Posted Fri Jun 21, 2013, 11:39am Subject: Roasting with an electric smoker/roaster
Browsing Lowes yesterday, I found a "2 in 1 Smoker / Roaster" by Charbroil on clearance. Of course, they meant a Turkey roaster, but hey... would it work for coffee? I decided to take a gamble and bought it.
It goes up to 525F and is a big drum with electric coils around the sides, standing vertically.
After seasoning it, I mounted a 5-cup ringcake foil pan to be flush with under the lid, shimming the height using another foil pan and the turkey insert... This allowed the beans to be at what seems to be the sweet-spot for heat.
I preheated the unit to 415F and threw the beans in. The temperature immediately dropped to under 300F.
I did two 3oz roasts. The first roast, I made the mistake of trying to open it up and stir the beans. I thought it would be good to attempt an even roast, but it turns out that the unit loses heat too quickly. I also had forgotten to install a side cover, causing heat loss.
The second roast, I still opened it up, but less frequently. Every 30 minutes or so -- the roast took 100 minutes!
After 80 minutes or so, with the temperatures stabilizing around 350, I decided to cover the beans with another foil pan. After this, the temperatures started rising again, up to 415F. Then, suddenly, they dropped! Without me opening the unit, it dropped down to 400F!
After 100 minutes, just as the temperature was dropping on its own, I pulled the beans. They clearly went through first crack, although I never *heard* it. A couple beans popped out as the thermocouple added enough of a gap that beans jumped out, it seems. Overall, however, they were pretty consistent, which was interesting since I never once stirred them!
I'm not done experimenting yet. I want to make sure I have the thermocouple well-installed. I also have two thermocouple readers, both giving different results, so I need to verify that. Additionally, I'm going to see if I can get the unit up to 525F, or if it is topping out at 425F, and how stable it can maintain these temperatures. I might also look at thermal blankets.
I suspect the unit might be doing power cycling? Or is it simply variable based on voltage drop?
If I can't get this stable in the next 3 weeks, I've been told I could just return the unit to the store... or maybe I could throw some meat in!
Posted Fri Jun 21, 2013, 9:18pm Subject: Re: Roasting with an electric smoker/roaster
Performed a third roast. Despite my failures, I tried half a pound. However, I let the drum hit 480F before I added the beans. (The drum could get to 525F, but I'd have no way to measure it, the smoker's thermocouple goes up to 380F or so, and my separate thermometer only goes up to 485F)
After two hours(!), I finally stopped the roast. Beans showed signs of first crack, but I'm not sure the roast is very even. Still, a bit hard for me to tell with it being a blend. (I used most of my single origin in the second-roast test)
Being too lazy to let it rest, I've already drank the first roast. It was still nutty, but made a tasty espresso. Beans were SM's New Classic. I'd not want every roast to be like this, but it wasn't bad. Tomorrow I'll try the second roast, my single origin, which was the best roast attempt yet.
Honestly, I'm about ready to call it a day on this roaster experiment and buy a Behmor. I want more control, clearly don't mind this being a hobby, but I more strongly desire a way to get my coffee fresh, but conveniently, into my cup. I've thought of building a roaster, and could, but I question how much better it would be than Behmor for the price...
Posted Sat Jun 22, 2013, 7:53am Subject: Re: Roasting with an electric smoker/roaster
Maybe a little reading up on coffee roasting basics would be helpful if you're serious about this endeavor. Your roast times are waaaaaaay to long!!!!! Depending on the method you're looking at 6-8 min on the short end (hot air popper) to not much more than 15 min. (some roasters go to 20 or more but that's REALLY pushing it). Some means of stirring is a must (or agitation as with fluid bed). Roasting your own coffee can be very rewarding in more ways than one, if done right, and there are lots of options on doing it right.
Posted Sat Jun 22, 2013, 9:50am Subject: Re: Roasting with an electric smoker/roaster
Oh, I know those roast times are far, far too long. I have been roasting for a while through a hot air popper. Since I hadn't heard much about people trying to use such a smoker/roaster, but there have been people *considering* it per my searches, I thought I'd do some experimentation.
As for agitation, yes, that is generally needed. I am not agitating in the smoker because there is no way to do it without making modifications. Would that the smoker hold and transfer heat to the beans in a reasonable manner, I'd make such modifications. As it is, I don't think agitation would help the roast go faster.
The point is: this is not a good way to roast coffee. Maybe I *could* modify this machine to hold temperatures better and do more to effectively transfer heat to the beans and provide agitation. I'm not sure it is worth it with machines like the Behmor 1600 available.
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