Our search for the best home coffee roaster revealed that there are excellent choices for people at all levels of experience. Rather than choose just one, we decided to choose a model for the novice, one for the intermediate roaster, one for the advanced roaster, and one for the semi-pro.
All of this assumes you already know the basics of roasting, have progressed to a certain level, and are ready to take the next step. In fact, it would make perfect sense to work your way through these models as you gain roasting experience. Each one is a logical step up from the one that came before.
Our picks for the best home coffee roasters
Later in this post, we discuss the decisions you need to think about when considering a home coffee roaster. If you answer all those questions and it doesn’t look like any of our top choices is the ideal fit for your situation, don’t worry—we’ll also list some of the main competitors for these machines, so you can look into those.
- Capacity: 140 grams (5 ounces)
- Size: 11 inches tall, 7 inches wide, 7.5 inches deep
- Type: Fluid bed
- Automation: Nine settings for heat and fan, with manual intervention
- Powered by: Electricity
- Smoke suppression: None; use range hood
- Chaff collection: Chaff trapped in lid
The FreshRoast SR540 is the logical step up from a popcorn popper. It is essentially the same thing, but this one was made specifically for roasting coffee beans and gives you a level of control that you don’t get from a single-setting popcorn machine.
It’s really easy to use, and great value for the money.
The SR540 is about the same size as a blender, so it can be a countertop appliance and allow you to do all your roasting in the kitchen. It does not have any real smoke control, though. You will absolutely need good ventilation in your kitchen if you’re planning to go deep into roasts.
Capacity is limited to about 140 grams or just over a quarter-pound. That’s not a lot, and it’s an important consideration. The SR540 roasts relatively quickly—a roast takes about 10 minutes—so in theory you could roast four batches of beans in an hour to give yourself a full pound for the week. However, the manufacturer’s instructions caution users against roasting back to back. It’s important to let the machine cool down for about 30 minutes between roasts if you want it to have the longest possible life.
The advantage of a low-capacity roaster is that it lets you learn without wasting a lot of beans. Roasting in small batches allows you to dump the roasts that don’t turn out so well, or drink them quickly so you can move on to something better.
While the SR540 doesn’t offer you a professional level of control, it does give you nine heat settings and nine fan settings (well, sort of—more on that in a moment). They’re all controlled with the same dial. You can adjust the temperature or fan strength at any time during your roast, and also check in on the temperature of the beans.
Here’s a video from Sweet Maria’s explaining what sets the SR540 apart from its predecessor, the SR500:
Don’t let those nine fan settings fool you. Any setting lower than five probably won’t provide enough air power to properly agitate raw beans. This can make things tricky during the early part of a roast. You need lots of fan power to move the beans, but of course the fan cools down your beans at a time when high temperature is needed to dry them quickly. It’s a balancing act, but with practice you’ll get it. Once those beans dry out they become lighter and you can gradually lower the fan to get more heat.
You’ll be thankful for the fan’s cooling abilities when you come to the end of your roast. The cooling setting on the SR540 stops the roast very quickly.
Competitors to the FreshRoast SR540
The SR540 doesn’t really have any peers in its price range. The best popcorn roaster is probably the West Bend Poppery, which costs considerably less and offers considerably less control. It’s a good choice if you really want to keep things simple, but if you want to start learning how to bring out the best in beans, the FreshRoast SR540 is a significant upgrade.
Capacity: 115-450 grams (4-16 ounces)
- Size: 12 inches tall, 17 inches wide, 10.25 inches deep
- Type: Drum (radiant heat)
- Automation: Five presets plus manual override
- Powered by: Electricity
- Smoke suppression: Effective at lower volumes; range hood recommended
- Chaff collection: Fan blows chaff into lower chaff tray; clean frequently
The Behmor 1600 Plus is a tidy, simple drum roaster that is a bargain at its price point.
It looks like a toaster oven, or perhaps a small microwave, and takes up the same amount of space on your counter. Like those other appliances, it runs on electricity. You just load up the drum, close the door, pick your settings and let it do its thing. The beans will tumble until they’re roasted.
