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dspear99ca
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Joined: 17 Jan 2013
Posts: 93
Location: BC, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Coffee
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Wed Mar 27, 2013, 2:32pm
Subject: Roast times using popper outdoors
 

I started roasting my own coffee a couple of months ago using a hot-air popper.  I think it's a West Bend Poppery (non-II).  I did some batches on the stove when it was gnarly cold outside in January and February, but have since moved to outdoors to avoid the smoke, chaff, and residual burnt smell.  Once outside I discontinued using the clear plastic top also, as it was beginning to melt and deform adjacent to the "butter tray".

While I roasted inside and with the lid on, it was amazingly quick:  I would start second crack (or what I assumed was second crack) in less than 6 minutes, sometimes closer to 5.  Now that I'm outside (temp is ~10C or 50F), it's taking about 10 minutes to roast to the same level.  I wanted to do a dark roast yesterday and let it go for 20 minutes.  Not sure what the final roast was, maybe FC... medium-dark brown but no oil on the outside of the beans at any rate.

Are poppers' performance that susceptible to air temp?  My experience says yes, and it makes me wonder if I'd ever get to French Roast outside.  If I did, how long would it take?  Would the beans taste baked?  Should I try to rig up some sort of lid or chimney for it to keep some more heat in?
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Buckley
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Joined: 25 Jan 2011
Posts: 423
Location: Internet
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Wed Apr 10, 2013, 6:51am
Subject: Re: Roast times using popper outdoors
 

One important factor is that all home outlets are not created equal.  You may have a voltage drop on the outside tap that you do not have inside. Simple test: plug the popper into one of the outlets and listen to the pitch of the fan speed (assuming you have not moded your unit), then remember the pitch and quickly plug it into the second outlet.  You know what I am getting at, but for others who may read this thread, the lower pitch indicates lower electromotive force.  If you have trouble remembering pitches, use a recorder.  A voltmeter will not usually be sensitive to the increased resistance in one of the lines because it has to be measured under load.  In essence, that is what your fan motor is doing with an audible rather than visual 'read out'.

Buckley
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dspear99ca
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Joined: 17 Jan 2013
Posts: 93
Location: BC, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Coffee
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Wed Apr 10, 2013, 12:04pm
Subject: Re: Roast times using popper outdoors
 

Buckley Said:

One important factor is that all home outlets are not created equal.  You may have a voltage drop on the outside tap that you do not have inside. Simple test: plug the popper into one of the outlets and listen to the pitch of the fan speed (assuming you have not moded your unit), then remember the pitch and quickly plug it into the second outlet.  You know what I am getting at, but for others who may read this thread, the lower pitch indicates lower electromotive force.  If you have trouble remembering pitches, use a recorder.  A voltmeter will not usually be sensitive to the increased resistance in one of the lines because it has to be measured under load.  In essence, that is what your fan motor is doing with an audible rather than visual 'read out'.

Buckley

Posted April 10, 2013 link

Hadn't thought of that.  The voltage will for sure be lower at my outdoor outlets as they are much farther away from the panel than my kitchen outlets.

I am learning with a popper to use my ears and nose to determine roast level, and use time as more of a general guide.  I take the popper outside, plug it in.  If it's below 60F or so I put the popper in a box and partially cover it.  The box and lid have the unexpected added benefit of collecting all of the chaff.  About 2:45-3:30 I hit first crack.  Second crack occurs anywhere from 8-11 minutes depending on popper start temp, ambient temp, wind speed, and beans.  The second batch in a warm popper actually takes LONGER than the first, I think there's a thermal cut-out switch that turns the heater off when it gets too hot and this switch kicks in sooner when the popper is pre-heated.  So, my system is to check the roast 7-8 minutes in and watch it from there.

The thing I am not liking about this setup is that there is not much by way of consistency... I can get the beans roughly the same color from batch to batch, but the +/-20% variation in roast time has got to be having an effect on the taste.  As well, Full City is a real guess if I am to stop the roast "just before second crack".  What I may try next is putting the heater on a switch so that I can run it air-only to get a full cool-down between batches.
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Buckley
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Joined: 25 Jan 2011
Posts: 423
Location: Internet
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Apr 11, 2013, 6:24am
Subject: Re: Roast times using popper outdoors
 

Yeah.  Everything you've said is the general experience reported by popper roasters.  The heat switch is a good idea.  If you are looking for consistency, you will soon find yourself completely modding out your popper RE: thermometer, variac, and all those other tweaks that one can find online. Good Luck.

Most people would say that appearance of the beans is just one minor datum.  As you said, the smell, the progress of the roast and, or course, the audible cracks are the indicators of where we are with respect to our goal.  IMO, appearances are very deceiving.  I always cracks beans open after they cool to look at the centers, as well.  It tells me if I have strayed into too-fast or baked-bean territories.

B
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dspear99ca
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Jan 2013
Posts: 93
Location: BC, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Coffee
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Thu Apr 11, 2013, 12:51pm
Subject: Re: Roast times using popper outdoors
 

As long as it's a DC motor, a variac will work.  I think a thermometer would be the most useful addition for me, but I am unsure if it would indicate the actual temp of the roast, or just the temperature of the hot air spinning the beans around.

I was excited about the idea that one could roast awesome-quality coffee for zero investment, but as time goes by I am inching towards buying a decent roaster.  The hottop is what I have my eye on.   I don't mind donating my time, but 90 minutes spent watching a thermometer and adjusting a variac to crank out a pound of coffee 85g at a time is becoming less and less attractive...
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