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Home Roasting Part II: Modifying the Air Popper to Extend Roast

So after making my first batch of home roasted coffee in a popcorn popper: http://hubski.com/pub?id=72859 I discovered that the thermostat wasn't letting the unit get hot enough to roast the beans to second crack. This is pretty common with these units, and so is modding them to get around that problem. Attached is a pictorial guide I made to modding a West Bend Air Crazy popper for home roasting. The units are $20 at Target, and a pretty cheap way to try out home roasting.

After modification, the popper produced beans that were far darker. Success:

PacoH 280 days ago  ·  link

Hey ecib, this is a great post. That popper is ubiquitous and is one of the few currently available for cheap that meet the side-vent requirement for coffee roasting. The annotated images are first rate. I am glad that you advocate simply moving the thermostat as opposed to removing it like so many people have done over at the Sweet Maria's forum. That practice is dangerous. I can envision relocating it to just the right position where it cuts off so you don't get too fast a roast but your roasting times are long compared to mine. I am using some old generic brand popper I picked up at Goodwill and it gets very hot without any modification. My roast times are too short. I am thinking about actually adding a thermostat because it doesn't have one. Just the opposite of your dilemma.

Though there are a lot of tangent posts about the uhhh… 'coffee culture' here in USofA, they are amusing. Only Americans make such a big deal about making good coffee. And the various coffee forums are the worst offenders. All kinds of snobs, forum bullies, and disseminators of misinformation abound on those sites. Not to say that there isn't some good solid information there, it's just that the signal is buried deeply in the noise. It seems that everyone is engaged in a really infantile competition at being THE master 'barista' in this country. I have to laugh at all this. I went to Italy in the 70s and I was blown away at what Italians simply consider coffee. We call it espresso, they call it simply caffè. We make a big deal about it. They take it for granted. We pay $4 for a shot. They now pay $1. Christ, they've been quietly enjoying superb quality coffee for a century and a half while, at that time we were still using percolators with the reject coffee that Juan Valdez supplied us with. :) When I came back I immediately sought out the coffee shops in the Italian neighborhood. The coffee was good, just not AS good. In Italy you can find good coffee even in little bars in remote train stations in small towns. It's ingrained in the culture. And a barista is just a bartender who knows how to make great caffè, mix drinks, and grill sandwiches. No big deal is made of the craft. We are gastronomical infants by comparison. Enough said…

ecib 280 days ago  ·  link

Thanks, though re-reading it I just noticed that step 9 really didn't need to be there, haha. And yeah, bad idea to remove the thermostat imho. At least located on the bottom, there is a chance it could trip if the temp gets catastrophically hot.

I'm with you on some of the absurdity of coffee culture here, -all you need is some fresh roasted good beans and a fresh grind and you're basically all the way there. Nobody percolates anymore, so pretty much any way you brew it will be fine, but a simple press is going to kick ass.

I will say that the $4 dollar cups of coffee I have here at good shops are significatly better than what I grew up on. At least I'm getting something for my money, and prices are only ever going to go up :)

Regarding your short roasts, did you try using a really long extension cord and/or roasting fewer beans at a time? I know it sucks to roast with fewer beans in a popper because the capacity is so small to begin with you usually want to get as many in there as possible, but more beans = less air flow = hotter quicker. I often hand-shake my unit while roasting in order to extend the roast.

PacoH 279 days ago  ·  link

Yeah… no I would never use a long cord to reduce the voltage/current. That's a little too much of a kludge for an engineer like myself. Total waste of power. What I WOULD do is add a simple SCR/voltage regulator with a pot to smoothly regulate the voltage to the main coil. I was thinking of splicing in a frying pan probe thermostat but the SCR is the way to go.

I agree with you on the simplicity of obtaining superior coffee at home for cheap. I pay $8/lb for top quality varietal beans and I roast 3 small batches at a time. This lasts me and my wife about a week, drinking one cup a day, and I get many weeks out of just one pound.

