Good value for a quiet "starter" roaster that produces small batches -- fast.
Positive Product Points
- One of the main advantages of this little machine is how quiet it is. Sure, when you first use it you may think, “it’s not really that quiet”, but when you compare it to other machines it seems positively innocuous. (In fact, it sounds much like hair-dryer, and realistically it’s very much the same premise.) The real reason this is a “pro” is that roasting beans is a very tactile experience – you want to be able to hear the beans crack as they progress through the stages of roasting. With this machine, hearing the first and second cracks over the machine noise is a non-issue.
- This machine is fast! You can roast a dark batch of beans in as little as 6 minutes, including cooling. This is great if you want the beans now.
Negative Product Points
- This machine can roast only small batches. If you drink coffee once a day and use the recommended amount (I use a 1/3 cup of beans in my Bodum) then you will need to roast every 2-3 days. So unless you are in a routine that affords you the leisure of roasting regularly you may find the batches too small.
- Because the machines roasts so fast you don’t have a lot of fine control over how dark or light you want your roasts (that may not be a big issue – it wasn’t really for me) and you have to watch it like a hawk to ensure you turn it to the cooling cycle in time.
- The top section is rather flimsy – everything just sits on top of each other. I could see how easy it would be to tip it off onto the floor and break it.
- The consistency of the roast is good, but not great. For example, if you’re doing a dark roast you will find that a few get blackened (burnt) and some remain only lightly roasted.
- There seems to be no way to get the top off without dropping some chaff back into the beans. But if you use a colander afterwards it’s not a big deal.
This was the first coffee roaster I ever purchased, and would recommend it to anyone interested in roasting their own beans but without a high start-up cost. You can buy it online from many respectable merchants for about $99.00 — though I did see in locally in Ottawa (at the Ottawa Bagel Shop) for about twice that amount if you like supporting local businesses. (And spending a lot more money.) For Canadians, my recommendation is to either order it online or pick it up (if you be from Toronto) from Birds and Beans.
- The amount of power coming from your outlet directly determines the time needed for roasting. Unless you have a voltage regulator (and hey, who doesn’t?) your roasting time may vary wildly from the instructions. This is of particular important since this machine roasts so quickly. Point in fact: It takes me as little as 4-5 minutes on the timer as opposed to the listed 6-8 minutes to get a dark roast.
- Roast beans under your stove hood vent so the bulk of the smoke can get sucked right out. To get it closer to the vent hood, sometimes I’ll upturn a pot and rest the roaster on it. It’s important (for me) to get rid of the smoke quickly since I live in an apartment and you can easily set off the fire alarm. Which I have done. Many, many times. Which leads into the next tip:
- If you live in an apartment, leave the door open to your fuse panel and have the switch for your fire alarm clearly marked. You may even want to keep the alarm switched off while roasting beans. This is what I did in my first apartment. Unfortunately, my fire alarm is also connected to (of all things) my hood vent in our new apartment so, peversely, if I turn off the fire alarm I can’t get the smoke out through the vent!
- Placing a spoon or something thin under a corner of the roaster so that it’s at a slight tilt seems to help circulate the beans better during roasting.
- Right after roasting drop the beans into a (preferably metal) colander and whirl them around over the sink: this will help get rid of some of the excess chaff as well as cools them faster.
- I drop most of the chaff into the garbage and rinse the rest out with warm water. I found using a brush to get the remaining chaff out of the collector was little hard on the wire mesh.
This roaster and my first set of beans were bought from their website. Even though the site is a little minimalist, my experience with them has been first-rate. They ship very, very quickly and cheaply. Also, they give a great deal on the cost of shipping on your first order: I recall that I only had to pay a couple of bucks for the roaster and a sample-pack of their beans.
The staff is very friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, and most importantly – willing to listen to you yammer on about your roasting hobby where most people will either have their eyes glaze over or exclaim a quick, “Oh yeah?” before quickly changing the subject on you. Shopping from their site makes you feel all warm-and-fuzzy. The beans are all one or more of the following: Free Trade. Bird Friendly. Organic. Shade-grown. Etc.