Home coffee roasting doesn’t require any special equipment or tools, as we talk about in our article Top 5 Cheapest Ways to Start Coffee Roasting. However, if you are looking to take your coffee roasting to the next level, looking to start roasting for friends and family, or are just looking for a more seamless experience, here are the best home coffee roasters for every budget.
FreshRoast SR500 or SR700
At this price point, most of the roasters will be fluid bed or “air” roasters, similar to using a popcorn popper, albeit with much more automation and controls. The FreshRoast is no exception. The roaster is available in the SR500 and SR700 versions (the SR300 has been discontinued). The SR500 features adjustable fan speeds (increments of 10%) and temperature (low, medium, high) and has a built-in cooling feature.
The SR700 is very similar to the SR500, with the added benefit of computer compatibility for roast profiling. Both roasters have a batch size of 4 oz.
The SR500 runs $179 while the SR700 runs $259.
The Nesco roaster comes in at a slightly lower price point of $140. The roaster uses heated air for roasting similar to the FreshRoast, but also relies on an auger system to keep the beans agitated. The only control feature is a roast timer that can function between 18 minutes and 30 minutes. The differentiating feature of the Nesco is a catalytic converter in the exhaust, which makes this roaster an option for those who want something more appliance-like to sit on their counter. The batch size is 5 oz.
The biggest drawback is that the roaster is not particularly powerful, and typically results in a roast time around 18 to 20 minutes. This can yield good results for lighter roasts, but darker roasts will take too long and may result in “baked” flavors.
While similar in price to the FreshRoast, the Kaldi Mini offers a wildly different experience. The Kaldi is a bare bones version of their popular Kaldi Classic, and features a motorized open drum. The coast of the roaster does not include a gas burner, which is required to operate the roaster. There aren’t many “features” to speak about, and heat input is entirely manually controlled via the gas burner. Cooling requires pulling the beans out of the roaster and utilizing an alternate cooling method. Smoke and chaff production would require that this roaster be used outdoors. Batch size is 200 grams, with a maximum of 250 grams.
This roaster is for those on a budget that want a true “manual” drum experience. While roast profiling is not included, it could be added via a thermocouple and a TC4 connected to Artisan.
$300 to $500
Behmor 1600 Plus
The Behmor 1600 is one of the most popular home coffee roasters, and is ubiquitous among those who are looking to start home roasting in a more seamless experience. The looks are more akin to a toaster oven than a coffee roaster, which means that the Behmor 1600 would not look out of place on a kitchen countertop. The batch size is a whopping full pound (16 oz), which puts this roaster leaps and bounds ahead of the Under $300 category for those that need a higher throughput.
The Behmor is controlled via a number of pre-programmed roast profiles, which can yield good results from City to Full City+, but struggles at very dark roasts. There is also a manual mode which allows the user to manually control the temperature and drum speed.
Similar to the Nesco, the Behmor 1600 Plus includes a smoke and chaff reduction feature. The feature works well at lighter roasts, but can still yield some smoke on the darker end of the spectrum. However, the feature works well enough to allow for roasting indoors.
One of the biggest complaints on the Behmor is the cooling feature, which simply cuts off the heat input while maintaining the drum speed. Many users have found work-arounds, such as opening the door or pulling the beans out and cooling in a separate fashion. Additionally, the Behmor is not as repsonsive as some of the higher end machines, which makes profiling roasts more difficult. Overall, considering the price point of $369, it’s a great option for those not wanting to break the bank.
$500 to $1000
The Gene Cafe features a very unique design that utilizes a combination of air and drum roasting, featuring an off-axis center of rotation that helps provide an even roast. The machine is controlled automatically with some adjustment via knobs for temperature and time. One of the nicest features is that the drum is covered by glass, which allows for a great view of the beans as they change colors during the roasting process.
There is no smoke reduction, but there is an option vent collector with a duct hose that can be used to run the smoke out a door or window. The installed chaff collector works well, allowing this roaster to be easily used indoors near a window.
Although more expensive ($585), the Gene Cafe is often compared to the Behmor 1600+. It is easier to use with less “hacks” required, and is much quieter with a smaller footprint. It can also achieve a darker roast than the Behmor 1600+. The trade-off, other than cost, is a smaller batch size at 8 oz.
Similar to the Kaldi Mini, the Kaldi Wide is a bare bones drum roaster for those looking for a 100% manual experience. The roaster is a step up in batch size from the Kaldi Mini, moving up to 300 g maximum capacity, and is totally enclosed, which provides better heat retention and responsiveness. Similar to the Kaldi Mini, separate cooling and a separate gas burner is required. Unlike the Kaldi Mini, the Kaldi Wide includes a chaff collector, but does not have smoke suppression, so outdoor roasting or a very well ventilated indoor space would be recommended.
