Roasting coffee beans with a popcorn popper can be easy and rewarding. In about 10 minutes, you’ll have fragrant beans. But how do you find a popper that will work well for this purpose?
We’ve done the hard work for you, researching and testing all of the biggest models. The result? This list of the year’s six best popcorn poppers for roasting coffee beans, complete with detailed reviews. For our tests, we looked at price, capacity, stirring mechanism, and overall design so you can be sure you’ll find a great model. If you’re curious about the best features and how to choose among them, take a look at the buyer’s guide. Keep reading to find your new favorite coffee roaster!
Comparison of our Favorite Picks for 2023
The 6 Best Popcorn Poppers for Roasting Coffee
1. Franklin’s Original Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Machine Popper – Best Overall
Our favorite popper was the Franklin’s Original Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Machine Popper, which justifies its higher price with its sturdy all-aluminum body, including durable metal gears. This large six-quart kettle has a heat-resistant wood handle and an effective stirring mechanism that is strong enough to stir coffee beans.
Each side of the metal lid flips up, so you can easily sneak a peek at your browning beans without losing too much heat. The aluminum construction makes this 2.7-pound kettle light enough to easily lift and shake, and the large capacity means you can evenly roast more beans at the same time.
Though it has to be hand-washed, Franklin’s Whirley Pop is easy to wipe clean and comes with a lifetime guarantee, though using it to roast coffee will likely void that warranty. The package includes a Franklin’s Gourmet Popcorn pre-measured popcorn pack.
All in all, we think this is this year’s best popcorn roaster for roasting coffee.
2. Wabash Whirley-Pop Popper Kit – Best Value
If you’d like to spend a bit less, the Wabash Whirley-Pop Popper Kit offers great value. It has a very similar design to our top pick, Franklin’s, but at a lower price. The 2.15-pound Wabash Whirley-Pop has a large six-quart capacity, an aluminum body, and an expensive-feeling wooden handle.
This model is easy to clean and has a lid that conveniently opens halfway. The downside is that the gears on the nylon stirring system are made of plastic and are therefore less durable. In testing, we found that they work very well on smaller quantities of coffee beans, but may strip or get stuck if you add more than half a pound. Wabash does offer replacement gears.
The Wabash Whirley-Pop comes with a popcorn-making kit and a 25-year warranty, though using it to roast coffee may invalidate that warranty.
3. Zippy Pop Red Stovetop Popcorn Popper
The Zippy Pop Red Stovetop Popcorn Popper is another well-priced option with expensive-feeling construction, though it has a smaller capacity and doesn’t work as well for coffee roasting.
Sold in four- and five-and-a-half-quart sizes in a variety of colors, this kettle is too small to roast a large number of beans, so you’ll have to do multiple rounds. The aluminum body has a convenient non-stick interior and is entirely dishwasher-safe.
Our favorite feature of this model is the high-quality clear glass lid, which will allow you to monitor the color of your beans without losing heat. With no gears, the lid-mounted stirring rod is significantly more sturdy, but because these paddles don’t touch the bottom, they won’t work on your coffee beans. You’ll have to shake this kettle while roasting, and unfortunately, the five-and-a-half-quart model weighs over three pounds, making this model heavier despite its smaller capacity.
4. Norpro Old Time Popcorn Popper
The Norpro Old Time Popcorn Popper is a reasonably-priced and fairly effective model for coffee roasting, though it may not be durable enough for extended use. The design is somewhat complicated and not very attractive, though the kettle comes in charming packaging.
This two-pound model, which has to be hand-washed, has an aluminum body and a wood handle. The stirring rod, which consists of four prongs attached to a central handle, does a good job of moving coffee beans around, though the gears do not feel very sturdy. We also found that the kettle’s thin aluminum sides scratch and ding easily, and the bottom may warp on the stove.
5. Nostalgia APH200RED 16-Cup Air-Pop Popcorn Maker
If you prefer not to use a stovetop, the Nostalgia APH200RED 16-Cup Air-Pop Popcorn Maker could be for you. This low-priced electric air popper weighs under two pounds and features an on/off switch and a swirling hot air chamber with desirable side vents.
We found the fan to work well in this model, stirring the coffee beans without blowing them out. The clear plastic top will allow you to monitor your beans as they roast. This model is hot enough for quick roasting, at around four minutes for a medium roast and eight or nine for a dark roast.
The Nostalgia air popper does get hot if you roast several rounds in a row, so you may need to take a break between batches. It can only hold about a quarter cup of beans at a time, so you will need to do multiple rounds.
6. Toastmaster 6202 Hot Air Popcorn Popper
Our least favorite option, the Toastmaster 6202 Hot Air Popcorn Popper, is another electric model with a larger capacity and a good fan. It’s not the most durable, though, and can be difficult to find.
This 2.5-pound model is no longer sold directly, so you may need to shop around a bit. To keep the motor from burning out, the 6202 needs to rest for 10 minutes after every two roasts. With a four-quart capacity, you won’t need to do as many batches as in the Nostalgia, but that lengthy rest period could still add a lot of time to your roast process.
