Poppo Air Popcorn Popper FAQ, Tips and Tricks for Coffee Roasting

Poppo can roast 110 grams quickly, evenly … even to darker roast levels. Here’s some tips to get the most out of it!

Here’s Poppo air popcorn popper FAQ for coffee roasting, going over the little tweaks we use when roasting with the Poppo kit. But let’s start with a short 4 minute video which, quickly runs through the main points:

The Poppo Air Popcorn Popper kit for coffee roasting is just $28.50, or $39.50 with a starter green coffee sampler set of 4 coffees!

Poppo Air Popcorn Popper FAQ

  • The Poppo sleeve moves around while roasting coffee. Can I change that?

    Using a soda can tab if the coffee roasting sleeve is moving

    When you place the sleeve in the Poppo chamber, it’s not too important which way it faces. In some units, the sleeve fit is tight, and in others it can be a little loose. (The popper is a low-cost machine, and the spec on the roast chamber can vary slightly.)
    The thing I don’t like about a sleeve that is loose, is when you pour the coffee out at the end of the batch, the sleeve tends to go with it …and the sleeve is dang hot.
    If you prefer the sleeve not to move around, wedge a bit of tin foil, or better yet, a soda can tab between the chamber and the sleeve. It works!

  • Poppo is roasting fast. Can I slow it down?

    Air roasting transfers heat quickly to coffee. By nature it’s a faster roast process than other types.
    Two factors make Poppo roast faster: A high AC power level and your ambient room (or outdoor) temperature.
    Higher voltage means Poppo operates at higher wattage and roasts faster. (Often when you use an outlet closer to your fuse panel, the voltage is higher).
    Higher ambient temperature means the air Poppo takes in through the base heats easier. These things speed up the roast!

  • How does a faster roast impact coffee flavors?

    On many occasions, we have compared the same coffee roasted at different speeds in different machines. I have checked a variety of Poppo roasts ranging from 3 minutes to 5 minutes (and even some roasts I slowed down that were 9 minutes). With the faster roasts, I feel there is a distinctly “tangy” roast taste that is more striking, paired with a higher level of brightness in the cup. Longer drum roasts might be more”balanced” but don’t have the zingy aspect of this particular roast flavor and dynamic brightness. This works well with brewed coffee. But I do think air roasts like this are not ideal for espresso. It’s important to note that you don’t want to slow down air roasts to match those of other machines, like drum roasters. Each type of roaster has a different heat transfer dynamic, and there is not a single ideal roast time or heat profile that is true for all roasters. Out focus is to get the best roast taste from each type of machine, given it’s particular thermal variables. Yep, even for the humble air popcorn popper too!

  • How can I roast at lower wattage to get a longer roast?

    Poppo With Voltage Controller

    AC voltage levels can vary from outlet to outlet, and also during the time of day. More importantly, the drop in voltage when you start the roast can impact the popper heat level. Using a low cost Wattmeter can be informative about the line voltage, voltage drop, and wattage the popper is using. Outlets farther away from your electric fuse panel tend to have lower voltage.
    You can also use a Voltage Controller, a relatively low cost device that lets you “turn down” the voltage. (Tip: I found Poppo runs great at around using 1200 watts at 60 f ambient temperature. at 1300 I find it is a bit fast in roasting).

  • How ELSE can I lower the wattage to get a longer roast?

    Using a 100 foot extension cord to lower wattage to a popcorn popper

    If you look online for tips on roasting coffee in an air popcorn popper, you will see the same DIY trick to slow down the roast: Use a 100′ extension cord!
    While it’s not as slick as using a voltage controller, I’m here to say yes, it truly works.
    If you enlarge the image here, you can see that the watt measurement straight from this outlet versus using a 100′ 16 gauge extension cord is nearly 200 watts higher.
    (Correction from image: It is best NOT to have the extension cord in a reel or bunched up as in the image. It is best spread out, as I am told a spooled extension cord can form an induction coil and actually increase voltage, doing the opposite of what you want).
    Also be aware that outlets closer to your homes electric panel tend to have higher voltage, and that the voltage can vary during the day. All these things impact the consistent results from an air popper, or really any coffee roaster!

