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My first popcorn popper
Knowledge
Hello! Today I picked up a West Bend Air Crazy from a thrift store. It looked to be in good shape.

Next up: beans. Right?

Any suggestions on the best next steps to take?

i.imgur.com/awqyBMd.png

i.imgur.com/2rwQrzu.png
renatoa
https://www.instr...ir-popper/
This is just to wet the feet... Grin
Then comes the hard part:
https://popperyii...i-mod.html
Knowledge
Thanks for the tips, renatoa.

My first batch of beans arrived today. I'm excited to start roasting!

i.imgur.com/VFA0dbD.jpg
Knowledge
I made two batches in the popcorn popper on Sunday and tried them out for the first time today.

For the first batch, the popper was plugged directly into the outlet and seemed to roast very fast. I swear I heard the first few sounds of first crack around 1.5 minutes, but maybe I didn't know what I was doing. I then increased my stirring and tilted the popper. Around the 4 minute mark there was a lot more popping, and I stopped around 4.5 minutes. I cooled by tossing between 2 colanders.

The whole process felt very fast.

For the second batch I wanted to slow things down so I used a 50 foot extension cord thinking that might lengthen the roasting time. It seemed too. I tilted and stirred the whole time. I stopped after 6 minutes.

I tasted them both this morning. The good news: both batches tasted "fresh" as in "not old." It was better than some of the crappiest coffee I've had. Perhaps it would have been praised on a 19th century wagon train.

The bad news. Batch one tasted bitter and lifeless. Batch two tasted burnt and lifeless. I also brewed some beans from a real roaster for the contrast and it was obvious who knows how to roast and who doesn't.

I expect I'll get better at roasting with the popper, but I also feel like there is a hard ceiling coming up soon in terms of how good I can get with an unmodified popcorn popper.

Any tips on how to improve? How vigorous should I be stirring? I tried to make the beans fairly agitated, but I could definitely stir faster if that would help.
renatoa
The heater power should be significantly reduced, to have maximum 270 C in the hot air, this is where the cellulose matrix of bean start to destroy. An unmodified popper temperature is well above 300C, measured 380 C in some units.
Even better, the first 2-4 minutes would be ideal to be under 200 C, while beans are drying.
This power/heat adjustment will extend the roast process having first crack in the 6-10 minutes ballpark, and total roasting somewhere under 12 minutes.
All the above require machine mod, as described in the post #2 second link article.
Reducing overall machine voltage could work, but you have to lower the voltage significantly, down to 60-70% original power, using a (self)transformer, not extension cords... 50 feet of 14-gauge wire will cause a voltage drop of about 3% only.
Be aware that reducing machine voltage will reduce also the rotating speed, so you will need to stir permanently...
That's why the first step in any popper mod is to separate the motor and heater power circuits.
Knowledge
Thanks renatoa. I appreciate all the feedback. I guess I need to decide my next step. If I'm going to purchase a new/used roaster, I may as well devote money to that purchase. If I'm going to build a roaster, modding the popcorn popper would be a good way for me to know if I really want to build my own. If I can't even successfully mod a popcorn popper, maybe I shouldn't bother thinking I can build a proper roaster.
renatoa
There are some easy ways (that I know) you can approach home roasting if giving up the popper:
- hotgun with bread machine/mesh drum/flour sifter as agitators
- foreman baby oven with it's own mesh drum
- turbo oven lid with pasta strain pot
All are in the $100 ballpark hardware costs, and easy 1-2 days builds, with a lot of examples here and elsewhere.
snwcmpr
Modding a popper is a straightforward mod. I used a dimmer switch and a router speed control. There are enough photos with instructions to make it fairly easy.
Ken
--------------
Backwoods Roaster
"I wish I could taste as well as I wish I could roast."

As Abraham Lincoln said "Do not trust everything you read on the internet".
Knowledge
Successfully modified my popcorn popper.

That moment when it worked was a beautiful thing. I can hardly believe I did it.

i.imgur.com/iWvevoF.jpg

Now to practice roasting some more.
Luposian
I'll be receiving my Nostalgia popcorn popper from Sweet Maria's (w/ 4lbs of free "Espresso" green coffee beans!) on Monday. Quite excited, even though I know it's basically "bottom of the barrel", in any decent quality roasting. My wife insisted I start out slow... to make sure I've got the gumption (desire/passion/willingness) before I go with something more robust... and expensive.

