There’s no denying that roasting coffee at home has become much more popular in recent years.
It’s now easier than ever to source small bags of specialty-grade green coffee at a reasonable price, making it easier than ever to roast your own beans from the comfort of your kitchen.
With this surge in popularity, we have also seen an evolution in the technology that home roasters use. To learn more, I spoke with experts from Kaffelogic, Aillio and Sweet Maria’s. Read on to see what they had to say.
You might also like our guide to fluid bed coffee roasters.
The history of home roasters
The first patents for commercial roasters were filed in the late 19th and early 20th century. Before this, pan or skillet roasting was still relatively common.
Home roasters, however, have only been available on the open market since the 1970s. In the 1970s and 1980s, Siemens launched a marketing campaign for a home roaster called the Scirocco.
Byron Dote is the Marketing Manager at Sweet Maria’s, a business that specialises in supplying home coffee roasters.
“One of the first machines was the Melitta Aroma Roast,” Byron says. The Melitta was a fluid bed roaster, using technology that has since become popular with some businesses.
However, Byron adds that eventually, the Aroma Roast was taken off shelves and the home roaster market went quiet for another decade or so.
Then, Byron says, there was a boom.
“Home coffee roasting had a large spike in popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s and there was even a large surge in patents for home roasting appliances,” he notes.
“This all happened around the mid to late-1990s when smaller amounts of green coffee started to become regularly available to more people.”
Naturally, Byron says, there was another boom in 2020 thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. With more people at home, he says interest surged once again.
Into the 21st century
Byron says that since Sweet Maria’s was founded back in 1997, it has sought to take full advantage of the home roasting market. He says: “Our main focus is selling the best green coffee we can, but it [also] makes sense to sell roasters and home roasting supplies.
“[Since we started], manufacturers have become more innovative and started to provide more features that home roasters want. We have also seen an increase in batch sizes; there are now machines that roast over a pound, which was unheard of in the early 2000s.”
Alongside this, Byron also notes that dedicated coffee roasting software is also becoming more and more accessible for home roasters. The ability to monitor roast curves and dial in specific profiles has allowed them to become more and more precise.
Byron says: “With a lot more people getting into home roasting over the past few years, manufacturers have been looking beyond the DIY, tinkerer, and hobbyist markets to create machines that are easier, safer, and cleaner to use.”
Jacob and Jonas Lillie are the founders of roaster manufacturer Aillio, and are responsible for designing the brand’s proprietary Bullet product. The design, they tell me, was driven by one core concept: “roasting autonomy”.
Jacob says: “I had a Gene Café, Jonas had a Behmor, and we were both looking for something more powerful and versatile. There was nothing on the market that was reasonably priced and could roast larger batches.”
He says that as avid home roasters themselves, they were in the best possible position to understand the market.
Jonas adds: “It was only after I started working for another coffee company that was making espresso accessories that I began looking into developing a product that was a bit more advanced than a tamper.
“In the beginning, Jacob kept shooting down my ideas because he was not impressed. However, when I came up with the idea of using induction to heat the roaster, it caught his attention.”
Traditionally, most coffee roasters use gas power to heat the drum and roast the beans. Induction heating has emerged as an alternative in recent years. With induction heating, electromagnetic currents are instead used to create resistance in the metal. This resistance produces heat, and therefore eliminates the need for gas.
After building and improving on several prototypes, Jonas says they made a breakthrough. But the market, he adds, wasn’t initially there; the prototype Bullet was a niche, specialist product.
To market it, Jonas says that they went to online coffee roasting forums, and tried to discuss the principles behind the Bullet.
“Many forum users were full of doubts,” he says. “I got some flak from people who told me I ought to quit lying about what I was doing. It took some back and forth, but in the end, some of the biggest doubters wound up becoming pre-order customers.”
The demand for home roasting
Kaffelogic is a firm based in New Zealand that has developed its own micro-roaster: the Nano 7.
Product Development Director Chris Hilder says that it was his need for freshly roasted coffee at home that motivated the design.
“It started as a home project,” he says. “The system I developed started delivering outstanding coffee. Both home users and roasting professionals began requesting a manufactured version.
“[The Nano 7 is] a professional machine. There is some professional gear you wouldn’t want in your home, but this is a piece of professional kit that sits well in a domestic kitchen.”
Chris also notes that the two markets obviously have different demands.
“The commercial user demands reliability and roast replicability above all,” he says. “They are busy people and don’t have time for a lot of fiddle-faddle, so our software needs to be easy to use and intuitive.
“Home roasters are usually happy to spend time becoming deeply engaged with the roasting process, but at the same time demand [amazing coffee] straight out of the box,” he explains. “The home users expect every single 100g batch to be drinkable.”
How is the home roaster market set to change?
Byron says that there’s plenty of interest in software and app-driven coffee roasting. Some established manufacturers have already successfully implemented mobile control, making it easy to adjust heat application or fan speed by tapping your phone screen.
He says easy-to-use technology will always remain a priority for home roasters, and notes that accessibility is high on the agenda for manufacturers.
Chris says that growth in the home roasting market shows no signs of slowing down. He also thinks it has the potential to become a highly lucrative sector.
“Home roaster price points are expanding,” Byron adds. “It seems like there are customers who are looking to pay more for more features and larger batch sizes, as well as folks that want dependable, small machines that won’t break the bank.”
Continued growth in the home roaster market could mean more people deciding to roast beans at home, especially as equipment and green coffee become more accessible.
If 2020 was anything to go by, coffee education and awareness among consumers will continue to increase. Hobby roasters with time on their hands have brought on a recent boom in the home roaster market – but only time will tell if another is on the way.
Photo credits: Aillio, Kaffelogic, Sweet Maria’s
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