I am really glad I decided to go to this presentation. I had it in the back of my mind to swing by, since I was in the East Bay already, to play with another roaster (CoffeeTech FZ-94) at Berkeley Co-Roast, earlier in the morning. But the Bullet and Tom Owen's presentation left a much greater impression on me.
The presentation went for a good 90 minutes. There was three profiles of the same coffee to sample, and a nice Q&A.
The inventor Jonas Lillie was on hand to highlight a few features of the Bullet and answer questions. There was a good sized crowd, probably 35 people in their cupping/training room. A quick head count showed that at least 7 or 8 people in the group had already bought the Bullet in the past. Interestingly, there was unanimous praise for the roaster and it's output. I learned a lot about it's build and components. I had falsely assumed (rather ignorantly) that the Bullet R1 was something akin to a fancier Hottop roaster, but it's much, much more. And it's very easy to disassemble and clean and service, if need be.
Jonas is showing the control board, which is mounted to a large heat sync, on the backside of the induction element.
The induction coil effectively heats the entire drum evenly. Apparently when it first came out, and the doubters didn't believe it was capable of what it claimed, Jonas set up 1 full kilo batches that roasted in 12 minutes. He then repeated it again, twice more, to show that it is indeed capable. The roaster uses less energy than even my little Quest M3. Tom has roasted over 150 sample batches on their unit at Sweet Maria's and other than cleaning the chaff traps and filters, it chugs along just fine. I value Tom's input and opinion on things quite a lot, and even though he stressed that he wasn't "in sales pitch mode" he wanted to convey how much he liked the product the Bullet put out.
Tom spent more time talking about the general function and what he liked about the roaster and how early adopters had issues that needed fixing due to clumsy damage from delivery handlers, but out of 150 units they've sold so far, they've only had issues with about 4 of them, all apparently fixed and the problems had arisen from poor handling during shipping. Tom compared the Bullet quite favorably to many of the other professional roasters he's used and sells. The responsiveness of the induction heat transfer is allegedly even faster than gas.
It's nice to see that the Bullet heats up within 10 minutes. The FZ-94 I played with earlier in the morning still hadn't hit it's pre-heat temp goal of 375° F after 50 minutes of warmup. Both the FZ-94 and the Bullet are nice and quiet however.
They had beautiful little coffee plants dotted around the shop, so I wanted to capture a shot of Tom with one in the backdrop.
Showing the internals a bit, the vanes and supports of the drum, here's Julio who does all the production roasting for Sweet Maria's and is the roastmaster of sorts, for the Aillio Bullet. The drum thickness is nice, and it has a small amount of insulation to help retain the heat. All the parts that need to be serviced are quickly accessible with simple tools.
Not a very heavy roaster! Tom sat there holding the thing for almost 5 straight minutes.
Tom stressed his level of satisfaction with how the roaster is capable of roasting fully developed coffees, but still looking so "light" in appearance. He'd had Wile of Heart Coffee in house a few days prior and spoke of a conversation they each had, admiring that the Bullet is capable of making roasts turn out that have tight seams and not "puffed up" like cheap air roasters of previous eras that could potentially strip more of the aromatics away from the bean as they outgassed. There was some funny back and forth chatter about some general roasting theory concepts and a few times Tom alluded to the fact that we often as roasters hold tighter to our subjective experiences and profess them to be scientifically valid, when they really aren't. But in general, he really liked the way the Bullet made coffees taste. He had a few different profiles on display and was focused on detailing how nicely tight the seams were and that for any denser, high-grown coffee, this was an impressive feat, since they didn't show any signs of rawness in the centers at this light of a roast.
The latest version of the Bullet will now come with a much better IR probe, that doesn't require cleaning at all, and is positioned even "better" for monitoring the temp of the beans while they roast. The data can be transferred easily in live-time to a laptop for monitoring and recording, but if a user wants to, they can roast by only using the keypad, and later transfer all data to a computer. Both Mac and PC support are up and running, but the Mac interface is apparently finally getting earlier wrinkles ironed out. For earlier adopters of the Bullet, a replaceable IR probe is going to be available to be swapped in, for a nominal fee, something like $50 or so. Jonas stressed that he's not in the market to sell expensive parts to customers. Also, the built-in roasting software will communicate with Aillio so that troubleshooting can be done remotely.
The sightglass is nicely sized, showing off the beans well. The light is useful and helps keep a consistent light on them regardless of ambient lighting. They're also super cheap and commonly found on Amazon should one get damaged or misplaced. The tryer only samples a few beans, but no coffee spits out when pulling samples. The cooling tray does a good job of cooling the beans quickly enough as well. Even a full kilo will be cooled to room temp in under 3 minutes.
On the right side is one of the chaff traps, and it's shown in detail below, removed from the roaster.
The hamster wheel fan is much easier to access than on my Quest M3.
All in all, I was greatly impressed with this little guy. I wish I had paid it more attention in the past year. I will likely be buying one in the very near future. I need more capacity than my Quest, and I want more features, and faster response times.