  • How does ambient temperature change the roast?

    When using an air popcorn machine, you are drawing in the ambient air from the bottom of the popper. If it’s warm out, this tends to speed up the roast … and if it’s cold it really slows it down a lot! We hear of many people who are “asked to leave” the kitchen / indoors when it’s time to roast coffee by their family members. So they end up on a back porch or garage.
    In the winter this can really stall the roast. You can use this to your advantage though, to roast in a place with cooler air to slow your roast, or find somewhere warmer to speed out up. 
    (To check the impact of ambient temperatures, I roasted 110 grams of coffee outdoors in 50 degrees ambient temperature and had a 7 minute roast. The following day, in the midday sun and 65 degrees I had a 4 minute roast to the same roast level!)

  • What hot air poppers does the Poppo coffee sleeve work with?

    Poppo popping chamber with and with sleeve

    We designed the Poppo coffee sleeve to work with the Poppo popper.
    In theory it could work with other air poppers but they would have to be the same design, and have the same size popping heat chamber. Poppo is also tapered, wider at the top and narrower at the bottom.
    Poppo sleeve does not work with any air popcorn machine that swirls coffee in a circular pattern. The sleeve doesn’t work with the popper type historically recommended (by us too!) for adapting as a coffee roaster.
    It does not work with the Nostalgia popper that we have carried, or West Bend models that swirl the coffee in a circular pattern.

  • The clear hood on the Poppo is discoloring and warping. What can I do?

    Poppo-Top-Bubbling

    Washing the hood and dish between roasts in hot water and soap (no scratchy pads!) Can really help with visibility.
    As for warping, it’s true that the hood will warp over time, as it does with all popcorn poppers used for roasting coffee. Poppo is, sadly, no different. It’s a low cost popcorn popper, and the hood is being exposed to sustained heat beyond what it would when making popcorn.
    This is an expected result of using a popcorn popper for roasting coffee, including Poppo or any other popcorn machine.
    Sweet Maria’s will stock a low cost replacement top soon, but most people start roasting outside without a top, or make a DIY substitute such as a glass chimney hood.

  • How many roasts can I do in a row in Poppo

    It’s entirely possible to do multiple roasts in Poppo in one sitting. BUT it is important to let the popper cool down 10-15 minutes between roasts. There are 2 reasons for this.
    1 . Roasting back-to-back without a cooldown period will shorten the life of the machine.
    2 . Starting a new roast in a hot Poppo popper means it will roast faster, and inconsistently. To get similar roast results, you want to start each roast with the metals roast chamber and internal elements fully cooled.

  • Why should I catch the chaff coming from the machine?

    Poppo Chaff Around Base is Bad

    Chaff is a bit messy, and maybe the main reason people use air poppers somewhere other than their kitchen. In our video we show how you can even adapt the Poppo box to catch the chaff.
    Besides being messy, the reason is that chaff that falls around the base of your popper gets will block the air intake, which is on the bottom of the machine.
    This is true for most air roasters: the chaff can harm the machine and shorten it’s lifespan. So no matter how you control the chaff, don’t let it pile up around the popper base.
    As with all coffee roasters, this is a reason to stay by the machine during operation and monitor the roasting constantly.
    In particular, popcorn machine roasting is very fast, and 10 seconds difference at the end of the roast has a big impact on coffee flavor!

  • How to I add time, temperature and heat control to the Poppo Kit?

    Popper coffee roaster

    You can with a lot of DIY hacks or you might consider the Popper Coffee Roaster for just a few dollars more (or probably less with the cost of the gadgets you need to hack the Poppo!) Popper is $79 and adds a lot of features to control the roast and make it easier.

16 Responses

    1. Color and sound, BUT you need to react fast once you get what you want I am finding- have gotten used to more control with the popper but needed higher heat so trying Poppo which is hotter than my earlier West Bends and Heritages (well one of those was a bit of a torch…). If you are expecting a nice gap before second crack and have non/winter air temps, you may be surprised at how quick the transition is.

