Turns out I LOVE roasting my own beans. I can now enjoy the top quality of beans (Jamaican, Kona, etc.) for about half of the cost of retail roasted beans---and roasted my way!
Positive Product Points
Excellent entry-level roaster Great price Can roast up to a full #1 Reasonable smoke reduction
Negative Product Points
High learning curve for pre programs Difficult to clean behind element screen
I did a lot of research before deciding to purchase the Behmor 1600. I was seriously considering the Genecafe and the Hottop. I based my decision on a couple of different factors. The Genecafe roasts in a glass drum and appears to be slightly fragile. I certainly cannot personally attest to this, but so it appeared to my eyes. It also has a much smaller capacity roasting drum <250gr. The Hottop drum roaster commands a hefty price tag (up to $1000) and also has a maximum capacity of 250gr. The Hottop does have a distinct advantage of being a drum roaster that expels the beans for cooling into a tray. Very cool. Still, the price was the overwhelming factor that I went with the Behmor. Also, I wasn't sure that I would even like roasting my own beans. The Behmor 1600 claims to have a maximum roasting capacity of 500gr. (#1) but I have only roasted that full weight one time. I will explain why later. The roaster will remind you of a toaster oven. Pull-down front door. Digital controls on the right side. Brushed aluminum. About the same size as a toaster oven too. Inside the roaster are two things. A chaff collector and a metal-mesh drum. The drum fits neatly into the right side of the roaster and the left side sits in a metal support. It will remind you of a rotisserie for a Weber Grill. The chaff collector then slides in underneath the drum and truly does collect a majority of the chaff. And there will be chaff. After you have weighed out your green beans, you then choose the settings---and this is where experience is going to help you. My first batch was #1/4 of a bean (can't recall what type) and I used the preprogramming buttons accordingly. #1/4, Setting 1 (Full heat) etc. The results were awful. Totally under roasted. The coffee smelled and tasted like grass. Right into the trash bin. Then I started doing a little research on line; both here at Coffeegeek and at Sweet Maria's. The overwhelming consensus is that because Joe Behm has placed safety over everything else, (this machine has finite time settings to prevent overheating. Anyone who has roasted beans is well aware that combustion is not out of the realm of possibilities when temperatures reach 450 degrees F. ) One must "trick" the Behmor. Now, be warned that you run the risk of voiding your warranty, so I am NOT recommending that you do what I am about to explain. First, you can preheat the machine. Without the drum and the chaff collector in place, push the #1/4 setting and the start button. Stop the machine BEFORE 2 minutes have elapsed. If you allow the machine to run longer, you will be unable to restart the machine until it has cooled off accordingly. So, I stop the machine after 1'30". Then I place the drum and chaff collector in the machine and go. What I have found that works especially well is 300gr. of beans/#1 setting and profile 1-5 (more on that too). After that I start the machine and hang out with it until my desired "crack" level has been reached. Joe Behm correctly and wisely warns the consumer to NEVER leave this machine running unattended. I second that. Besides, it's your ears and eyes that are the true gauges of a properly roasted bean---not a timer. The roaster has a fairly large glass window and an internal light. I wish the light were brighter, but is sufficient. It is also an amazingly quiet machine. You can clearly hear first and second cracks. As far as smoke reduction goes, no roasting is smokeless. I have my machine in my garage. They say you can place it under a range hood, but you're going to smoke up your house. I like the smell, but not everyone (my wife included) wants their abode smelling of a roastery. I mentioned the fact that I have only roasted #1 of beans once. The short answer is you simply cannot achieve a FC+ roast. Period. So I limit my roasting weight to 300± gr. It seems to give me the best results. I usually do two different types of roasts. My espresso roast (Sweet Maria's Espresso Monkey blend) I take to a Vienna. My weekend coffee and my wife's daily brew ranges from C+ - FC, depending on the bean type. The Behmor 1600 has preset "profiles". I have tried them all and honestly have had mixed results. My suggestion is to experiment and find the settings that not only you are most comfortable with, but produce the desired results. A word on clean up. You're going to need a shop-vac handy after roasting. Additionally, it is advised that every 5 roastings clean the inside of the machine with a NON TOXIC cleaner, such as Simple Green; then run a #1/4 cycle without beans. If you like to roast to Vienna and above, you may notice a need to clean the machine more often. There are detailed instructions that come with the Behmor. Read them!
Sweet Maria's is A-1 for selection and service. I have also become a regular customer of Burman Coffee Traders. They both offer excellent customer service and a great selection of green beans.
Three Month Followup
I am skipping to the one year follow up.
One Year Followup
The Behmor is still going strong. I roast approximately 2 - 300gr. beans, once a week. Regarding the multiple settings, I rarely, if ever use any other setting but P1/1lb. (This is the high heat, no variation during the roast). All you need are your eyes and your ears to produce the roast type of your choosing.
I have noticed that the rotisserie cage is starting to break down. Admittedly, after the roast, I shake the chaff from the cage and this is probably contributing to the separation of the welded pieces. It results in some pretty sharp points that can definitely stab you if you aren't careful. I would not hesitate ordering another cage as this product has paid for itself many times over.
One word of warning. TAKE THE MANUFACTURER'S WARNING SERIOUSLY: NEVER LEAVE THIS UNATTENDED DURING THE ROASTING PROCESS. I got distracted by my dogs and forgot (yes, forgot) that I was roasting. I went into my garage and discovered a huge black cloud of smoke billowing from the machine. It was almost an inferno. It took me an hour to clean the machine and I never really removed all of the discoloration from inside. Don't make that mistake, you could lose your home.
If I were the manufacturer, I would offer the same product without all of the different settings. They may be useful to a minority of home roasters, but for me and the majority, give me a more robust cage and that's it. Great product.