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A Seattle Company Wants Coffee Fans to Roast Their Own Beans

Bunafr bills itself as the world’s first smoke-free at-home coffee bean roaster

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A coffee roaster and bags of coffee beans. Bunafr

Coffee enthusiasts have been upgrading their gear for years in search of a better at-home cup. AeroPresses and home espresso machines have replaced the once-ubiquitous Mr. Coffees, and any serious coffee drinker will have experimented with a variety of grinders, kettles, filters and the like to perk up their brewing game. But there aren’t many people who are roasting their own green coffee beans at home.

One local company wants to change that. The Bunafr roaster, developed in Seattle, will help home baristas brew the freshest cup of coffee possible. Bunafr’s name combines the Ethiopian word “Buna” (meaning coffee) and “fr” for fruit. Founder and CEO Anjani Annumalla came up with the idea when COVID-19 lockdowns forced people to change their coffee consumption habits. His hope is that by connecting coffee farmers to coffee drinkers more directly, the farmers will improve their profit margins, customers will get a fresher cup of coffee, and the industry’s carbon footprint will shrink because there will be less transportation and packaging involved in the beans-to-cup process.

The roaster is compact and remarkably simple to use — there’s no smoke and virtually no noise. You pour between 50 and 225 grams of beans into the machine, hit start, and watch as the beans work their way through the roasting process before eventually dropping down into a vacuum-sealed storage container. The roast time is under 10 minutes, and for all but pulling espresso shots (for which the beans should de-gas for a day or two), the beans are immediately available for grinding and brewing. (Bunafr sells green coffee beans, which aren’t easy to get otherwise, through a subscription service.)

For coffee geeks, a home roaster adds another variable to tinker with — you can change the darkness of the roast based on factors like air temperature, airflow velocity, agitation speed, and humidity level. The Bunafr app tracks all these variables, letting users share and collect roast profiles with others.

You don’t have to do all that, though. Bunafr’s bean packages have QR codes to set up a recommended roast. The beans are sourced by Zoka Coffee owner Jeff Babcock, one of the shapers of the third wave coffee movement who has vetted coffee farms worldwide for more than 15 years and has judged the prestigious Cup of Excellence competitions. Subscription options include single origin favorites, blends and “remarkables” — limited edition beans that are rare varietals and award-winning micro-lots, such as Geishas from Colombia and Guatemala. Tasting kits are also available, and there’s even an option to set up custom blends based on regions and tasting notes.

The Bunafr roaster is for serious, serious coffee people and priced accordingly, at $900 (plus tax and shipping), which is more than many home espresso machines.

The roaster isn’t quite ready to ship, but you can pre-order it on the Bunafr website. Annumalla expects the roaster to start shipping to backers of the crowdfunding campaign by the end of September, with pre-orders fulfilled by the holiday season.