What’s in a Name? Not Much.

Popper roaster logo
Popper the Roaster Logo Name

So we had some clever names, and over time none of them seemed right. We ended up with a name which is okay, likely not the best. It’s not clever or funny, unless it’s funny in a bad way, like ha ha that’s dumb. But in the case I think it’s okay to be dumb.

I have product fatigue. I am tired of new versions of the same old thing. I am tired of being a consumer and tired of feeling duped. That likely will never end, I am a sucker and I supposed most people are, just at varying intensity levels. (?)

Anyway, you have to give something a name it can be called. You have to “market” it at least to the degree it is being “brought to the market” as a thing to sell, and it needs some name to distinguish it from all other things. We could just point and say “that thing” but it might be confusing.

So there’s this mental exhaustion I have brought on by nearly all shopping except just repetitive grocery type trips. And even those too …for example, walking down the beer aisle at your basic fancy store, and just being tired of all the labels trying to have “personality.” *

I know, ironic since we have a site (ie sweetmarias / coffeeshrub) with a bunch of choices and long reviews and exhaustive descriptors.

So yeah, Popper* and an explanation “popper is a coffee roaster.” I guess for me, 20+ years in home roasting business, there has been some dry (very very dry) humor in pointing at a popper and calling it a roaster. So I started to write popper-roaster, or air-popper-roaster, or air roaster, but appreciated that someone who had no context to understand what it refers to finds any title confusing.

So I guess Popper as a name just ropes in that confusion and claims it.

The other funny thing is the name is too common to be a trademark. Not that we are just saying “yeah, copy us, open source.” I feel like we own this project and put a lot of time and money into it. It’s not cheap for tooling and such in manufacturing.

At the same time, it’s a popper! We didn’t invent that. We weren’t the first people to roast coffee in an air-popper-roaster. We made a lot of small decisions that resulted in this thing, but it’s not that big a deal.

And as it sits it is not the ultimate coffee roaster. It just works well, costs less, is basic and easy to use, and (nudge nudge) it could be made more interesting as well by some clever people in the internet world.

We did our part. Here it is. Well, soon, like probably Oct-Nov 2020.

I can’t believe you read all this! – Thompson

* Things relate as subjects, people relate as objects. This is the basic notion of Commodity Fetishism. It’s the way, for example, cars have “Stance” or “Character” in advertising. And in the world, on the road, express the Taste, Character or Class of the owner. But the person themselves is mute, as an object.

Sumatra And Popper

Sumatra from Aceh area isn’t that low grown generally (1250 to 1800 meters) but can be tough to roast. It often gets a heavy, dark roast treatment that obscures the coffee to a point. Lighter roasting is more challenging.

Air roasters do a pretty good job with this. It’s hard to scorch coffee in an air roaster … provided you don’t overload it.

Currently we use a 3 barrel Probat for samples but when I have a single sample to check out, I’m using Popper lately.

Here is a 1450 meter Sumatra from Aceh (near Lake Takengon) roasted for cupping in Popper.

Lighter City roast from the popper for cupping and drinking!

Origin Story #1

We wanted to create a coffee roaster, one that was a lot like a popcorn popper from the ‘70s.  We didn’t want to think up any new design, or new roast method. We wanted to take what works, the air popcorn popper, and roll it back to the way it was 30 years ago. 

So we took an old vintage air popper machine we bought at a thrift store in the ‘90s for $4, and sent it to China. We sent it to the factory that still makes air poppers, and asked if they could make one just like that. They said they could.

West Bend Poppery, first version, 1500 watts

They sent us back a prototype machine. It looked just like the popper we sent them. Actually it was the popper we sent them, but they added 2 knobs to the front.

From then it was a long (and actually pretty boring) back and forth between Oakland and the factory.

There’s more to tell… but we are trying to drag out the story and make more “content” out of this.