About 3.5 years ago when I decided to try my hand at roasting, I jumped into the forums and various different websites dealing with coffee roasting. Having a considerable knowledge in the agricultural end of coffee, I realized I new next to nothing about coffee roasting. So off I went, studying and learning and found rather quickly that ďthose coffee roasters are expensive.Ē
So not wanting to really jump into coffee roasting, and spending lots of money, I decided to go in easy at first. I decided that I would purchase the Alpenrost from Swissmar. Afterall, while it had glowing reviews, and a reasonable price, and the largest volume for the price in home roasters at 8 Oz. Which was just 1 oz. shy of the HotTop. I jumped in feet first. My Alpenrost arrived and I proceeded in my first roasting ventures and turned out some pretty decent coffee I thought.
Well, probably like most of you, I was eager to show off my new hobby, and quickly produced half-pound samples for family and friends with an accomplished smile. And I am sure you folks know that most people havenít really tasted fresh roasted coffee. When they do they magically come back for more!
So my Alpenrost started getting a workout. Then as Christmas arrived, and I deciding I wanted to give coffee as a stocking stuffer, proceeded to roast for the whole family. 10 pounds, 20 roasts and something like 10 hours later, I with an exhausted collapse, accomplished my goal.
Now I am sure that many of you have been here at one time or another and it is very exhausting. As people started requesting more and more, and even offering to pay for it, I, not really wanting to create a business out of it, still decided I needed a better solution.
I started investigating and came across the RK Drum BBQ Roaster.
I ordered the 4 pound drum and the 57RPM motor. Which was the more heavy duty setup.
When I got my hands on the drum and the motor/mount. My first impression, was ďThis is built to last.Ē The truth is, you really would need to slam it down onto the concrete about 20 times to even make a dent in it. It is extremely well constructed and is made of heavy gauge stainless steel. The motor mount is a heavy grade aluminum and the motor, is a very heavy duty motor, almost the size of the starter on a riding lawnmower, about the size of a 16 OZ soda bottle. The motor has a fan on it to keep it cool and runs like new to this day
Now some of you probably like the automation of the Alpenrost or Hottop, but, I like this somewhat because it brings you back to the artisan trade of coffee roasting. Much like the manual roasting on a larger commercial roaster.
What I really like is that there is simply nothing that can break on this setup. The motor could go bad, but it is replaceable with common tools. The bottom line is that this is something you can hand down to your kids and it will still be running.
The first trial run on the roaster was a little intimidating but fun. You canít rely on the automation anymore. You have to use heat and time and sound and smell to gauge your roasts.
Ron gave me some email tutorials personally to me and guided me through the some sample roasts using time and temperature, step by step leading me to my very first 3 pound roast. When I dumped it into the cooling tray. Oh my!!! What a sight to behold. I had this giddy feeling, like Iíd never seen so much coffee before, and amazed that in 20 minutes I had roasted as the same amount of coffee that I could roast in 3 hours in the Alpenrost. The coffee came out golden and very evenly roasted thanks to the stirring vanes built inside the drum.
Alpenrost went on e-bay and was sold within 5 hours the next week and after my 4th roast. I just couldnít go back to roasting a half pound of green at a time.
The motor and mount fit perfectly to most any grill, and while you have to use a little ingenuity to make it fit to your grill, Ronís website is very thorough and has as many tips and instructions as you could need. Ron also usually personally answers questions, even technical ones within a matter of hours.
The only things that might be a detractor to some folks is the direct handling of the hot drum. This drum can get up to 400-600 degrees and will burn you instantly if you do not wear protective gloves.
If you follow Ronís instructions carefully this is not a problem.
Now I have on numerous occasions put up to 4 pounds 12.8 OZ (Almost 5 pounds) in the drum, which produces 4 pounds of coffee. Now this really is above the maximum amount and the drum wasnít designed to handle this much, (It is designed to be loaded with optimally 4 pounds to produce a little over 3 pounds of roasted coffee, but it will do almost 5 pounds. Although the mixing is less than perfect at this weight. Just too much volume to really mix like it is supposed to. It does produce well roasted coffee although a bit uneven. If you are interested in just turning out some decent coffee and your crunched for time, you could probably do this much volume regularly. I know Iím making the purist roaster cringe and grate his teeth, but, well, most of the folks I roast for are used to certain canned coffees at the supermarket, so even a slightly uneven roast makes them grin with delight. They all still say itís the best coffee theyíve ever tasted. But normally, I roast at the limits the drum was designed for.
Now I have an embarrassing fact to admit. I roasted for a good while on the Alpenrost, and never ever heard first or second crack. Either my machine was defective or it wasnít getting hot enough. So embarrassingly me being THE coffee-roasting newbie, never audibly heard first or second crack until using the RK Drum. Incidentally, hearing the cracks is not a problem and I can hear them even from 20 feet away.
Itís been a couple of years now, maybe three and Iíve run 1500 pounds more or less (like 10 sacks) of coffee through the RK Drum and motor combo without one single hitch. Although, once I turned on the roaster without putting the pin in the drum and lost half my coffee onto the burners, so you must be careful on this. No defective parts or failures and it still roasts as well as the day I bought it. As of this week, I have just gotten a second drum and motor from Ron to amplify my production as I seem to be roasting more and more coffee.
I am quite happy with everything, and if you learn the routine, how to load, how to pull when finished, how to unload, how to cool and doing it with procedure, nothing about the RK setup is annoying or cumbersome, and the reward is simply professional quality roasts, and a volume of coffee that you cannot get anywhere short of a commercial roaster. No electronics to burn out, nothing to scrub or clean other than vacuuming the grill out every couple of roasts, and to boot, you really get to learn the art of roasting by smell and by heat and time.
There are things that would be preferable, like a more optimum form of cooling, I use a box fan and a flour sifter. It holds the 3-4 pounds quite well. You also canít really visually get to the coffee during the roast. But if you watch your heat, time and listen for your cracks, and gauge the smell, you will absolutely make perfect coffee every time.
Considering everything I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who is tired of roasting small volumes of coffee or spending a whole day to get three or four pounds done. The smaller electronic roasters surely have their place and they do their job well. In my opinion, they are for the folks who primarily want to experiment with home roasting or just want a hands-off fresh coffee roast without really caring how it gets done, and 8 Oz will do just for them/their family for a week or so.
If you are looking for the next step, give Ron a shot. He doesnít disappoint.