The cheapest and simplest way to improve your roasts

Discuss roast levels and profiles for espresso, equipment for roasting coffee.
User avatar
another_jim
Team HB

Postby another_jim » Jan 04, 2007, 4:15 pm

I've answered the question "how do I get a better roast out of my xxx?" many times. Sadly, the proper answer is to spend a lot of money on controls or on an off-the-shelf roaster that has them. However, many people starting out don't know whether they want to invest the money or time for this. Quite sensibly, they want to taste a great roast before they commit big bucks to getting it. So I've been busting my head for an improper, quick and dirty, way to get better roasts. Then I remembered a long ago post by Barry Jarrett and I had it ...

Use Less Beans

People were boasting on alt.coffee, like they still do, on how much their roasting setup could do. You had (at the time) 3/4 pound alps, 1/2 pound P1s, and 1/3 pound Rostos. I am ashamed to say I boasted that I could get 3 ounces in my freshroast (instead of 2) speed up the roast doing this, and get in 6 to 7 roasts an hour for a whopping full pound per hour throughput. Barry replied that he used about 1.5 ounces in his sample Freshroast, and that it took around 8 minutes to get to the first crack. Nobody got it ...

Fewer beans usually means a better roast. The problem with many home drum roasts is that they are too slow. Using less beans speeds it up and gets a more vivid cup. The problem with many airroasters is that they are too fast, the beans are uneven, perhaps even charred, at the first crack, and one cannot get a good light or espresso roast. Using less beans slows down an airroaster, since the higher airflow reduces the blow-in temperature.

So experiment with reducing the amount you roast. Do some homework, try the alternatives side by side, and see which one you like best.

For airroasters, there is a gotcha. This is especially true for poppers using no chaff collector. If you reduce the load so the beans are moving freely at the start of the roast, the air flow will get so fast that the roast may stall around the first crack (this didn't bother Barry since he was doing sample roasts, he sized his load to stall at the end of the first). The solution is a tin plate and a drill (or even a hammer and nail). Knock a few holes into the tin, and at the end of the roast place it over the popper or airroaster. This will slow down the airflow enough to maintain the temperature.

Total cost of this mod -- less than $1.
Jim Schulman

User avatar
KarlSchneider

Postby KarlSchneider » Jan 04, 2007, 9:43 pm

I love Jim's posts. Some are so on target it is hard to imagine a better.

Some are so worth disagreeing with I love the argument.

This one seems to me wholly on target. When I first got my Alp I filled it to capacity and was consistently disappointed. Finally in desperation i tried using fewer beans and only then had success.

{The university professor in me cannot avoid pointing out that it is fewer and not less beans) Almost all grocery stores make this grammatical mistake in their speedy checkout lanes.

When I switched to my Hottop I had the same experience. I now use no more than 225 g and get far better roasts.

My first roaster was the Melitta. I was always disappointed. I never had the imagination to reduce the amount.

Jim is either right on target or well worth arguing with. He is on target here.

KS
LMWDP # 008

User avatar
another_jim
Team HB

Postby another_jim » Jan 04, 2007, 11:14 pm

KarlSchneider wrote:I love Jim's posts. Some are so on target it is hard to imagine a better.

Some are so worth disagreeing with I love the argument.

...

{The university professor in me cannot avoid pointing out that it is fewer and not less beans) Almost all grocery stores make this grammatical mistake in their speedy checkout lanes.



Thanks.

How small do the beans have to be before it becomes "less?" Perhaps fewer Supremos, but less peaberries :wink:
Jim Schulman

User avatar
Compass Coffee
Sponsor

Postby Compass Coffee » Jan 04, 2007, 11:39 pm

KarlSchneider wrote:{The university professor in me cannot avoid pointing out that it is fewer and not less beans) Almost all grocery stores make this grammatical mistake in their speedy checkout lanes.}

OTH (for the sake of argument :wink: ) depends if (A) counting the beans to get fewer beans or (B) weighing the beans for less weight or (C) measuring the volume of beans for less volume. Since I suspect either B or C most common method of determining greens for a roast batch size I'd say Jim was gramatically correct. :!: :lol:
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

Dogshot

Postby Dogshot » Jan 05, 2007, 12:03 am

another_jim wrote:The problem with many airroasters is that they are too fast, the beans are uneven, perhaps even charred, at the first crack, and one cannot get a good light or espresso roast. Using less beans slows down an airroaster, since the higher airflow reduces the blow-in temperature.

So experiment with reducing the amount you roast. Do some homework, try the alternatives side by side, and see which one you like best.



Thanks for these tid-bits, Jim. Some guidelines really help promote experimentation.

The i-roast may be an exception. The maximum recommended roast is 150gm, which in my experience roasts to rolling second crack considerably slower than a 100gm or or 125gm load. The difference in roast times becomes much more meaningful as the 150gm max is approached.

In the i-roast, the beans are heated in the air column, and are then blown into the chamber portion, where they queue up for their return to the air column. I suspect that smaller loads roast faster because a smaller bean load spends less time in the lower heat environment, and more time in the direct air flow. I also suspect that a too-heavy load will spend too much time cooling in the chamber portion, and wind up tasting baked.

Any other i-roasters share the same experience?

Mark

User avatar
another_jim
Team HB

Postby another_jim » Jan 05, 2007, 12:58 am

Dogshot wrote:In the i-roast, the beans are heated in the air column, and are then blown into the chamber portion, where they queue up for their return to the air column. I suspect that smaller loads roast faster because a smaller bean load spends less time in the lower heat environment, and more time in the direct air flow. I also suspect that a too-heavy load will spend too much time cooling in the chamber portion, and wind up tasting baked.



I had an Iroast, but it never worked right and didn't know that. It almost sounds like an automated Heatgun/Dogbowl roaster.
Jim Schulman

User avatar
JR_Germantown

Postby JR_Germantown » Jan 05, 2007, 3:17 pm

KarlSchneider wrote:{The university professor in me cannot avoid pointing out that it is fewer and not less beans) Almost all grocery stores make this grammatical mistake in their speedy checkout lanes.


Okay. I used a popper, but after switching to the GG/UFO, I now use the popper much fewer. :wink:

Jack

DigMe

Postby DigMe » Jan 05, 2007, 5:58 pm

I roast one bean at a time in a drum-roaster I constructed from a thimble and a zippo.

bc

User avatar
Compass Coffee
Sponsor

Postby Compass Coffee » Jan 05, 2007, 6:50 pm

DigMe wrote:I roast one bean at a time in a drum-roaster I constructed from a thimble and a zippo.

bc

And here's grinding and brewing devices for your roast :!: :lol:
Image
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

User avatar
prof_stack

Postby prof_stack » Jan 06, 2007, 1:00 am

Back to the subject (GREAT humor, btw),

One way a popper can be improved to better retain heat is to gently wedge a soup can (free of labels, natch) on top and increase the roasting chamber.

When I used the can opener I left the top on with the ability to swing it up to allow more or less hot air to escape. So the chaff gets blown out and the beans get roasted more uniformly. It also leaves room for the temperature probe to hang in the chamber so I can adjust the voltage (via Powerstat) to get the "proper" profile for the roast.
LMWDP #010