I long ago determined that I can only roast 1/3 cup of beans at a time with my machine. That way it starts whirling immediately without stirring. If you have to stir to get things going, you're being too impatient and should reduce the load IMO.

As for percolators, I was only using that as an example of what was the norm at that time. I got a Macchina Mocha Espresso stovetop filter-up pressure pot when I was in Italy. It's what everybody there used at home. So I was enjoying superior espresso even back then while most Americans never had a cup of espresso. Then came the Melitta filter and then the coffee machines that used the paper filter and the rest is history.

I use an Aeropress for everyday use and a La Pavoni Pub for when I want to spend some time crafting a REAL cup of caffè.

ecib 279 days ago  ·  link

Ah, I use and Aeropress too. Since I've been roasting, I've become a bit more particular, but my wife persists in only liking dark roasts from two brands...Starbucks Verona or Trader Joe's French roasts. Neither one I can drink black. So I have to make two different cups each time I make us coffee, and it's just easier to brew with a single cup brewer like an Aeropress. That it is almost impossible to screw up the brew with one is an added bonus.

    What I WOULD do is add a simple SCR/voltage regulator with a pot to smoothly regulate the voltage to the main coil. I was thinking of splicing in a frying pan probe thermostat but the SCR is the way to go.

Oh man, if you do this post pictures!

PacoH 263 days ago  ·  link

Here's an update. After considering all of the cheap SCR controller boards on eBay, I decided that it would be more involved than I had hoped because I would have to buy and populate an enclosure, since the boards were all too big to fit inside the popper housing, and then there was the heat dissipation problem. The much discussed Harbor Freight Router Speed Control had all the qualities I needed. And it was on sale for $19.99 and with the 20% OFF coupon it cost just $17.40 with the tax. What's great about it is it is a self-contained unit so there's nothing to build. It worked actually better than I had anticipated. I had read in the beer-making forums that people had to add a massive heatsink to the aluminum back-plate of the case, some even going so far as to mill a depression in the plate to better fit the heatsink. The first time I used it, I set the VAR control on maximum until first crack, about two minutes. It did get hot enough that I could only touch the back-plate with two fingers for two seconds. When I turned it down so the beans were barely swirling around, it was warm, not hot. The next time I put the switch on FULL until first crack and then switched over to VAR and turned it down until the beans were just barely swirling. This time the back-plate was barely warm the whole duration. So great, no need for a heatsink. I have to say that, even though the control also reduces the fan speed, the roast is slowed down enough so that it is much more controllable and much more even. So this is already a huge improvement. Phase one completed.

Next I have to come up with a way to control the fan independently, using a minimalist, read that cheap and compact, approach. I'd prefer to have everything inside rather than have an external box with a separate wire. I'll report back on what I find.

ecib 252 days ago  ·  link

Thanks for the update! Sounds like the modification was definitely a success. I hadn't actually seen that particular speed control before, but it looks like a pretty clean solution. How long did it take you to do the mod would you say?

PacoH 245 days ago  ·  link

There are numerous forum posts about this controller. People use it for controlling popcorn coffee roasters, beer brew kettle heating elements, even high power industrial lighting for video production, saving thousands of dollars off commercial controllers.

Here are two excellent posts about using it for coffee roasting:

Ultimate Poppery II and Pumper - Home Roasting

Hacking the Orville Redenbacher Hot Air Popper to Roast Coffee

Heh-heh, the 'mod', if you can call it that, took me as long as it took to go to the store, buy the unit, then go back there and exchange it because the one I got looked used. That's it. Just plug 'er in and go. :)

After using it several times, I decided the chip, which is a BTA26-600B A320 Triac, is getting too hot. This was designed to provide intermittent power to a router, not continuous power to a heating element. Even though I can replace this chip for $2 on eBay, I never want to overdrive a component like that so I decided to add a heatsink like the guys that use this for controlling heating elements for beer brewing and controlling industrial lighting. Mr P's 110v Harbor Freight controller duel element setup has a nice discussion about this. Here is a photo of his mod:

The heatsink will cost me more than a replacement chip and some work but I like to do things right the first time whenever I have the luxury of doing so. ;)

I decided there's no practical way to separate out the motor circuit and drive it internally so I will just slap a jack onto the shell and use a nice little 32V 750mA plug-in power supply from my trashed HP Piece-O-Crap® printer. That way I can use it on any popper.

