One of my friendly-but-anonymous blog visitors left me a comment a few weeks ago that turned me on to the idea of home-roasted coffee. This great how-to page at coffeegeek has comprehensive instructions on home-roasting in a popcorn popper. Thanks to eBay (ready source of used hot-air poppers) and a nearby coffee roastery that sells organic / fairly traded / co-op managed / shade-grown green beans from various sources, we were able to try this out for the first time today. We worked outside because of the heat from the popper and the messy chaff that blows out of the popper and only mostly into a bowl.
It worked beautifully. We were able to hear "first crack" (a harsher sound of cracking beans) and then later recognize the subtler "second crack" as the beans headed into the dark-roast phase. When the beans come out of the popper, they need to be cooled quickly to halt the roasting process, and gosh, they are really hot. Our over-the-sink colander/strainer worked really well and Fiona and Sophie were both eager to "shake the beans." What we ended up with was full-city-plus dark roasted beans that look luscious. They're a blend of Sumatran, Salvadoran and Guatamalan. We'll wait a couple of days for the off-gassing of the beans to be complete before grinding and brewing.