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Buying my first roaster
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Discussions > Coffee > Home Roast > Buying my first...  
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thepilgrimsdream
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Joined: 16 Dec 2013
Posts: 35
Location: Philly
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sun Feb 9, 2014, 12:46pm
Subject: Buying my first roaster
 

Me and my fiancé are looking into getting our first coffee roaster. All my roasting experience has been with our friends behmor 1600, and we absolutely love it. I am currently working as a barista at a local shop and taking counter culture classes. We could see ourselves starting a business a few years down the road without own shop/roaster.

We're thinking either the hottop or behmor. We want to get the roaster that we can learn the most from to possibly transition to a commercial machine like diedrich in a few years
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boar_d_laze
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Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,181
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Sun Feb 9, 2014, 2:05pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first roaster
 

You can do a LOT more towards "profiling roasts" like a modern professional roast master with a Hot Top than with a Behmor.  

The Behmor was designed to be "set it and forget it" for amateur use -- which is a good thing if that's what you want.  But it's not easy to overcome its design; and darn near impossible to get the kind of precision that's become a hallmark of modern, professional, artisanal roasting.  

The Behmor is a good roaster for many people; but not very good for what you want to do; and certainly not good for your purposes compared to the HT.  

BDL
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RandomTask
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Joined: 30 Jan 2013
Posts: 67
Location: Saskatchewan, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Barratza Encore
Drip: Behmor Brazen
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Mon Feb 10, 2014, 10:23am
Subject: Re: Buying my first roaster
 

I agree with BDL, the Behmor is an excellent machine for beginner/intermediate use, but it's lack of profilibility would make it a difficult transition to a commercial grade machine. While you'd still be able to learn the basics with a Behmor, it's not going to get you that extra bit to be able to consider "going pro".

Don't get me wrong, I love my 1600. It makes some excellent roasts and everyone who I've subjected to my coffee agrees that I've got some pretty tasty roasts out of the thing, but that's by working around the limitations of the roaster by tricking it. I am alright with the limitations it has, but I have no concern about going beyond roasting for me and my family and friends.

I would probably recommend getting a stainless steel stove-top popcorn popper so you can see if roasting is something you'd even want to take up before putting in the cash to buy a "real" roaster. You can learn a bunch about roasting with relatively simple and inexpensive methods. Even if you aren't concerned with the cost $25 for a stove-top popper is way better than $300 - $1000 for something you may not actually want to do.
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boar_d_laze
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Joined: 21 Nov 2006
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Location: Monrovia, CA
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Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Mon Feb 10, 2014, 12:31pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first roaster
 

RandomTask Said:

I would probably recommend getting a stainless steel stove-top popcorn popper so you can see if roasting is something you'd even want to take up before putting in the cash to buy a "real" roaster. You can learn a bunch about roasting with relatively simple and inexpensive methods. Even if you aren't concerned with the cost $25 for a stove-top popper is way better than $300 - $1000 for something you may not actually want to do.

Posted February 10, 2014 link

I kind of agree and disagree with Matt (Random Task) about this.  Agree, because he's giving great advice -- no question about it -- for many (most?) people.  Disagree, because my own story didn't work that way even though I followed the progression Matt suggests.  

Over the course of many years, I went from a cast-iron skillet, to a Whirley Pop (that's the stove-top popper), to a Behmor, to a Hot Top P, to a modded Hot Top B, to a 1kg electric commercial drum roaster, to my current 1lb, gas-fired, USRC Sample Roaster.  

I didn't put in much effort into acquiring roasting theory when I did the skillet/Whirley-Pop thing, and never got much in the way of good results either -- at least not compared to what was easily purchased in what was then my part of Los Angeles.  

So, I stopped roasting for a number of years, until the first Behmors hit the market.  By that time, I was very interested, sampling all sorts of artisan roasters, doing a lot of reading, following the boards, etc. There were tons of hype and enthusiasm for the Behmor; even more then than there is now.  

But when I got mine and started using it, it was frustratingly difficult to get it to do what I wanted it to do. Everything was a kludge, compromise, or work-around some sort or another.  And the results weren't really comparable to the sort of good beans It tI could buy a few blocks away from where I lived.  It took me a second chaff fire and less than a year to admit the purchase had been a mistake, and move up to the Hot Top P.  

Since then my progress in figuring out what I wanted to do along with my ability to do it has improved with further research, experience, and -- yes, very much -- with improvements in equipment.  

Bottom line:  As far as I was concerned, everything before the Hot Top was wasted time and money.  

A Hot Top B (cheaper than a P, but more controllable and consequently more desirable), modded with BT and ET thermocouples, and connected to real-time roasting software is kind of where the rubber meets the road for the ability to control a roast with enough precision that you can plan and execute precisely enough to say you're roasting as you want to roast, rather than being carried along by the limits of your equipment.  The price for that kind of setup (all new), is pretty close to $900.  

That's a lot of money.

It seems like even more taken in the context that it's $900 for something with agility limitations which make you a lot more proactive and less reactive than you'd be with a real-deal commercial roaster; not to mention a relatively small capacity.  But there you go.  It's what it costs, and you can't do it any cheaper unless you're (a) building your own; AND (b) willing to accept even more serious and more varied limitations.  

On the other hand, it might seem a little more reasonable compared to what it costs to take the next big step.  Something else to consider is that a used HT, especially a lightly used HT, retains a great deal of its value.  If after using it for a year or two, you decide that it's not for you, you can sell it on one of the forums for most of what you spent.  

Randy Glass (aka frcn here) knows as much about the Hot Top as anyone.  He has a wonderful site, Espresso My Espresso, which will tell you darn near everything anyone could want to know about the HT, as well as a lot of other great stuff.  Spend some time there.

