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Exploring the Huky 500 Coffee Roaster, Part I

Postby slickrock on Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:08 am

Forward to Part 2 of review

Forward to Part 3 of review

Exploring the Huky 500 Part 1:

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Introduction
A few months ago, I purchased a Huky 500 stovetop manual coffee roaster (with the solid drum conversion) and would like to share my experiences with the roaster on this forum. This roaster joins the ranks of other Taiwanese/Chinese active-ventilated drum coffee roasters that have been coming out of this region over the last few years. What makes this particular drum roaster more unique is that it's designed to used with an external portable stove burner (roaster shown on top of burner) as a heat source rather than providing its own (e.g. internal electric heating element). The roaster is not as much a consumer appliance, but rather a scaled down full-manual roaster similar to Quest M3. Pricewise, the Huky 500 is competitive to the Quest M3 and the Hottop P and roughly 1/3 the price a the Mini 500 (a recent quote hit the 3 grand mark plus shipping). Specifications for the Huky can be found here on one of the initial discovery posts on the Huky 500 on this forum.

The Hukly 500 consists of primarily four components: the drum roaster itself (which includes a geared down DC motor to rotate the drum), an exhaust pipe, a bean funnel, and then finally an external 6-inch metal-blade rotary fan with the bean tray resting on top. The exhaust funnel interconnects the main roaster with the ventilation fan and includes a damper that is used to control airflow. The funnel serves a dual purpose: initially as a bean funnel that fits in the roaster chimney where the bean charge is delivered, and second as an adapter that connects the exhaust pipe to the exhaust fan. That fan itself is also dual purpose in that it provides active ventilation for the drum and also cools the beans after they are dumped. The fan is fixed speed and is quite powerful.

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The motor, also fixed speed, is externalized in a separate housing, which is attached to the roaster by 3 posts. The motor drive is attached to the drum shaft via a coupler, which has 4 set screws. Also on the backside of the roaster is a handle that controls a shutter that regulates direct heat irradiation of the drum from the gas burner (more on this later). There are two temperature instrumentation points on faceplate of the roaster: an analog thermometer provided ET measurement and a digital K-type TC probe provides BT measurement. Also on the front faceplate is the receptacle for the bean tryer.

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About the Manufacturer
The Huky 500 is an ostensibly "hand-made", made by Kuanho Li, a machinist/fabricator located in Taiwan, who is not operating under a company name (no web site either). He is a retired craft teacher and has been making these roasters for about 6 years. Other than a few machined parts he subs out CNC factory, he builds these roasters himself. This affords some degree of by-request customization that Kuanho was open to do, and I must admit I took advantage of this, as a number of modifications were requested to compliment the solid drum configuration of the roaster (more on this later). As a side note, I have no business affiliation with Kuanho; I was just a demanding customer and he an accommodating manufacturer.

Buying Decision
The purchasing decision initially started with a desire to finally abandon the "one-profile suits all", 20-minute roast cycle of my second-generation Hottop KN08828D that I've used for the last 5 years (attempts to upgrade to the P version had fell through for various reasons) and embark on a new roaster with far more manual control and better temperature instrumentation. I also wanted a roaster with larger bean capacity than the Hottop, perhaps twice as much capacity to suit my needs.

Having reacquainted myself with HB forum a few months ago, I started to develop a strong interest in the Quest M3, as it is full manual roaster with good instrumentation and with an active following here on the forum. Culling through the 2 years user-feedback on the forum, I found the wealth of information on controlling, instrumenting, modifying, and developing profiles on the Quest very useful to developing my own requirements for such a device:

1. Solid Drum Roaster
2. Full Manual Control and simple, reliable design.
3. Easy BT, ET, and MET temperature instrumentation
4. Digital Thermometer ready
5. Bean Tryer
6. Fast Bean Dump & Cooling
7. Good Bean Agitation
8. Good industrial aesthetic look
9. Indoor/kitchen device (assuming proper kitchen ventilation)

But there were other requirements I was striving for beyond the M3:

1. At least a full 1-pound bean roasting capacity
2. Strong Fan and Ventilation
3. Enough power/heat output to not require supplemental power/heat sources (i.e. heat guns, added insulation, variacs to boost power, etc.) to up bean capacity or enhance the roast profile
4. Fast pre-heat time to stable temperature (4 minutes or less)

What put my on the sidelines for the M3, primarily, is its maximum effective batch size. I really did want a roaster with more capacity when I need it, and certainly more than what my Hottop provided. I go through a 1.5 lbs a week (sometimes more) at my house and I wanted to keep roasting sessions at around that same frequency (or every other week) and not last much longer than about 20 minutes a roast (including warm-up time).

