Coffee roasters come in all shapes and sizes ranging in price from thirty dollars to nearly a thousand. As with any product, the price you pay doesn't always correlate with the quality. Here are a few tips on what to look for when buying a coffee roaster.
The bottom of the range roasters are basic stove top models which are just a saucepan with a tight lid and a special handle that contains a crank to allow the beans to be stirred during the process. It is essential to keep stirring the beans as they roast to prevent them from burning on the bottom as well as to keep the hot air inside the saucepan circulating evenly. Temperature control is vital for proper roasting so even if you are purchasing a base model be sure to buy one that has a thermometer in the lid.
At the other end of the scale are roasters that do pretty much everything automatically. All you have to do is add in a measure of green beans, close the lid and walk away for a few minutes. These deluxe models have built-in thermometers which control the heat and air-flow along with rotating canisters and of course an all-important timer to automatically shut off the device when the beans are done.
The most common types are air roasters that work along the same lines as popcorn makers whereby hot air is circulated through the mixture, while an agitator moves the beans around in the canister. This process produces a well uniformed proces for roasting coffee beans.
When you are out shopping for a coffee roaster it is important that you remember to look for a product that has the ability to circulate air evenly over the beans to heat them uniformly. Avoid roasters with a heating source only at the bottom because they constrict air flow, which makes for an uneven roast. Drum roasters eliminate this problem, by their rotating drum design that uses gravity to move the beans around rather than relying only on a stirrer fitted to the bottom of the machine.
Most of these machines allow you to monitor the entire process through a see-through glass insert. This feature is a must for those who like to experiment and fine-tune the roast to their liking. One thing to also consider is the greater the quantity of beans you use, the more smoke will be created so be prepared to ventilate well.
Commonly these types of upmarket roasters also have pre-set amounts on the dial so you can set them from light to dark. Some models are able to filter the chaff that is produced as a result of the skin bursting when the bean expands.
Today coffee roasters are no longer solely for professional use as good quality home devices are now readily available which have the added benefit of being able to roast quite larger quantities of beans.