IR2 is an efficient, safe and effective in turning those useless green beans into something of magic. If you live in a cooler climate however, inconsistency of results is a major issue, to the extent that I could not recommend this machine. The Behmor
Positive Product Points
Easy to use and reliable. Very compact and sensibly designed. Brings the huge joy of home roasted coffee potential to the masses safely, at good quality and at a reasonable price. Ability to syphon away smoke and vapour via a tube holding applicator is also farsighted and yet simple. Memmorable programming, even after machine switch off, is also a feature. End of the day, good quality home roasting is all that we are trying to achieve, and the IR2 helps you deliver it.
Negative Product Points
Like other roasting machines of its class, the amount of beans that can be roasted is limited and the amount of times you can use the machine needs to be considered. Not more than once a day I would recommend. On board temperature readout not really a reflection of the "true" temperature, and can vary from roast to roast even though profile is exactly the same. Some users have noted the lack of logic in programming/control functionality which is true, but isnt too difficult to adapt.
For me, the IR2 is an impressive piece of machinery. To be able blast 210+C air for 10+ minutes safely and compactly whilst moving the beans around uniformly deserves a round of engineering applause. The IR2 has allowed me to break away from the shop roasted coffee purchasing pack, and the difference to my coffee enjoyment has been immense. I have home roasted using the IR2 about 35 times now without a hitch.
Below are my more subtle hints and experiences with this machine and coffee roasting in general, which hopefully you may find useful:
- The temperature readout given during the roast is not a real reflection of the temperature of the bean. Indeed, the temperature you programme into the IR2 will not be the temperature that you see in the read out. It can around 20C less, sometimes more, sometimes less. You will need to take this into account when programming the IR2. www.sweetmarias.com/Tip-Sheets_PDF_files/Tips_iRoast2_SM.pdf provides excellent advice on temperature and time profiles of the IR2. I have used these and find that they give me better results than the pre set options.
- You must watch the roast at all times. You cannot rely on the programmed temperature or time profiles to give you consistent roasts. Depending on the outside air conditions on any given day, you will get different temperature feedback and therefore different roast times and results, even though you have used exactly the same profile as previously. No two roasts are the same in my experience.
- If you see your beans approaching the roast you want, just hit the "cool" button. It is better to set too much time on your profile that you can end than too little. If you feel you are running out of time on your profile however and your beans will be under roasted, simply add time in the last roasting stage by pressing down on the "up" arrow button. This will add additional seconds, depending on how long you depress, to the final roast stage, but this can only be done once.
- I live in a small flat/apartment with no outside facility and when I roasted for the first few times using the IR2, I was overjoyed with my coffee results, but I also managed to completely stink out the whole place as well as tripping off our smoke alarms - much to the annoyance of my wife! Roasting coffee I have to say does not produce a wonderful aroma as expected, but only a relatively unpleasent grassy smell. That rich coffee aroma will only come after 24 hours your beans have been roasted and kept in a sealed container.
- I recommend that you therefore roast outside or, like I have done, purchase a heat resistant tube that attaches to the top of the IR2 which you can then point out through an open window. This essentially solves the odour problem, although it does alter your temperature/roast performance a little which you will have to allow. Do remember that roasting beans releases caffeine into the air, so avoid roasting around night time if you live in a confined area without good ventilation. I did that a few times, and then couldnt figure out why my wife and I couldnt sleep that well! Also, the machine is relatively noisy, but not more so than a vacuum cleaner or kitchen blender.
- Some reviewers have knocked the logic of setting the roasting profiles. Whilst I do agree it is a bit like tapping in morse code, all you need to do is to follow the instructions and you are then sorted. After that, using stored profiles couldnt be any easier.
- No need to wash your IR2 chaff collector and roast chamber each time. Only when the glass starts to become less clear. But do clear out the chaff after each roast using a brush.
- Dont be afraid of smoke coming out from your roast. That is just normal particularly on dark roasts and on beans that give a lot chaff. But dont overfill your chamber. Just two scoops of the enclosed 1/2 cup is all that is recommended, but do experiment and mix your green beans
- You will learn to listen for the ubiquitous first and second cracks. When you first use the IR2, you will think to yourself that the machine is far too noisy to hear any cracks, and that you wont be able to distinguish between beans cracking and beans hitting the glass chamber. But you quickly do develop an ear for it, trust me.
- When you finish roasting, instead of unhinging the roast chamber from the base, you are better to twist off the chaff holder at the top of the chamber and pour your freshly roasted beans into your container by lifting the entire IR2 machine. This saves on overly engaging/disengaging the roast chamber fastening mechanism which looks a bit flimsy and breakable.
If you keep in mind the above, you will soon be relishing a whole new coffee experience consistently and safely, as well economically with the IR2. You just can't lose.
Bought it from Green Coffee Limited in the UK. Efficient and no issues and would therefore recommend them. Prices here in the UK significantly higher than the US which was frustrating at the time, but I guess not helped by the cost of transportation.
Three Month Followup
One thing that I have come to understand about the IR2 is how sensitive it is to the outside atmosphere. If you live in a cold or inconsistent climate, this machine will not give the temperatures you need, resulting in the coffee being "baked" rather than roasted. A baked coffee bean is about as bad as it gets. In reality, the IR2 is an indoor machine only, and works best if you buy a ducting tube that can point out the window from the "crown" that is attachable to the lid. Otherwise your house will smell grassy.
www.sweetmarias.com has by far the best research on the IR2 (and other roasters) on the web from what I can see
One Year Followup
AUGUST 2009 UPDATE
After 3 years the IR2 is now retired. My biggest frustration with the machine is its extreme sensitivity to ambient temperature. The variability of results depending on room temperature made the machine virtually unusable in the end, and is why I have downgraded my results and my advice. It is possibly due to the cool London climate which works against this machine. I am sure that if this variability didnt exist, the machine would be perfect, if perhaps a little small in its batch sizes.
I have purchase a Behmor 1600 which has been recently released in Europe. I will post my thoughts later in 2009.