PacoH 204 days ago  ·  link

OK, I finally got the heatsink from China and did the mod. I did an Instructable on it.

Harbor Freight Router Speed Control Mod

ecib 168 days ago  ·  link

Woah, just saw this. How has it been performing for you? That looks awesome!

PacoH 146 days ago  ·  link

It works well. Even at full power with the Variable setting, the heatsink is barely warm. I still have to do the fan mod though because it slows the fan.

PacoH 279 days ago  ·  link

Starbucks and Trader Joe's? OK, I've bought Starbucks beans and had them grind them to my specs for the Aeropress when I was visiting in NYC. It was not that bad. They still can roast better than I can but they don't have anything approaching varietal coffees. I used to buy only Trader Joe's Dark Sumatra. But now that I have discovered roasting, I have never looked back.

For the Aeropress, I use one rounded scoop of unground beans for one cup. I grind them to between espresso and French press. I steep for one minute, using the plunger to keep the coffee in the tube. I even did an Instructable Make Great Coffee with an Alternative to the Aeropress 'Inversion' Method and a video about it An Alternative to the Aeropress 'Inversion' Method. There are tons of videos on the inversion method so naturally, I got some flack and down-votes from that crowd but who cares? They are exactly the ones I was talking about above. Infantile little fanboys who think their clumsy over-thought method is best.

My wife uses a Vietnamese filter coffee strainer with my roasted beans.

Don't worry, if/when I do the SCR mod I will make an Instructable on it. I have not seen that done anywhere.

kleinbl00 806 days ago  ·  link

I almost did this in 2000 and then I started working next to a coffee roaster. What I thought would be an awesome smell was actually closer to a hershey bar roasting on a hickory fire. Now that I live in an apartment I figure subjecting my neighbors to coffee roasting may not be the way to go, but I may try again when I've got some land...

Where you getting your raw from?

ecib 806 days ago  ·  link

    I almost did this in 2000 and then I started working next to a coffee roaster. What I thought would be an awesome smell was actually closer to a hershey bar roasting on a hickory fire.

This is absolutely true.

There are actually two smells that the roasting process produces that I like. There is a nice, mellow grassy smell as the beans begin to dry out and turn from green to a very light golden color. Then there is the ultimate smell the next morning when you stick your nose in the container that was holding the previous day's new roast.

Outside of that though, it is AWFUL. It reeks. I roast on my workbench in the garage, and my fiancee complains about how the house smells just from me coming back in and putting my coat in the basement. It gets in your hair really bad as well.

For the raw beans, most people get them from Sweet Maria's online. They supply coffee shops and most of the home roasters in the country I'd wager. They sell a sampler pack for starting out, but I wouldn't go that route. Instead, buy two pounds of a medium quality bean. Nothing to crappy or too expensive. Then with the same bean, attempt all of the different roast profiles, from light to dark. This way, you can really familiarize yourself with how the different roasts affect the flavor and get a handle on things before moving on to a new bean which will change the flavor on you.

I went one better and bought raw beans from a local roaster that owns a small coffee shop in our town. So I've been roasting an Ethiopian Limu bean, and while I have been, I've been popping into his shop every few days and ordering a French Press of his roast of the same bean. This way I can compare the results I'm getting to what this professional roaster is putting out with the same raw bean. He's my control.

I'm almost done with this batch, and after that I'm probably going to go on to Sweet Maria's website and hunt down the next victim.

I bet you could roast in your apartment. The Air Crazy takes up no space, and as long as you have a porch or balcony, you could just plug in an extension and go to town. The whole process takes less than 10 minutes. Put it this way, -if anybody in your apartment barbecues, then you can definitely do this.