The big advantage of the Behmor 1600 Plus is its capacity.
Technically, the capacity is one pound, and yes, it can hold that much coffee. However, it’s an electric machine with a lot of space to heat, and it doesn’t really generate enough power to roast a pound of coffee to a dark colour in a reasonable amount of time. The temperature maxes out at about 400 F, which means you’d be waiting 20 minutes or longer to finish a dark roast. Such a long, slow roast can lead to “baked” beans, killing the flavour.
But then, the Behmor doesn’t claim to be for dark roasts. It’s much better for light and medium roasts. If you use it to roast dark, oil will build up on the inside of the machine over time and further compromise its heating ability.
The video below from Sweet Maria’s shows the roasting process in action and explains some of these limitations. It’s an older video using the Behmor 1600 (which preceded the Plus), but the machines are very similar.
Those were one-pound roasts in the video. Given the power limitations, I’d say half a pound to 300 grams is the Behmor’s sweet spot. That’s still almost double what you can roast in a fluid-bed roaster. You could probably go a bit higher without too much worry. Either way, there is no other roaster at this price point that can handle as much coffee.
The 1600 Plus doesn’t offer a fully professional level of control, but it does offer some. The big difference between it and the old Behmor 1600 is the addition of manual mode. The original model had only preset profiles.
Manual mode takes some learning and some practice. The buttons on the control panel do one thing when you roast from presets, and something entirely different when you switch to manual mode. Inventor Joe Behm tries to explain it all in this video with Gail Williams of Seattle Coffee Gear, but really he just reinforces the point that the Behmor requires some study:
Once you’re accustomed to what each button does, the Behmor 1600 Plus does allow for some improvisation and experimentation. Achieving consistency is possible. Experiment, find out what works, and try to repeat it. The machine should produce reliable results once you have your process down.
Consider the Behmor an indoor roaster. You’ll want to use it at fairly consistent temperatures in order to repeat your successes, which more than likely means roasting indoors at room temperature. This also means you need to consider smoke. The machine has a patent-pending smoke-suppression system but doesn’t eliminate smoke completely. A spot under your range hood, or beside a fan that can blow smoke out an open window, would be a good idea. If you stop at medium roast like the manufacturer intended, then you won’t have much to worry about. Smoke gets heavier as you head into darker territory.
If the Behmor fails at anything, it’s probably the cooling cycle. It doesn’t do a great job of cooling beans quickly. In fact, if you leave them in the machine, you risk baking them as we discussed above. Better to pull them right out of the machine and use a fan to cool them.
You should be diligent about cleaning your Behmor if you want to maintain its heating power as long as possible. Get rid of that oil buildup, and clean out the chaff tray after each roast so it doesn’t accumulate and affect the temperature sensors.
Competitors to the Behmor 1600 Plus
You could argue that the Behmor has no competitors, because it’s the only roaster in this price range that can go over half a pound. However, in some respects the Gene Cafe CBR-101 and the Hottop 8828B-2K+ are a slight step up. They certainly are in price.
These are both drum roasters, each with about a half-pound capacity. They’ll roast a little more quickly than the Behmor, handle darker roasts more easily, and require less frequent cleaning. If it’s automation you’re after, learn toward the Gene Cafe. For manual control, go with the Hottop. The Hottop is the best of the three at cooling beans, because it drops them to an external tray for cooling when the roast is over.
- Capacity: 500 grams (17 ounces)
- Size: 15.75 inches tall, 7.5 inches wide, 13.8 inches deep
- Type: Drum (convection and conduction)
- Automation: Fully manual
- Powered by: Gas
- Smoke suppression: Uses exhaust pipe and fan to vent smoke from machine; DIY solution required to carry smoke from roasting area
- Chaff collection: Usually a combination of fan and sieve
Now we’re getting to the fun stuff.
The Huky 500T has a cult following. It’s a legitimate, industrial-style drum roaster just like the ones you’ll find in a large commercial roasting operation, only on a much smaller scale for the home roaster. To quote a Reddit enthusiast: “You can do anything on this roaster that you can on the largest most expensive roaster—but only 500g at a time.”