Anyone have any "basic training" advice on how to make the most of this introductory ("cheap") route to coffee roasting? In other words, anything that I haven't already read from SM's? I'm not talking about mods. Not interested in trying to hot-rod/upgrade a $20 "coffee popper" (as I call it). I'll save up my bucks for a Gene Cafe, when I'm psyched up from succeeding at roasting with this little thang! :-D
allenb
Welcome to Homeroasters Luposian! Please do lots of forum scouring while you're trying to get off the ground with roasting and ask lots of questions.

You stated you have a goal of a Gene when you've succeeded with roasting with the popper. Unfortunately, as you will find in lots of posts here in various places, an un-modded popper, except for some rare European models that are much lower wattage than what you'll find in the USA, the roast will fly by so quickly with no real development, most coffees will at best be without much character, and at worst, will be undrinkable without large amounts of flavorings.
So, it depends on what your expectation is regarding succeeding. It is virtually impossible to truly learn how to roast on an un-modded popper if the goal is to learn how to produce the best taste a given bean has to offer.

But, dive in head first and have fun!
1/2 lb and 1 lb drum, Siemens Sirocco fluidbed, presspot, chemex, cajun biggin brewer from the backwoods of Louisiana
Luposian

Quote

allenb wrote:

Welcome to Homeroasters Luposian! Please do lots of forum scouring while you're trying to get off the ground with roasting and ask lots of questions.

You stated you have a goal of a Gene when you've succeeded with roasting with the popper. Unfortunately, as you will find in lots of posts here in various places, an un-modded popper, except for some rare European models that are much lower wattage than what you'll find in the USA, the roast will fly by so quickly with no real development, most coffees will at best be without much character, and at worst, will be undrinkable without large amounts of flavorings.
So, it depends on what your expectation is regarding succeeding. It is virtually impossible to truly learn how to roast on an un-modded popper if the goal is to learn how to produce the best taste a given bean has to offer.

But, dive in head first and have fun!


If I can make anything that resembles even the worst, store-bought espresso beans I've ground/brewed in our Breville Barista Express, I'll consider that "success". Or are you saying, popcorn poppers, in general, produce worse beans than that? Has anyone succeeded, to any degree, with an unmodified Nostalgia, from SM's?
"I got me a Coffee Popper! Whoo-hoo!"
allenb

Quote

Has anyone succeeded, to any degree, with an unmodified Nostalgia, from SM's?


Yes, some have succeeded to a degree with an un-modded popper but only with using a certain, very special bean that is more capable than others at handling the exceedingly hot air temperature without scorching. I've had a rare Kenya many years ago that cupped remarkably with only a 5 minute roast. The problem is figuring out which high grown, super dense coffee will give you good results without sampling numerous greens that end up in the trash can.

Definitely give it a go as it is very enjoyable to experience the coffee going through the roast cycle and smelling the numerous aroma changes. Let us know how things go and post often!
1/2 lb and 1 lb drum, Siemens Sirocco fluidbed, presspot, chemex, cajun biggin brewer from the backwoods of Louisiana
renatoa
You can install an inline voltage variator, on the mains socket extension cord you are using to power the popper, and reduce the voltage to an acceptable level to not burn the beans. They are cheap, in the $20 ballpark, search on amazon for "SCR Digital Voltage Regulator"
But I am afraid the airflow will be reduced also, too much to produce beans levitation, so you will be forced to stir manually the beans in the first half of roast, until they are dried and lighter.
allenb
Renatoa has a great idea for you. I've seen where reducing the voltage just enough to slow down the roast sometimes does not have a proportional reduction in air action and sometimes is negligible which may have very little reduction in bean agitation. Give that a try and worse case, as he mentions, you may have to do a little stirring until the beans lose mass to where they start moving adequately.

Great idea renatoa! Could help and not be a real mod.
1/2 lb and 1 lb drum, Siemens Sirocco fluidbed, presspot, chemex, cajun biggin brewer from the backwoods of Louisiana
Luposian
Machine used: Nostalgia popcorn popper
Beans used: Sweet Maria’s Espresso Monkey Blend

1st try... failure. Stopped too soon after 1st crack. Beans tasted ok by themselves but produced a most horrible brew!

2nd try... Success! However, temps were too cool and roasted too long before 2nd crack. Passable beverage.

