addressed, I also think that anyone who is roasting their own coffee at home is probably enjoying the heck out of those fiddly things and that’s part of the appeal! At it’s core, Popper is fun and gives nearly direct feedback as the user makes adjustments.

      I think some things I highlighted are probably situational. While I am plugging Popper into a 20amp circuit, it’s still wired into a 20+ year old apartment kitchen (and I don’t have a voltage meter or kill-a-watt to test, but I imagine I’m getting some drop).

      And I do agree that if it were possible to have indexed heat settings that would be ideal, it’s probably not all that crucial (at least for me). I think you even said in one of the youtube demos that each roaster may have slightly different heat characteristics. Add in all the environmental and bean variables, and it just means there’s a minor learning curve for folks as they build their skills/familiarity.

  7. I’m very much a beginner with roasting, and I used a popcorn popper for a few months before trying out the Popper. I did really like the simplicity and control to allow me to experiment and learn. But sadly, I found the temperature cutoff (which I was not aware the Popper had) to be a deal breaker. At first I didn’t know what was happening, as the fan speed would increase slightly when the heating element cycled off. Using a Kill-a-watt, I saw the wattage drop and realized it must be overheat protection. It was confusing tho, because the machine otherwise stayed on, with the red light on and timer continuing to count down. It was really interfering with my roasts, making it hard to get to second crack, which I sometimes like to do. After hooking up a thermocouple, I found that it consistently started cycling the heat off at about 428deg, which seems way too low. So I have returned it, and I bit the bullet for a Fresh Roast SR540.

    I don’t know if the shutoff is the same on all of the Poppers, or how much it was influenced by me roasting outside with the chaff cover off, but I think you all should make this feature more prominent in the website description. It can really affect the roaster’s abilities, and make for real confusion when it kicks in. I never saw it in the description, it’s kind of buried. Thanks!

    1. Hi Thanks for the feedback on this. The temperature of the thermal cutoff is going to depend on where you measure it etc. It is 465 f measured at the input hot air stream into the roaster, without coffee in the chamber (which would greatly impact the measured temp). To avoid triggering this there are some techniques to use, if it’s an issue. In particular making sure you have a good green coffee load initially, then reducing the air flow using Low fan speed toward first crack. Your feedback here is very helpful and we are going to produce some dark roast-specific material to support people on this. (BTW there is also a very simple adjustment that takes probably 5-10 minutes to allow darker roasting. Its not advised to have customers open up their own roasters but we can do this for you if need be. There is also some info on it on the “popper is a coffee roaster” you tube and web site.

  8. After roasting on the Popper for about a month, I’m really enjoying both the Popper and the act of roasting. I’ve been thinking about trying home roasting for a while, but the cost outlay and my own limitations (more on that later) made me hesitate. The low barrier to entry and the informative (and honest!) intro videos you put out sealed the deal.

    I’m colorblind, and roasting had always seemed intimidating because of the dependence on sampling and judging incremental shades of brown that I would not be able to do. So after watching the videos, several times, my goal was to make it as repeatable as possible. First to mod, I needed a way to repeatably dial the heat so I printed a dial indicator and painted a line on the knob. Next I’m keeping copious notes, I mean spreadsheet-level, with heat, fan, and times across all the stages of drop, yellowing, Maillard, 1C, and all the adjustments along the way. And because I can’t accurately stop based on color, I’m varying development time and recording percent weight drop. This is then used with a V60 or cupping to tell me what roast level I reached. I can now hit a reliable med roast and I’m working out the timing for light that’s not too light (so far it’s been less city and more suburb+)

    One thing I’ve noticed is that keeping to the exact same settings, sometimes subsequent roasts (after the requisite 10 min cool down) will take much longer in a stage, like the Maillard phase will be a minute longer than before making my weight loss percentages less comparable. I think based on the fan pitch that the thermal cutoff may be activated. Could thermal cutoff be triggered through cumulative heat buildup on back to back roasts? I’m staying within the “sane” heats between noon and 1:30, and only roast to light or medium. I’d be interested in your followup notes on repositioning the sensor.

    Thanks again for putting out such a fun and capable product! And for folks that buy Popper with the sampler pack, stick to 90g roasts as you’ll get almost exactly 5 roasts from each 1 lb bag.

    1. Thanks for the comments and observations Mike – this is great feedback for us. Yes it could be the thermal cut off if you are roasting to second crack. It doesn’t seem by what you are describing it is though … but anyway, I am making a new video about this to show how to avoid the thermal cut out at 465 f, which also happens to be a better roast profile than the type that usually triggers it. Changing to low fan setting in the middle to end of 1st crack while dropping the temperature dial to about 12:30 is a good finishing phase to the roast, allowing it to get darker at a slower rate of rise, and it doesnt seem in any of my roasts to reach that 465 cut off point.

  9. Way better than the pop corn maker! I used the pop corn maker from Amazon for 2-3 times. Every time, the roasting is too quick. FC used to happen within 2 minutes and I got uneven roasting, tipping, scorching, chipping, pretty much all the common detects.

    With popper, The roasting is easy and the result is way better. I really enjoy the coffee I roasted now. The only issue I have so far is the knob for the fan. I did not use the fan knob in my first roasting. In my second time, I tried to get a darker beans, So I switched the fan knob to low at around 6:30. But the fan just stopped. I turn the fan knob back to high immediately and the fan turned on again. I will try again next time to see if I can reproduce this issue. But for the money paid, the popper is a great entry level roaster. Highly recommend.

    1. I’m glad to hear you like it generally , but the problem when you switch to low fan is very strange. We have not encountered that, but we have had a problem where some people turn the Fan knob too much and it then does not align correctly. It’s important not to put too much force on the fan knob – it only has the 3 marked positions, High, Low and Off. But your issues sounds different, and perhaps try to change the setting from high to low as a test, just put a few seconds of roast time on the timer and try switching high to low?

    2. Just tried toady. All good. The fan knob works as expected. I guess I moved the knob into a position between the high and low last time.

  10. I’ve been using the Popper for a few weeks now and really like its ability to roast 100g of coffee with good control of the roast profile, especially with a Taylor digital candy thermometer I inserted through a 5/32″ hole I drilled in the hood directly above the roast chamber…the long probe sits right on top of the swirling beans so I’m guessing it gives a good estimate of the bean mass temperature. 1st crack occurs reliably around 400F and ends around 425F. I haven’t had any problems with the reading head being adversely affected by heat…the hood seems to do a good job of preventing the air above it from getting hot enough to damage the digital readout head of the termometer.

    I’ve roasted just into 2nd crack and have set off the heat limit switch twice so far…but I also note a loud beep-beep that occurs at that time. I haven’t yet read about this beeping so I wonder if this is an additional warning feature built into the Popper?

    Thanks for coming up with this great game-changing popcorn style roaster!

    1. Thanks for your comments! There is not a beeping built in but there is a sound change when the high heat cut off kicks in. Usually you can hear the fan speed increase slightly. We have a new article about roast profile ideas that produce really nice darker roasts as well as avoid the high heat cut off. It’s part of the newer popper article with the chart of temperature and power settings. Also worth calling attention to!

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