Sunday, January 11, 2009

hot air popper roasting

Score! On my occasional visits to the thrift store to buy books I always look for a cheap hot air popcorn popper but have never found one. Yesterday I at last had the long-awaited fortuitous encounter and dug out the $5 bill I've been saving for the occasion.

I am now the owner of a Wear-Ever Popcorn Pumper, seemingly in great condition other than lacking the butter cup.

I read the section on hot air roasting in Davids and dove right in. I roasted the Moka Kadir blend indoors beneath the range hood, at room temperature of about 70 degrees. There was a notable gap between what I expected and what I experienced:
  • The smoke, expected at 3 or 4 minutes, did not ever appear.
  • First crack did start as expected a bit after 4 minutes, but never increased in frequency and occurred sporadically for the duration of the roast.
  • Medium roast was expected at 5 - 6 minutes, medium dark at 7 - 8 minutes, and dark at 9. I shut it down at 15 minutes at about full city or perhaps a bit shy. If any beans were at second crack I couldn't tell.
That's a pretty long roast. Probably the beans can be characterized as having baked. I wonder whether the popper was up to the task. I cooled this small quantity in just a few minutes in colander and freezer.

The beans themselves are very clean, with nearly all the chaff being blown off, and the color consistency is very good. Both are much better than what I normally experience with the stovetop popper.

I pulled two shots almost immediately, although this blend is supposed to rest for a couple of days. I have never made espresso with a roast this light, I have never roasted Moka Kadir this light, and this the first time I've used the air popper. I therefore don't have much of a basis for meaningful comparisons. The ground bean aroma was not very intense. The espresso wasn't very good, frankly. The flavors are not nearly as layered or complex as in the second Moka Kadir roast (yesterday's super dark roast can be ignored). There's a lingering bitterness in the aftertaste.

With further experimentation I should figure out what effect the long roast time had. I still want to try Moka Kadir at a full city roast, both as espresso and brew.

There are two obvious things to try next time:
  • Reduce the bean quantity. I roasted half a cup, which is the volume of the hopper, but I wonder whether it should be halved.
  • Don't put any other load on the circuit. The kitchen lights dim noticeably when an electric griddle or the popper is turned on. I turned the lights off, but well into the roast.
2009-03-19 update: Significantly better results.


Ekewaka said...

Wow, 15 minutes ... The beans should be baked by then!! I use my Poppery II outside (my wife hates the smell, and we don't have an overhead fan). Because I have found outside air temperature to be so key with my air popper, I have given up roasting for the winter. I am buying roasted beans until warmer weather (shameful, I know).

I must have first started roasting when it was colder out because I never reached a satisfying crack, I was roasting for up to 10 minutes, and I ended up with an inconsisent-looking batch. Now, my average (full city+) roast is done in under seven minutes (about 5 1/2 for the second batch, with the popper already warmed up). I roast just under 3/4 cup of beans (per batch), and I get a good, consistent color, though it sounds like you end up with less chaff on the beans. I would like to find a good way to remove the remaining chaff, after (or during) cooling.

Because you are roasting inside, with warmer air, my guess would be that your air popper is not getting hot enough.

Nice job on your stovetop popper mods! I haven't added a thermometer to my popper. I should look into that, this year.

Steve Poole said...

Thanks, Ed. That's helpful data. It may be that this model of popper just won't get the job done. I'll see what happens with fewer beans, although roasting 1/4 cup at a time seems a little silly.

The chaff when using the stovetop popper is reduced to small dark flakes. With some agitation and blowing during cooling they mostly drift free, but there are always some that adhere. I have often wondered whether that has an effect on flavor. Swirling in a stainless steel colander does seem to cause some amount of removal as the beans pass the openings.