The Whirley Pop 6 Quart stovetop popper happens to be a competent coffee roaster (in the right hands) and has been our standby stovetop roaster for years. This is the same stovetop popper you will read about in Home Coffee Roasting by Ken Davids.
While this method is completely manual (you need to adjust the heat, crank the popper consistently, and dump your roasted coffee into a colander in order to cool it, you will appreciate roasting more than 8oz. of coffee at a time (much more than an air popper, FreshRoast or Nesco).
This method can do a full range of roast levels but even with constant agitation it can take some practice to get even results. Stovetop roasters are better suited for darker roasts (great for espresso). It does produce smoke (more coffee + darker roasts = more smoke) but a good range hood will handle it. You can also use this method on a gas camp stove or other portable heat sources. It makes great popcorn too!
Both the aluminum and stainless steel models work great. The steel one will last a lot longer if you plan on doing back to back batches a few days a week and it will work on an induction stovetop. This much roasting will eventually wear down an aluminum popper. The seemingly wimpy, thin wire agitator is more jam-free than the paddle-type ones. The wood handles stay cool and will keep your hands away from the heat.
Don't forget to add a thermometer to your order. It's easy to install. Just punch a hole in the popper's lid and insert the thermometer.
Check out our extended review.
Click here to watch a video recorded from a live broadcast we did where we roasted a batch in a Whirley Pop and discussed some useful roasting techniques.
It comes with a tip sheet. You can download it here too.