Roasting Coffee In An Air Fryer Is Great But Only If You Do Not Want French Roast

By Jen Evansy / May 6, 2020

I don't know about you, but there's nothing I love more than a steaming hot cup of coffee made from freshly roasted and ground coffee beans.

It's not just the taste of the coffee but the entire experience. Inhaling the heady aroma of the roasted beans, grinding them with my vintage grinder, and finally brewing with my French press. It's a ritual I cherish every morning for its simplicity and serenity. 

Coffee Beans in an Air Fryer

Recently I've been roasting my coffee beans with an air fryer just to test it out.

I'm no expert, but I'd heard good things and wanted to try it for myself. In this article, I'll talk about my experience with the air fryer and my opinions about the results (which were pretty good, all things considered). Enjoy.

“As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?”
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Why Home Roast Your Own Coffee Beans?

green coffee beans

It's extremely convenient to purchase beans that have already been roasted. Knowing this, why would anyone want to roast their own at home? It seems counter-intuitive, takes extra time, and you need some knowledge to do it. 

The truth is, however, that roasting at home delivers several benefits store-bought roasted coffee beans simply don't:

  • Roasting at home allows you to use freshly roasted beans in your daily cuppa' joe. The ones you buy at the store have likely been there for weeks or months.
  • Coffee only stays at its flavorful peak for about a week, meaning store-bought has much less flavor.
  • Roasting your own gives you full control over the flavor and boldness of the beans.
  • You have more choice of flavors when you choose the raw, unroasted beans yourself.
  • Roasting at home is usually much cheaper than buying pre-roasted beans.
  • Drinking a cup of joe, you roasted yourself can be incredibly satisfying.

Can You Roast Coffee Beans In An Air Fryer?

In the last decade or so, air fryers have certainly come into their own. They're relatively inexpensive, super-easy to use and deliver the crispiness that so many people love without the damaging effects of frying food in oil.

Just like the name suggests, an air fryer 'fries' your food with circulating hot air rather than oil. These fryers are basically small convection ovens made for smaller households.

Read my other article here about how to correctly use an air fryer and what are some common mistakes that people are making when using it.

Now, as far as taste goes when air frying food, say, french fries, I have to admit that I'm not a fan. Sure, they're crispy, but there's a definite difference in taste that I miss. I have roots in Belgium and, for those of you that know about this little country next to France, french fries there are a national obsession. Without a lot of oil, they're simply not the same, which is why you don't see a lot of these fryers being used to make french fries in Belgium.

That being said, you can, quite effectively, use it to roast coffee beans. The conditions you find in an air fryer are practically perfect for roasting coffee beans. Super-hot air circulating evenly means that you get an even roast in a relatively short time with very little burning and smoke. (At least in my limited experience so far. Check out my step-by-step process below.)

unroasted coffee beans in the air fryer

One thing that I have noticed, however, is that roasting my beans darker (to get a dark roast, naturally) isn't as easy as it might sound.

For example, to get a medium roast, I put my raw, unroasted beans in the air fryer for about 10 minutes. You'd think that, if I put them in longer, they'd get darker, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Even when I leave them in for 12 to 13 minutes, they stay their medium color. When I grind and brew them, they have a medium roast taste. (I've tried longer, but they started to burn.)

Since I'm not a huge fan of dark roast, it's not a big problem but, if you are, using an air fryer to roast your own beans might present a bit of a problem.

Still, I was impressed with how easy it was and the results I got, and I'm going to keep experimenting.

Here Is How To Roast Coffee Beans In An Air Fryer

The process of roasting coffee beans with an air fryer is about as simple as it gets.

Let's go through it step-by-step:

  1. Preheat the air fryer for 2 to 4 minutes. Set the temperature to 210 degrees Fahrenheit (or 'high').
  2. Place 1 to 4 cups of fresh green beans into the basket. (I recommend Arabica.)
  3. Place the basket into the air fryer.
  4. Roast for about 9 to 11 minutes. (More about the roasting times below.)
  5. When roasting a full basket, then open the lead at 5-6 minute mark, stir the beans so that they roast more evenly. (If you are roasting a small amount, then you don't need to stir.)
  6. When they're finished roasting, immediately place the beans on a cool surface. An old but clean kitchen towel is best.
  7. Once the roasted beans have cooled, place them in an airtight container until you use them.