You might never outgrow it.
Let’s watch the Huky in action:
The Huky was invented by a retired machine shop teacher in Taiwan named Kuanho Li, who has been making them himself for the past 15 years. To get one, you have to email Mr. Li. He doesn’t even have a website.
The upside of this is that Mr. Li by all accounts provides great customer service. He will customize your roaster with almost any feature or modification you want, answer questions, and supply parts when you need them. The downside is that he is a one-man operation and is not a young man. Nobody really knows who will help them with their Huky when Mr. Li is no longer able to do so.
But for now, Huky is the choice for serious hobbyists and those who are ready to get into small-operation commercial roasting. You can roast up to a pound at a time, with no waiting period between roasts. The Huky operates above a gas burner, which Mr. Li can supply or you can supply yourself. They put out a lot of heat. No worries about about a roast dragging on if you don’t want it to.
The stainless steel Huky is as good-looking as it is indestructible. And if you’re a little bit handy, with a few easy purchases from the hardware store you can configure it in any number of ways to suit your roasting environment.
The machine is totally manual and gives you full control over the burner flame, the fan speed and the ventilation.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a machine that’s plug-and-play and doesn’t ask much of you, the Huky is not for you. It has a lot of different parts, and you need to understand how they all work together in order to optimize your setup.
The good news is that Huky has a devoted online community that can help. These folks used to gather at the Huky Forum, which is no longer active but remains online as a valuable resource that probably contains the answer to any question you might have. Huky owners are still very active at Home-Barista.com and on Reddit’s coffee-roasting subreddit. Dive into the forums—you’ll benefit from the collective wisdom!
Among the decisions you’ll have to make is how to customize your initial order. Mr. Li offers a lot of options in addition to the basic roasting drum. Some are essential, others are nice-to-haves. Each will add to the price of your order.
Most users agree on a few extras that you shouldn’t go without: a second fan, a second funnel and a second bean tray for cooling; a device such as a light dimmer to control fan speed; an extra digital probe for accurate temperature measurements.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to explain how you’ll put all that gear to use, but the answers are in the forums. Check out this in-depth review of the Huky to get an idea of what ordering a Huky is like.
For serious roasters, the digital temperature probes are key. They take you into the world of data-driven coffee roasting. They measure temperature and connect via USB to a laptop computer running open-source software called Artisan, which records everything that happens during a roast. It produces a graph of temperature over time called a “roast profile,” and you can save your roast profiles along with your tasting notes for a permanent log of what works best.
With Artisan software, you can spend some time establishing a baseline roast profile, and then begin tweaking one variable at a time to see how it impacts the flavour of the coffee. A great tool for learning.
Competitors to the Huky 500T
- Capacity: One kilogram (2.2 pounds)
- Size: 16.5 inches tall, 12 inches wide, 23 inches deep
- Type: Drum (induction)
- Automation: Multiple settings for power, fan, drum speed; mid-roast intervention; ability to replicate digital roast profiles automatically
- Powered by: Electricity
- Smoke suppression: Smoke vent at rear top; DIY solution required to carry smoke from roasting area
- Chaff collection: Chaff compartment at rear
The Aillio Bullet R1 has been around only since 2016, but has gained a real following and is launching a lot of hobby roasters into the small craft roasting business.
A case in point: Matt Johnson of Prototype Coffee in Vancouver. Johnson mastered the Bullet and bought three of them to open a cafe where people can watch their beans being roasted by a row of Bullets right behind the bar:
How is this even possible?
Well, the Bullet is an electric machine that uses ultra-efficient induction heating, which means it has no trouble roasting a kilogram (2.2 pounds) to a light roast in less than nine minutes.
It’s a great-looking matte black machine that requires none of the Huky’s Frankenstein-style assembly. It’s high-tech inside and out, and its makers are still working hard to improve it. They aren’t done yet.
