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Entry level home roaster suggesions please.
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SummitView
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SummitView
Joined: 17 May 2012
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Location: NY
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Posted Sun Aug 11, 2013, 8:12am
Subject: Re: Entry level home roaster suggesions please.
 

I have been roasting over a charcoal grill for the past 2 years with excellent results. I can even create some very unique roasts by adding a bit of hickory or mesquite to the charcoal. Additionally, it keeps the smoke outside. Inside roasting can bring a lot of unpleasant exhaust into the home.  My set up is fairly simple:  28" long 5/16 square spit rod, with a stainless steel 2lb cylindrical roasting drum (RK Drums).  I picked up an antique crank handle for manual turning (approx. 20 rpm is ideal) although you could use a motor if you add to your budget. Weber grills makes an extension ring for round 22" charcoal grills that allows you to mount the roasting drum and spit inside rotisserie style.  Lastly, I use a maverick smoker wireless thermometer set -- which has both an internal and ambient temperature probe.  These can be mounted to monitor temps near the base of the rotating drum.  This is a very simple setup, total cost should be slightly less than $300, but the resulting roasts can compete with the best roasters.  I also suggest getting a large basket style stainless steel mesh strainer (they have them that are as wide as your sink), which can be mounted over a sideways floor fan (the square type that sit on the floor) for very effective bean cooling and chaff disbursement after roasting.  If I get a chance I'll take a pic and post it.  This is a simple setup that keeps the mess outside, and with a little practice the results will impress even the snootiest roasting devotees ;)
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pfieber
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Posted Sun Aug 11, 2013, 9:11pm
Subject: Re: Entry level home roaster suggesions please.
 

I would really like to see a picture of this set up?

Paul
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SummitView
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SummitView
Joined: 17 May 2012
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Location: NY
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Mon Aug 12, 2013, 7:59am
Subject: Re: Entry level home roaster suggesions please.
 

I have four varieties of green Sumatra coming in later this week, so maybe this next weekend I'll get out there and take some action shots of the roaster.  The setup I have is built for a 22" round weber chargrill.  If you were to do this on a standard rectangular gas grill, you wouldn't need the adapter ring (which costs $80), and would just use the rotisserie-roasting drum.  That would get your cost down to under $200 (including thermometer), but as a snarky charcoal purist, I prefer to stick with the smoky goodness of an old style weber.  Besides, when I throw on a little soaking wet hickory, I can get plumes of white smoke that completely obliterate the neighborhood -- my local fire department will attest to this.
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boar_d_laze
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Posted Sat Aug 17, 2013, 11:03am
Subject: Re: Entry level home roaster suggesions please.
 

+1 Behmor.

Commercial Roasters:
You have to decide if you want to go with a fluid bed (air) or drum roaster.  Each type tends to produce a particular sort of flavor profile, although an accomplished roaster (the person, not the machine) can get the results he wants from either type.  Nevertheless, I think it's easier for a beginning roaster to get fully developed, sweet roasts from a typical drum than a typical fluid bed within your budget.  

There are no commercially made roasters anywhere near your price range which do 1 pound batches and provide sufficient control.  Not even the Behmor. The optimal batch range for the Behmor is 8oz to 12oz.  The Behmor's strengths are its low price, relatively large batch size capability, convenience, low smoke output, good ergonomics, and the relative ease with which a beginner can produce fairly good roasts.  It's weaknesses are lack of power (which translates into a lack of versatility), lack of user controllable fan and heat settings (ditto), inability to go deep into a roast, and susceptibility to bean fires.  

Most (all?) inexpensive machines won't do consecutive batches without a significant rest -- usually an hour.  The Behmor nominally requires an hour.  God forbid that I would ever advise you to do anything the Users Manual says you shouldn't, but -- speaking hypothetically -- using an external fan between roasts could shorten the time by half.  Consider also, the fluid bed roasters in your price range are small batch size, with a typical optimum of about 4oz.  

Since sub $300 fluid-beds typically require a significant rest period between roasts, if you want to produce a pound of roasted coffee in one or two sessions per week, a Behmor might well be the only reasonable option.    

Other Types:
DIY roasters are a separate class, so are BBQ drum roasters, and I'll leave those discussions to others whom are better informed.  

BDL
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Netphilosopher
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Posted Sun Aug 18, 2013, 2:08pm
Subject: .
 

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SummitView
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SummitView
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Posted Mon Aug 19, 2013, 9:25am
Subject: Re: Entry level home roaster suggesions please.
 

I've attached a picture of the charcoal drum roaster (RK Drums).  It is rudimentary, but it gets the job done and can handle up to 2lbs at a time.

I have been playing with the height of the drum -- the lower & closer it is to the charcoal, the hotter the roasting temp, which speeds up the roasting time, but requires faster rotation -- you also have to be very careful or you can wind up over roasting.  I think I may add a motor.  I do keep a thermometer at hand, but I'm fairly familiar with what the roast is doing based on how it smells and the cracking.  I usually check progress by opening the drum a couple times during the roast. This roaster works for me as I am primarily a Sumatra drinker and like dark roasts.

I also have picture of my very simple but effective cooling system.  When you roast at higher temps - the charcoal is frequently hitting 600-degrees-plus (beans temp probably close to 500-degrees), you need to be able to very quickly cool the roast down or it will overcook.  The floor fan is very simple and VERY quick: one pound of roast goes from untouchable to room temp in under 30 seconds.

P.S. if you look at the drum, you see a black chunk sitting on top of the wire grill (left of drum)--that's the hickory, which I soak in water and then put on the grill to smoke during the roasting process -- it adds a very nice flavor to the beans.

11/23/13 UPDATE:  One of the biggest drawbacks to the simple drum over charcoal setup, is that a lot of the heat escapes to either side of the drum.  I recently replaced my Weber kettle with a new one, so I had the old kettle which was fairly worn out, but nevertheless useable.  What I have done is cut down the sides of the old kettle a couple inches so that it can be placed upside down on the new kettle and rest on the same supports used for the wire grill.  I notched out the bottom of the old kettle to allow the drum to inset.  So basically we have the new kettle, improvised dome and then rotisserie ring + roasting drum.   I roasted 6lbs this week and am very pleased with the performance.  With the bottom vent of the kettle wide open, the beans hit first crack right at about 10-12 minutes;  I then shut down the bottom vent and allow slower roasting into full first crack and beyond, which takes me upto about the 15-18 minute range (probably closer to 15.  The results were excellent.  Here are some pics:

SummitView: Grill-smALL.jpg
(Click for larger image)
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SummitView
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SummitView
Joined: 17 May 2012
Posts: 23
Location: NY
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Mon Aug 19, 2013, 12:39pm
Subject: Re: Entry level home roaster suggesions please.
 

Floor fan / strainer cooling:

SummitView: CoffeeCooling2.jpg
(Click for larger image)
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