Sweet Maria's has a ton of forums and resources for this, as well as selling everything one would need:


kleinbl00 806 days ago  ·  link

Appreciate the info. I'll think on it. It's kind of amazing down here in LA that everyone is all gung-ho about their coffee in ways Seattle never was... but whole bean coffee is exotic. It's weird.

ecib 805 days ago  ·  link

What kind of coffee are they crazy over then?

kleinbl00 805 days ago  ·  link

This shit.

Never before in the history of man have so many paid so much for so terrible a brew. I used to drink f'ing FOLGERS but I've bought coffee at Intelligentsia that I couldn't finish the cup.

Shit is nasty.

ecib 805 days ago  ·  link

I've never had that, but people all over the country rave about it like it's the cat's ass. Uh...pun intended I guess :|

People on the coffee blogs who seem to care waaay too much about coffee (and aren't dependable as contrarians) fucking love them.

I will say that the first bag of beans I bought from Stumptown (another third wave roaster that got "huge") I had to pitch. I thought I couldn't go wrong and that I was walking out of there with a great bag, but when I got home I couldn't even talk myself into liking it. I think with a lot of the small batch third wave roasters, they are more often pushing the envelope with new roasts and new beans, so you get a ton of variety depending on what you select.

I know that since I've started exploring, I've been kind of amazed at the variety of tastes different beans can produce. I always thought that the 'tasting notes' and wine-like descriptions for a cup of joe were a bit over the top. Part of me still feels that way, but I remember the first espresso I had that had "strong citrus notes" at a shop near me...it tasted like somebody squeezed a fucking lemon in the cup, I swear; it wasn't one of these. It was wild and delicious. That was the first time that, in a sense, coffee didn't taste like coffee to me. That's what made me want to see how many other beans out there could do that.

kleinbl00 805 days ago  ·  link

I lost all respect for the coffee culture when they started charging more for "single pour" - which is how I've made coffee for eight years, simply because Alton Brown recommended it. Seriously? Your holy awesome coffee method is a filter holder from Ralph's?

What's the crazy stupid gadget that cost like 15 grand that Starbuck's bought up? The Clover? Had Clover coffee? It tastes a lot like coffee.

I wonder if it's like music snobs - you get so into the esoterica that you lose sight of taste. Intelligentsia coffee - and I've had three different brews - tastes like Starbuck's with a pint of vinegar thrown in the percolator. It's acidic, bitey, nasty and extraordinarily fucking expensive. Fuckin' $4.75 for a cup of brewed coffee.

Me, I generally focus on fresh and beyond that, I just drink it.

b_b 805 days ago  ·  link

Haha, I know exactly what you mean. A new fancy coffee house opened down the street form me last summer. They offer the single pour, which I wan't familiar with. So when the guy told me about it, I (naively) said, "That's sounds good. I'll try it." Of course then I watched him make it, and was surprised to learn that he was making coffee the way my dad always made it, because he was always too cheap to buy a drip maker! Then I almost had a heart attack when the dude said, "That'll be $4.50." WTF?!?! $4.50 for drip coffee, because the filter holder is stainless steel, and not plastic like the one my dad used to use. Gimme a fuckin' break. I'm not one who's shy about paying for quality items, but the single pour is the most pretentious garbage I've come across in a long time.

mk 805 days ago  ·  link

I have to agree. One of my favorite local houses started doing this as the default. It's slow and useless. I'd rather a single sized french press.

If it's recently roasted, and freshly ground, you can skip the theatrics.

This is how my granpa rolled.

thenewgreen 805 days ago  ·  link

Next time you guys head to Jerusalem Garden, get a cup of their Turkish Coffee. It's pretty damned good.

kleinbl00 805 days ago  ·  link

Melitta makes a nice ceramic filter holder you can buy off Amazon for like $9. Gives you a little less plastic flavor than the plastic ones. I haven't seen stainless; Dunno that I'd go that way.