A couple of months ago, I began to inquire about the Huky 500 after discovering it on German coffee forum (Kaffee-Netz) and more recently here on HB. This obscure roaster seemed to have a lot in common with the Quest: It is a full manual drum roaster with solid stainless steel construction, outfitted with digital temperature measurement points for BT and ET, and also includes a bean tryer. More importantly, however, is that the Huky 500 can be ordered with a solid drum (for the same cost). Drum speed is the same as the Quest (50 RPM) and drum itself has cross-weave high-profile agitator blades to keep the beans in motion. The drum is volumetrically larger than the Quest by an additional 736 cubic cm and drum thickness is a hefty 2.5 mm (like original circa 2009 Quest M3, but now the Quest drum thickness is down to 1.5 mm), so the roaster should have a fair amount of heat capacity for its size to support larger bean loads.

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It has an advertised bean capacity of 500 grams (over a pound of green) that met my needs (check), but what struck me was the heat source of the roaster: a portable gas stove as an external heat source rather than an internal electrical heat source, compared to other. A portable gas stove can put out heat in the 9000 BTU/hr range, which is significant compared to most electrical roasters (even those running on 240V). In terms of heat output required to roast a full pound of green in 15 minutes (or less), a prodigious heat source provided by a gas burner would probably not require supplemental mechanisms to boost/short roast times, such as a heat gun (check). And that same prodigiousness seemed to go for ventilation as well: the large 6-inch ventilation fan puts out 230 CFM of air flow, which seems strong enough (maybe too strong?) for ventilating (and then cooling) large bean charges (check).

And there was something else about using a gas burner as a heat source that struck me as useful for my particular setup: when I roast with my Hottop, I do so under in the kitchen on top of my professional gas range because the range has a large powerful range hood for smoke ventilation (1200 CFM worth because my range has a barbeque gas grill included). The range itself has arguably one of the more powerful residential range burners in the industry (a Garland Bluestar open star burner with up to 22,000 BTU/hr heat output per burner). I always found it somewhat ironic that that I had to use electricity to heat the HotTop on top of a gas range with this much heat-generating capability, with gas burners just sitting there doing nothing. But in the case of the Huky 500, I could finally put those powerful burners to good use for actual roasting.

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So in short, for me, the Huky 500 seemed to have the blend of features and capabilities I was looking for. However, my choice to use my gas range instead of the portable IR burner and to configure the roaster with a solid drum frustrated any attempts to get the roaster quickly up and running with a go-fast setup. Indeed, additional integration steps, design choices, and setup steps were needed to get everything working with my particular configuration that are worthy of discussion, but I will relegate that discussion to a subsequent part of this review in a follow-up post. Instead, lets get to unboxing and first impressions.

Unboxing and First Impressions

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The roaster came priority-shipped in a sturdy box in just a matter of days from Taiwan to California, where USPS handled the domestic-side of the international shipment and it appears that I was not charged any import duty (a quick glimpse of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule seamed to imply that coffee roasters enter U.S. ports duty-free, but I am not an authority on this). Unpacking reviewed two more boxes: one contained the roaster and exhaust pipe and the other contained the fan, funnel, bean tray, power supply and other spare parts. The former was well packed but the later was not packed well enough to prevent some minor dinging to the aluminum funnel, which is used both for charging the roaster and operating as part of the exhaust apparatus. Kuanho has since sent me a replacement funnel free of charge.

