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Home Roasting Coffee with the Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper
Other home roasting articles on INeedCoffee focus on roasting with electrical roasters, such as the West Bend Poppery or the iRoast 2. You can easily start roasting at home with one of these roasters. But there are other, older methods of home roasting. This article explores using a stovetop popcorn popper, which enables you to roast coffee right on your gas stove. It’s not nearly as easy as roasting with an electrical popcorn popper, but the advantages of this method are that you have 100% control over the roasting profile and you can roast greater quantities at one time.
This article explores using a stovetop popcorn popper, which enables you to roast coffee right on your gas stove. It’s not nearly as easy as roasting with an electrical popcorn popper, but the advantages of this method are that you have 100% control over the roasting profile and you can roast greater quantities at one time.
Is Stovetop Roasting Wrong For You?
Let’s start with a basic truth. Home roasting coffee is easy. That is up till now. Whether you are using a popcorn popper, a Hearthware, Fresh Roast, or even an oven, it really doesn’t take much time before you are making excellent coffee. A big reason for the ease is that the roasting device handles the roasting temperature for you. Even the oven remembers where it should roast once you’ve set the dial. And some roasters even handle the cooling. With stovetop roasting, it’s the roasters responsibility to keep the coffee in a temperature profile that will roast the coffee not too fast and not too slow. That requires some practice and constant attention.
During the roast, you as the roaster will need to monitor rising and falling temperatures and make adjustments all while hand cranking the Whirley-Pop. This is rodeo style roasting. Too much heat and the beans will burn, too little and they’ll bake. If you are a hands-off roaster, you can stop reading now. This isn’t for you. The next requirement is excellent ventilation. Roasting coffee produces smoke and the Whirley-Pop can roast 3 times as much as other roasters. This means 3 times the amount of smoke.
The last caveat is the electric stove. I have a gas stove and could not imagine roasting on an electric stovetop. The reason is that during the roasting portion the temps will fluctuate, dropping fast at first and then rising gradually. While this is happening, the roaster is increasing and decreasing the temperature. Electric stovetops do not respond as quickly as gas stoves. Is it possible to use an electric stove? I’m sure it is and I’m sure someone is doing it, but it will add another level of difficulty for the beginner.
Is Stovetop Roasting Right For You?
There are a few things that stovetop roasting can provide that other roasting methods can’t. The first is quantity. Most home coffee roasting machines, including popcorn poppers roast around 2.5 ozs (by weight). The Whirley-Pop can handle 8.5 ozs with no problem. The next thing stovetop roasting provides is complete control of the roast temperature profile. With complete control, you have more freedom to create different tasting coffee roasts. And the last difference is it uses conduction heat.
The Whirley-Pop can roast 8.5 ozs of coffee at once.
To get started you will need a stovetop roaster with a temperature gauge that goes to 500 F. Without a temperature reading you are roasting blind and will have no idea if you’re burning or baking the beans.
- Stovetop popcorn popper. The most popular brand is the Whirley-Pop (aka Felknor Theatre).
- Gas stove with good ventilation.
- Flashlight or good overhead lighting.
- Pot-holders or oven mitts for opening the popper. This will get hot.
- Metal colanders.
- Green coffee (practice with a cheap evenly sized bean that can handle darker roasts like Brazil or Colombian).
- An assistant (optional, but helpful).
Before You Roast
- Open the windows, turn on the ventilation, warn your family, move your pets and if necessary disable your smoke detector. You will see smoke!
- Measure out ~ 8.5 ozs of green coffee. Experiment with volume.
- Set the metal colanders either in the kitchen sink or just outside.
Setting the Stove Temperature
The most challenging part to stovetop roasting is being in control of the temperature. Prior to adding the beans, set the roaster on the stove and turn on the flame. Your goal is to get the inside temperature up to 500 F, so make sure the lid is closed. The temperature will fall initially and then as the roast progresses it will climb again. The more you peek inside the roaster, the more heat will escape. Once the temperature has stabilized around 500 F, you can pour in the green coffee beans.
