Motivated by Tom Moertel's 'A coders guide to coffee', I've been experimenting with roasting my own coffee on the cheap. Here's my equipment bought to date:

N.B. I didn't start off roasting: a couple of months ago I bought a grinder and started ordering roasted beans from hasbean. If you live in the UK then HasBean comes highly recommended - the coffee has usually been roasted on the morning of dispatch and the beans arrive through the door the next day in a vacuum sealed bag.

I happily made filter coffee for a couple of weeks before Jay at work encouraged me to get an Aeropress. This is a cheap device that allows you to force hot water through the grinds under pressure to create shots. It's not the same as a 500 quid espresso maker but I've been really happy with the quality of brew I get from this contraption; I don't think you can get a better cup of coffee for the price and it's a lot better than the filter in my mind.

Anyway, it was only a matter of time before the lure of subverting cheap consumer appliances to roast coffee proved too tempting. I found a wealth of info on the net about roasting coffee in popcorn poppers and bought a cheap popper for a fiver off of ebay. The best guides I found were:

There's also a guide to modding your popper on engadget, although I'm not convinced this is strictly necessary. Ed Spiegel's guide has numerous tips to change the roasting speed and profile without modifying the innards simply by varying bean mass, the tilt of the popper, using an extension cable (which adds resistance and slows the roast) and stirring the beans.

Also the Sweet maria's site has loads of material on coffee roasting and brewing in general. In particular I found this colour chart really helpful. If you live in the US then consider getting your beans from them as people rave about them all over the internet.

I'm certainly no coffee expert, but I really recommend trying fresh coffee you've ground yourself. I understand that ground coffee goes stale in a matter of hours, so pretty much anything ground you buy from a supermarket is already well off by the time you brew it regardless of the vacuum packaging it comes in. Roasted whole beans go stale in a couple of weeks apparently, so it's best to order them from a supplier that indicates the date of roast. In the UK this means getting them from the internet. If you need more persuading, check out 'A coders guide to coffee' for some top quality coffee advocacy.

At this stage the benefit of home roasting for me is mainly that I can roast what I need for the next few days and since we only drink a couple of cups a day that's not very much. Also the green beans are pretty cheap even for the gourmet stuff and keep well for years. As I get better at roasting I'm hoping I'll develop the technique and a palette that'll give me pleasure experimenting with varieties and varying roasts. I'm not at that level of precision yet, but I'm certainly getting better tasting coffee than I pick up at starbucks.