Brothers Jacob and Jonas Lillie invented the Bullet, and one of their big innovations has been the infrared bean temperature sensing system (IBTS). This method of measuring bean temperature in real time using an infrared probe provides a more accurate roast profile than is possible with a traditional probe.
The Bullet works in conjunction with Aillio’s proprietary profiling software called Roastime. You connect the roaster to your laptop and watch your roast as it’s happening. Any adjustments you make during the roast turn up on the computer screen. It’s like the digital odometer on the dashboard of a car.
You can sync your roast profiles to the cloud and save them for future use. For example, if a particular profile got you exactly what you wanted from a kilogram of Guatemalan, you can load up another kilo next week, play back the roast profile and the Bullet will roast them exactly the same way.
And if that isn’t cool enough for you, you can also connect with roasters elsewhere in the world and download their roast profiles to apply to your beans.
The Bullet R1’s digital control panel gives you control over the following:
- pre-heat temperature
- fan speed during the roast (12 settings)
- drum rotation speed (nine settings)
- power level (nine settings)
All of these (with the exception of pre-heat temperature) are adjustable mid-roast, and Roastime will capture any adjustments you make.
The Bullet has no real smoke suppression system, just an exhaust vent on top of the machine near the back. If you’re roasting indoors, you’ll need to come up with a way to carry that smoke away from the vent and out of your house. A few feet of duct tubing will do the trick. If you need a longer segment than that, you can set up a fan inside the duct to help the smoke along.
One final thought about capacity. Roasting a full kilogram at a time means you can turn out enough volume to sell at farmers markets, or distribute coffee to friends and family at Christmas, which is great. However, you should be aware that the Bullet also has a MINIMUM capacity. It is 300 grams, or over half a pound.
This makes it difficult to roast really small samples when you’re experimenting. Every time you try a new profile, you’re making a week’s worth of coffee. Hopefully you know some people who will drink it—even when the batch doesn’t turn out as you’d hoped.
Competitors to the Aillio Bullet R1
The Bullet’s closest competitor is probably the Mill City 500-gram roaster, although the Mill City is more expensive and offers only half the capacity. What might sway you in favour of the Mill City is that it is essentially a traditional industrial drum roaster, and behaves the same way. The Bullet’s technology is great, but if your ultimate aim is to open a roastery with traditional industrial equipment, then the Mill City is a closer facsimile on which to perfect your craft. You can roast great coffee on the Bullet and learn a lot, but it won’t train you to operate a traditional roaster.
How to choose a coffee roaster
Before you decide on a coffee roaster, you need to know the answers to some questions. Some of these questions are for the manufacturer or merchant, but the most important question is for you.
How much coffee do you want to roast in each session?
This matters the most. Coffee roasters have capacity limits, and if you attempt to go beyond them you will not be able to roast effectively.
Suppose you plan on roasting weekly—as you probably should to ensure your coffee is always fresh. It typically takes about 25 grams of beans to make two cups of coffee. So to drink two cups a day, you’ll need to roast 175 grams per week, or just over one-third of a pound.
But those are small cups. You’re a coffee fan, so you probably drink more than that. A good-size mug every day for you and your spouse/roommate will require twice as many beans. That’s 350 grams per week. You are already well beyond the capacity of some roasters.
Now, you can always roast half your beans first, and the other half afterward. Many people do. But then you must consider whether your roaster is capable of back-to-back roasts. Many aren’t. If not, you’ll have to wait for it to cool down between roasts. How much time do you have?
Now you see why capacity is probably the most important consideration of all.
How much space can you set aside for a roaster?
Coffee roasters vary in size. They generally get bigger as you move toward more advanced models. If you want to roast on your kitchen counter using an inconspicuous appliance that can go in the cupboard when you’re done, there are options—just not as many as there are if you’re roasting in a garage or a basement workshop.
The roasters with the smallest footprints tend to be “fluid bed” roasters, while the larger ones are “drum” roasters. Let’s talk about the difference.
