Some weeks ago the forum was hit with news of the upcoming next-gen high-capacity Hottop, but the heavy interest in this long-awaited roaster gave way to lamentations of what many considered to "way too high a price" for the likes of a roaster whose specifications don't seem up to snuff against commercial grade alternatives in the nearby $6K range. I fell into the group and noticed that the ensuing backlash led forum participants on to survey low-cost alternatives for those wanting a large-capacity roaster, commercial quality roaster, at least in the 1kg range (after all the new Hottop was claiming a 2kg capacity), for the home enthusiast. Sure enough, the recent onslaught of low-cost Chinese roasters surfaced in these discussions, many of which have either unknown or dubious track records. One roaster, however, caught my interest: the TJ-067 from North Coffee. I've since been in contact with the company and thought I would share what I found so far, since the time seems ripe as new threads have popped up regarding other Chinese roaster entries.
The whole next-gen Hottop letdown got me thinking about what I'd want out of a large-capacity commercial roaster for the home enthusiast, some of which include:
- At least a true 1kg capacity sweet spot, which implies that roaster should support about a 50% greater capacity than its specified rating.
- Realistic power rating and delivery to support the above sweet spot.
- Minimal proprietary design and automation, so that it can be self-serviced, augmented, and maintained, even if the company that sells it later disappears. As such, it should also be easily PIDable and TC4able.
- Substantial design (read heavy and overbuilt) with strong ventilation control and cyclone-quality chaff collection. Plus tryer, temperature instrumentation, and other sundries one would expect from commercial drum roaster.
- At least some hint or semblance of a track record to go on for the early adopter (this comment assumes that established companies won't be offering their roasters at deep discount prices to meet the following requirement).
- Very cheap price, as in high value for what you get - after all this would be for the advanced enthusiast at home and people of this ilk do enjoy a good bargain.
A quick perusal of the TJ-067 specifications (both the gas and electric versions offered) give me the impression that the first 4 requirements would be met. The bloody thing is 200lbs (if the specs are to be believed) and has large externally-mounted fans with variable speed control. While there would most likely be no issues with power delivery from the gas version, the electric version sports 3500W of power from 5 heating elements. Drum size is 250mm in length and 225 in diameter in both solid and perforated drum options (gas version is solid and electric is perforated by default), which in my estimation would volumetrically support theoretical loads approaching 2kg. The cyclone is independent of the roaster and appears to hugely outsize the 1kg capacity needs of the roaster.
Regarding damping and ventilation, the roaster appears to have gone through a design metamorphosis over the last 1.5 years and if you pay attention to the photographs on the web site, you might be led to believe that they are different roasters models, when they are in fact they are versions of the same model, as outlined as follows:
The first version had a damper with adjustment wheel and exhaust fan mounted directly on the chimney, where ventilation was only controlled by the damper on concert with a fixed-speed fan.
I have to admit the damper control looks cool but this version gave way to a second version that dispensed with the damper and moved the fan to rear of the roaster, but in exchange offered full fan speed control. The cyclone would connect to fan by a flex hose (not pictured).
The third (and current) version moved the adjustable-speed fan off the roaster and onto the cyclone itself, supposedly to improve chaff collection and flow into the cyclone, but this means the flex-hose needs to attached to front of the roaster at the chimney, and to these eyes, this looks cosmetically worse and hose sag may cause ventilation issues.
As such , I suggested to North Coffee to consider making a stainless pipe attachment from the roaster to the cyclone to create more integrated setup, as per what can be found with a Mini 500 or Cafemino. After a few weeks, they took up this suggestion, (and mind you I have no business affiliation with the company) and provided and updated version, that looks a lot better IMHO:
Regarding requirement 5, the thing that got me going on this was the thorough early adopter experience of TJ-067 roaster shared on this coffee forum from down under: crema coffee forum
Here, there's some good mod-friendly feedback (retrofittable parts, easy access, etc.) on the roaster and the roast profiles show both low drop temps and fast turn-arounds with 1kg loads that seem to imply that the roaster can operate well at this sweet spot, which is particularly interesting considering that this is the electrical version of the roaster being exercised. One would assume that the gas version could easily be pushed further into 1.5kg territory.
Finally, regarding requirement 6, it looks like this beast can be had for a price well South of the going price for the impressively well-built commercial-grade Mini 500 (thanks Henry for the demo) and less than half the price of what the next-gen Hottop is rumored to go for. Shipping seems reasonable, though destinations appear to be only to west-coast ports: for California, its Oakland and San Pedro.
Anyway, this is what I came up so far and personal interest is still brewing.