Now, here's the thing; since the point of roasting at home is to have freshly roasted coffee to brew, you probably don't want to roast too much at once.

For example, if you only drink 1 cup per day, but you roast 4 cups of coffee beans, you'll have enough for an entire month. By the end of the month, those 'fresh' beans will be a month old, and, as we've talked about, roasted coffee loses its freshness after about a week. So roast your beans accordingly.

How To Tell If Coffee Is Roasted Enough?

Here is a simple color guide that I follow, and it will help you master the process and get the right flavored coffee for your taste. Keep in mind, this is just a rough guide and how much or how little you roast is a personal preference and entirely up to you!

As you start out with green beans, while roasting, your beans will go through a whole different array of colors. So, just keep checking the color and stop when you think it has reached the right shade for your taste.

It does take some experimenting till you figure out what is the best roast for you, so start out with tiny amounts to avoid waste.

N.B. Always write down the amount and type of beans, time, and temperature. In that way, it is a lot easier to make adjustments when rotating next time.

Home Roasting Color Guide

  1. Very light brown: Not ready yet. Will have a sour taste and weak aroma.
  2. Light to medium brown: If you like mild flavor yet full body and full aroma, then this is for you.
  3. Medium to dark brown: The most common roast in the United States. It has a strong aroma and full bodied, intense aroma, quite strong sweetness.
  4. Dark brown: This roast is also known as a Viennese or French roast. It has a robust aroma and full bodied and intense sweetness.
  5. Dark chocolate brown: This roast very dark, and it is known as espresso or French. The beans have lightly shiny, oily surface. This roast is probably not for everybody as it has a richer, somewhat charred taste. If you like very deep, strong, and intense flavors, then this is for you.

Listen To The Popping And Crackling Sounds

The color of the beans is just one of the ways to determine the degree of roast. I have read that experienced roasters also monitor the aroma and the size of the bean.

However, there is another, perhaps, a bit easier way to determine the readiness of the beans.

It is by cracking sound you hear during roasting. That cracking sound similar to a popcorn popping sound.

This sound is also known (among professionals) as 'the first crack' and 'the second crack'.

These series of cracks will last about 1-1.5 minutes and have a 1-2 minute gap between the first and the second crack. It all depends upon the type and also the amount of beans being roasted.

During the process, when coffee bean starts to expand, and its moisture has begun to evaporate, you should hear this cracking sound, and that will happen twice.

When using an air fryer, you should hear the first popping sounds around 8-9 minutes of roasting. That is the moment when beans have reached the early stage of edibility at the light-medium brown color.

Now, if you keep roasting up to 10 minutes, then medium to dark roast will be reached and ready, which is somewhere in between the first and the second crack, which should happen just around 11-minute mark.

However, if you want to go even darker roast, then keep going 1-2 minutes more. Now you should be reaching into the dark brown territory. However, that is the stage that I was struggling to reach with my air fryer.

Also, at that stage, you should be very careful as the whole thing can go from dark roast to charcoal and fire very fast. 

Pros And Cons Of Using An Air Fryer?

coffee storage container

While roasting coffee beans with an air fryer is certainly easy and relatively convenient, it does have a few drawbacks. 

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of roasting coffee beans with an air fryer. 

Also, keep in mind that these are all pros and cons that I have found in my own limited experimentation here at home. I don't make any claims to be a coffee expert, I'm just your typical person who loves a well-brewed cup of java.

Pros

  • It's easy. Simply turn on the air fryer, put in your beans, and stir a couple of times.
  • You get freshly roasted coffee in under 10 minutes.
  • It's convenient. No pans to wash, it plugs into the wall, and you can just shove it to the corner of the counter when you're done.
  • It does a decent job. Light and medium roasting was easy and had very good results.
  • There's no smoke like you get with pan roasting or oven roasting. (If you like a bit of smoke, then that is a disadvantage.)
  • Air fryers are much cheaper than most of the coffee roasting machines available on the market.