Unlike other roasters which push the beans around with fans, you are responsible for moving the beans. To get an even roast, start cranking and don’t stop. If you get tired of cranking, have a friend nearby to switch off with. You don’t want to stop or you’ll burn the coffee. Sometimes I’ll reverse the crank to mix things up. If the crank sticks, give the popper a quick shake (lid closed).
Keep cranking the popper throughout the coffee roast.
Monitor the Temperature
The first thing you’ll notice after pouring the beans into the pre-heated popper is the temperature will start dropping. The 500 F will plummet to between 300 and 350 F. Every stove is different, so the amount of flame you’ll add is something you’ll need to experiment with. The goal is to not the let the temperature drop below 300 F and try to get it close to 400 F.
Remember that peeking at the roast releases heat from the popper and will make it more difficult to achieve a steady temperature. It is a good idea to roast by listening. The good news is that unless the stove ventilation is loud, roasting on a gas stove is the quietest method of home roasting. You should easily be able to hear both the 1st and 2nd crack. The bad news is it takes both hands to crank the roaster and one hand to tweak the stove temperature. Having an assistant is helpful.
Finishing the Roast
A typical roast takes between 7 and 9 minutes. Towards the end, you’ll hear the start of the 2nd crack. If the temperature is exceeding 400 F on the roaster, you have the freedom to peek inside. This will both release some of the heat and check the color and evenness of the roast. Word of warning, don’t peek immediately after you flip the lid or you could burn your eyes on the smoke that will be pouring out. Also be sure to use a pot handler or oven mitt when opening the roaster. If you have an assistant, have them aim a flashlight into the open roaster. The beam of light should cut through the smoke to provide a visual indicator of the roast color.
Word of warning, don’t peek immediately after you flip the lid or you could burn your eyes on the smoke that will be pouring out. Also be sure to use a pot handler or oven mitt when opening the roaster. If you have an assistant, have them aim a flashlight into the open roaster. The beam of light should cut through the smoke to provide a visual indicator of the roast color.
Whirley-Pop roast in progress.
Although it’s possible to do lighter roasts, it’s going to be a lot easier to go dark. Roasting color with conduction heat seems to even out over time. An additional minute or two can turn a blotchy city roast into an even Vienna roast.
Once you believe the roast is ready, turn off the burner and quickly carry the popper to your metal colanders. I like having 2 colanders. This allows me to pour the beans from one to another. This both cools the beans and helps remove the chaff. You can also use the spray method for cooling the beans. For more information on cooling roasted coffee read the 2nd and 3rd tip from the article Popper Roasting Tips
Cooling the coffee beans using 2 metal colanders.
Besides being an excellent roasting method for those that wish to tweak the roasting temperature, this is also one of the cheaper volume roasters. For around $30 you can roast more than 1/2 a pound of coffee in under 10 minutes. My final word of advice is this is not the best roasting method for beginners. Someone new to home coffee roasting would be better off starting with a roaster where they can watch the beans go from green to perfection.
UPDATE: Michael T sent in this tip. If you put a cast iron skillet in between your pot/Whirley-Pop and electric burner not only does it distribute the heat better but it soaks up and holds heat really well so temperature changes are less of a problem.
Perfect Iced Coffee in 2 Minutes with The Coldwave Beverage Chiller
This might be the easiest coffee brewing tutorial ever. Recently, I had an opportunity to make iced coffee using the Coldwave. It is a game changer if you love iced coffee, but are tired of weighing out ice cubes each time you brew.
Coldwave Beverage Chiller (Amazon USA)
Iced Coffee vs Cold Brew Coffee
A quick reminder on the difference between iced coffee and cold brew. Cold brew is far more common these days. It is a lengthy brew process that takes 12-24 hours where coffee grounds are exposed to cold or room temperature water. This method of brewing produces a low acidity coffee with a smooth body. The process of cold brewing a coffee will alter the taste of the coffee being used. It doesn’t taste like a cold version of the same coffee brewed hot.
