Kaldi Home Coffee Roaster Review
Ease of Use
Both machines are awesome. You can do just about anything with them. They’re durable and produce amazing, highly consistent roasts. Kaldi Home Coffee Roaster is recommended for dedicated Do-It-Yourselfers who don’t mind taking a hands-on approach to roasting their own beans. Not recommended for novice roasters. Get some experience first to get the most out of this machine!
Are you a dedicated do-it-yourselfer? Interested in roasting your own coffee beans and taking complete control over every aspect of the process?
If you answered yes to either or both of those questions, then you’re going to love our in-depth Kaldi home coffee roaster review. This machine, and its little brother, the Kaldi mini roaster, are both flat out amazing.
That said, they’re not for everyone. If you’re looking for high tech bells and whistles, or any sort of automation, then you’re not going to be impressed. But, for the right type of user, both models offered by Kaldi are coffee roasting nirvana.
We’ll go over everything these durable devices can do, and highlight the things they can’t do or don’t do very well, so you’ll have everything you need to make an informed decision.
Ready to get started? Let’s jump right in!
An Overview of the Kaldi Home Coffee Roaster
tor, Footprint & Aesthetic
Stainless steel is synonymous with high-quality coffee gear, ranging from espresso machines to grinders. Roasters are no exception, and the Kaldi home coffee roaster is made of medium-gauge stainless-steel, making it incredibly rugged and durable, and fairly attractive, to boot!
Overall, the larger of the two models measures 22.1” x 14.1” x 8” and weighs 14.6 pounds. It’s big enough to be a significant piece of hardware, but not so big that storing it when not in use will pose any real challenge. Plus, it’s light enough that hauling it out for a roast is not a big issue.
It’s a good-looking piece of hardware, but there are a couple of things to make a note of here:
- First, this machine doesn’t have a power cord. To use it, you’ve got to set it over an open flame, so either your gas range or a grill outside (we recommend the grill, simply to keep the smoke outside).
- Second, while stainless steel is durable and attractive, it’s also metal. So, of course, when you set it over an open flame, it gets hot... insanely hot. If you’re going to buy one of these, we recommend getting some long, heat- and flame-resistant gloves that extend at least part way up your forearm. It’s all too easy to get careless and give yourself a nasty burn, so be warned!
Features and Capabilities
There’s really not a lot to talk about here because the machine is designed for basic functionality only. It’s all business. It’s got a place to load beans, it’s got a drum for roasting, and a basic chaff management system. What more do you need?
You won’t find the magic of either of Kaldi’s models in the nuts and bolts of the device itself, but rather, in what it allows you to do.
Honestly, with this model, the quality of the output has more to do with the experience of the person doing the roasting and almost nothing to do with the machine itself. It’s literally all in your hands.
The only thing we’d call your attention to here is that the temperature probe that comes standard with the unit is really low quality. We recommend upgrading to a digital probe (which will cost you next to nothing) so you can more precisely control your roasting temperature.
This is one of the most important parts of our Kaldi coffee roaster review. Capacity matters, and sometimes it matters a lot.
While it’s true that this isn’t its strongest feature, the Kaldi’s roasting drum can hold 8.8 ounces of beans per batch. It’s not huge, but it is marginally above the industry average.
Honestly though, that’s enough capacity to satisfy the needs of even the most die-hard “power” drinkers, although if you plan on roasting for a whole family of heavy coffee drinkers, or if your friends and family start asking for batches, the machine will struggle a bit to keep pace and you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time bent over the grill.
Presets and Controls
This will be a fairly short section because the Kaldi home roaster has no advanced electronics, so there are no presets or profiles to deal with. There’s no USB port either, so there’s no connecting it to a laptop and controlling the roasting process via a fancy custom profile.
Again, it all comes down to you and your skill with the machine. You can make it do anything you can imagine, and roast as dark as you like (something most electric models simply aren’t capable of), but it takes time and practice.
The manufacturer at least made some attempt to suppress the smoke that the machine produces, in that it comes with a filter located at the top of the drum. The simple truth is though, that it’s going to smoke, and it’s going to smoke a lot. Because of that, you’re much better off using this on a gas grill or a campfire than on a gas stove top.
If the gas stove top is your only option, by all means, use it. But, be aware that you’re going to have to run the stove fan, open your windows, bring in an auxiliary box fan, and probably still have to take the battery out of your smoke detector.