It's great that your fiancée is along for the ride.  My wife is more than my companion along the coffee journey, she's my enabler.

Good luck with everything,
Rich
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sae
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Espresso: Breville Dual Boiler,...
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Roaster: Behmor, Popcorn popper
Posted Mon Feb 10, 2014, 2:26pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first roaster
 

I would recommend a Quest M3 or a Huky 500
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BarryR
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Joined: 21 Nov 2010
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Espresso: CC1
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Roaster: Hottop KN-8828B2-K
Posted Mon Feb 10, 2014, 4:44pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first roaster
 

I had a Behmor for two years as my first roaster. At the time, I didn't know how I'd like home roasting and wasn't willing to take the plunge and get an $800 roaster.
It served me well for 2 years and I got good roasts out of it (I did mod it so I could turn off the heat at will during roasting). A few weeks ago, I got my Hottop and love it.

As others have mentioned, it certainly has its limitations.
Anything less, for me, would have been too much of a nuisance. If you want something convenient and acceptable to find out how much you like roasting (or have a fixed budget), the Behmor's a good way to go.

If you're almost certain you'll stick with it, I agree that the Hottop is a great choice.
You could consider a Quest or Huky but they cost quite a bit more and have their own pluses & minuses.
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JoeyDee92
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Joined: 10 Feb 2014
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Location: Canada
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Feb 10, 2014, 4:46pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first roaster
 

Hey, buying your first coffee maker can be frustrating. I found a website that is very helpful when it comes to buying a coffee machine.http://www.goldroast.ca/What-to-Know-Before-Buying-a-Coffee-Machine
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BarryR
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Joined: 21 Nov 2010
Posts: 278
Location: Wilbraham
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Clever...
Roaster: Hottop KN-8828B2-K
Posted Mon Feb 10, 2014, 4:48pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first roaster
 

JoeyDee92 Said:

Hey, buying your first coffee maker can be frustrating. I found a website that is very helpful when it comes to buying a coffee machine.http://www.goldroast.ca/What-to-Know-Before-Buying-a-Coffee-Machine

Posted February 10, 2014 link

But this is about buying a coffee roaster...
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boar_d_laze
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Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,181
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Mon Feb 10, 2014, 5:16pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first roaster
 

BarryR Said:

But this is about buying a coffee roaster...

Posted February 10, 2014 link

Spoilsport.  

BDL
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,181
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Mon Feb 10, 2014, 6:19pm
Subject: Re: Buying my first roaster
 

Quest M3:
$1350.  More powerful and more agile than a Hot Top; but a bit less of a consumer-friendly "finished product." Same capacity as an HT.  No bean stirrer for cooling; in fact Quest cooling is only adequate -- not great.  Adding BT and MET thermocouples is very easy.  Big Quest community, including some fairly big-deal home roasters, who are willing to give a great deal of support.  

If I wanted another Hot Top, I'd probably get a Quest for its power, fan, agility, better probe placement, and very high build quality.

Huky 500:
Price is around $1500.  500g capacity (double that of the HT and Quest.  FWIW, the Behmor's "sweet spot" isn't much greater than the HT's or Quest's.  Behmor says "a pound," but if 10 - 12 oz is more like it).  It's an efficient roaster, excellent bang for the buck, but very kludged compared to real-deal professional type roasters.  Lots of options and choices including drum types and motor speeds.  

That's about as much as I know, as I'm far from knowledgeable about the Huky.  Maybe someone else will chime in, or you could go to H-B and ask there.  

Pro-type, 500g - 1kg electric and gas roasters, Asian and Western:
Prices vary depending on the particular roaster, but the popular Chinese roasters start at very close to $3K.  If you have a real interest we can talk more about these and about the even more expensive and butter built US, European and Turkish roaster too, which start at around $6K, and go up from there.  

It's an expensive starting point unless you know for sure that you'll be using the roaster commercially.  But if you are sure, nothing less makes much sense.    

Once you reach a certain level of competence and quality of roaster (which is well above what a Behmor can do), there's not much you can do with one that you can't do with the rest of them.  The real difference lies in the amount of pre-planning you have to execute in hopes you got it right, some other formidable hoops lesser roasters force you to jump through, build quality, safety, factory support, etc.,

AND...

For me, all that stuff is important, but it's mostly about agility and control; and my USRC Sample Roaster ($don't.ask) does it all.  It's got about a hundred pounds on it since "first light" in November and I couldn't be more delighted.  

(Sure, I know you're not going to run out and buy one, but I thought -- wotthehell wotthehell -- might as well show pic and brag.)

Finally:
Speaking of weight, I've got around 1650lbs of roasting, about 1050lbs on my Hot Top, 500lbs on the Dalian Amazon 1000 (1kg, Chinese, professional, electric), and those 100lbs on the USRC since moving up from a Behmor.  So, I've got some idea of what different roasters can do.  

The Behmor is a good enough roaster, it certainly does what most home users find most important -- give them a steady supply of reasonably good quality, fresh browns from their choice of greens.  But BUT it's not NOT a pro-style roaster and can't be used to profile in the same ways or do the same things a Hot Top can.  Good home roasters using the Behmor realize its limitations pretty quickly, and if they want to profile they sooner or later move up.  Unless you're very serious about roasting, the HT is good enough to be an end.  Maybe not as good as a Quest, but still.  

This isn't meant as a criticism of the Behmor or its users.  It's just the way things are.  As good a starter roaster as the Behmor is for most people, it is what it is.  If you want to do what you say you want to do -- explore professional style roasting -- it's not a good choice for you because it SIMPLY CAN'T take you there.

I'll try and keep up with this thread, but unless there are specific questions for me there's probably not much to add.  

Good luck,
BDL

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