That is where iced coffee comes in. Iced coffee is made by flash cooling coffee as it is brewed. The way this is done is by dividing the water used in the brewing process. About half is the hot water that makes contact with the beans. The other half is measured out in ice cubes. When the brewed coffee makes contact with the ice, it is chilled instantly. And the key here is it doesn’t taste watery or weak. If you get your math right, it will taste very close to a cold version of the same coffee brewed hot.
The Problem With Iced Coffee
To make a really good cup of iced coffee, you will need to get your math correct. You’ll be weighing both the hot water added to the brew, but also the weight of the ice cubes. If you get everything right, which can take some practice, you’ll get a delicious cup of perfectly chilled coffee that tastes just like the cold version of the same beverage brewed hot.
However, if you have too few ice cubes, the coffee might be over extracted and need additional ice to chill. If you use too many ice cubes, the coffee will likely taste weak.
Many times when we go to brew coffee, we want the process as simple as possible. We don’t want to do any math. We want to wake up.
Enter the Coldwave Coffee Chiller
Many years ago I lived in a house in Florida without air conditioning. I’d brew a mug of French Press coffee and it would take forever to cool down. I solved the problem one morning by putting the ceramic mug in the freezer and pulling it out after the coffee was finished brewing. When I poured the hot coffee into the frozen mug, the temperature dropped instantly to a manageable temperature. And unlike adding ice to cool my coffee, my coffee never got watery.
The Coldwave Coffee Chiller is a grander vision of my frozen mug experiment. The Coldwave is a super-fast beverage chiller. We are going to use it for coffee, but it could be used for tea. You can even chill beer quickly, although you may lose some of the carbonation, so pour slowly. The Coldwave is two parts. First, there is an insert which is a collection of rods that are ideal for freezing. The second part is a pitcher.
Let’s make some iced coffee.
#1 Freeze the Coldwave Chiller
You’ll want to keep the Coldwave Chiller in the freezer, so it is ready to use at any time. The initial freeze can take 8 hours. Refreezing is much quicker and just requires an hour after chilling two batches.
You can store the pitcher in the freezer, but the makers of Coldwave state this will increase the time it takes to freeze. If you do put the pitcher in the freezer, be sure to dry it completely first.
#2 Brew Coffee However You Like
This is the best part of this brewer. You can make coffee however you like and then make it iced. I got excellent results with both an AeroPress and Chemex. When the coffee has finished brewing, remove the Coldwave from the freezer.
The Coldwave Beverage Chiller and Pitcher
#3 Pour Coffee Into Pitcher and Add Coldwave Chiller
Pour your brewed coffee into the empty pitcher and then place the Coldwave Chiller inside. The Coldwave is limited to 16 ounces. Don’t overfill or you’ll create a mess when you add the Coldwave insert.
Add brewed coffee to Pitcher.
#4 Wait 90 – 120 Seconds, Remove Insert, and Serve
It only takes 90-120 seconds to chill the hot coffee down. Touch the side of the pitcher to confirm the beverage is chilled. Remove the insert and serve the coffee.
Place Coldwave Chiller into Pitcher and wait 90-120 seconds.
Enjoy iced coffee.
#5 Cleanup and Preparing For the Next Iced Coffee
The final step is to clean the Coldwave and return it to the freezer. A good rinse is all you need most of the time. If you want a more detailed cleaning, you can place it on the top rack of the dishwasher. Once it is clean enough, put it back in the freezer.
If you have enough space in your freezer and you love iced coffee, the Coldwave is an awesome way to make iced coffee quickly and easily. This is the coffee device I wish I had many years ago when I lived in that Florida house without air conditioning.