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Once I was able to unpack and assemble the roaster and peel off the protective masking, I was able to gather some initial impressions: The roaster has a rather cute and compact for its dimensions, sporting a rounded appearance with a flaring ventilated skirt at the bottom, and conveys distinctive Steam Punk design queues (hardwood handles, analog gauges, oval windows, no externalized electronics, etc.). My daughter says it looks like some contraption from a Hayao Miyazaki anime film. The stainless steal finish is impossibly mirror-like (you will want to keep a microfiber cloth handy to always remove offending fingerprints). The build quality is very robust, with thick gauge stainless steel and stainless hardware throughout, giving the roaster quite a bit of heft for its svelte profile. The wood handles are ergonomically sculpted and made from a beautifully deep rust red hardwood, which reminds me of Brazilian Cherry in both color and hardness. The tryer is long and robust enough to easily catch the beans for sample viewing. The tote handle is quite useful for lifting this heavy thing around and especially when it's hot.

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The drum itself of something of a marvel as the drum and fins are made out of the same 2.5mm heavy gauge stainless steel and has a hand-made look and feel. The drum itself feels like it weighs about 5 lbs and appears to be fabricated from a 2.5mm stainless sheet and then rolled and welded into a cylinder (the drum is true enough, considering that it wasn't fabricated from cylinder steel tubing). The drive axle is supported by three solid struts in the middle then by the perforated back-plate of the drum in the back. The drum agitation design appears robust due to fins stacked in cross-weave pattern throughout the length of the drum to provide a great deal of bean agitation with drum rotation. The fin stack actually exceeds 1" in height, which great for agitation, but does make things cramped for the temperature probe locations and even for the tryer (more on this later). Word of caution: the fins are quite sharp at the termination with the faceplate, so sticking your fingers in there while the drum is rotating is definitely not a good idea (think deli slicer).

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Other subtle design aspects are worth noting: the lip under the exit hinge is perfectly sculpted and fastened and the self-cleaning oval site window is large enough to see the beans clearly. On the inside, the edge of the window opening is ground down on one side so that the beans do not catch on the edge while agitating. There is craftsmanship throughout and there is a proud badge that asserts this. The badge is serialized and located on the faceplate with logo and the words "Hand Made" to distinguish its manufacturing origins. Speaking of which, while the "finish" is superb, the implication of a "handmade" roaster is that there are some imperfections in "fit" to be expected and each sample unit may be put together slightly different from the next. For example, for my unit, certain parts were welded and fit so well together (the hinge, faceplate, tryer, etc.) that I was bothered when other parts (drive linkage, drum/faceplate interface, exhaust collar) fell somewhat short of expectations (more on this in a later post ) for fit. Alas, nothing is perfect.

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External to the roaster are the robust exhaust pipe with damper and wood collar, the fan, the bean tray and fan stand. I'll discuss these items when I cover the operation of the roaster in a later section of the review.

Forward to Part 2 of review

Forward to Part 3 of review
If only you can see what I've seen with your eyes.
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Postby Randy G. on Sat Jan 21, 2012 11:48 am

Very nice opening act to your review. Does the tryer have a weight to keep it open-side down when inserted? Do the screws supporting the fan have some sort of non-scratch/non-skid protection?
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Postby TomC on Sat Jan 21, 2012 9:43 pm

I'm jealous! Looks beautiful. I couldn't read all of that, but maybe will as it progresses.
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Postby germantown rob on Sat Jan 21, 2012 11:23 pm

I would grap one of these in a heart beat if it was called a Husky! Heck it even has a picture of one on it, lol.

Looks like a well made machine and your pictures of it really do it justice. I take it you have a nice exhaust hood to go with that beautiful stove to whisk the smoke away from a one pound roast?

Randy I am no trier expert and only know how my Diedrich one operates, it is not weighted, it fits into a cylinder that has a slot and the trier has a ridge and that is what keeps mine facing down.even with this the agitation of the beans can knock it out a bit which can create an air gap letting room temp air into the drum, something I have had to learn to pay attention to during a roast. If mine was only weighted I imagine it would easily spin and could start collecting beans with the force of two pounds of beans constantly trying to rotate it.
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Postby Warrior372 on Sat Jan 21, 2012 11:42 pm

Great start to your review Joel! I have had several questions in regard to the Huky 500s ability / functionality as a home roaster for quite a while now. I originally started communication with Kuanho Li in March of 2010 right when he stopped making the Huky 300s and just as he started selling the Huky 500s. I look forward to your future posts on it's true roasting capacity and capabilities.
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Postby slickrock on Sun Jan 22, 2012 4:53 am

Randy G. wrote: Does the tryer have a weight to keep it open-side down when inserted? Do the screws supporting the fan have some sort of non-scratch/non-skid protection?


