Quest M3 Buying Decision

Discuss roast levels and profiles for espresso, equipment for roasting coffee.
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orwa

#1: Post by orwa » Aug 25, 2009, 12:20 am

Hello there,

Instead of upgrading my espresso machine or grinder, I am leaning towards buying a roaster. I dreamt of building a roaster of my own for two years now, but it doesn't seem that it's going to happen, therefore, I finally decided that I would go for a roaster at Eid ul-Fitr (one month from now, a Muslim festivity occasion). Out of the sudden, I feel comfortable today to pay 3 to 4 thousand Riyals (up to a thousand dollars) for a descent roaster, which I hope will allow me to gain more knowledge in roasting and to experience coffees currently out of reach to someone like myself.

Like most of the others, I started by considering the HotTop roaster (the B model). However, soon after I started considering it for my upcoming purchase (i.e. funded purchase, a.k.a. gift), I started to feel that it was more of an appliance than of a roasting equipment (an appliance in my perception is a device that isolates the user from the details, or a device that is designed to be used by people generally uninterested in the details). I don't mean that the HotTop roaster doesn't give someone enough control over the roast, but it seemed to me that I wanted something simpler (more basic, more exposed)... Maybe a small roaster with a classic design, a sample handle and a temperature gauge that shows the temperature inside the drum. My idea of such a roasting device is that it would allow me to control the heat and the airflow manually rather than setting a target temperature and letting a PID unit control the heat for me. I am unsure why would I want such a thing instead of something like the HotTop, but I have a feeling that it might allow me to understand the roasting of coffee better (on a lower level) and gain more insight. Note that it's possible that my perception of the HotTop roaster is imprecise, but it's the best I could have without seeing a one in person (the best I could do is to read the instructions and to watch people using it on YouTube).

So, while I was searching for other offerings I came across another roaster, namely the QUEST M3 roaster, which is also made in Taiwan. This roaster started to capture some attention, and there has been a recent discussion about it in the CoffeeGeek forums. This roaster seems to be closer to the thing I am looking at, by providing just what I mentioned, with a price similar to the HotTop.

With regard to my explanation of what I think is good for me... I would like it if knowledgeable members of this forum could do their best to guide me or pay my attention to things I am probably unaware of. I have never used a dedicated roasting device before, and therefore it's very possible that my perception of such devices is oversimplified. Throughout the past two years I have been roasting using many types of ovens, popcorn poppers, using the stovetop, either in a pan or on a bed of salt :P (which by the way enhances the thermal conductivity significantly but could result in a salty roast)... I even tried to roast coffee by frying! That is to say... I tried many strange things while desperately trying to roast the green thing, and I suddenly feel that I deserve a roaster.

Thanks in advance for your helpful advice. This is an expensive purchase in Saudi standards... So I would like to make sure before I go with the purchase.

User avatar
orwa

#2: Post by orwa » Aug 25, 2009, 12:43 am

Some information: The roaster I am looking at can assumedly roast up to 300g of beans, with a minimum roasting time in the case of a 250g batch of 7 ~ 8 minutes. A sample handle has been recently added to the machine. Below you can find the diagram of the machine and some photos. These photos were sent to me by the contact person, Mr. Molly Yen.

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Notes: 62 is the metallic blower fan, 67 is the chaff collector bin, 84 is the amperage of the heating element which is controlled by one of the knobs, where the other knob is used to control the airflow.
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User avatar
another_jim
Team HB

#3: Post by another_jim » Aug 25, 2009, 1:41 am

It's a beautiful looking machine. It also looks like it has air circulation, not just air flow (?) And it certainly is well instrumented for manual control; the amperage read out and control is the equivalent of a flow meter and gas valve on a commercial roaster. Is the thermometer a bean or environmental probe? Given that it has a tryer, an environmental probe may be more useful.

However, as usual, you are the beta-tester whenever you buy a new machine on the market. So if you do decide to take it, it may be worth making sure you have good access to service and technical support.
Jim Schulman

User avatar
coffee.me

#4: Post by coffee.me » Aug 25, 2009, 2:01 am

Do you actually home roast on regular basis? I mean, why not stick to one of the methods you tried and work on it till you perfect your roast?

