Roasting Coffee in a Whirley Pop Popcorn Popper


I was finishing some maple syrup and decided to get my Whirley Pop popcorn maker out and do a few batches of Columbian while I had the portable gas stove set up! I usually use air popcorn poppers to roast my beans, but they don’t work when the air temperatures are below 60F. They can’t maintain the 400F necessary to roast coffee.

I started with a couple of cups of green coffee beans. (I probably would have done better roasting one cup at a time.)


These popcorn poppers have a crank on the handle and a couple of cogs that turns a shaft and wire that runs around the bottom of the pan. (I have one popper for popcorn and one for roasting coffee. You can find these poppers being sold used at thrift stores and garage sales–I paid a dollar for this one because it was a bit worn but just fine for this purpose.)


As you can see, the smoke and steam are rolling out of the top of the popper when I open it to show you the beans. The lid is closed when you are cooking. You have to take the pan off the heat and open both sides to really see anything. Most of the smoke is from the papery outer hull of the coffee beans burning away. (If you were to use an air popper, these hulls would be blown out the chute.) Roasting coffee always produces smoke, so be sure to cook outside or under a stove hood that vents to the outdoors!


You can tell when a batch of beans is done by listening for the first crack, which sounds like popping popcorn and then the second crack which is a quieter crackling sound.

When to stop cooking the beans is a matter of personal preference. We like a darker roast, but this Columbian would probably taste better if I’d stopped cooking it when it was a lighter brown–around the beginning of second crack.

Pour your finished coffee back and forth between two wire strainers until it is no longer hot. The beans will continue to cook unless it is cooled in this manner. Let the beans rest and breath for 24 hours before you grind them. (I can never wait that long!) This is supposed to be how long it takes them to develop their fullest flavor.


No, these aren’t bunny droppings. Just a few of my coffee coal beans that escaped into the snow. The rest of this batch went into the compost pile!

My first few batches off roasted beans were burnt offerings to the gods of caffeine. I ended up composting two batches of coffee. (So Sad!)  I had the heat way too high. It should take about 10 minutes to roast a batch of coffee. Sometimes it takes less time, depending on the bean.

You probably noticed how dirty the popper gets from roasting coffee beans. Be sure to wipe it out after each use. (I wash mine in hot, soapy water.) A buildup of oils from the roasting beans can result in a fire!

I’m looking forward to taking another run at roasting coffee in my Whirley Pop popcorn maker soon. This time I will try smaller batches at lower heat so that more beans end up in the coffee pot than in the compost pile! Begonia

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2 Responses to Roasting Coffee in a Whirley Pop Popcorn Popper

  1. Bob says:

    I just started roasting coffee this way and I love it. I was using a thick-bottomed pan before and stirring with a whisk but this gives me a much more even roast. I also over-roasted my first batch though they were still perfectly drinkable; now I set the heat a notch or so below medium on my gas stove and take about 7-8 minutes, removing it when first crack is finished. Second crack is usually underway when that happens.

    One thing I haven’t yet tried but want to, is placing the popper on a cast iron pan or griddle when roasting, to maintain a more even temperature.

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