The Best Home Coffee Bean Roasters of 2019: reviews and a buying guide

TOP PICK: FreshRoast SR540

fresh roast sr 540

Just getting started with roasting your own coffee? The FreshRoast sr540 is the perfect stepping stone into the world of home roasting. Small, affordable, easy to use and effective - you'll be brewing the freshest coffee in no time with this mini roaster. 

Why Roast Coffee At Home?

When I first started roasting coffee at home, I did what many people do. I went out and bought a $2 used popcorn maker at a thrift store and ordered green coffee beans from Sweet Maria's. I learned very quickly that roasting great coffee was more complicated than simply turning green coffee brown. There are so many other variables involved.

Roasted coffee beans

Why would anyone want to go through all the trouble of roasting their own coffee at home then? Not only do you learn more about coffee in the process, you get to roast coffee perfectly to your preferences. You get to create your own blends and you will always have the freshest coffee. You can use a popcorn maker to get started on your coffee roasting journey, but I wouldn't recommend it.

If you're a true coffee fanatic ready to take your home barista career to the next level, you'll want proper equipment to roast your own beans.

How to Choose the Right Coffee Roaster

Before rushing out and buying the first roaster you see, we have a few tips for you. This is an important item in your coffee gear arsenal.

NOT A Popcorn Maker...

A popcorn popper is designed to do one thing - push hot air through a pile of tiny kernels. Although that is the foundation of roasting coffee, it doesn’t accomplish everything we need it to. It’s very easy for a popcorn maker to over roast some beans, while under roasting others - creating a very inconsistent batch of coffee. Inconsistently roasted beans don't make a great cup of coffee (1).

This is because the air that is pushing through the beans is not very strong, leading to limited movement in the chamber. This also means you can only roast a small amount at a time. Professional roasters will rotate the beans constantly for an even roast (2).

Different Types Of Coffee Roasters

There are 2 main types of roasters we will be looking at today:

Air roasters, which are similar in concept to a popcorn maker, heat the beans using direct heat (convection). Hot air is pushed through the roasting chamber, touching all the beans directly.

"Air roasting has less intrinsic charm, unless you are really into hair dryers. But the roast is easy to observe, the process is “clean” because there is no effluence from atmospheric gas burners, and some variables of the drum process (...) are less of a factor." - Sweet Maria's

Drum roasters, which use indirect heat (conduction) to roast the beans. Inside the machine is a round chamber that rotates. Heat is applied to the outside of the metal chamber, and the beans are roasted as they come in contact with the chamber (3). Choose the right roaster and you'll achieve the perfect coffee roast (take a look into different roast profiles here).

Size Matters

Different roasters have different capacities. Typically air roasters will only be able to roast small amounts while drum roasters have larger roasting chambers for bigger batches. If you want to roast a few small batches of different coffees each week, you might opt for a smaller air roaster. If you want to roast one big batch and be set for the week, you might need to go for a drum roaster instead.

PRO TIP: Think about the amount of coffee you drink each week and the number of times you are willing to roast. If you just roast large batches, opt for a large roaster.

How Much Control Do You Want?

What’s your roaster personality? Flip a switch and walk away, or tweak every variable for a completely unique roast? In general, more expensive roasters offer greater controllability. Yet, even at the lower end, you will have basic time and temperature controls that you can adjust.

As you move towards the higher end you will find roasters with programmability, which allow you to create and save roast profiles for increased consistency. Once profiles are set, you can simply turn the roaster on, select a profile, and it will automatically follow the settings and complete the roast without additional input.

Different coffee bean roasts
PRO TIP: If you plan to immerse yourself into roasting, go for something with high controllability. It may be hard to learn the ropes, but you'll be happier long term.

Cooling Is Almost As Important As Heating

Once the coffee has reached the desired roast level, it’s very important for the beans to cool down quickly. If you don’t cool the beans down, they will continue to roast due to the heat built up in the chamber. A cooling feature is thus important in any roaster. For most available roasters, cool air will simply blow through the roasting chamber once roasting is complete.

"With home roasting, it’s particularly important to stop the roast a little before your desired roast level. Cool the beans off as quickly as possible, so they stop roasting." - Driftaway Coffee

The most expensive roaster on our list, however, has an external tray that the beans are dumped onto, which cools the beans much faster. This is a major advantage if you don’t want your coffee to over roast.

Keeping It Clean

Coffee roasters have a chaff collection system making for an easy Sunday-walk-in-the-park kind of cleanup. Some roasters even have a built-in smoke suppression system. It’s hard to eliminate smoke entirely, but these systems will allow you to safely roast indoors. Keep in mind that even with a smoke reduction system, roasting darker coffee will still produce a lot of smoke (4).


The 5 Best Home Coffee Roasters Of 2019

Now that you know what to look for in a coffee roaster, you are ready to pick out the perfect one for you.

