Specialty roasters are always looking for new ways to create innovative coffee offerings that entice customers.
The desire to innovate is only logical, as coffee is so susceptible to the different processes in which it is used – be it harvesting, roasting, or brewing.
Notably, using an air fryer to roast coffee has recently risen in popularity as the latest alternative small batch roasting method. That said, as the global energy crisis continues to worsen, is it a viable alternative, or are there more energy-efficient methods to be found?
More so, is roasting coffee in an air fryer the most effective way to highlight the beans inherent flavour characteristics?
Can you use an air fryer to roast coffee?
The current energy crisis has left few global industries unaffected.
As energy bills continue to soar, many coffee specialists are turning to alternative means of roasting.
Many have been inspired to turn to more traditional methods, such as wood fire roasting, while others have begun experimenting with air fryers.
While wood fire roasting is a popular choice, air frying is emerging as another energy-saving option.
As a relatively new concept, air fryers have garnered an impressive level of popularity. Notably, in the US, sales for air fryers increased by 76% in just two years.
More so, according to NPD’s National Eating Trends report, the use of air fryers to create dinner meals has increased by 60% over the last two years.
With so many homes now owning air fryers, coffee innovators were keen to put its capabilities to the test.
Despite its misleading name, an air fryer does not do any frying. Instead, an air fryer uses convection heat to circulate hot air, cooking the food inside in a similar way to a standard fan oven.
That said, it achieves a similar result to oil-based fryers – a crispy outside with a fluffy inside – as it uses the effect of the Maillard reaction.
The heating mechanism produces hot air, which a fan circulates around the food, creating that sought-after crispness.
In order to use an air fryer to roast coffee, it would first need to be preheated, much like a normal roaster.
By preheating, roasters can ensure the air fryer is set to a consistent temperature. This ensures the beans are not only roasted evenly, but also absorb heat instantly as soon as they are added to the basket.
Additionally, roasters should spread the beans evenly across the fryer to form one layer, to help ensure even roasting.
Then, the beans can be “cooked” until they reach the preferred roast level. For instance, light roasts tend to take between 5 and 7 minutes, while darker roasts require a time between 12 and 15 minutes.
Once roasted, the beans should be removed from the air fryer and set aside in a single layer.
Then, they should be left to sit for at least 24 hours, allowing them to cool and for the carbon dioxide to be released.
What results can you get from using an air fryer to roast coffee?
While air frying coffee is an interesting concept, is it a practical replacement for conventional coffee roasting methods?
One thing to consider is an air fryer’s energy efficiency. According to a recent report, a Uswitch energy expert found that using a standard 900-watt air fryer for 20 minutes would cost around £0.6 to cook a typical meal.
This amounts to around half the cost of an average household oven. For a 1,500-watt air fryer that is used for around 20 minutes, the cost would sit at about £0.10 per meal.
Air fryers are designed to be highly energy efficient, making them ideal for home roasting, given the current global energy situation.
Alongside this, roasting coffee in an air fryer is quick and easy, as the machines are easy to use and even easier to clean.
Roasters can experiment with timings in order to achieve full flexibility regarding roast profiles.
While using an air fryer to roast coffee has its pros, there are key cons to consider.
For instance, air frying gives roasters less control over roast parameters. While they can follow rough timing estimates, or use sight to gauge the roast profile, both are far from scientific in accuracy.
This means roasters will have to keep a close eye on the beans for the entirety of the roast, as they can burn quickly.
It is important to note air fryers tend to work best for light or medium roasts. While dark roasts are possible, it can be tricky to achieve using an air fryer.
This is because air frying can remove the oil from within the beans, which may cause them to go bad very quickly.
More importantly, an air fryer that is used to cook food on a regular basis may compromise the flavour of the roast coffee.
This is because the aromas and flavours may permeate the beans during the roast, altering the final flavour.
Is using an air fryer to roast coffee worth it?
It is clear that air fryers can be used to roast coffee. The question that remains is: should they?
One roaster who tried the method compared it to “trying to cook a steak over a candle”.
Another says air fryers do not offer enough movement for the beans. “During our first attempts, we didn’t reach the right temperature, but interestingly, the coffee didn’t taste too bad once we left it to degas for a week.”
Therefore, air fryers may be better suited for small batch home roasters. For those who are new to roasting, want to experiment, or wish to taste freshly roasted coffee at home, air frying is an effective way to do so. Particularly as it does not require a hefty investment in specialist equipment.
That said, in the case of professional or experienced roasters, air fryers are probably not the best fit.
After all, air fryers were not designed to roast coffee, and are unable to provide roasters with the flexibility, control, or accuracy needed to make green coffee shine.
They are a great short-term investment for beginners, but may not be an effective replacement for specialist roasting equipment.
Those looking for an energy-saving roasting method while navigating the fallout of the global energy crisis should seek other eco-friendly business practices.
Effective ways to improve the energy efficiency of roasting methods include using renewable electricity to power the machine or investing in an energy efficient roaster, such as a Loring.
Additionally, roasters can choose to roast large batches of beans as often as possible, to avoid repeatedly using the energy to produce small batches.
Equally, roasters can improve their business’s carbon footprint by considering a number of other areas. For instance, a great way to improve sustainability is to use biodegradable packaging.
Roasters who want to minimise their environmental impact need to consider the entire production chain – everything from harvesting to packaging and selling the final product.
At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of 100% recyclable coffee packaging options made from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining, all of which minimise waste and contribute to a circular economy.
More so, we give our roasters complete control over the design process by allowing them to build their own coffee bags.
Our design team is available to help you create custom-printed coffee bags using innovative digital printing technology, with a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time.
MTPak Coffee also offers low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters who are looking to remain agile while showcasing brand identity and a commitment to the environment.