Notes on Whirley-Popping

by Dean's Beans Roast Master Extraordinaire, Brendan Walsh

The Whirley-Pop! This is definitely a roasting method for the adventurous manly-man or womanly-woman, and someone not afraid of trial and error.  It is fairly crude and simple, but good consistent results can be achieved with a little practice (I burned my first 2 roasts, but then hit the jackpot with a beautiful darkly roasted Sumatran.)  



  • You can roast ½ pound at a time, more than most home roasting machines.
  • You can roast in any style, from light, to super French.
  • The thing costs a fraction of any electric roaster.
  • Doesn't require electricity.
  • Free popcorn popper with every purchase.


  • Not for those with weak wrists - you need to churn, churn, churn.
  • Steams/Smokes like crazy.
  • Easy to scorch the beans.
  • No temperature reading to rely on - get a thermometer!


You’ll want to do this under a hood fan, or outside on a fire/ grill, and your spouse will let you live a little longer.  I preheated the empty Whirley-pop over medium-low heat for a minute, til it was hot to the touch.  You can dump a half pound in there easily.  Stir smoothly, but pace yourself, a roast takes about 10 minutes.  I shook the pot every 30 seconds or so, to make sure the beans rotated, and the same ones didn’t just spin on the bottom and scorch, which happened the first time around.

Use low heat: high heat scorched them much faster than I expected.  This is especially problematic in the first couple minutes, when the beans begin to yellow.

Steam will escape as the beans turn yellow, after 5 minutes or so.  I checked through the lid every minute, but this is difficult to do while stirring. I suggest doing it while shaking the beans.

If the stirrer gets stuck on a bean, rotate it the other way for a second to free it, then continue.  Hearing first crack is easier to do while shaking as well.  I increased my cranking speed when the beans reached first crack, and you can experiment with taking them off the heat a little or lowering the flame to draw this stage out, for this is when most of the flavor develops. Keep roasting until first crack is complete, and the beans are a medium brown color - after that it is entirely up to you!  Medium roast beans will have a smooth body and bright acidity.

A minute or so after first crack ends, second crack will begin. The sound is a little softer, and this is when the roast will develop chocolate-like and bittersweet flavors. As second crack progresses, the beans will enter French roast, gradually becoming fuller-bodied, but at the risk of becoming burnt or bitter if you go too far.

Keep in mind that they will continue to roast some after you take them off the heat.

I dumped mine into a metal colander (with small holes!) and shook it for several minutes until it was cool.  Chaff will go everywhere, so do it outside if possible.

Enjoy the endless possibilities of your $40 dollar fun-machine!



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