Home roasting for cigar-smokers...
Poppers are an inexpensive way in for the coffee roasting learning curve. They're great if you live (or drink) alone and like to fiddle with stuff. They are perfect for geeky software/hardware folks who want to develop a very controllable way to perfectly roast and record small batches of coffee - this is not me, but I'm not knocking it. If you have a soldering iron and can read a schematic, you can do a lot with a popper - but you can't ever roast more than 1/2C or so per cycle with one.
The wife and I NEED at least a pound of fresh roasted coffee per week or we will die; our survival and marriage largely depend on espresso to flourish (or drip coffee, at the minimum, to survive). Accordingly, I geared up to a pound/plus roaster without breaking the bank. To assemble a pretty darn exotic ConvectoStir takes practically zero mechanical skills and costs:
StirCrazy (new - Target) $25/approx
Convection Oven (ebay) $40/tops
Spring form (optional - ebay) $10
Nuts/bolts (Lowes) - $3
Thermocouple (optional - Sweet Marias, new) - $30
hot pads; strainer(s); wooden spoon; mason jars - $0
Total cost under $100.
Decent store coffee costs $9.00/lb.
Green beans cost $5.50/lb.
Your spare time to pursue yet another hobby is worthless.
You save $3.50/lb roasting it yourself if you waste nothing and electricity is free.
You're paid back in 25-30/lbs of home roasted beans in a world of imperfect accounting, assuming you don't burn your house down.
Home roasting is a fun hobby that fits with smoking cigars. It makes a lot of smoke, creates a smell you either love or hate, makes a mess of burned stuff that isn't especially hard to clean up, tastes good, can burn down your house if you're careless, requires interesting specific paraphernalia, improves with proper aging, stores well and scares away people who don't share your interests or tastes.
ConvectoStir (or StirVection, SCCO, etc.) album* from this weekend - http://photobucket.com/albums/v339/x.../ConvectoStir/
I smoked less than one Joya de Nicaragua toro in the time it took to prepare, preheat, roast, cool and clean up after 5 cups of green beans. This will make about 50 espresso doubles. The 4-bean blend I use to make an espresso roast can't all go into the roaster at once - I run two (or more) cycles when I roast for espresso. If you roast one bean type for drip, the process is faster and easier still.
There's a lot to be said for roasting in a BBQ but that can involve a lot more hands on work. Unless you like mechanical projects the BBQ can be a little daunting. A typical gas BBQ with rotisserie/drum can, however, roast a lot of coffee per cycle. Fact is, I don't need 5-lbs per week so the merits of BBQ pale beside the ConvectoStir for me.
If you read this far, you should be roasting your own coffee.
* ConvectoStir, powerstrip, hot-rest for oven and a radio sit on a cart that stays on the back porch;
a couple of strainers carry beans, hot pads, thermocouple readout and dustbuster in/out of the house;
thermocouple shows 425-35F approx. at first crack;
convection oven temp control can regulate roasting temps very reliably;
a small Dremel tool notch in the springform/space ejects roasting chaff into a strainer;
a window fan atop a fishtank frame cools beans - it's not hard to melt a plastic fan, by the way - a fan with reversible motor is a good idea;
a Mazzer hopper is excellent for spill-less funneling of beans from strainer to airtight bottles;
a maduro ashtray is a colorful all-season accent to any living room, garage or back porch roasting area.