3rd try... DEFINITE SUCCESS! No less than 95% of what we would buy in the store, at worst, taste-wise. Smooth flavor overall.

4th try... looks like it’s even better. Only a couple light beans. The beans taste really good. Will find out how good an espresso they produce.

UPDATE: 4th try was IT! With the beans I've gotten from our local roaster in town, I've used a unique "taste reference" to see how good mine were in comparison. I call it the "slightly burned toast" taste.

I like to make a shot of, what I call "Buttered Caramel Espresso". That involves a pat of butter (melted) in the bottom of the shot glass (to the "Singolo Ristretto" line) Then a single shot of espresso is pulled. Thoroughly mixed with a fork/spoon, if you taste the fork/spoon, it should taste a bit like slightly burned toast (at least it does to me). I pour enough sugar-free caramel syrup to top off the shot glass. Stir carefully... and swig down! It's great!

But, my 4th try at roasting in my "Coffee Popper" has DEFINITELY hit that reference standard! So, I'm happy!
Edited by Luposian on 04/05/2021 1:11 AM
"I got me a Coffee Popper! Whoo-hoo!"
renatoa
How were they different the four roasts ?
Luposian

Quote

renatoa wrote:

How were they different the four roasts ?


They got... progressively better? :-D They were the same beans, I just learned from experience how to get a better result each time. If I were to suggest a path to success:

1) Preheat (let it run without beans in it) the CP ("Coffee Popper") for about 15-30 seconds. Then pour in 1/3 cup of beans.
2) Use a wooden spoon handle, to stir the beans in the direction of the air flow, to get them spinning vigorously. Do this until the beans start spinning on their own. Then stir them every few seconds to get the chaff flying out. Don't just stir them, wiggle that handle all over the place, to really get that chaff blown outta there!
3) When most of the chaff is gone, the color should be a light-to-darker brown. The beans are now spinning and jumping around good on their own. 1st Crack will have gotten going about this time. Put your metal cookie sheet on top of the CP (don't use the plastic chute/lid... I don't bother with it at all) and let the heat build up. Keep your nose to the chute and smell the process. Listen for the "silent zone" (when 1st Crack has ended).
4) As 2nd Crack begins, listen for it to start going really good. The beans will start looking much darker and smell different. About 30 seconds later, pull the plug (or turn it off) and dump out your beans onto the cookie sheet. They'll continue to crack and sizzle for a few seconds.

I don't use a timer. I just use this process and it's been working better each time. Each 1/3 cup of beans produces enough to last us about 5 to 6 shots of espresso. Freshness that can't be beat, because we make it every couple days! I see no reason to buy locally roasted when I can now make it as good as "them". Our locally roasted beans cost $10/bag (12oz) on Tuesdays. It starts going "bad" before we finish it, so home roasting is cheaper and more enjoyable, because the taste remains fresh... never any "old" beans. :-D

NOTE: I put the CP on a plant stand with lotsa holes in it, so that the chaff can't get sucked into the machine.
Luposian attached the following image:
img_2292.jpg

Edited by Luposian on 04/05/2021 3:16 AM
"I got me a Coffee Popper! Whoo-hoo!"
Luposian

Quote

renatoa wrote:

The heater power should be significantly reduced, to have maximum 270 C in the hot air, this is where the cellulose matrix of bean start to destroy. An unmodified popper temperature is well above 300C, measured 380 C in some units.
Even better, the first 2-4 minutes would be ideal to be under 200 C, while beans are drying.
This power/heat adjustment will extend the roast process having first crack in the 6-10 minutes ballpark, and total roasting somewhere under 12 minutes.
All the above require machine mod, as described in the post #2 second link article.
Reducing overall machine voltage could work, but you have to lower the voltage significantly, down to 60-70% original power, using a (self)transformer, not extension cords... 50 feet of 14-gauge wire will cause a voltage drop of about 3% only.
Be aware that reducing machine voltage will reduce also the rotating speed, so you will need to stir permanently...
That's why the first step in any popper mod is to separate the motor and heater power circuits.

So, you actually want the roasting process to take longer? I assumed, as long as you didn't burn the beans to charcoal, it didn't matter how fast you reached 1st/2nd Crack. What is the ideal temperature/timeline for coffee bean roasting? In other words, what temperature, for how long per period?
"I got me a Coffee Popper! Whoo-hoo!"
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