I have used several versions of the West Bend Poppery II. Most have that classic blocky cream colored body and yellow lid that is hard to see through, but every once in a while, B will pick up one with a clear lid, or a rounded one that is a darker grey. For the last several months I have been using the gray rounded one, and it seems to be a winner. I have not ruined any poppers yet, but I keep giving them away (with green beans) to new roasters.
I have found that most of the poppers that I have used will go all the way through 1st crack, but could use a little help to get into 2nd crack. I have used 2 different methods for increasing the ambient temperature: use a piece of aluminum or cardboard to restrict the airflow from the popper, and recirculate the hot air back towards the base of the popper. Both will cause the sound of the popper to change, so I am still wondering if it decreases the lifespan of the unit.
My main complaints with the popper method are that is roasts so little, and that the roast is blah. I do get flavor out of the beans, but the roast is rarely complex. I never expect to get any hints of fruit if I use the popper. I also think that the roast ends up darker, even if I use the same timing as with the bowl. I tend to think that is has something to do with the fluid air bed heating up the individual beans rather than the bean mass, but I have not done anything to find out.
My first popper was a Presto PopCornNow Plus. It does not have the ideal spin vents that keep the beans swirling, it has a single jet engine attached to the bottom that hurls the beans out the top. I made a 2 can stack to try to contain them, but it turned out that the heating element was too strong too and the beans quickly burn. I am sure it could be re-purposed for good, and give up it’s evil ways.
Heat gun & dog bowl:
The heat gun came from Sears on sale for $12.50, and the dog bowl from Target. The bowl I use has a flat bottom, and does not have the walls that come back down to the floor. Hmm… I mean that the profile of my bowl, if you were to take a slice from the middle, would be more like a ‘U’ with a flat bottom, and would not look like an ‘M’ like a standard dog bowl. \_/ not /\/\
Roasting in the dog bowl will take about twice as long as the popper if the ambient temperatures are warmer. During the winter when I freeze in my garage, the popper will take a little longer, but the dog bowl will take three times as long as the popper.
The dog bowl is my favored method because it can roast more at a time, and it tends to produce a more complex roast. I can bring out the blueberry in Harrar with this one.