My roasting capacity has needed and upgrade for a while, but the decision on how to accomplish that task has been difficult. The roaster I've built my business on is an 3kg air roaster, and while I can get a larger version of the same roaster, I've been itching to take on drum roasting; just to see the difference for myself.
I've been hemming, hawing and gyrating over a new drum roaster for too many months. What size? Where will I install it? How much $$$?!! If I get a 5kg roaster do I also get a sample roaster? Do I just get a 3kg drum and use it for sample and production roasting? etc. etc. There just didn't seem to be a best solution.
While waiting on divine intervention, I came across a used roaster not too far from me. I watched it on CL for months. It finally popped up on ebay and I contacted the owner and went to see it last week.
Well it didn't tick all the boxes: no classy European or US name brand name, no variable speed drum or fan, no profiling set up at all and scarcely any information regarding the mfg or specs. Why am I even considering it?
Well, it's only a year old with <100# of coffee through it and the price is about 1/3 of the more affordable 5kg roasters, and 1/5 of the big names.
The truth is I really wouldn't have a issue dropping $30K on a great drum roaster. But the main thing I've learned from this process is that I'm not completely sold on the fact that I will like drum roasting better than air roasting...period. And why make all that investment on a supposition?
There are many advantages to my air roaster:
1) Virtually no maintenance. I have done nothing except empty the chaff bag for 4 years.
2) Zero risk of chaff fire
3) No warm up required. If I need to roast a quick 5# of coffee, I can do it in <15 minutes total.
4) No trier needed. I can see the color of the beans just by looking in the hopper
5) I can also smell the level of the roast by cutting off the exhaust suction by briefly lifting the chaff lid
6) Being an electric roaster with thin heater coils I can make temperature changes on a dime...too fast actually.
7) The BT probe is immersed in the bean mass for very accurate BT readings.
8 ) So I really have complete control of the roast
9) Inexpensive. It was < $5k for a 6# roaster.
10) It roasts great coffee. I have developed a large loyal following in a short amount of time in a town with a 12kg Probat and Diedrich not far away.
1) It's not sexy. There is nothing cool or romantic about an oversized popcorn popper.
2) Most roasters use drums. If I want to be part of the roasting community and share knowledge, it seems I need a drum roaster. Why? See D1?
3) It's rumored that drum roasters impart more body to coffee than air roasters. I love heavy bodied coffee.
4) It is also rumored that certain flavor nuances can be unlocked by the conduction portion of the heat transfer process...
So we'll see if the quality of coffee outweighs the advantages of using my air roaster. If not, I can sell it for more than what I paid. If so, I'll be back in the market for the best drum roaster I can afford.
Here is the new addition next to old faithful. It's a 2017 Turkish roaster from Kuban, one of the many roaster msgs in Izmir, Turkey.
Gratefully, the old gal does not seem threatened.
The new roaster fits perfectly and I will be able to keep both online simultaneously, doing comparisons back and forth. The flue above is from a wood burning stove, removed to make room. Now that I will have propane in the garage, I can get a vent-less wall heater to keep the place from freezing in Winter. I can run the exhaust up a 10' straight shot through the existing chimney. More to come...