jyl wrote:I'm thinking about home roasting. This is only partly because I want a new hobby. The other and possibly primary reason is to save money...I am hoping to buy something used...and spend no more than $500.
Just my $0.02 (as someone whose favorite
part about the general coffee hobby, is the 'sub-hobby' of roasting), I'd have a hard time recommending you dive in if you're not
really looking for another hobby. I guess the main factor at play is how important the quality of coffee is to you? i.e. are you hoping to match the quality of coffee you're spending $40/week on? ($20/lb coffee sounds like pretty darn good coffee to begin with)
I'm not saying you can't match that quality with affordable equipment...but back to the non-hobby issue, part of learning to roast to your
satisfaction likely will involve lots
of failed/poor roasts. Someone driven by the love of the hobby might learn to live with all the 'bad' roasts until it all starts clicking for them, but if you're just wanting to substitute having to pay $40/week for quality, roasted coffee, I guess I'd want to fire out a fair warning that you might find yourself even more frustrated if you spend $500 and then hate what you're 'forcing yourself to drink' as you progress on the learning curve, because of having to justify your initial roasting gear expenditure.
Fwiw, I started roasting 4 years ago to 'save money.' Like many of us have done with espresso gear, trust me when I say I have spent FAR more than I ever expected to on my roasting setup/equipment (home-built electric) as it has evolved. Here's the upside: do I regret having spent hundreds, maybe a thousand (I'd need to add it up), on modifying/upgrading/overhauling my setup to suit my needs as I developed as a roaster? Not at all. Happily, I ended up falling in love with roasting as a hobby
and it's all good now. But, yes, it was way more costly (some money, and LOTS of time) than I ever anticipated.
Not trying to be a scrooge though! I think lots of the advice above is really good: try out a low cost option first to just see if you really do/don't want to involve yourself in another 'coffee process' in life. If you find it worth your time (and money), you can always spend more. But, if you're not getting results close to your desires/expectations, you can just abandon ship without too much sunk cost. Good luck!
P.S.: what roasters / style of coffee do you prefer to drink right now?