But yeah. Exactly. It was kind of like when the Bodums came out - "oh, you're making cowboy coffee but you're too lazy to know when to stop pouring?"

My dad, for the longest time, made coffee with a funnel and cheesecloth. This shit ain't rocket science.

ecib 805 days ago  ·  link

The most offensive things about the Bodums is the price of a pour over kettle. It is not that hard to get boiled water on to coffee grounds when you are already brewing by hand. A bridge too far.

    My dad, for the longest time, made coffee with a funnel and cheesecloth.

I swear to god if a hipster shop started doing this it would be the next big thing. Do you even have a doubt? Fuck it. If I ever open a coffee shop up I'm stealing this, lol.

kleinbl00 805 days ago  ·  link

Call it LOFI. Brew in clay urns using cheesecloth and burlap. Serve only pour-over and turkish roasted on-site over a charcoal furnace with modified Electrolux vacuum cleaner air blower.

Charge $8 for a cup of coffee.

Dirty li'l secret about coffee shops: 4/5 small businesses fail after 5 years but 80% of coffee shops opened are still going strong 5 years later. My problem with it is I'm not cynical enough to pander to people I think are idiots.

ecib 168 days ago  ·  link



Also, they're nice enough to warn you:

    Coffee from a nel is thick, focused and incredibly sweet – texturally reminiscent of mulled wine. It's quite moody and fragile, too: Water that's too hot, a hurried pour, or even an offhand remark might wither its complexity.

If offhand remarks wither the complexity of cloth-drip coffee, you basically have no chance right out of the gate dude ;)

kleinbl00 168 days ago  ·  link

Oh my god that makes me want to hit someone.

thenewgreen 805 days ago  ·  link

    80% of coffee shops opened are still going strong 5 years later.
-Really? That's super surprising to me. I do know that in most restaurants the highest profit margined item is almost always Iced Tea or Coffee. But you don't take margin to the bank, you take profit dollars and unless you are turning and burning there aren't a whole lotta profit dollars in coffee.

What's the secret?

kleinbl00 804 days ago  ·  link

...closely followed by desserts. If all you sell is alcohol, desserts and coffee, you will operate a stunningly profitable business.

What's the secret?

Well, first read this:


Then recognize that coffee shops are to the USA what pubs are to the UK. They fill the same civic hole that Baskin Robbins held for 30 years, something that simply didn't exist before it. Maybe it's because I'm older than a lot of the people here, but I remember when the cafes came. "Coffee culture" didn't slowly evolve, it just sort of... HIT about 1989. I saw a sneak preview of Sleepless in Seattle with my date, who had lived in Tacoma for most of her life before moving out with her dad to New Mexico. She pointed out a Starbuck's in the movie and said "you're going to see a lot of those soon." It seemed odd to me that suddenly everyone would start paying a lot of money for coffee (without first buying a donut) but that's exactly what happened.

The coffee shop is the easiest, cheapest, lowest impact third place. And, as the bedroom communities and exurbs metastasize into communities, "coffee shops" help anchor those communities. In essence, a coffee shop charges a nominal fee to a neighborhood in order to exemplify that neighborhood. And not to put too fine a point on it, but they sell addiction - socially-acceptable, minimal-impact addiction. Coffee shops sell caffeine and sugar and they do so for the same price as a pack of cigarettes. They're habit forming. And they often have comfy chairs, free wi-fi and will top up your drip coffee as long as you're in the room.

If libraries could charge $2.50 to get people to sit and chill out there'd be one on every corner, too.

ecib 804 days ago  ·  link

    "Coffee culture" didn't slowly evolve, it just sort of... HIT about 1989.