In our view, it’s a feature, not a bug, and we don’t really see it as a negative since it’s such an easy problem to get around, but we understand that it’s going to be a problem for some people, and may even be a deal breaker.
Yet another important component of our Kaldi roaster review, chaff management has everything to do with making the end to end roasting process more efficient. The better a machine’s chaff management is the less cleanup you have after each batch, and the less time you have to spend sifting chaff out of your freshly roasted beans.
Unfortunately, while the Kaldi home roaster does make a marginal effort at chaff management with the inclusion of a secondary drum designed to capture it, in practice, it doesn’t do a great job, so expect to have to sift your beans to get the rest out, and to have some cleanup between each batch.
Using the Machine
Since the Kaldi home roaster lacks advanced technology, using it is a lesson in simplicity. Mastering it, however, takes time, patience, and practice.
Broadly speaking, it’s as simple as warming up the machine, loading your beans into the drum, then watching as the beans go through their color progression, and listening for the first and second crack.
When the beans reach the color you’re looking for, dump them into the cooling bowl and sift the remaining chaff out. That’s it. They’re ready for grinding.
Of course, all of that takes timing. It takes a deep understanding of what temperature yields the best result, given the roast you prefer, and paying close attention as the beans you’re working with change color and crack, so there’s a lot of nuance involved, but it’s not rocket science either.
Cleaning and Maintenance
There are no hard and fast rules here. In general, the darker you roast your beans, the more often the unit will need cleaning. For a medium roast, a good general guideline is once every five batches, adjusting from there depending on your roast preferences and as the machine looks like it would benefit from a good cleaning.
Another good general rule is to give it a good cleaning if you start using a different type of beans in the roaster than you had been using previously.
When you clean the unit, do so with a gentle, non-abrasive cleaner and let it dry completely before reassembling for next use.
Kaldi Roaster Review Pros & Cons
The pros and cons of this model are pretty easy to spot.
On the plus side, it’s a low-tech, well-built machine you can use to get any roast you want IF you have enough experience to work some coffee magic with it.
On the minus side, it’s a low-tech machine. The quality of the roast comes down to your skill. There are no presets or profiles to fall back on here. If you get a bad roast, it’s because you weren’t paying attention or did something wrong.
That’s not a knock against you personally, it’s just that you’re trying to do something new, and need more practice. Try again and keep practicing till you learn the ropes!
Some people love the freedom and total control a machine like this gives you. Others are more interested in convenience and automation. If that describes you, you’re not going to be happy with this model. It really is a case of knowing what you’re buying, and being able to live with the capabilities of the roaster you select.
What About the Kaldi Mini Coffee Roaster?
Kaldi makes a smaller, slightly less expensive, scaled back model, in addition to the one we just finished talking about. This smaller model is known as the Kaldi Mini.
It’s functionally similar to the full-sized home roaster but smaller, and with virtually every non-essential feature stripped out.
Dimensionally, it measures just 10.2” x 7.9” x 9.4” and weighs just 5.5 pounds. It’s constructed of the same high-quality stainless steel, but literally only contains the roasting hopper (keeping the same 8.8-ounce capacity), and a hand crank to turn the roasting drum.
You also get the same low-quality temperature probe, and it comes with the same recommendation. At your first opportunity, replace this with a good digital temperature probe for better results.
Basically then, with the Kaldi mini, a gas flame provides the heat, and you provide the rotational power of the drum.
There is no chaff management system on the Mini, which means you’ll have more post-roast work to do in terms of sifting and cleanup. But if you’re looking to save some money, and don’t mind turning the crank manually, this is a great option!
Final Thoughts on Kaldi Home Coffee Roaster Review
And that wraps up our Kaldi home coffee roaster review. We think it’s a fantastic machine and highly recommend it.
Having said that, it’s also a highly self-selecting machine. People who want automation and high-tech bells and whistles will give it a pass without a second thought. DIY-ers will absolutely love it. For us, it's as close to perfection as we’ve ever seen in a home roaster.
Reference and resources
- Kaldi Coffee Roaster, Official website
- Coffee Roast Guide, National Coffee Association of U.S.A.
- Roasting Process, Bridgehead.
- Roasting Coffee: Light, Medium and Dark Roasts Explained, North Star Coffee Roasters.
- Roasting the Perfect Bean, Fratello.
- Zen and the Art of Roasting Coffee, The Coffee Hopper.