    2. I am suprised how much ambient temperature matters. At 65 f daytime I did a roast that had little gap between first and second crack. That evening, 52 f outside and very long clearly defined gap between end of first crack and initial snap of second. Also my voltage and therefore popper wattage tends to be lower in evenings.

  1. Wow, does this thing roast fast. The good news is that the roast is more even, beans puff up much more, and the cracking is much more audible, compared to the Nostalgia (which took forever in the winter here in Boston). The bad news is that it’s very hard to time the drop. One second the beans are quite light, the next they’re dark and starting to smoke. I’ll have to get better with the voltage regulator, lowering the voltage earlier.

    The other disadvantage compared to the Nostalgia is that it doesn’t have a lip to hold onto, and you really have to use the hood (or else beans tend to fly out).

    I’ll repost some experiences when I’ve done a few more batches and have the technique down better.

    1. Yes … slowing down this beast is the focus, vs the nostalgia that is easy to overload, and tends to stall in colder weather. As you can see the page here tries to address reasons the roast can go extra fast, and some ways to slow it down.

    2. Easier said than done. I’ll just have to practice preparing for the drop when the bean are lighter.

  2. Lagging behind Lee, but similar experience re. Heat control and timing. Need to add some darker roasts and the Poppo with replaced fan is not that tool. My education continues

  3. I am wondering if you guys have any tips for light roasting of green beans with Poppo.
    Instead of ambient temperature monitoring to set a timer, relying on crack sound such as “wait for xx seconds after hearing a first few sounds of a group of first crack sounds and then pour roasted coffee into a cold metal container to cut down coffee roasting immediately”

    1. Its a very good question, but hard to give an exact answer in terms of time. Poppo is generally a fast roast process, but it depends on voltage and room or ambient temperature. When I roast at home (where the machine measures 1100 watts on the wattmeter, and roast takes about 6 minutes to City+ roast) I am generally stopping the roast about 1:30 after I hear the first pop of first crack. This is a rough estimate though. When I roast indoors at work, the machine measures 1350 watts, and roast is 4:30 minutes to C+ level. There it is 45 seconds from start of first crack until I stop it. One thing I will say (and wanted to make a video about this too) is for light roasts, I generally and stopping the roast a bit before 1st crack would normally end … until it goes quiet and before 2nd crack starts. Its still audibly popping when I stop it, although it has passed the point where it is super rapid. Thats how I get a good light roast in an air popper. If I waited until it was fully through 1st crack and was quiet, it would already taste fairly dark…

  4. Hey Tom, does elevation affect the roast time? I live at almost 5000 feet and find that my roasts better not go much beyond 4-ish minutes, or I’ve got a bunch of burnt beans on my hands. I roast outside on a protected patio, connect the Popper to a 20 ft extension cord, and my ambient temperature is usually high 50s to low 60s. Is there a general time range to follow when roasting with the Popper at high elevation?

    1. It does, but I have to admit this is not some thing I have a lot of experience with, since I’ve never lived at high altitude while roasting coffee. The erratically, if water boils at a higher temperature, then first crack seems like it would happen later, if I have my head on straight. So if first crack starts at 400 Fahrenheit at sea level maybe it is 405 at 5000 feet, something like this? But as I say, I am without first experience on this.

    2. Regarding roasting at higher elevations, water boils at a lower temperature at lower pressures. My guess would be that 1st crack would happen sooner. What effect this would have, I don’t know, but it seems you would have a somewhat earlier warning – which in this roaster is probably a good thing.

    3. Yes for sure. Since first crack is basically the point within the bean where water turns to water vapor, elevation definitely has an impact.

    1. Honestly I need to spend some time testing this more. I will do that …
      One issue: depending on the diameter of the chimney, some tend to sit will inside the roasting chamber – if so they might not sit well because they might be bumping up against the defelector bar in the popper sleeve . I’ll try a few different chimney glass I have and see…

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