HotTop Roaster caught fire

Discuss roast levels and profiles for espresso, equipment for roasting coffee.
Illyfex2
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Postby Illyfex2 » Jun 16, 2017, 9:15 am

Hey there. I haven't been here in a while, so I had to create a new account.

So my 7 year old HotTop Roaster caught fire last night. It's been a reliable machine for 7 years and I put about 5 lbs through it each month, year round - outside on my deck in summer and in garage in the winter. I always roast in manual mode and keep a close eye on the color, sound and temp.

So last night before going to bed, I realized I was running low on roasted beans for the Quickmill Vetrano. Since it was dark outside, I decided to roast a batch in the garage on my workbench. I weighed my usual 250 gm of espresso blend, pre-heated and proceeded to roast. Everthing seemed normal through the roast cycle up until the warning period at 410°F. Looking a the beans, I could see that they were already charred, black and oily (I usually take these beans to about 413 just before the second crack). I immediately hit the dump button and when I did, the burnt beans hit the tray and caught on fire. Thinking it was just a few, I blew on the beans which only fanned the flames, so now the whole tray was ablaze.

I quickly took the burning tray of beans out of the grinder and placed it on the cement garage floor, but by now, the plastic on the chaff tray and the side of the roaster where on fire and melting. As quick as I could, I opened the garage door and grabbed the roaster from the underside, being careful to not catch on fire myself, and I carried it quickly onto the driveway and dropped it there as it was now fully engulfed. I grabbed the hose and doused the machine until the fire went out.

I really don't know what happened. I had cleaned the machine about 2 weeks ago and had put a few roasts through it since with no problem. No change in beans or volume. Now I need a new roaster and I'm not sure I'll go the HotTop route again. Guess I'll start researching alternatives. Hopefully technology has improved in the last 7 years.Image

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RockyIII
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Postby RockyIII » Jun 16, 2017, 10:25 am

Dave,

Bummer. I'm glad the damage was limited to the machine. It is a good reminder for everybody to keep a fire extinguisher handy.

Rocky

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Randy G.
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Postby Randy G. » Jun 16, 2017, 11:01 am

The manual states that you should have a spray bottle of water handy just for cases like this. If that had been handy the beans could have been easily and quickly extinguished.

It sounds like during the critical period after the end of first crack you were not paying close enough attention to the roast and were assuming that this roast would progress like all other roasts. Being nearby is not the same as paying close attention and just listening for cracks, or waiting for an aroma, etc.

This is a good lesson for all home roasters. As the Hottop manual states, never leave an operating roaster unattended. "Unattended" does not mean just being close by. But as another manufacturer has stated to me, coffee roasting appliances do not catch fire. The beans catch fire.

But this roaster looks like it can be repaired. The fire was contained, and after a good cleanup I think that beyond some plastic parts, I would guess that the only electrical part that may have been damaged were the agitation motor and the bean cooling fan. If the control panel and electronics are OK, it would cost a lot less to repair this one than to buy another roaster. Check the Hottop website for disassembly and cleaning tips. Take it apart and do a cost analysis for the burnt part. it looks like about $200 in parts to me.
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Illyfex2
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Postby Illyfex2 » Jun 16, 2017, 11:19 am

Good points. I was standing by, but straightening up my workbench glancing at the temp every minute or so. I've seen, in the past, minor flare ups of chaff in the drum, but they quickly flame out. Not sure why this one ran away. The beans were clearly charcoal when the temp read 410, but internally, they must have been much higher. Don't recall it being smoky which it generally at 410 and above. I'll start taking off the skin and seeing if it's salvagable. Might look like a terminator roaster. Also need to make sure that nasty smell of burnt plastic is gone.

Headala
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Postby Headala » Jun 16, 2017, 12:42 pm

Illyfex2 wrote:Good points. I was standing by, but straightening up my workbench glancing at the temp every minute or so. I've seen, in the past, minor flare ups of chaff in the drum, but they quickly flame out. Not sure why this one ran away. The beans were clearly charcoal when the temp read 410, but internally, they must have been much higher. Don't recall it being smoky which it generally at 410 and above. I'll start taking off the skin and seeing if it's salvagable. Might look like a terminator roaster. Also need to make sure that nasty smell of burnt plastic is gone.


Wow, so sorry to hear but so glad there was no damage to you or your home. I admit I often do what you mentioned...straightening up the workbench or futzing around with Artisan settings or the next load of beans or whatever. This is an excellent reminder to me and others that we need to make sure we are present and attentive to the roasts.

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Boldjava
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Postby Boldjava » Jun 16, 2017, 3:39 pm

The fire extinguisher is always, always over my left shoulder. Before every roast, I glance back and ensure it is there.

Never had a coffee fire but have had a home fire. Knew where the fire extinguisher was and was able to contain a fire before the fire department arrived. My obsessive compulsiveness on this issue (my wife's teasing label) paid off that time.
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Randy G.
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Postby Randy G. » Jun 16, 2017, 3:57 pm

Boldjava wrote:The fire extinguisher is always, always over my left shoulder. Before every roast, I glance back and ensure it is there.

Never had a coffee fire but have had a home fire. Knew where the fire extinguisher was and was able to contain a fire before the fire department arrived. My obsessive compulsiveness on this issue (my wife's teasing label) paid off that time.


Wife and I were both firefighters. Extinguishers everywhere. The water sprayer is very handy when roasting to stop a fire. Talking about the generic hand pump bottles that have an adjustable nozzle. Unplug roaster, lift bean chute (with gloves on), IMMEDIATELY spray three or four pumps of water mist directly into roast chamber, then replace chute cover. Water expands something like 1200 times when it turns to steam and takes a lot of thermal energy with it. Same with beans igniting in tray. A few sprays of water mist would have done the trick.

Illyfex2 - I have seen Hottops far more burnt than that which could be salvaged. If the fire got into the rear section and the control panel and/or main circuit board were damaged then it becomes another story whether it is financially wise to repair.

Take to back cover off, blow the roaster out to get the burnt beans an, chaff, and water out of it, and from what I could see from the photos, other than the bean agitation motor, I would guess that the roaster still operates. Then the problem becomes assessment of the cause. First thought is a very dirty or failing temperature sensor or maybe dirty contacts where it plugs into the control panel.
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Illyfex2
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Postby Illyfex2 » Jun 16, 2017, 5:17 pm

OK, I started removing the black plastic cowl. The electronics look OK. Man there was a LOT of built up chaff deep inside the thing. The drum spins normally and the lower catch-tray fan spins as well. I'm gonna clean it up and see if I can carefully power it on. What is the switch on the side - the connector got a little melted - is that the chaff tray sensor?
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BaristaBoy E61
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Postby BaristaBoy E61 » Jun 16, 2017, 5:29 pm

Glad your experience was not worse.

Maybe I can use your pics & experience to ask my wife whether we should get a roaster or an EG-1...
"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"

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sweaner
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Postby sweaner » Jun 16, 2017, 6:00 pm

Randy, see what happens when you leave the company!
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