IMAGEPRODUCTDESCRIPTION
hg-table__imageFresh Roast SR540
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Compact
CHECK PRICE →
hg-table__imageNesco CR 1010 Professional
  • Affordable
  • Has a smoke reduction system
  • Has an automatic auger
CHECK PRICE →
hg-table__imageBehmor 1600 Plus
  • Has a smoke reduction system
  • Roast up to 16 oz at a time
  • Repeat your favorite roasts by setting up to 5 profiles
CHECK PRICE →
hg-table__imageGene Cafe Roaster
  • Makes a uniform roast
  • Simple to use
  • Roast up to 8 ounces at a time
CHECK PRICE →
hg-table__imageNuvo Eco Handy Ceramic Coffee Bean Roaster
  • Waffle-shaped internal chamber promotes equal roasting
  • Simple to use
  • Works on gas or electric ranges, plus campfires and camp stoves
CHECK PRICE →

1. Fresh Roast SR 540 - best for beginners

fresh roast sr 540

If you're just getting started in roasting your own coffee beans, The Fresh Roast SR 500 540 is for you - this is the updated sr500 model, with some nice improvements. You'll be roasting exotic green beans to perfection in no time. It's the most affordable roaster on our list and great for beginners.

It’s small, compact and affordable. It’s also one of the quietest roasters you can find, making it perfect for home use.

This roaster is simple enough for just about anyone to use. It has 9 temperature settings, a fan adjustment dial and buttons to change the roast time. This means you have more flexibility in roast profiles. To get the beans moving inside the roasting chamber, a higher fan speed is necessary as there is no other element rotating the beans during the roast. The Fresh Roast is an air roaster, utilizing convective heat. 

The size of the roasting chamber is rather small though. Each roast can handle about 4 oz, or 120 grams. Though the roasting time is pretty quick at 6-9 minutes, you may have to roast a few batches to have enough coffee for a week.

We pick apart the SR540 in more detail here.

PROS

  • Very Affordable
  • Compact - takes up minimal space
  • Very quiet
  • Easy to use

CONS

  • You can only roast 4oz coffee per roast
  • No smoke reduction systems. Must roast near a window

If you want to know the differences between the old sr500 and this new model, the sr540, Sweet Marias does a great breakdown here:


2. Nesco CR1010 Professional (currently unavailable)

nesco professional coffee roaster

The Nesco CR 1010 Professional Coffee Roaster is another convective, air roaster. What we love about this roaster is the built-in catalytic converter, eliminating most of the smoke from the roast. It also has an auger screw system in the roast chamber, keeping the beans moving during the roast. This allows all the coffee to be roasted evenly, rather than the beans on the bottom getting scorched early in the roasting cycle.

The roasting time is typically 25 minutes which includes a 5-minute cooling cycle. The cool-down feature is great when roasting lighter roasts, but for darker roasts, it struggles to cool the coffee down fast enough to keep it from roasting further.

The Nesco roaster is able to roast 5 oz, or about 150 grams at a time. At 25 minutes per roast, yielding only 5 oz, it’s not the most efficient roaster. Luckily it’s able to produce a uniform batch that makes up for the time taken.

PROS

  • Smoke reduction system eliminates a majority of the smoke
  • Automatic auger keeps the beans moving inside the roasting chamber, ensuring uniformity

CONS

  • Long roasting times for such a small batch

3. Behmor 1600 Plus Drum Roaster - best for intermediate and advanced home roasters

behmor coffee roaster

The Behmor 1600 is the first drum roaster on our list. It’s one of the most popular roasters for home use among coffee lovers. For starters, it boasts smoke suppression technology for safe indoor roasting. Just know that this roaster is not meant for dark roasts. You can get your beans just beyond a Full City roast, but no further.

The large roasting chamber allows you to roast up to 16 oz at a time, which will take around 20 minutes. 4 or 8 ounces will be even quicker. Because it is a quiet roaster, you can hear when the beans enter into first crack. This helps you determine where the beans are in the roasting process so that you can finish according to your preferences (5).

One of our favorite features is the ability to set profiles, making it a fully customizable drum coffee roaster. You are able to set up to 5 different profiles, allowing you to repeat some of your favorite roasts again and again. No more guessing. We take a deeper look into this drum roaster in this guide.

PROS

  • Smoke reduction system eliminates most of the smoke
  • Repeat your favorite roasts by setting up to 5 profiles.
  • A security feature has you press a button before the roast completes. This ensures nothing bad happens during the roast process.

CONS

  • Not able to roast very dark
  • It’s hard to see the beans during the roast

4. Gene Cafe Roaster - best overall pick

gene cafe coffee roaster

The Gene Cafe has an off-axis roasting chamber setting it apart from its counterparts. This chamber was designed to ensure an even, uniform roast every time. Its unique design combines the body associated with the conduction of a drum roaster with the brightness of an air roaster. Though the time and temperature can be controlled, the process can also be completely automatized making it nice and simple for most people to use (6). Another plus point is that you are able to achieve almost any desired roast level.