As much as I'd love for you to test the Quest M3 for us, I believe the above question is important. Also:

HT-B: tested, trusted, has been around for a while.
Q-M3: new, shiny, attractive and has a tryer.

HT-B: hands-on AND/OR automatic saved profile; your current perception is not accurate.
Q-M3: nothing automatic, your hands on the dials(gets old after a while, maybe not repeatable too?).

HT-B: dump & cool, automatically, beep, done.
Q-M3: dump, move that box on top of the fan, stir, stir, stir. . . no?

There are a few more things I noticed; but without hands-on experience with the Quest M3, I'll stop here and suggest that you go and seriously reevaluate your assessment of the HT-B; but more importantly, evaluate why you think you want to buy a new roaster.

User avatar
coffee.me

#5: Post by coffee.me » Aug 25, 2009, 3:01 am

another_jim wrote:It's a beautiful looking machine.
Sure is, not only visually, but also: the front bearing, the tryer, the (possible) air circulation, chaf suction during roast and it looks like you could insulate the whole drum easily too. Very tempting.
another_jim wrote:. . . looks like it has air circulation, not just air flow (?)
Good eyes, very good eyes. Where's Arpi to confirm?
another_jim wrote:Is the thermometer a bean or environmental probe?
I've seen pics of two versions online. The one with a tryer has the probe a bit higher, so more of an ET probe. But there's another version where the probe is lower, looks like it's in the bean mass.

User avatar
Arpi

#6: Post by Arpi » Aug 25, 2009, 6:26 am

Hi fellows

The air circulation is controllable and works by using vacuum (I think! jeje I haven't put my hand to try it yet). There are three electric motors. One (main) for turning the drum, one for the vacuum and one (exterior) to cool the other two motors. The path of the vacuum is:

electric motor < filter mesh basket (collects chaff) < handle (transfers sucction to the other side of the roaster) < chimney with trap door < drum

The recommended setting while roasting is 5 (somewhere is the middle/low of the power setting). It cleans chaff as well as cools a little. It helps to keep the roaster very clean. It can be use to 'apply the breaks' to heating (cool the drum fast). The other function of the vacuum fan is to cool the beans by putting them on a box and cranking the power all the way up. No need to stir but I guess stiring helps.

Before I got the roaster, I considered the possibility of upgrading it with a PID (fugi fxg4). Don't know why, things of my imagination. Since this roaster was very simple, it was a good candidate for a possible imagined upgrade. Now that I have it, I have found out that I have many many things to learn before I let a pid do things for me. Roasting is not that easy. This roaster is very controllable but that means a steeper learning curve (more dedication and less automatic operation). I am planning on using a roast log and go from there.

hope that helps. Cheers

akallio

#7: Post by akallio » Aug 25, 2009, 7:40 am

So air gets sucked from the drum through the long handle on top. Does the electric motor blow air out or back to the drum? From the diagram at the CoffeeGeek thread it looks like that air is blown out, instead of circulating it back?

User avatar
orwa

#8: Post by orwa » Aug 25, 2009, 1:17 pm

Two days back, I sent an E-Mail message asking Mr. Molly Yen a number of questions, and he replied today. I asked him for an illustration of how the hot air flows through the roaster, and whether the tube connecting the beans feeding funnel and the box-shaped part of the machine had a functional role or was only structural. I think that the diagrams he sent to me answer these questions.
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The roaster can circulate hot air through that tube, but what does that mean? What is the effect of being able to circulate hot air rather than to inject new hot air? does it help for example conserve the water content of the bean through roasting for example?
coffee.me wrote:Do you actually home roast on regular basis? I mean, why not stick to one of the methods you tried and work on it till you perfect your roast?
Living in Saudi Arabia, I have no other way to obtain good beans than to roast by myself, therefore, the only thing that prevents me from roasting on a regular basis at the time being is the fact that roasting is tedious unless you have a dedicated roasting equipment. For example, controlling the chaff tornado has been always a major concern in our kitchen, especially that the coffees I usually roast using these methods are rich with chaff. I think that I have enough roasting experience using these methods to be able to associate most of the principal roasting effects with the roasting practices contributing to these results. Most of the time, I feel restricted by the inherent limitations of these methods, which is why I think I may have deserved a roaster.
coffee.me wrote:HT-B: tested, trusted, has been around for a while.
Q-M3: new, shiny, attractive and has a tryer.