Coldwave Beverage Chiller (Amazon USA)
Coffee Brewing Guide – A collection of coffee brewing tutorials here on INeedCoffee.
Disclosure: INeedCoffee received a Coldwave at no cost, which did not affect its review.*US
Life is Coffee Comics #15
Designed to Break Down
© 2017 Life is Coffee*US
The Osaka Cold Brew Dripper Tutorial
Some fancy coffee shops have these large beautiful coffee brewers that make coffee one drop at a time. A top chamber holds very cold water sometimes mixed with ice. That water is set to slowly release onto coffee grounds drop by drop. Maybe one drop every 1-3 seconds. The coffee passes through the coffee grounds and into a container holding the finished brew below.
It takes a long time to brew, but the taste is bright and wonderful. It brings out and highlights attributes of coffee that are more difficult to taste when the beverage is served hot. The good news is you do not need to seek out a fancy Japanese Oji Water Dripper to try this brewing method. You can brew cold drip coffee at home.
Not Cold Brew or Iced Coffee
Cold Drip coffee is not the same as cold brew or even iced coffee. It is its own style. Cold Brew coffee is a full immersion brewing method. This means the coffee makes contact with the water the entire brewing cycle. More like a very long French Press. To learn more about Cold Brew coffee see the article Cold Brew Coffee is Not Rocket Science.
Contrast this with drip immersion where the water makes contact with the coffee and passes through.
Iced coffee can be either full or drip immersion, but in most cases, the brewing time equals that of its hot brew equivalent. The coffee is brewed hot using a smaller amount of water and is then released onto the ice. If you get the ratios right what you get is a rich cup of coffee that is not watered down and cool to cold in temperature. For an example of this brewing method see the article A Clever Way to Make Iced Coffee.
Cold Brew Coffee
- 12 – 36 hours
- Brews using room temperature water
- Full immersion
- 2-4 minutes (same as hot coffee)
- Hot water passes through coffee onto the ice.
- Full or Drip
- 2-4 hours*
- Cold (some ice is optional)
* Some large commercial drippers will take 12-24 hours to brew.
To me, the flavor of Cold Drip Coffee is much closer to Iced Coffee than Cold Brew. The cold dripper highlights delicate flavors that are sometimes harder to detect or lost in hot brewed coffee. Whenever I begin experimenting with a new coffee brewer, I grab the oldest coffee I have for the first few batches. The reason for this is I expect a learning curve and that the first few brews won’t be the best. Why not put my old coffee to good use?
For my initial brews, I used a somewhat flat older Tanzania that I thought was a little over roasted when I made it in an AeroPress. When I made it with the Cold Brew Dripper I was shocked. It was bright and lively. A coffee I was planning on throwing away ended up tasting amazing with the cold dripper.
The cold dripper will not make all flat coffee taste great, but those coffees on the edge will certainly benefit from this brewing method.
For this cold dripper tutorial, we will be using the Cold Brew Dripper by Osaka Coffee. It consists of three parts. The top part is the chamber that will hold the cold water and ice. It also includes a lid. The middle part is the filter which will hold the ground coffee. It will rest on the third part which is the glass carafe.
#1 Dosing the Coffee
As with all brewing methods, we start by finding our ratio. This means parts water to parts coffee. I often use a 17-1 ratio (water to coffee) for hot coffee and a 4-1 ratio for a cold brew. Osaka recommends a 14-1 ratio. I liked that ratio for African coffees but found it a little weak for Latin American coffee. When I strengthened the ratio to 12-1, I got better results. I was using lighter roasted coffees. The ideal ratio is somewhere in the 10-1 to 15-1 range. Experiment.
For this tutorial, we will be using 35 grams of coffee brewed at a 12-1 ratio.
#2 Grind Coffee
The coffee will be ground medium coarse. See our Coffee Grind Chart for a visual explanation. Place the ground coffee inside the filter.