The Toastmaster 6202’s powerful heater roasts beans quickly, and the model features a removable lid with a measuring cup, though it’s still somewhat difficult to clean.
Buyer’s Guide: Finding the Best Popcorn Poppers for Roasting Coffee
As you shop for a popcorn popper, you’ll come across a wide range of features. But how do you determine which features will work best for roasting coffee? Read on to learn what your options are and how they’ll affect your roasting process.
Stovetop or Electric?
When you start shopping for a coffee-roasting popcorn popper, the first big decision you’ll want to make is whether to buy a stovetop or electric model.
Though you won’t want to leave either alone, stovetop poppers require more hands-on attention, since you’ll need to stir continuously throughout the roasting process. They’re slightly more difficult, but you’ll also get more control over the process. Plus, you can use a stovetop popper on pretty much any heat source, including a campfire, camp stove or any type of burner.
Electric air poppers have smaller roasting capacities and generally need to rest between batches. They may be less durable over time because they depend on heating and fan motors. On the other hand, they don’t require stirring – if you choose a good air popper with effective side vents, the machine will do all of the stirring for you.
What are the most important features of a stovetop model?
1. Stirring mechanism
This is the key feature of a stovetop popper because you’ll need to stir continuously to keep your beans roasting evenly and prevent burning. Stirring rods typically operate using side handles with gears to stir paddles around a central rod. You’ll probably want to look for sturdy gears that can handle extended use, and stirring paddles that move around the bottom of the pan to keep your coffee beans moving.
There are a variety of lid styles available. If you’re a new coffee roaster, you may want to be able to peek at your beans as they brown. Opening the lid too often can cause temperature fluctuations that may cause an uneven roast, so you may want to look for lids that open halfway or are see-through. If you’re an old hand at coffee roasting, the lid may not be your focus.
Most popcorn poppers have aluminum bodies, which are lightweight and good conductors of heat. Some offer features like non-stick coatings, so you may want to consider if that’s a priority for you.
4. Ease of Cleaning
Many stovetop poppers required hand-washing because of their more delicate stirring mechanisms. These are generally fairly simple to wipe clean, though lightweight chaff (the outer skin that separates from roasting beans) can be difficult to get rid of. If you dislike hand-washing, you may want to look for a popper that can be put in the dishwasher.
What are the important features of an air popper?
The fan is the stirring mechanism in an air popper, so it’s important to find one that will work well with coffee beans. Beans are heavier than popcorn kernels, so you’ll want a fan that’s strong enough to move them around. The best type of vent for coffee beans is a side vent, which will do a better job of lifting and consistently moving the beans around.
Perfectly roasted coffee lies in the space between baking and burning temperatures. If your air popper’s heater isn’t strong enough, you may end up baking your coffee beans, which won’t give them the right flavor when brewing. You’ll want to keep an eye out for models with enough wattage to roast your beans. More recent models of air poppers seem to have less powerful heaters, so we recommend looking for older designs. This means they’ll be a little trickier to find, though.
3. Rest time
Air poppers generally require rest times in between batches. This will keep the motor from overheating and burning out. If you want to roast a lot of beans, you may want to monitor how much rest time your model requires, because it could add a lot of time to your roasting process.
Air poppers are typically smaller than stovetop models. They’re generally capable of roasting four quarts or less of coffee beans at a time. If you plan to roast a lot of beans, that capacity may be too small, so you may end up spending quite a long time roasting.
As with a stovetop popper, you may prefer to watch the color of your beans change. If you’re an experienced home roaster, you can probably roast your beans based solely on listening for the cracks, smelling the beans, and using a timer. If you’re less experienced, you may prefer a plastic lid that you can see through.
Whether you settle on an air popper or a stovetop model, keep in mind that roasting coffee is not the intended use of a popcorn popper. While this process is safe with sensible precautions, roasting coffee beans in your popcorn popper will probably void your warranty.
Our favorite popcorn popper for roasting coffee is the Franklin’s Original Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Machine Popper, which is a high-capacity, durable stovetop popper with a very effective stirring mechanism. If your budget is a little smaller, you may want to look at the lightweight stovetop Wabash Whirley-Pop Popper Kit, which has an attractive price, a large capacity, and a useful, though less durable, stirrer. Would you rather use an electric air popper? The Nostalgia APH200RED 16-Cup Air-Pop Popcorn Maker is lightweight, roasts quickly, and has a strong fan system.
Popcorn poppers work very well for coffee roasting. It’s a quick and satisfying process, provided you find a well-designed popper. We hope this guide, with its comprehensive reviews and list of important features, helps you sort through your many options to find a great popper, whether you choose a stovetop or an electric model.
Table of Contents
- Comparison of our Favorite Picks for 2023
- The 6 Best Popcorn Poppers for Roasting Coffee
- Buyer’s Guide: Finding the Best Popcorn Poppers for Roasting Coffee