There tryer is unweighted, about 6" length with about 2.75" length of "catch" that extends into the roaster. There is spring-loaded catch that keeps the tryer secure. When the spring is vertical, then the catch is facing down, so its easy to discern the orientation and the spring-load keeps the tryer from twisting on its own.

The fan pegs were my add-on so I could adjust the height of the fan relative to roaster. I felt no need for rubber feet with my setup, but I could have easily added them.

TomC wrote:I'm jealous! Looks beautiful. I couldn't read all of that, but maybe will as it progresses.


Tried to think about shortening the review and condensing the narrative, but found myself thinking that the community would ultimately welcome the elaboration and detail. Comments on this are appreciated.

Looked at your profile... seems the only thing separating us is Devil's Slide (or the tunnel in just a few months). Never did get a chance to see a Quest M3 in the flesh. Perhaps we can compare notes.

germantown rob wrote:I would grap one of these in a heart beat if it was called a Husky! Heck it even has a picture of one on it, lol.

Rumor has it that his pet dog has this namesake; that its not a "lost in translation" typo. With that spelling, a least it won't be confused with my lawn mower :-)

germantown rob wrote:Looks like a well made machine and your pictures of it really do it justice. I take it you have a nice exhaust hood to go with that beautiful stove to whisk the smoke away from a one pound roast?

Indeed. Needed to put the 1200CFM exhaust fan to work as well. You make a good point though. Perhaps there is a an upper limit to kitchen roasting given the constraints on proper ventilation. Perhaps that's the reason 1K roasters and above find there way into the garage or basement. 500g is still kitchen-doable, IMHO.
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Postby dustin360 on Sun Jan 22, 2012 5:13 am

Wow! That is a great start to your write up. Cant wait to hear about how it roasts! And that trier looks huge! The two things I wish the Quest had was a stronger fan and a slightly bigger trier, looks like the Huky thought of that.
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Postby TomC on Sun Jan 22, 2012 4:09 pm

And yet another reason I hate having an electrical stovetop...

Half Moon Bay? Beautiful area! And speaking of beautiful, that countertop backsplash is one of the nicest I've seen.
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Postby rama on Mon Jan 23, 2012 12:27 am

slickrock wrote:Tried to think about shortening the review and condensing the narrative, but found myself thinking that the community would ultimately welcome the elaboration and detail.


Good level of detail IMO.

I'm also curious how dependent you are on that massive burner and exhaust fan with these 500g roasts. While a new cooktop is in my near future (and the Garland Bluestar looks sweet), doing roasts indoors would make me nervous, especially given our mild bay area winters.
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Postby slickrock on Tue Jan 24, 2012 6:05 am

rama wrote:I'm also curious how dependent you are on that massive burner and exhaust fan with these 500g roasts. .

I think a number of factors contribute, which I'll soon elaborate on. I will say the fan is a bit of a secret weapon when combined with the solid drum... sorta like a built-in heatgun. Regarding the mondo burner, I think the fact that its "open" flame is more important than its raw BTU output (pretty much any stove burner will pump out the necessary BTUs and eclipse the output of any electical heating element). The only time I really crank up the Bluestar burner is at startup... to quickly heat up the roaster to charge temp. I do admit I'm spoiled with this open star burner - just pull the grate and drop in a wok and I'm good for some serious stir-fry.

rama wrote:While a new cooktop is in my near future (and the Garland Bluestar looks sweet), doing roasts indoors would make me nervous, especially given our mild bay area winters.

What is the issue exactly? Too much heat in the kitchen?

TomC wrote: And speaking of beautiful, that countertop backsplash is one of the nicest I've seen.

Will make sure to tell the wife.
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