I remember this, and that really was about the year it happened. The hangout for my bored teenage friends and I was the local Dennys. We would just pile into a booth and drink cup after cup of coffee, talking for hours. Sometimes we would even order food. Then an indie coffee shop popped up in our small downtown. It had art on the walls, open mics, poetry readings. It was like "wtf?" For a bored teenager this was heaven. It gave us a place to congregate and be social with each other without pissing off the management. In college I used to study at them all the time just so I could fulfill my obligations while simultaneously be doing something at least minimally social.

ecib 804 days ago  ·  link

    you take profit dollars and unless you are turning and burning there aren't a whole lotta profit dollars in coffee.

It's the morning rush. We have an entire population hard wired and addicted, either habitually or chemically or both. If you've ever been in a coffee shop on your way to a 9 to 5, you'll see them going gangbusters the whole morning. Then a little bump at lunch.

As long as you choose your location correctly and make sure that you are along the path of morning commute traffic, I'd bet you're nicely locked in to a predictable recurring source of revenue that also represents the majority of your sales every given weekday. And the turnaround can't get better than somebody late for work :)

thenewgreen 804 days ago  ·  link

500 people a day, with $2 average profit dollars each is 1000 a day less cost of goods and operating expenses just doesn't seem all that attractive to me. I would almost guess that 500 is a lot for some of the mom and pops.

But yeah, a Starbucks on Main street america is busy all day long. If you can tap in to the demand with a good product in the right place, I could see it being a nice, predictable revenue stream. Like having a liquor store or a tobacco shop. -Prey on the addicted :)

kleinbl00 804 days ago  ·  link

Let's do the numbers. A pound of coffee is, call it $6 wholesale. From that pound of coffee you can make 256 cups of coffee - while understanding that a grande is two and a venti is three. So call them shots and figure most shops sell doubles. That's 128 servings at, call it, $3 per serving.

Your expenses on the beans are in the noise.

How 'bout the pastries? Let's say you sell scones for $2. Your baker is likely selling them to you for $15 for 2 dozen. You're at 50% profit on shit you didn't even make.

How 'bout the labor? Say you've got 2 baristas. They're making minimum wage - and tips. Tips aren't your problem. So you're into it for $20 an hour including all the FICA and shit.

Rent? Let's say you've got 500 square feet. Let's say you're in a major city but not in a hot spot. You're paying $1000 a month, round numbers. You're open 6am to 10pm, 7 days a week. You're paying basically $2 an hour for your rent.

Your overhead is less than $22 an hour, beyotch. And your profit on your main product is essentially 100%. If you sell 8 lattes at $3 every hour you're profitable. Averaged out over the day, that's a latte every 7 minutes. And yeah, there's a lot of slop in the equation and you likely won't sell as many at 4pm as you do at 8am but you're damn skippy you're making your rent if you're halfway clued in.

thenewgreen 804 days ago  ·  link

$1000 a month? For commercial space in a major market even off the beaten path is a stretch. But the point if your numbers isn't lost on me.

From where I'm sitting there are better investments. But a chain of shops, then selling franchising rights? Now I'm interested.

ecib 804 days ago  ·  link

    From where I'm sitting there are better investments.

For many of these small, independent business owners, if they can cover their fixed costs, materials, and labor, all while making an honest wage, they struck gold. They're pursuing a dream and are their own master. My fiancee owns a boutique, and her competition isn't really the American Apparel across the street, it's the bored, semi-retired housewife with a rich husband who loves clothes and needs something to do. It's kind of weird, but she really is competing against stores that aren't too worked up if they don't make much of a profit. For the ones that are really in for themselves, they really are happy to simply make a wage equal to what they would make in their industry in a good position working for someone else. The competitors that want much more than that are the exception to the rule a lot of times.

kleinbl00 804 days ago  ·  link

>insert fisherman/entrepreneur parable<

kleinbl00 804 days ago  ·  link

It's not. My wife was looking at commercial space a year ago. Some were cheaper, some were more. That's in urban LA, on major shopping streets.

Back when I was mixing in clubs our flagship was 9,000 square feet in the heart of Pioneer Square. It cost $15k a month.

ecib 805 days ago  ·  link

    Seriously? Your holy awesome coffee method is a filter holder from Ralph's?