Other features include a dial thermometer (which could be retrofitted for a thermocouple) and a bean tryer.
$1000 to $1500
The Hottop is the first machine on this list that starts to look like a commercial coffee roaster. The Hottop is a full drum roaster with a 9 oz maximum capacity, and features a separate cooling try, just like the big roasters. The Hottop is a more robust and reliable design than the Gene Cafe, which is likely it’s closest competitor despite the significant price difference ($1100 versus $585).
The controls are manual, albeit the roast is divided into eight “segments” during which the roast can be modified. Per PRIMA Coffee:
Maximum temperature, fan speed and roast time can be set before the roast begins and the temperature can be modified at the beginning of each new segment during roasting. The Hottop basic model has been updated in recent years to include a k-type thermocouple to allow users to monitor their roasts more accurately.
Smoke production is quite high, although the chaff collector is good. Most users have reported the need to roast outdoors or in a very well ventilated space.
There is also an option for a Programmable version, which adds $500 to the price. The Programmable version is identical in hardware, but the upgraded control panel allows the user to control or monitor the roast from a computer.
The Quest M3 is one of the first machines on this list that I would consider “Prosumer”. The Quest is more akin to a very small sample roaster than some of the previously mentioned machines, and can handle back to back roasts very easily. Although the batch size is small (200 grams maximum capacity, although some have reported getting up to 300 grams), this allows for a reasonable throughput of coffee. The machine is handmade in Taiwan and is very well built. Unlike its main competitor, the Huky 500T, it is electric and does not require the use of an external heating method.
Similar to the Kaldi Roasters and the Huky, the Quest is fully manually controlled via temperature control of the heating element and airspeed control. It provides a very similar roasting experience to a larger roaster without the price tag. The biggest drawback is typically availability (since the Quest is handmade, it’s often difficult to find) and the small batch size. The Quest, if it can be found available, is typically around $1400.
The Huky 500T is the bigger, slightly less refined brother to the Quest M3. Similar to the Quest, the Huky is fully manual and is handbuilt in Taiwan. Unlike the Quest, the Huky is gas powered by an Infrared stove under the roaster, although any gas burning stove would provide a similar result. Compared to the Quest, the Huky is a bit “kludgy” and requires some workarounds to streamline the work flow. For example, the cooling tray also doubles as the airflow fan for the roaster, which would require a quick switch from airflow to cooling setup at a critical point in the roast, just prior to dropping the beans. Most users have gotten around this issue by purchasing two trays and fans; one for airflow and one for cooling.
The roaster capacity is much larger than the Quest at 500 grams, which is the primary driver for many home roasters who want to start roasting more for friends and family. The roaster can be purchased with a variety of options; the barebones roaster is approximately $1400 shipped to the US, although most have optioned up to $1800 by the time that the stove, extra cooling fan, and thermometers are included.
For fear of duplication, the Kaldi Classic is yet again another handmade roaster, this time made in Korea instead of Taiwan. This roaster is very similar to the Kaldi Wide, but with a bigger capacity (400 grams) and built in bean temperature and air temperature monitoring which can be connected via USB to a computer. The roaster is also better insulated and has more thermal mass than the smaller Kaldi options. Again, an external heat source and cooling method is required with the Kaldi Classic. The Kaldi Classic can be found for around $1200 on Gmarket (similar to eBay).
The Kaldi Fortis is the flagship roaster of the Kaldi line, and features an even larger capacity (600 grams). The roaster is often compared to the Huky 500T, and users report very similar experiences, although the Kaldi is reportedly less “kludgy” and has more thermal mass (38 lbs for the Kaldi versus 10 lbs for the Huky). Although there are a few user reports in online forums, the Kaldi is fairly new and does not have nearly the following online that the Huky does. Consequently, there are some concerns regarding long-term support if something were to malfunction. That being said, the roast quality could be slightly improved over the Huky due to increase in thermal mass. Costs are approximately $1800 to $2000 shipped from Korea via Gmarket.
Aillio Bullet R1
The Aillio Bullet R1 is by far the most expensive roaster on this list, coming in at $2600. The roaster fills the gap between the Huky and Kaldi levels of roasters and true sample roasters, which typically start at $4000. For the hefty price tag, you get a high capacity (a full kilogram), seamless computer interface and a beautiful LCD display, infrared heating and smoke / chaff reduction, and a very seamless and intuitive experience. This roaster is for those that want to roast larger capacities at home without having to “tinker” with something like the Huky or Kaldi. Preliminary reviews are mixed, and while the roast quality seems to be very good, the long-term reliability is questionable considering the age of the product. I would expect improvements over time as users find the bugs in the roaster. The Aillio does not connect to a computer via Artisan, but via a proprietary roasting software, which may annoy some.