#3 Measure out Water and Ice
The top chamber will hold a mixture of ice and water. There are two things that go wrong here. If you use too much ice, the brew can’t finish until the ice is melted. You don’t want to be staring at a chamber of ice for an hour or more waiting for it to melt.
On the other hand, if you don’t use enough ice and the finished product isn’t cold, you can always add ice later. Not ideal either, but not a problem. The perfect outcome is all the ice melts and the finished coffee is cold.
What is a good ratio? It depends on if you the water you use is already cold and how warm the room is where you are brewing. For a cool office with chilled water, you won’t need any ice at all. For a warm kitchen using room temperature water, start with 40% of the water weight as ice.
Using cold water in a normal kitchen temperature 68-72 F, I got the best results using 10% ice.
- 35 grams ground coffee
- 35 * 12 = 420 grams total water
- 420 * 10% = 42 grams ice
- 420 – 42 = 378 grams cold water
Weigh out 42 grams of ice and place into the top chamber. Also, weigh out 378 grams of cold water into a something you can use to pour.
If you do not have a scale, you can still make the coffee. Fill the filter with ground coffee until almost the top. Then in the top chamber fill it to the line with cold water and ice. Unless the brewing environment is warm, use very little ice. Just a few cubes. If you use this as a starting point, you can adjust in subsequent brews to make the coffee stronger or weaker to your liking.
#4 Wet the Ground Coffee
You will not start brewing directly onto the dry ground coffee. Before placing the top chamber above the filter, gently pour just enough water over the coffee to wet the beans. You will be pouring from the container holding the cold water.
By wetting the beans you are making sure that all the grounds make contact with water. If you don’t wet the beans, the water drops can tunnel straight down leaving the coffee around the top edges dry. This means your coffee could taste weak.
#5 Commence Dripping
Now that the coffee grounds have been soaked, place the top chamber on top of the brewer. Add the remaining cold water onto the ice. Place the lid on top of this chamber.
At this point, you will dial in the dripper. By turning the handle, you can control the flow of coffee into the bottom chamber. Osaka recommends aiming for 2 drops every 3 seconds.
#6 Adjust Dripper After 60-90 Minutes
As the water weight in the top chamber drops, so will the flow rate. After about 60-90 minutes, adjust the flow to bring the dripper back to 2 drops every 3 seconds.
#7 Serve and Enjoy
When the last drop of water has left the top chamber and passed through the coffee, the brew is complete. Remove the top and middle chambers. Pour and enjoy. If it is not cold enough, you can either add ice or place in the refrigerator. If it is too strong, you can add more cold water. And if it is too weak, you can try again with more coffee, less water or a little finer grind.
#8 Clean Up
The clean up is super simple. Empty the grounds into a compost bin or garden. Rinse all the parts and set aside to dry. The Osaka Cold Brew Dripper is dishwasher safe. Other drippers may or may not be. Check first.
If you find your coffee tastes weak and you can see the drips have made a tunnel directly into the center of the beans, there is a fix. Place the second filter on top of the ground coffee just after you wet the grounds in Step #4. This will diffuse the water evenly across the beans. For most of my brews I did not need to do this trick, but when the coffee I used was older or darker, having the second filter on top evened out the water flow through the ground coffee. No more tunnel.
Not for Everyone
The Cold Dripper is not going to be the ideal coffee brewer for everyone. It has a very long brew cycle. However, I do think it would be perfect for someone with a desk job. Come into work with a hot coffee and then set up the dripper. Then a few hours later, you have your next delicious coffee waiting for you. No electricity required.
In my article The Quest for Good Coffee in the Office, I told the story about how my office had a strict policy against bringing in any electrical appliances. So I had to break rules. What I didn’t cover in the article was my rebel coffee lab was eventually shut down. With the Cold Dripper, I could have had great coffee without resorting to breaking any rules.
Coffee Brewing Guide – INeedCoffee brewing guide resource.