There is so much voodoo regarding pour overs. The real benefit for a high end coffee shop isn't so much the pour over and filter, but the fact that you just ground the beans up a second before. That's where the big 'value add' is in that whole process as far as I can see. I mean....maaaaaaaaaybe I'm wrong, but I'd bet a significant amount of money that there would not be a statistically taste-able difference in a double blind test between a pour over and any other filter brewed method, as long as the coffee hasn't been sitting around for an hour. As long as you're pouring the right temperature water over the grounds....I just don't taste a difference.

    I wonder if it's like music snobs - you get so into the esoterica that you lose sight of taste.

This could be. But it shouldn't be. If you're going to be a high end, artisanal roaster, your goal shouldn't be to roast something different. It should be to roast something different that the majority of people trying it will enjoy. You shouldn't need to know anything about industry trends or why Starbucks burns their beans to enjoy what is in your cup. You should be able to just drink it black and say "Damn, this is good," or for those roasters who like to push the envelope, "Damn, this is different...but really good!"

For me, Ritual beans have consistently been the most interesting, and most delicious tasting on average. But the cool thing about home roasting is I can just experiment and discover my own thing, get way better coffee for half the price, have raw beans that last over a year, and well, it's more interesting than buying them from somewhere else.

kleinbl00 805 days ago  ·  link

    The real benefit for a high end coffee shop isn't so much the pour over and filter, but the fact that you just ground the beans up a second before.

...AND WHY THE FUCK ISN'T IT ALWAYS LIKE THIS!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!????

If I go to the Ralph's up the street to buy whole beans from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, they've likely been sitting on the shelf for three months. If I go next door to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, they've likely been sitting on the shelf for six. "Fresh roasted" coffee in LA is anything less than a month old.

But oh fuck how people love their kuerigs around here...

ecib 805 days ago  ·  link
This comment has been deleted.
steve 806 days ago  ·  link

this is AWESOME. it almost** makes me want to start drinking coffee...

I'm a sucker for a cool mod.

ecib 806 days ago  ·  link

Come to the dark side. I am your father.

steve 806 days ago  ·  link


mk 807 days ago  ·  link

This is great. I want to try it. How long did it take to get that dark roast?

ecib 806 days ago  ·  link

So here are the the major milestones of the roast:

I used the stock stopwatch on my phone. Total time was 7 mins and 22 seconds.

Since I just modded this thing, I wanted to attempt the two darkest roasts, -Vienna and French (https://www.sweetmarias.com/library/content/using-sight-dete...), and it totally worked.

thenewgreen 807 days ago  ·  link

Wow I have no intention of ever doing this, but I love that this resource exists. Thanks for posting this here, very nicely done. I hope the dsrker roasy turns out well! Very cool.

ecib 807 days ago  ·  link

The darker roast was too dark for my tastes, but my fiancee (intended recipient of this roast) loved it. Next time I'm shooting for a roast in between my first batch and this. Probably a Full City roast.

deadupchowder350 569 days ago  ·  link

Hello! So I just made this modification to the same Air Bend model; however, I am getting rather poor results. In fact, the results were better when the thermostat was in its original position. I was wondering if you could help me troubleshoot this.

So, my first attempt consisted of less than 1/2 cup of Sweet Maria's beans. I watched the Air Bend outside for 15 min and I didn't hear a single crack.

I reopened the Air Bend and verified the thermostat was in an appropriate location. While not fixed, it's sitting at the bottom near the circuit board. I have some qualms that this unfixed thermostat may be causing a problem, but then I think "well, it's no longer attached to the hottest piece of the unit, so it should be reading a lower temperature and the unit should be performing accordingly".

My second attempt: I used less than 1/4 cup of the same beans and watched it again for just under 8 min. Same thing; no cracks. I can post a picture of the results from attempt 2 if you're curious.

ecib 548 days ago  ·  link

Hey, sorry I missed this when you first posted it.

It is strange that you are not reaching 1st crack, -even an unmodified popper should have no problems here.

