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Fresh Roast SR300 SR500 ...Did anyone buy one?
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Discussions > Coffee > Home Roast > Fresh Roast...  
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wideasleep1
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wideasleep1
Joined: 19 Feb 2005
Posts: 1,458
Location: Tiburon,Ca
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Espresso: VBMDoubleDomo
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Posted Mon Jan 18, 2010, 1:15pm
Subject: Re: Fresh Roast SR300 SR500 ...Did anyone buy one?
 

JKalpin Said:

But someone is finally reviewing it click here.  In the GCBC forum a pro roaster got one.  Scroll down the thread to postings by 'Shep'.  He watched the review videos from Sweet Maria's and thought them negative.

Posted January 18, 2010 link

Yet, Shep followed Tom's advice, used both methods to increase initial agitation, and got decent results. THAT was Tom's intent...to set expectations to match exactly what the machine is doing, and what is required to get good results. It's perfectly fair, imho, to give a machine an honest evaluation, even if it can be seen as negative; must every machine have a glowing review with marketing blurb?

By comparison, my iRoars had similar issues, but never at the beginning. Agitation was fine, with no initial scorching. The problems arose when approaching 2C, and the gloss began to form on the bean surface, which impeded agitation. One ran the same scorching risk at that point, and I routinely twisted and shook the iRoars near 2C to maintain some agitation. iRoars have NO problem with fan speed induced agitation, as the Freshroast appears to have, at full wet weight, but I can attest that the FR300/500 are also MUCH quiter...they don't call'em iRoars for nuthin. :) I suspect Freshroast needs to bump up the fan speed on future units, something that could have been resolved had these units been pre-tested by folks like Tom before market release.

Lastly, I dropped the lids and even the glass chambers of my iRoars numerous times, with never a break. It took UPS to finally break a chamber, on one of the units I sold and shipped.  For the money, Tom still feels the Poppery is the way to go...it can give similar results, in similar speed, for a tiny fraction of the cost of a FR300/500, which begs to question, what exactly are you buying for all that extra money? Yes, by comparison to other air roasters (non-popper) they are cheap, but Tom wants to make sure you understand that you get what you pay for, and I applaud him for his honest assessment.
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Soundman7
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Joined: 21 Dec 2009
Posts: 8
Location: Orlando, Florida
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Burr
Drip: Technivorm Moccamaster
Roaster: Freshroast-IRoast-Behmor
Posted Mon Jan 18, 2010, 5:43pm
Subject: Re: Fresh Roast SR300 SR500 ...Did anyone buy one?
 

I think I've probably seen all the Sweet Maria's videos and this was defininitely not Tom's best series of videos. I started with the Freshroast and bought it from SM's and found it to be a great little "get started" roaster. Then graduating to the IRoar2 and now a Behmor.

I don't beleive Tom was in any way trying to be negative, but honest. Heck, they sell the machines so why would he want to cut his own business.  Upon first discovering there was a new roaster available that allowed manually adjusting the temperature on the fly, the excitement factor immediately kicked in for me. However, IMO the video seemed to reveal there may be some circulation problems with the roaster. I was startled to see how uneven the early part of the roast was and a spoon certainly should not be necessary, but rather an obvious sign of possible design flaw. The agitation on my Freshroast was/is very good and always produced a good even roast. I'd be happy as heck to have that temp switch on my Freshroast 8.

I'm no engineer, but it amazes me.....As I said, the Freshroast 8 was/is a good little roaster, but could be drastically improved with the capability to adjust temperature on the fly. That's why I bought the IRoast2, because of the ability to dial in temps. Of course it too, did not wind up providing the flexibility or results I was seeking, therefore the graduation to the Behmor. BUT...Here's my main question....WHY IS IT SO HARD TO DESIGN A SIMPLE ROASTER WITH THE ABILITY TO ALLOWING CONTROL OF TEMPERATURE ON THE FLY, AS WE WOULD LIKE? Is it really that hard? After reading posts in forum after forum, it seems that's what most people want. Better control ! How many times do we read about the importance of "stretching the roast" to give enough time for proper development? As with the Behmor, we end up using a couple pounds of beans trying different profiles or adjusting the weight load to time first crack into that second leg using the P2 setting. Sorry if I sound like I'm frustrated, I just don't understand why someone can't design a simple roaster with a manually controled TEMPERATURE CONTROL! He who accomplishes this first within a reasonable cost window will get probably sell a lot of roasters.
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wideasleep1
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wideasleep1
Joined: 19 Feb 2005
Posts: 1,458
Location: Tiburon,Ca
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: VBMDoubleDomo
Grinder: Mahlkoenig K30 Vario
Vac Pot: nope
Drip: Bodum Press
Roaster: IR1 and 2,SC/TO,Behmor
Posted Mon Jan 18, 2010, 6:08pm
Subject: Re: Fresh Roast SR300 SR500 ...Did anyone buy one?
 