HT-B: hands-on AND/OR automatic saved profile; your current perception is not accurate.
Q-M3: nothing automatic, your hands on the dials(gets old after a while, maybe not repeatable too?).
I understand, but still to me I feel safer with the Quest M3 than with the HotTop. The reason is that with either machine I am living overseas with no possibility whatsoever of having any local support, even the HotTop manufacturers told me that it wasn't practical to ship the machine for maintenance; they said that they would send the parts in case something went wrong and that the parts were easy enough to replace. So, I don't feel that the M3 roaster is any different in this regard, except for my unverified impression that it's of more basic design, and uses parts that are easier to find or find alternatives for. Furthermore, considering my mentality in roasting, I am not the sort of person who is looking for any automation. I have always sat in front of the oven for the whole 30+ minutes it takes to roast. One of my major goals from buying a roaster is to gain more knowledge on roasting, which can only happen if I dedicated myself to controlling the process manually and examining the results afterwards.
coffee.me wrote:HT-B: dump & cool, automatically, beep, done.
Q-M3: dump, move that box on top of the fan, stir, stir, stir. . . no?
I am counting on the fan to cool the beans. I am unsure as to how effective this system of cooling the beans is.

User avatar
coffee.me

#9: Post by coffee.me » Aug 25, 2009, 2:27 pm

Well, Orwa, you seem quite bent on going for this baby, can't blame you, it's quite tempting!

If you don't mind me asking, how much will it cost shipped to you and how long the shipping will take?

Before you go for it, how about you check with them if they'll give you the same assurances you got from Hottop about replacement parts, etc? Next, you'll want some good, cupped, greens; then alot of reading so you don't repeat those 30-mins roasts ;-) .

Last but not least, yes, such a device should make learning easier and maybe faster BUT an air popper is the standard home roaster; well, at least modified ones. . . .can't you give these a go first? AFAIK, people have come up with mods for the chaf problem, insulation, manual fan & heater controls and even a PID. . . .no, no, just go for the Quest M3 and report back :lol: .

User avatar
orwa

#10: Post by orwa » Aug 25, 2009, 3:22 pm

The price is $880 and the shipping cost is $90 to Saudi Arabia, which takes 3 to 4 days to arrive.

Of course, I would make sure to have the same assurances I had in the case of the HotTop in case I went in that direction, however, I did not yet reach the point where I would start asking about such details. This is a month of fasting in my place, and after it comes the festivity occasion at which I intend to "receive" it as a gift, therefore, I have some more time to think about the purchase. Furthermore, I need this time to secure at least half of the amount.

I am eager to get some good greens too, which I intend to buy from sweetmarias.com (they provide reasonably-priced international shipping for green coffee). I already bought some green beans from Nicaragua, Mexico, Nepal and Yemen from a local roaster, and I intend to buy some more. Regarding my 30-minute roasts, I don't know how it happens but I am sure that I get some good, charcoal-free roasts this way. Every roasting environment has its own peculiarities and maybe what applies for an air roaster doesn't apply for a confined, advanced electric oven with digital control. By the way, I had a 40 minute roast once that was light yet soft and tasting like caramel. The beans were Ethiopian and elongated, and I still preserve in my brain cells how the coffee smelled when it was ground. It was one of the few times I used my grandmas fancy electric oven for roasting.

This popcorn popper modification issue has been delaying me for months now. The issue is that I couldn't find a popper with an AC motor and hence there has been always the dilemma of finding a reasonably-sized, reasonably-priced 12VDC supply that could provide 3 or 4 amps of current. Recently I came up with the idea of using a switching power supply from a laptop charger which are very efficient compared to linear transformers and could provide the needed current. However, soon I needed to control the power of the element, did not want to buy a dimmer, started designing a circuit for that purpose, got busy, etc. One thing leads to another and given my overwhelming desire to do things perfectly well, I recently realised that I will think and think and think, but will never start actually doing it :D.