The Imex CR100 (Caffe Rosto) has simple but sturdy looks - a good unintimidating first impression. The biggest plus is its ability to roast consecutive batches consistently. It also can accommodate a heavier batch (manual says up to 160g).
Negative Product Points
This roaster is noisier than my popcorn maker, the manual needs a lot of guesswork and the timer is inaccurate.
I’ve had this unit since December 2002 – perhaps too recent for reviewing, but I managed to roast 63 x 150g batches with it for the month of December alone! Christmas was fast approaching and I found myself roasting instead of shopping for gifts. While waiting for the CR100 to arrive a few friends who had left their Chrissie shopping to the last minute panicked and passed their anxieties on to me increasing my coffee gift list to a whopping 9kgs!
The Manual The minute I saw the courier off I followed Mark Prince’s RTFM advice. Like the manual for the Rancilio Silvia, I realised the CR100 manual must also be read with ALOCS (a LOT of common sense). My common sense dictated that I should plug the thing and try it out. After all the unit looked undauntingly simple and built as if no amount of user stupidity could do any lasting damage to it. Using a scale I dosed out 140g of green beans that was supplied as part of the kit and loaded the roaster. The manual said that 10 minutes should give a basic dark roast. So I turned the timer knob to 10 minutes and watched, mesmerised by the invisible worm of air rippling underneath the layer of beans.
The Noise This roaster is also louder than my popcorn popper, and while first crack is easy enough to discern, one’s nose and eyes really come in handy in confirming that second crack has indeed arrived.
Timer/Switch If I needed to constantly watch the time the timer must be in view. With the CR100 the timer/switch is also on the same side as the vent which is a tad irritating because I will have to stand in the direction of billowing smoke in order to watch the timer/switch. This prompted me to add yet another strange item to my handbasket – a mirror.
The 10 minutes required to give a basic dark roast actually yielded beans that better matched the “Pitch Black” picture on the manual – a pitch black lumpy oil slick. Alright then, try 9 minutes. Still, the beans turned out too dark and oily for my liking. I ditched the manual and decided to ignore the built-in timer. Instead I took my own digital timer out and used it to simply log the time rather than dictate the roast (besides, I suspect the timer on the CR100 doesn’t give an accurate count down). A roast time of 7 minutes and 30 seconds yielded the beans I finally deemed drinkable. The lesson in all this is: don’t rely on the timer and trust your own eyes, ears and nose.
Roasting Consecutive Batches So far I have just tried the warm-up roasts. I did have 9kgs to roast for Christmas. With a lot of planning and strategising, I accomplished my mission with the help of the CR100. I had the popper on standby just in case the CR100 showed signs of buckling under the constant heat. I realised the most remarkable quality of this roaster is the ability to roast batch after batch after batch with consistency and barely a whimper of wear.
Cleaning To make sure that I have the CR100 working well beyond 2002, I emptied the chaff catcher and cleaned out the unit after each roast. Which takes me to the matter of cleaning. Well, it’s awkward having to upend the hot unit to clean it, but this seems the only way unless one has a dedicated vacuum cleaner.
Lessons in summary There are a lot more to say about this roaster, but in summary, the following lessons I learned from using this roaster I would like to pass on to those staring at a new CR100: - Don’t rely solely on the timer, the cup, the manual – use all senses including common sense - Use weight, not volume to determine how much beans to roast – take 5-10g off if chaff-heavy dry processed beans and if the beans are of the large type eg. Sulawesis, Sumatras, Maragogypes because they become too big and a lot of beans could end up in the chaff catcher - Roast time is influenced by ambient temperature and type of bean - Empty chaff collector after each roast and brush out any remaining debris from the wire mesh below the chaff collector - It helps to see the beans if you regularly wipe the glass lid with a dry kitchen towel.
Overall I’m happy with this roaster. I have had this roaster for only two months but I have roasted well over 100 batches with it already. It was up to the big task I gave it last December and I am confident it will stand up to the next big occasion. Like with all other coffee-related machines, users need some time to be broken in. Once I got the hang of my CR100 (which didn’t take very long) everything was fine.