Soundman7 Said:

....WHY IS IT SO HARD TO DESIGN A SIMPLE ROASTER WITH THE ABILITY TO ALLOWING CONTROL OF TEMPERATURE ON THE FLY, AS WE WOULD LIKE? Is it really that hard? After reading posts in forum after forum, it seems that's what most people want. Better control ! How many times do we read about the importance of "stretching the roast" to give enough time for proper development? As with the Behmor, we end up using a couple pounds of beans trying different profiles or adjusting the weight load to time first crack into that second leg using the P2 setting. Sorry if I sound like I'm frustrated, I just don't understand why someone can't design a simple roaster with a manually controled TEMPERATURE CONTROL! He who accomplishes this first within a reasonable cost window will get probably sell a lot of roasters.

Posted January 18, 2010 link

I hear ya, and 'feel your pain'. That is why I went SC/TO with several mods/variations for a few years, and I gotta tell ya that simply having temperature adjustability is NOT the end-all/be-all it's made out to be. I had many excellent roasts, many decent roasts and many poor/undrinkable roasts using that tech, with no one to blame but me! :p My point is that consistency became one of my goals, and even trumped direct temperature management. I suppose in some ways it mirrors the HX vs. DB debate, in exactly what value manual control has in your personal relationship to the process and results. Sometimes giving up some control (automation) will improve your consistency, but it may not be everyone's cup of tea...er, coffee. :)
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Soundman7
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Joined: 21 Dec 2009
Posts: 8
Location: Orlando, Florida
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Burr
Drip: Technivorm Moccamaster
Roaster: Freshroast-IRoast-Behmor
Posted Mon Jan 18, 2010, 7:49pm
Subject: Re: Fresh Roast SR300 SR500 ...Did anyone buy one?
 

Sorry for getting a little off topic here.....

@ Wide...Forgive me,  but what do you mean by SC/TO?... and HX vs DB?  You've thrown me a curve there ! lol  

Yes, I understand consistency, I think that's what we all strive for. And I realize that temp control is not the end all solution to our roasting nirvana. However from what I've read, it's nearly impossible to achieve perfect consistency without years of experience, good schooling or apprenticeship, along with computers and/or high tech measuring equipment to allow very precise measuring of bean density and other various parameters. But...All I'm trying to convey is most of us could probably get a pretty good (and better) roast if we could only lower the temp at first crack a little and then maybe bump it back up just a bit to end the roast. Even then the results might not be as consistent as a "professional roast" , but at least we would not have to experiment so much upon every order of bean we buy, to have an idea of when first crack begins and then adjust the profile by estimation on our next attempt, fine tuning as we go. As an example......I usually buy only 5 pounds of a particular bean at a time.  All to often, I get down to the very last pound before I have experimented enough in order to have tuned the roast to get the maximum I can out of the beans. I am finding that with most beans, it does produce better results "stretching the roast".  I have found this to be much more pheasable with the Behmor as opposed to the Freshroast or Iroast2. But, ....still desire more temp control.
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Frost
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Frost
Joined: 26 Jul 2007
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Posted Mon Jan 18, 2010, 8:45pm
Subject: Re: Fresh Roast SR300 SR500 ...Did anyone buy one?
 

wideasleep1 Said:

......  For the money, Tom still feels the Poppery is the way to go...it can give similar results, in similar speed, for a tiny fraction of the cost of a FR300/500, which begs to question, what exactly are you buying for all that extra money? Yes, by comparison to other air roasters (non-popper) they are cheap, but Tom wants to make sure you understand that you get what you pay for, and I applaud him for his honest assessment.

