First you'll get your beans, which will be small and greyish-green and smell like old dirt. I am not so much of a coffee snob that I have the faintest idea about what beans I would choose or why, and so I kind of pick them randomly from the cheaper side. I have liked everything. A sampler is a fun and inexpensive way to start.
Next you will measure 1/2 cup of beans (or whatever maximum your popper identifies) into the popper and you'll turn it on. You should have a large metal colander or bowl ready. And you should do this outside, if you've got an outlet (I roast outside, in the snow even, crouched in my coat over the popper). Otherwise, do it near your stove and turn the fan on high. It will make a lot of smoke and roasty odor, which dissipates in about a day or so. Tip the popper backwards by wedging a folded-up dish towel under its front side: this will keep the coffee beans from flying out before they're roasted.
Now you should consult that Sweet Maria's link above on what exactly you're looking and listening for. But I'll tell you this: first some beans will fly out, and you'll readjust the dish towel. Next nothing will happen for a minute or so. Then the husks will start flying out. (You can catch them in the colander but, honestly, whenever I do that I end up panicking when I need to dump the beans in, and then I end up dumping the husks out of the colander onto the floor, so it's kind of pointless. Just commit to cleaning them up later, which is easy.) After around 3 minutes, the coffee will hit the stage called "first crack," which means you hear them popping, like popcorn. This is when you need to pay close attention. First crack will taper off and then, around a minute later, "second crack" will start, which is a series of very-close-together cracking sounds + smoke. I usually let it go into second crack for about 15 to 30 seconds, and then I panic and dump the beans into the colander and they're usually perfectly roasted. Sweet Maria's has advice on what to look, listen, and smell for, and they have very exact timings for different roasts, but I can never see anything, and have to go on sound and adrenaline alone.
Once the beans are in the colander, you shake them around to cool them off and then, if you're me, you roast another batch right away. 1 cup of green beans makes 2 cups roasted, which fills my mason jar without overheating my popper.
Now clean up your mess.
Once the beans are cool in the colander, put them in a jar, cap them, and leave them to cure overnight. In the morning, they will smell not like old dirt anymore, but like the most amazing coffee ever.
And then you can make coffee. If it's 80 degrees in March, you can even make iced coffee!
(That's from this post.)
But are you here for the give-away? Little, Brown, the wonderful publishers of The Snow Child, are going to give away three copies of it! Right here, on this blog. Just enter a comment here, along with your desire to win, and you will be automatically entered. I'll end the contest on Monday at midnight and announce the winners on Tuesday. Good luck! (And don't be shy to write in about the coffee instead--I won't enter you unless you ask to be entered.)