Fluid bed roasters vs. drum roasters
Fluid bed roasters are called that because the coffee beans tumble on a “bed” of fluid. The scientific definition of fluid is a gas or a liquid. In a coffee roaster, it’s a gas. Basically, hot air blows into the roaster and keeps the beans tumbling as they roast. It’s similar to an automatic popcorn popper. In fact, many people begin learning how to roast coffee on a popcorn popper.
A drum roaster tumbles the beans in a rotating cylinder, or drum, that is heated from the bottom. It’s like a small metal barrel with an axle.
Fluid bed roasters roast more quickly, finishing off a typical roast in 8-12 minutes. Drum roasters usually need 14-20 minutes.
High-end professional roasters are usually drum roasters, because they have much more capacity than fluid bed roasters. Imagine trying to move two pounds of beans around with nothing more than a blast of air. That would have to be quite a blast.
This is also why more advanced roasters tend to be bigger. Drum roasters take up more space.
Fluid bed roasters, despite their limited capacity, have some notable advantages over drum roasters. They roast beans very evenly, thanks to the constant agitation. They also usually offer some automatic features that make it relatively easy to replicate a good roast. Whatever settings bring you success should be able to hold up repeatedly, provided you use the same beans.
Programmable roasters vs. manual roasters
This is where you decide how involved you want to be.
Some people just want to roast their own beans and not have to think about it too much. Many roasters offer the automation to make that possible.
Other people want to dive deep into the art and science of roasting, with full control over every little variable that can affect the roast. These people need manual roasters.
So think about whether this is a serious hobby and learning endeavour for you, or just a way to cut your coffee costs and skip some trips to the store. Either is fine. We will go over roasters that do both. Just know that you should avoid any roaster that will demand more attention than you’re prepared to give. And recognize how frustrating it would be to realize you want to learn all the nuances of roasting, just after you’ve spent good money on a machine that does everything for you.
Electric vs. gas-powered roasters
Electric roasters are, of course, powered by electricity and tend to have a self-contained heat source. You plug them in, turn them on, and they heat up.
Gas-powered roasters are a little more diverse. Some require you to provide the burner, which could be a portable propane-powered burner or even just a spot on the gas stove in your kitchen. You place the roaster on top. Then there are others that come with their own burner, and you just provide the gas by connecting a propane tank.
Most electric roasters can’t provide the same heat that a gas burner does. If you’re getting into a high volume of beans and want to roast quickly, gas is usually the best bet. For most people, either kind will work. If anything, electricity offers a little more convenience at the expense of some versatility.
Smoke is an unfortunate reality of coffee roasting. Coffee beans contain oil, and when that oil heats to a certain point, it begins to smoke. If you’re roasting dark, the smoke seems to increase exponentially as you reach second crack.
A roasting machine should have a vent for this smoke. If it’s just a countertop fluid bed roaster, you can probably get away with positioning it under the range hood above your stove and cranking the ventilation system up to high. Larger drum roasters may need a more complex system involving a fan and a flexible duct to carry the smoke away.
It’s all doable, but you’ll need to find out how the roaster handles smoke, think about where you’re going to roast, and where your exhaust will go. A little extra hardware and some handiwork may be required.
Chaff is a byproduct of roasting coffee beans. It’s a very thin skin on the outside of a bean that dries up and comes off in flakes as the roast progresses. It’s coffee dandruff, and it’s a mess.
Most specialized coffee roasters have a mechanism for capturing chaff, and you usually have to empty it or clean it after the roast. (That part is important. Letting chaff build up can affect the performance of your roaster.) Some of these chaff collectors are more effective than others. There are also manufacturers who haven’t thought much about chaff collection at all, and you might have to rig your own solution.
Which roaster is the next step for you?
Only you know where you are in your roasting journey, and that’s an important piece of information to have before deciding on one of these roasters. Regardless of your experience level, we’re confident that we’ve identified the best home coffee roaster for you to take the next step. But use our recommendations as a starting point for your own research, and really get to know your next roaster before you make the investment. The more you read up ahead of time, the easier it is to hit the grounds running when your roaster finally arrives.