It’s not easy to keep things in stock these days …
So you might have noticed the Popper coffee roaster is out of stock. We have some units in reserve to cover any issues / replacements, but don’t have any to sell.
It’s pretty easy to guess the reasons, but just to state the obvious … this big rats nest called the global manufacturing and logistics network is very hard for a small business to negotiate these days. Parts aren’t available and time lines keep changing.
We are taking this break to make any changes we need in components. The plan is really not to “upgrade” what we have, add function (which always adds cost). But instead to improve the durability and % of units that come off the line with a quality issue.
When you manufacture something the accepted rate of defect is 1.5%. That could be one of the many components, or the assembly itself. We actually came in way below that with assembly defects (and we replace any problem units promptly as our buyers will know). But we want to improve some components in terms of durability, specifically a better fan motor.
So that’s where Popper is at, and the focus of the project. Look for updates when we are in production again, which should be fairly soon.
In the meantime, Popper is 100% supported, so send any questions about operation or to report any issues!
We have had some issues with the Fan Motor in some units. Here’s how you know if it’s happening to yours!
We have had some issues with the fan motor failing to turn at a constant speed. It has cropped up in about 30 roasters (out of 1800 units or so!).
It seems to happen after 30-50 roasts or more, which is why our QC team didn’t catch it. This video demonstrates the sound of a good fan motor and a bad one, and tells you what to do to get roasting again!
If you’re Popper roaster starts sounding like the Defect Unit I show in this video, STOP using it though! And email firstname.lastname@example.org for more…
If the fan knob starts to feel like it is not “clicking” into position at Off, Low, or High, it might break soon…
If the fan knob is turned past the Off or the High position stops, it can break. When it breaks it spins freely on the post, so it can’t be used to turn the machine on or off, or change air speed.. Bummer.
This is caused by being handled too rough, turned too hard, especially when the user believes the range of the Fan knob is the same as the Heat knob, which turns in a 180 degree arc. It isn’t. The fan knob turns in a 90 degree range. But honestly this would be less of an issue if the way the knob grabbed the post was stronger. We will fix that in the next manufacturing run!
The good news is that it doesn’t damage the post that the knob attaches too, nor the function of the machine … just the knob itself.
The bad news is that the knob doesn’t just pull off the post from the front of the machine. It is “trapped” behind the front plastic panel. So you have to take the machine apart a bit to get at the knob. You can either get a used replacement knob from us , or even just opt to take it off and use the machine by turning the post directly. It also seems that other types of knobs will fit on this “half moon” shaped post. Get creative!
Also, getting at the knob isn’t hard, you just need one small screwdriver and the rest is pretty easy. I can do it in 5 minutes, but it probably took 15 minutes the first time to complete this repair. See below for the video version of this repair or follow this link to see on youtube directly
Why isn’t Popper on Amazon? Why isn’t it sold everywhere?
Thanks for asking!
Popper is a fairly new product on the marketplace (well, nearly 1900 of them have been sold so it’s not rare or anything). While there is a decent supply of them, there isn’t enough to distribute them widely yet, and, more importantly, not the support staff to administer this.
Popper shares space with Sweet Maria’s and is in fact related since one of the owners, Thompson, is also the person behind it. The fact is, Popper probably wouldn’t be possible without Sweet Maria’s as a partner, although the company and project are entirely separate business-wise.
Popper is also not the kind of project that could exist stand-alone. TBH it is basically cost-prohibitive to bring a moderately priced roaster to market, and it going to take some time to break even with the costs to get this manufactured. I can see why people use kickstarter to push that cost onto future customers … not sure that really works in the long run either though. There isn’t a lot of focus on all the misfires and failed products there… mostly just “we received our 150k funding in just 3 hours!” Ha ha. (Yes I am still waiting on my filter free ceramic dripper from mid 2021!)
As you may know, the environment for manufacturing and logistics has become really challenging. For example the container shipment cost (just shipment) that was under $3000 rose 400% between the first and second shipment. Yes, when the second shipment starts selling the retail price of Popper has to go up. That’s just the world these days.
Anyway, in time things will change but until we see Popper all over the place. Especially when the mfr costs and logistics stabilize. Until then, this is where you get Popper: https://www.sweetmarias.com/popper.html
The latest video is a bit of candid talk and a take-part / deconstruction of Popper to show the build and insides. I can’t recommend modifying it in any way, but I do want to show how it is built, the components, and how I test the units.
A very basic video about making and testing Popper, the air coffee roaster.
Here’s a video to show a few early versions of the machine, and some aspects I had to deal with in getting this project completed.
I don’t think this is a video of general interest so please don’t expect much, and the quality isn’t great. I was trying to move the camera phone around to show details and didn’t always do a great job. Ugh.
Also I need to make it clear that you shouldn’t do what I do here, because opening up the machine voids the warranty against manufacturer defect. I made the video to provide some background details only, and show how I test temperatures.
Some things I go over here are
A look at an early prototype
Location of the thermal cutout switch that protects Popper from overheating
When I have a unit that turns off before reaching dark roasts, how i move the thermal cutout switch upward to solve the issue.
How I use a thermometer to probe the bean mass
Show a bare version with probe locations for input air and bean temperatures
Deconstruct (partially) a Popper to show how it’s put together
Talk about the unit that easily roasted 140 grams, and why I couldn’t get it built that way 😢
PS – this is in my workshop space where I store the pallets of Popper, hence the motorbikes and cars and such.
It is indeed, a Popper! But Popper is a coffee roaster indeed
We are excited to launch this new home roaster because it offers a great, economical option to start roasting your own coffee. But we also think experienced folks who roast coffee will find it attractive … and perhaps those who like to modify machines too.
Popper is, as the name makes pretty clear, based on the hot air popcorn poppers so many people use to roast coffee. (And in case you are wondering … Popper does indeed do a good job popping popcorn too!) Popper allows user-control of the heat level, fan speed (just high and low really) and the roast time. These can all be fluidly adjusted during the roast cycle.
A Quick 2:00 Popper Roast Run-through
Not high tech… but simple, straightforward, and user-friendly
Popper has no automated roast cycles, beyond a default 7:00 roast and 3:00 cool. You, the user, can “profile” the heat curve and set roast parameters using the front control knobs. But nothing is “preset” for you. If you want a roaster that saves programs, has automated roast curves, or connects to your phone app, Popper is not for you, probably
Turn on the Popper and you see 0:00 on the timer and a green light – the Off position. When you start a roast batch, the maximum time allowed will read 10:00 on the digital count-down timer. But that is not 10:00 of roast time. The final 3:00 on the timer is the cooling cycle. During the roast the light is red, and when the timer reaches 3:00 it turns blue for cooling. So yeah, you gotta do a little math: 5:00 on the timer clock means you have 2:00 more of roasting and then 3:00 of cooling. You can handle it!
The nice thing here is, unlike some other roasters, you can use the time dial to add and subtract roast time during the roast whenever you want. Even if Popper goes into cooling mode, just turn the dial above 3:00 and you can roast more.
In other words, Popper is pretty inuituve for you to control. It’s not high tech but -pretty ok in terms of human tech. And we still think humans controlling and making decisions about the roast process is the best way.
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 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.