Why pay the coffee shop when you can get a better result yourself?

Save Money By Roasting Coffee at Home

by H.E. James

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Do you love the smell of coffee in the morning, but hate the hole it puts in your wallet? While it can be an energizing, yet soothing part of a morning routine, it can put a real damper on doing other things, like going to the movies, having a nice dinner at a restaurant, or paying bills.

Coffee is expensive. Period. Just a year ago, Americans averaged more than two cups of it per day, and we pay more than $3 a cup for it when we don't brew it at home. My coffee habit certainly got cheaper when I invested $80 in a coffee machine that not only brews coffee, but grinds it as well. Why? Whole bean coffee is typically cheaper per pound than ground coffee, as the latter involves one more step in processing before it gets in the bag.

But how can we coffee lovers take our savings to the next level without having to simply quit cold turkey? By roasting coffee at home. Fear not. It's not as scary as it sounds. Just as home brewers are becoming experts in beer and all its constituent parts, this a chance for you to become an expert in something you love, save money on a regular basis, and perhaps turn it into a fun small business.

The Basics

There are many methods for roasting coffee at home from stirring a stainless steel skillet full of beans until you get the roast you want to investing in a roaster. Stove top roasting is interesting, as it is a great way to learn the basics of the roasts, from City to the commonly known French, which is one of the darkest of the roasts.

Roasting coffee is all about using the senses, not just saving cents. As you stir your green beans in your stainless steel skillet, you are watching them essentially burn. You are also listening for them to pop or crack as roasters call it. Most beans go through two crack stages within just minutes of each other.

You must also make sure you do not smell burnt beans. You may be a fan of darkly-roasted coffee found at places like Starbucks and other commercial roasters, but burnt beans? No one likes those. That only wastes the money you're trying to save.

Once you've made a few stove top batches and you've found a roast that you like, it's time to upgrade. Here's where you may have to spend a little money to save a little money, if you don't already own an air popcorn popper. Check coffee roasting blogs for recommendations, but always choose one that uses air to pop popcorn. This is what I use, as it produces even roasts.

I received my popper for Christmas, but you can find them at thrift stores if you don't want to spend the money. The model I have costs about $26 on Amazon and requires me to watch it carefully. This isn't a bad thing, as I noted. You should keep a close eye on your roasts, so you always get the one you want.

From Senses to Cents

How do you save money roasting your own coffee now that you've bought a popcorn popper? It's all in the pounds of beans. When you buy a pound of coffee at the store, it typically costs $10-$12. You will pay more for ground coffee than whole bean, even at the local coffee shop.

Here is a table listing the four varieties of coffee I roast at home. I like my South American coffees and also throw in an exotic one for fun, the Celebes Toraju Kalossi from Indonesia:


Local Cost/Lb. for Green

Online Cost/Lb.

for Green

Local Cost/Lb. for Whole Roasted

Online Cost/Lb. for Whole Roasted

Celebes Toraju Kalossi





Columbian Supremo





Costa Rica Tarrazu





Guatemalan Antigua





As you can see, over time, being whole roasted coffee either online or locally is rather expensive. From my local coffee roaster, I can get four different pounds of green coffee for about $25, and I get to experience different tastes because I can roast them how I want to.

I found a locally-based online distributor as well, but his pricing mixes and shipping costs proved researchers P.K. Kannan and his colleagues correct: "consumers can learn from retailer actions and act 'strategically' themselves.> Because there were no cheaper options available to those of us who live in the same geographical area as this distributor, I went for higher variety for more affordability.

Almost Everybody Wins!

The new crop of home roasting hobbyists and entrepreneurs may not be music to Starbucks' ears, but it will certainly help stretch more dollars in the consumer world. It may help save the sanity of a few baristas, too, who can definitely suffer at the hands of inattentive customers.

Whether you give home coffee roasting a try once or you turn it into your next money-making venture, it's something everyone should try. If nothing else, it'll make your house smell nice as long as you don't burn the beans.

Reviewed February 2018

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