A few possible issues come to mind:

1) Are you roasting with the lid of the popper on? If not, do so. It will help retain heat. Keep the butter melter in place as well.

2) Are you roasting in the garage far from the home's main electrical feed? These cheap poppers are pretty susceptible to changes in line voltage. If you are some distance away, it could actually be extending the roast time. In fact, one common solution to the opposite problem (roast progressing too quickly) is to attach a long extension cord between the outlet and the roaster.

3) Are you roasting in very cold weather? This affects it, especially if the lid is off.

4) Finally, do you just have a POS? These units are cheap and cheaply made offshore. My first unit died pretty much right away (about three weeks in). I got a second one and performed the mod, but have been careful not to do immediate back to back roasts, as I think it just stresses it out too much.

It's been 21 day, so I'd be curious to see if you found a solution in the meantime :)

deadupchowder350 548 days ago  ·  link

Hey! Thanks for the reply, I was just reanalyzing my current coffee dilemma and was disappointed that I had not yet heard from you because I had made no attempts to resolve the issue in the meantime and then, viola: you come to the rescue.

1) Popper lid is on

2) I'm roasting pretty close to the main feed - I don't think that's the issue

3) I was roasting outside in pretty cold weather. I thought it would provide a great solution to the "smokiness" problem and actually never tried roasting outside prior to the mod. I did not think the temperature difference would affect the roasting of the beans, so thanks for mentioning that! This is likely the issue. After seeing 4) I'm realizing what I'm working with here and I'm really taking this thing for granted as it is.

I will apologize in advance to my housemates and brew away this week; I'll let you know how it goes.

A side note: have you found any solutions to increase the "batch" sizes? I tend to use larger batches but makes sure to stir or shake the beans every 2 minutes. I am curious to your thoughts on the matter.

Thanks again for your help and of course the idea!

ecib 548 days ago  ·  link

Regarding #3, yeah, I would recommend roasting outside too, -even in the winter. It just kicks out waaaaay to much smoke, and the popper should be able to handle it just fine. I find that in cold weather, it extends the roast times on my Air Crazy maybe 3 minutes or so (compared to Summertime).

If you can't even reach first crack though, after say, 8 minutes, then I'd probably look to just giving it a whirl with another unit. You could have a dog :/

Regarding batch size, I'm running into the same problem myself! I've just recently decided to switch to using a heat gun and a bread-maker, which can roast up to a pound at a time. You don't need a breadmaker though, -some DIYers just use a heat gun and a dog bowl with a long wooden spoon to stir :) It's pretty hands on.

As far as batch sizes on the Air Crazy, I roast 80-85 grams at a time, and I generally constantly do a light shake for the first 3 or 4 minutes. I generally stop shaking for sure once I get to 1st crack in cold weather, and let it proceed to second crack in the chamber without agitation.

Edit: Forehead slap.

I just realized what your problem could be. You mentioned you used a half a cup of beans then decreased the amount to 1/4 cup. With a fluid bed roaster like this, the hot air comes out of the chamber near the bottom of the heating chamber. Decreasing the bean density lets the hot air escape, and increasing it retains it. Roasting with fewer beans actually increases the time it takes to reach 1st and 2nd crack, and roasting with too few may make it really difficult.

I would try it with 85 grams of beans. That is the max I can roast in mine effectively. You don't want too many, but you definitely don't want too few! I bet that will help a lot. It should shorten the time to 1st crack to a more acceptable range. Ideally, you want to be hitting it between 4 and 7.5 minutes in.

deadupchowder350 531 days ago  ·  link

So I bit the bullet and I moved the project back indoors and there were no problems with the roasting. I used about 1/2 cup of beans and it seemed to have worked out as it did before, pre-thermostat removal. Of course it stunk up the house and required a few windows to be open.

I didn't realize there was such a large variance in 1st crack times. I like darker roasts, but am also rather new to this whole thing, so I have been sticking to about 7 min total roast times.

About how much volume is 85 grams of beans?

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