Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Save money on popcorn and roast your own coffee beans with an air popper.

Popcorn is one of those snacks that can be bought in several forms. You can get it pre-popped in a bag, sprinkled with cheese, in microwavable packages, or just the plain popping corn either in bulk or packaged. The pre-popped stuff is the most expensive (by weight) and the plain popping corn is the cheapest. It might seem like a hassle to pop the corn every time you want a snack, but if you eat it regularly, get an air popper from your local thrift store for $6 or less and save yourself a ton of money. Besides, it really doesn't take much more time than the microwaving a bag of popcorn and you won't get scorched popcorn with an air popper. It's also easier to adjust the amount of butter and salt. If you look on the ingredient labels of those microwave popcorn bags, it's kinda yucky. Personally, I don't use my popcorn poppers for making popcorn (see below). However, in case anyone reading this actually uses their popcorn poppers for making popcorn, some models have a removable cup on top of the lid to measure the amount of kernels to put into the machine. If there is no cup, use about 1/3 cup of kernels. Turn the machine on and stop it when there are no more kernels. Cool?

Air poppers - not just for popcorn!
If you think an air popper only does one thing, you're wrong. It actually doubles as a coffee roaster, if you get the right kind of air popper. Look for the Poppery or Popcorn Pumper. It's important that you use the right type of air popper for roasting coffee. The point of roasting your own coffee is not really to save money because 5 pounds of green coffee will produce only about 4 pounds of roasted coffee. The advantage of roasting your own beans is that you know that will have the freshest coffee in your cup. The stuff you get at the store might have been there for months.

Anyway, we were talking about roasting coffee in a popcorn maker, right? Here's a very in-depth video of the whole process:
However, if you don't want to make the modifications, roast the coffee outside and remove the lid of the popper as this guy did:
Note: if you remove the lid, you can't do this outside in cold temperatures because the coffee won't get up to the right temperature for roasting. The lid is actually necessary to keep the heat in.
Sweet Maria's has a video too. They also have a list of the best air poppers to use.
This fellow in this video uses a "chimney" instead of the popcorn pumper lid. I'm not sure where he got it but it seems like a good idea. He also shows the entire roasting process and narrates it throughout:
And, one last resource, which is very detailed, with pictures and all that:
Empty burlap sack ($1.50)
Where do you get green coffee beans? In the Boston area, there are two places that definitely have green coffee beans:
  1. the South End Food Emporium on Columbus Ave. (at W. Newton St.). However, they only have Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans (I asked the guy and he said they were Yirgacheffe beans). The advantage of going there is that you can get as much or little as you want because the beans are in a container in front of the cashier and you fill your own bag. They weigh it for you and it's $5.99 a pound (as of May 2012). They also have injera bread, in case you're into Ethiopian bread. 
  2. Polcari's in the North End, at 105 Salem Street, which is parallel to Hanover. In August 2012, the two types they had were Ugandan ($8/lb) and Colombian ($6.50/lb). They also have a lot of other great things like teas and spices. I ended up buying red tea and Dutch cocoa on impulse! 
 If you want more varieties in smaller bags (e.g. 1 lb), Sweet Maria's is the online place to go. Their prices are reasonable and they have some other products that might interest you. However, if you want to save a little more money, Coffee Bean Direct has 5 lb bags for great prices. For example, the Sumatra is only $5.60/lb [check their website for the most recent prices!]. However, if you'd like to have freshly roasted coffee, save more money, and don't care what kind of coffee beans you're getting, their Poor Man's Blend green coffee is only about $23 for 5 pounds (plus shipping). That's as cheap as you can get for green coffee beans. If you buy that blend roasted, it's $5.65/lb. I haven't tried it yet. If anyone has, please let me know what you think of it. The fact that it's only $1 more per pound for Sumatra green beans makes it difficult for me to justify getting a bag of unknown origin beans. To make the shipping cost worth it, check out their amazing selection of loose teas, tea pouches, and other things (e.g. empty burlap sacks for $1.50 each). The shipping doesn't go much higher than $11, so if you can get a bunch of friends to order stuff with you in one shipment, that will save you even more dough. If you drink a lot of tea, you can save quite a bit of money by buying 2 pounds at a time. Their roasted coffees are good too, in case you don't want to bother with roasting your own coffee. They don't roast the beans until you place your order, so the coffee is very fresh. I've been buying from them for over 5 years and they've been awesome! Their facility is in New Jersey, so if you order from Boston, it usually takes only 2 to 4 days to ship your order. I recently ordered a bag of green Sumatra beans and a couple of burlap sacks on a Monday and got the shipment in on Wednesday. If you want roasted coffee, it'll probably be an extra day or two. [Helpful note about the burlap sacks: to remove the smell from them, soak them in hot water and air dry them (outside if possible).]
Ok, so back to the air popper. Another reason for getting the air popper at a thrift store is that any warranty is going to be void if you get it new. So, why waste the money on a new popper? Just plug the machine in at the thrift store to make sure it turns on. If it does, get it. If you try to roast coffee at home, make sure to take precautions like making sure that you can unplug the popper easily in case anything goes wrong. If you're going to roast on the porch, use a power strip with an on/off switch. Read the Coffee Geek's directions and you should be ok. I also have a blog post with a video on roasting coffee in a Popcorn Pumper.
5 lbs of green Sumatra coffee beans and a few free beans I found at the bottom of the burlap sacks!
My first batch of home-roasted coffee beans - used a Popcorn Pumper and the toaster oven to finish them off.

No comments:

Post a Comment