Posted January 18, 2010 link

I'm not sure about the new models here, but on the original Freshroast, the  fan motor and heater housing were identical to the Poppery II (and many other) poppers. The Poppery 1 used a much more powerful and durable fan/motor and a more robust heater housing and more powerful heater element. It will roast a 1/3 lb batch of greens back to back for hours without burning up. If the newer units are still using the same fan motor and heater, this will set the upper limit on batch size it can agitate. Fan speed control is nice if you have air power to spare. In this regard the Poppery 1 is the superior roaster.
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wideasleep1
Senior Member
wideasleep1
Joined: 19 Feb 2005
Posts: 1,458
Location: Tiburon,Ca
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: VBMDoubleDomo
Grinder: Mahlkoenig K30 Vario
Vac Pot: nope
Drip: Bodum Press
Roaster: IR1 and 2,SC/TO,Behmor
Posted Mon Jan 18, 2010, 9:14pm
Subject: Re: Fresh Roast SR300 SR500 ...Did anyone buy one?
 

Soundman7 Said:

Sorry for getting a little off topic here.....

@ Wide...Forgive me,  but what do you mean by SC/TO?... and HX vs DB?  You've thrown me a curve there ! lol  

Yes, I understand consistency, I think that's what we all strive for. And I realize that temp control is not the end all solution to our roasting nirvana. However from what I've read, it's nearly impossible to achieve perfect consistency without years of experience, good schooling or apprenticeship, along with computers and/or high tech measuring equipment to allow very precise measuring of bean density and other various parameters. But...All I'm trying to convey is most of us could probably get a pretty good (and better) roast if we could only lower the temp at first crack a little and then maybe bump it back up just a bit to end the roast. Even then the results might not be as consistent as a "professional roast" , but at least we would not have to experiment so much upon every order of bean we buy, to have an idea of when first crack begins and then adjust the profile by estimation on our next attempt, fine tuning as we go. As an example......I usually buy only 5 pounds of a particular bean at a time.  All to often, I get down to the very last pound before I have experimented enough in order to have tuned the roast to get the maximum I can out of the beans. I am finding that with most beans, it does produce better results "stretching the roast".  I have found this to be much more pheasable with the Behmor as opposed to the Freshroast or Iroast2. But, ....still desire more temp control.

Posted January 18, 2010 link

LOL! Yes, Dan..my bad for assuming! SC=stir crazy (a flying saucer-like popcorn popper with a stirring rod in the middle, with a few mods it is near ideal for stirring a shallow beanmass). TO=turbo oven (Sunpentown,Galloping Gourmet,etc.-another flying saucer-like convection oven) when the top is scavenged, and the SC popper's elements removed from commission, place the oven on a springform pan in the popper, add beans, a variac, and a thermocouple, and you have full temp/energy control over this highly-modded roaster, often to one's advantage, often to one's detriment. ;) In summary, home roasting machines run the gamut between automation vs. user control, and those affording a reliance on user-based inputs also rely on that user having the expertise to understand and predict the consequences of their inputs, as it relates to that particular roaster.

The HX (Heat Exchanger) vs. DB (double or dual boiler) 'debate' often centers around a set it/forget it behaviour (DB via PID), and a managed temperature via manual flush (HX) to achieve ideal brewing temps at the group. Both options have merit, and are subjective based on the user's experience (philosphy), usage expectations, and/or budget. In a recent discussion, I argued the budget issue is becoming less of a consideration these days, with only $100-200 separating similar HX and DB models (VBM, for example). With many of our preferences culminating in usage expectations, I included this HX/DB example to highlight the subtle, but varying differences in two different approaches (getting the topic somewhat back on track) to a solution. Manual control over temp can be a blessing AND a curse if consistency is a primary goal, and users should be aware of it (much like Tom forewarning the 300/500 pre-dry agitation issue). Still, I understand your desires, and if Joe can pull that off withOUT changing the defaults and needed consistency they provide, I'm quite happy to tweak around the edges of the bimmer's automation to get improved results. Simply adding a pot tied to the elements, like on the FR500, would do little for me on the bimmer..a mod quite easy to perform,fwiw. :)
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wideasleep1
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wideasleep1
Joined: 19 Feb 2005
Posts: 1,458
Location: Tiburon,Ca
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: VBMDoubleDomo
Grinder: Mahlkoenig K30 Vario
Vac Pot: nope
Drip: Bodum Press
Roaster: IR1 and 2,SC/TO,Behmor
Posted Mon Jan 18, 2010, 9:26pm
Subject: Re: Fresh Roast SR300 SR500 ...Did anyone buy one?
 