The Gene Cafe can roast up to 8 ounces at a time, with an average roast time of about 15 minutes. The roast is easy to track due to the clear roasting chamber. There is no smoke reduction system in place, so be sure to point the nozzle where the smoke exits at an open window. 

PROS

  • Uniform roast due to unique movement in roasting chamber
  • Simple to use
  • Roast up to 8 ounces at a time

CONS

  • No smoke reduction system
  • Limited features

Nuvo Eco coffee roaster

The Nuvo Eco Ceramic is about as minimal and hands-on as it gets. It's a ceramic vessel designed for use on a stovetop, so there are no timers, temperature settings, cool-down programs or anything else to learn. Pour green beans (up to about 70g, or just under 3 oz.) in the opening on the top, shake them over the heat source while listening for the crack, and then empty the roasted beans through the hollow handle when you're done.

While the handle does have a cowhide grip, you'll want to use a hot pad or oven glove while roasting. The manufacturer suggests shaking the Nuvo Eco in a figure-eight pattern to promote even roasting.

It's more labour intensive yet it's utterly simple - if you're looking for the ultimate hands-on coffee roaster, this is it.

Roasting time varies with the heat source and the desired roast level. Expect roast times between three and ten minutes - that's a pretty broad range. And because it's ceramic, it doesn't work on induction cooktops. But you can use it on any other heat source, making the Nuvo Eco a great choice for roasting your own coffee while camping.

PROS

  • Waffle-shaped internal chamber promotes equal roasting
  • Simple to use
  • Works on gas or electric ranges, plus campfires and camp stoves

CONS

  • Requires constant attention during roasting
  • Small capacity - up to 1/3 cup (70g) at a time

THE VERDICT: Which Is The Best Coffee Roaster?

We just love the Fresh Roast sr540 -which is the updated version of the sr500 (no longer being made) The price point is perfect (ie. affordable!) and it's a great stepping stone into the world of home roasting. You'll be setting up small batch roasts and enjoying the freshest coffee of your life in no time.

fresh roast sr 540

FAQs

What are the different roasts of coffee?

The different roasts of coffee can be broken down into 4 types: light roasts, medium roasts, medium-dark roasts, and dark roasts. They can be differentiated based on bean color, oil residue and flavor. The darker the roast, the darker the color of the bean. The surface of the bean develops from dry to oily and moves from a high-acidity based flavor to a more bitter flavor with increased roast time.

How long do coffee beans need to Degas?

Coffee beans need to degas for at least 12 hours. Industry experts tend to recommend varying degassing times depending on the origin of the bean and roasting time. Generally, darker roasts will degas faster than lighter roasts.

When can I drink coffee after roasting?

You can drink coffee about 24 hours after roasting it. A fresh roast requires at least one day to develop its body and flavor. Espresso roasts can take up to 5 days to fully mature in their flavorness. 

How long do roasted coffee beans last?

Roasted coffee beans can last up to 10 days if stored correctly. They do start losing their flavor and freshness after 7 days though so we’d recommend roasting a new batch each week. To keep your batch fresh for the week store them in an airtight container away from sunlight. Do not put your roasted beans in the fridge!

Are shiny coffee beans better?

No, shiny coffee beans are not better. The oily surface only indicates that the roast is more developed. The shinier the bean the darker the roast. In terms of flavour, this means the roast will be less fruity and acidic but significantly more bitter.


References:

  1. Let's Talk About Roasting. (2019, May 22). Retrieved from https://baristahustle.com/blog/let-s-talk-about-roasting/
  2. Coffee Roasting: Roast Transformation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.coffeereview.com/coffee-reference/from-crop-to-cup/professional-coffee-roasting/roast-transformation/
  3. Coffee Roasting: Roasting Equipment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.coffeereview.com/coffee-reference/from-crop-to-cup/professional-coffee-roasting/roasting-equipment/
  4. How Can You Roast Coffee Beans at Home? (2017, September 21). Retrieved from https://driftaway.coffee/roasting-coffee-beans-at-home/
  5. S. (2017, September 20). How To Get Started With Home Roasting. Retrieved from https://driftaway.coffee/how-to-get-started-with-home-roasting/
  6. Perfect Daily Grind. (2016, October 21). How to Become an Artisan Coffee Roaster: The Basics. Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2016/02/how-to-become-an-artisan-coffee-roaster-the-basics-specialty-steps-roastery-speciality/

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Alex
 

Alex is the Founder and Editor of Homegrounds.co. He is passionate about brewing amazing coffee at home, and teaching others to do the same.