Photos by Joseph Robertson of Coffee Lovers Magazine.
Title photo by arbyreed.
Disclosure: Osaka donated a Coffee Dripper brewer for this tutorial.*US
Coffee on Canvas – Making Art With Coffee
Coffee on Canvas is a project by Jon Norquist that uses brewed coffee to create drawings.
How did you start Coffee on Canvas?
I literally stumbled into this art form about 5 years ago when a family friend bought my wife and I a Black and Decker coffee pot. The carafe was amazingly bad – it spilled coffee every time you made yourself a cup of coffee (which is insane given the fact that the team of humans that designed had one task to do….POUR FLUIDS INTO A CONTAINER, I digress).
Anyway, I had the pot for a few months and one morning as I poured scalding hot coffee over the counter, floor, and my feet, I saw the coffee spill and thought it was an interesting design. I immediately had the idea to outline the spill in black ink so that the form of the spill really stood out. In order to capture this accidental beauty, I began by taping the paper to my counter-top and allowing the coffee to spill on the paper during my morning coffee routine.
After a month or so of daily coffee brewing, I had a piece of caffeinated art! The problem though is that the paper would always curl as it tends to do when it is wet, so paper soon was replaced with un-curlable canvas and…..fast forward 5 years…..Coffee on Canvas was born.
Tell us about the process.
I start with a blank, gesso primed canvas and I paint it white with a few layers of Titanium White acrylic – I find the brown on white contrast to be pretty striking, so I like the canvas to be as white as possible, the canvas right-out-of-the-wrapper is much too gray. After a few coats of titanium white, I choose my subject and create a template.
The templates are usually made with thick card stock paper or poster board and what I typically do it sketch the subject until I’m satisfied and then cut out the template. This is useful for a few reasons:
- It reduces the pencil/sketch marks on the canvas (something I remove or cover later)
- It allows me to keep an inventory of subjects and designs.
One aspect of my art that I pride myself on is I do not run print editions – since I have templates of most of my designs, the templates allow me to make a unique piece every time, even if the subject or design is reused.
Once the template is made, I transfer the design to the canvas with a light pencil outline. I then determine if I want the subject to be portrayed in coffee, or if the subject will be the negative space – once I decide, I mask the areas I want to protect from coffee stains and then begin spilling coffee.
The coffee spilling is really a very creative process, as massing of coffee, leaving white space, the direction of spill/spray, layering, and color (lightness to darkness) of the coffee are all considered. As I spill the coffee in layers I become more and more aware of the “feel” or “flow” I want to create with the coffee.
Layering, I’ve learned is key. I usually add about 15-20 layers of coffee, drying each layer after it is spilled, and varying the color with each layer to distinguish it from the last. Since I’ve been doing this for a number of years it’s amazing what you learn about the makeup and flow of coffee. For instance, new coffee is orange while older coffee (1 to 2 days old) is more of a dark brown – I’m not sure the reasoning for this. I’ve also learned that heavy spills tend to coagulate at the edges making a very cool effect. If the layering is done correctly, it creates a marbling effect.
After a number of layers, I remove the masking to reveal the protected area.
Once the masking is peeled I begin outlining the coffee with ink. I outline every spec of coffee I can see on the canvas, usually requiring me to look at the piece throughout the day so I get a few shades and angles of sunlight to reveal more of the smaller flecks. I ensure I outline the marbling and layered coffee as well, and over the years I’ve honed a technique for this to ensure I capture even subtle tonal changes without striking them through with a hard black ink line.
At this point, the piece is essentially done. I apply a few layers of varnish to finish and protect the piece, and lastly, if I’m using silver in my piece it is applied and outlined with ink.
The Coffee Art Corporation – INeedCoffee contribution by Ryan L Lewis.
Coffee Art – Painting With Brewed Coffee – INeedCoffee contribution by Andy Saur and Angel Sarkela.*US