Frost Said:

I'm not sure about the new models here, but on the original Freshroast, the  fan motor and heater housing were identical to the Poppery II (and many other) poppers. The Poppery 1 used a much more powerful and durable fan/motor and a more robust heater housing and more powerful heater element. It will roast a 1/3 lb batch of greens back to back for hours without burning up. If the newer units are still using the same fan motor and heater, this will set the upper limit on batch size it can agitate. Fan speed control is nice if you have air power to spare. In this regard the Poppery 1 is the superior roaster.

Posted January 18, 2010 link

Which seems to support Tom's quick Flip-cam glance at the Poppery in that FR vid...I happened to notice the $2.99 price tag still stuck to it, and I yearned for a moment or two! LOL!
For $109 to $159, these FR roasters should knock the socks of a $2.99 popper, and it appears to the 'popper-experienced', they don't. FR should rectify this (stirring!?!), and I hope Tom soon announces an improved version in the next shipment. :)
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Frost
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Frost
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Posted Mon Jan 18, 2010, 10:19pm
Subject: Re: Fresh Roast SR300 SR500 ...Did anyone buy one?
 

.....The balance saved using a Poppery buys a variac and thermometers. Now you have a capable bare bones profile roaster. This route does require use of a screw driver and some basic electrical know-how though. I think this is where these ready-made units get in the door.
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veganjosh
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Posted Wed Jan 20, 2010, 2:57pm
Subject: Re: Fresh Roast SR300 SR500 ...Did anyone buy one?
 

Just thought I'd chime in as an employee of Sweet Maria's.  Tom's goal in making those videos wasn't to be negative, just to point out that there are some serious issues, mainly in the agitation of the beans, that you need to consider before buying the roaster.  I think his (and mine, after playing with the roaster a bit) opinion is that the new FR has the potential to be a great roaster --- Tom cupped some roasts from the FR (with added manual agitation for the first 2 minutes) against the Probat sample roasters, and the FR did really well --- but that you really do need to manually agitate...otherwise you end up with some beans scorched and under-roasted.  The first batch of videos showed the idea of stirring during the roast, and Tom posted a new video about shaking the chamber to agitate, which is the technique he's using now.

The same issues with uneven roasts were certainly present in the old FR+8 also ---- I think we're just taking a more comprehensive approach to reviewing things these days (look at the reviews of the Behmor, written relatively recently, vs. the reviews of the FR which were written years ago), hence the videos.  Long before I worked at SM, my first roaster was a FR, and I found it incredibly frustrating that I couldn't get a light roast that didn't taste incredibly grassy...the roasts that we're getting with the manual agitation are the first FR roasts I've had that don't taste green.  As an aside --- I haven't tried it, but I'd bet that the manual agitation would do big things for an older FR, as well.

So, I guess the take-home message from our review is that if you're willing to deal with the hassle of stirring or shaking, the Freshroast can be a really good roaster --- especially (I think) the SR 500 with its temperature and fan controls --- but that if you want something totally "automatic," where you just put the beans in and roast them until you think they're dark enough, you might be disappointed.
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pallen
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pallen
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Posted Wed Jan 20, 2010, 9:03pm
Subject: Re: Fresh Roast SR300 SR500 ...Did anyone buy one?
 

Thanks for the input. That seems like a fair assessment. I used to do a modified shake agitation on my old Freshroast. (I dont think I would recommend my crude technique to anyone else though, but it did help some) Its good to know the limitations of the device before you jump in. I think this kind of thing wont seem so critical once you all have had a chance to review more products this way.
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