Cons

  • Some beans roast better than others. (Requires experimenting)
  • Getting a dark roast is quite tricky, almost impossible for some reason (I know, I tried.)
  • Air fryers are a bit bulky to leave on the counter, and take up a good bit of cupboard space. (Not a problem if you are using it to fry all sorts of other foods.) 
  • The aroma of roasting is pretty much lost (That's a big deal for me.)

4 Other DIY Coffee Roasting Methods

...and how these compare to using an air fryer.

different coffee roasts

Previously I've always roasted my own coffee the 'old fashioned' way, with a heavy-duty, cast-iron skillet on the stovetop with an open, natural gas flame. (My friends and family think I'm a nut for doing it, by the way) I just love the way fresh beans smell as they're being roasted, and I still this is the best method to do that.

However, if you already have an air fryer, I think you should give it a try. If you don't have one, don't worry, you don't really need to go out and buy one.

Here are a few other very good home roasting methods that will give you excellent results.

  1. Use a cast-iron pan on the stove.
  2. Roasting in the oven on a typical 'cookie sheet.'
  3. Try a popcorn popping machine.
  4. Get a smooth and balanced roast with a store-bought, countertop roasting machine.

Using A Pan And Stove

cast-iron skillet

Roasting coffee beans with a pan on the stove is what I've done for years. That being said, the air fryer is a bit more convenient and doesn't take as much constant attention.

On the other hand, I can definitely get a dark roast using a pan on the stove, and, as I've mentioned already, I couldn't seem to do that with an air fryer. If you like dark roast, more body, and deeper notes, roasting with a pan on the stove is the better choice.

Make sure that the pan you use is without non-stick coating and is well cleaned as you don't want to absorb any of the flavors of whatever you cooked before them.

Roasting With A Popcorn Machine

To do this, you'll need an old-time popcorn air popping machine which, frankly, isn't exactly sitting on most store shelves waiting to be purchased. I happen to have one however, and, just like making popcorn, it was easy and straightforward to roast coffee beans.

The older popcorn popping machines are definitely better because they can reach a higher temperature, and, thanks to this, I was able to successfully get a dark roast. That being said, finding an air fryer will be much easier, so this match is kind of a toss-up.

Cheap popcorn makers like this one here won't give you a good result as the temperature juts don't go high enough. 

Oven Roasting Your Beans 

One of the best things about roasting coffee beans in an oven is that they roast evenly because the heat distribution is more even.

However, you do need to preheat your oven to 475°F- 500°F (about 240°C) degrees, which is going to use quite a bit of gas or electricity and warm up your kitchen considerably.

You can certainly get a dark roast when using your oven so, if that's what you're into, the oven might be a better choice. Just keep in mind, it is going to use a lot more electricity or gas. If you like light and medium roast, the air fryer wins.

Using A Home Coffee Roaster

The main reason to use an air fryer is that it's much cheaper than a purpose-built coffee roaster. Of course, if the dark roast is what you're looking for, and you have the extra cash, a roasting machine is definitely the winner. 

If you do have some extra cash to spend, then check out this super cool conventional style drum roaster here on Amazon. And this is not even the most expensive one.

I tried all of these methods except the last because, frankly, I didn't want (I do want to) to invest in an expensive coffee roasting machine. So that one is just a few basic thoughts. The rest I tried myself so that I could give you my honest opinion.

I hope that my trial and error of getting a good roast helped you save some time and aggravation. Do not be discouraged if it did not turn out absolutely perfect for the first time. Whatever method you use, it will take some practice.

Now, because you are here and reading this post, I know that you, along with 64 percent of Americans, appreciate a good cup of joe. So, I do have a bit of a crazy concept I would like to propose to you. 

Have you tried adding mushrooms to your coffee? I know, adding mushroom sounds like a random and rather unappealing combination. But in fact, switching your morning cup of java to mushroom coffee is one of the smartest things you should do if you are a coffee drinker.

Read my latest article about this new trend and how it compares to a regular cup of joe. - Why This Unusual Mushroom Combo Is The Next Big Healthy Morning Routine?

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About the author

    Jen Evansy

    Nutritionists, researchers, and writers, interested in everything healthy-living related. Helping you identify the best diets, learn about food and nutrition, to help you live happier, longer and stronger.


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