BC-2 Purchase, Setup, and First Roasts

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

#1: Post by aabud »

Finally decided to bite the bullet and get a commercial roaster. Briefly considered a 500G Huky or similar Kaldi, but was afraid I'd always regret not getting something a little bigger and more polished. Couldn't decide between a Mill City Sample Roaster or a Buckeye BC-2. Eventually the BC-2 won out - I liked the control layout better, liked the manual damper, didn't want a double wall drum, it seemed a little cheaper, and there was one available.

I exchanged a few emails and eventually talked with them (BC Roasters in Arizona) on the phone to confirm a few things. The purchase process was easy, online credit card, and then they sent me a sales contract to fill out and sign. In a couple of days then sent me pix and videos of my roaster as they tested it and ran a couple of seasoning roasts with it. A few days later I received a shipment confirmation - a 250lb wooden crate.

Delivery was easy, if not a bit casual. When you check your tracking number with Pilot, their website tries to get you to schedule delivery, but only gives you times that are a month out, so I just left it unscheduled.. They aren't reachable by phone (infinite hold). The day after it arrived in the area, I saw on the tracking where they had scheduled a delivery for a few days into the future. That day worked for me, so I let it ride and they called for the first time when they were sitting in my driveway. The driver had some little fork lift type thing and it was super easy for him to pop the crate out of the truck and wheel it next to my garage.

Where I roast is in an outbuilding a couple hundred yards from my driveway. The crate was heavy, but not so heavy I couldn't creatively lever it up onto a cart to get it cross-country. With two stout people, it would have been easy to just pick up and place it wherever.

Here's a pics of how it was packed:

I wanted a "portable" setup, that I could transport (we have many local festivals here) if I wanted. So I opted to put it on a "workmate" type stand. I'll use another similar type stand next to it as a work table (PC, clipboard, beans, bean bags, etc.) It was heavy to lift out of the crate and set up on that stand. Again, for two people it would have been easy.

Unpacking and assembly was quick and easy. I'd say under an hour. Getting the crate open might have been the most challenging part. I ran into two issues:

1) I couldn't get it to light. No gas was getting through to the burner, which made me suspect my tank connection. It was Sunday night and I thought I'd email BC Roasters, so they'd see it first thing Monday. They actually got back to me with a few emails that night - super service. Turned out my issue was because I had not set the 220 to 110 convertor to "110 input". I had checked that earlier during setup, but didn't see the "white on light orange" lettering that would have let me know it was set wrong. They have a ton of documentation and help on their website, but it's a bit of a hot mess, and I eventually I figured out I needed to "register" to get access to things like a manual for the roaster, etc. I had been using the "quick start" guide they emailed me up to this point.

2) Artisan drivers. BC Roasters directs you to the company that makes the component inside the roaster to get the USB drivers you need. Problem is, when you get to that website, there's a bunch of different drivers to choose from without any real guidance as to which choice you should make. After I tried a few drivers with no success, I figured out the difference seems to be which OS they support, and when I matched that up to the Windows 8 that was on the old laptop I was using... success. Changing the OMRON gauges and Artisan over to Celsius was pretty straightforward also.

I did the "match 1cm in front of the trier" airflow test and settled on an damper setting of 2.5. There's a variable speed fan, but I was advised to leave that at 100% and use the damper. In practice, I only open the damper up to cool down the machine when I'm done roasting, but otherwise I just leave it on 2.5. Maybe someday I'll get skilled enough to start monkeying with airflow.

Watched a few videos of people roasting on the BC-2 to get a ballpark idea of where to start for soak, heat settings, etc. I probably went though 5 pounds of old beans, doing a mixture of experiments with batch sizes of 200g to 450g to get the hang of things. I then worked out some 1lb light roasts and was real happy with how they turned out. Here's the last one I did:

I'm really happy with the BC-2. The controls are nice and have a quality feel, and the workflow is natural. Some things I'd like to mod:

- I had a servo on the gas knob on my little Kaldi so I could control gas from the PC and I miss that.
- The cooling tray doesn't spin very easily when you dump (no rotating arm), so would be nice for that to be smoother. Minor issue.

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#2: Post by hankua »

Congratulations on the new machine, the good part is it should last a very long time which makes the purchase over time more reasonable. Not sure if your using the damper or air pressure gauge to set up the roasting air, using the gauge can be easier depending on what range it was supplied with and if there are restrictions or back pressure in the ducting.

Was the cooling tray designed to rotate or be stationary? If it's just metal on metal, maybe some teflon u-strips or something similar might work.

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#3: Post by aabud (original poster) »

I bought the nice airflow gauge because it was that much more (compared to the over price), but aren't really using it - I'm just using the numbers marked on the damper itself. At 2.5 on the damper dial, I get a nice 66 degree or so bend in a flame 1cm from the trier, so that's where I started doing my tests at. That doesn't even register on my mag airflow gauge - I have to open the damper up to maybe 3 or 4before the needle goes above zero on the mag gauge.

What BC Roasters said was that don't care for cooling arms on the smaller roasters because it tends to knock the beans overboard, so they just prefer to "spin" the tray a bit as the beans tumble out. It's just a metal tray sitting in a metal ring, so not surprising there's some catching and friction. I might try some pencil lead or something and see if it's just a specific spot that needs to be smoothed a bit, or if it's just friction all the way around. It's not a big deal at all as I can also just push the bean around with my hand also. I don't think I would like the rotating arms, either in something this small. I really like being able to just pick up the tray of cooled beans out of the base. I need to work on a technique for dumping the beans out of the tray into the bag - maybe a funnel popcorn scooper or something like that. Maybe I should just pop off the charge funnel up top and use that to pour in to?

Speaking of the charge funnel... I've had a couple of sort of funny mishaps with that as I've never had a roaster with one (usually I have to pour the beans directly into the drum, the return to the heat source. I kept forgetting to close the chute after I charged and didn't notice it until I started to do the next batch and was surprised when I loaded the hopper when the beans immediate went straight into the drum, and then straight out into the cooling tray because I also had forgotten to close the sight glass door also.

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#4: Post by aabud (original poster) »

My two oldest kids are both into coffee and live in big cities with lots of great roasters. But they still like getting coffee in the mail from dad. I shared with them my roaster arriving, figuring they'd appreciate it. Nah.. they just wanted to bust my balls...

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#5: Post by beanman »

Congrats on the BC-2!
I've had mine since early February and really like it (but have nothing else to compare it to).
I built a checklist to ensure I don't miss steps like closing the charge door, check drum speed, damper setting, etc.
I have the air flow gauge also, and don't pay attention to it. I did the cigarette lighter test also, and use 3 on the damper and do not change it during a roast.
I've been doing 600 grams of greens, and will eventually try other size batches.
Thanks for the info about obtaining the full roaster manual by registering online. Like you, I have been using the quick start guide.
Looking forward to hearing more about your roaster.

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#6: Post by hankua »

All the mishaps are funny with a small roaster, who honestly can say they never left a door open or forgot to close one?

The range on the air pressure gauge is too high it it doesn't work with the lower damper settings. The 0-0.25"wc or 60pa magnehelic gauge is a good place to start, and I get them used on Ebay. You really don't need to know what the pressure is wide open, just on the low to medium range.

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#7: Post by aabud (original poster) »

Good point hankua on the lower end vs upper end importance.

This gauge is a 2000-30pa, which I believe means 0 to 30 pascals or 0 to .12 WC, so seems like the range should be ok for lower end, unless I've got my units messed up (possible).

I googled up a manual on the gauge itself and the installation instructions say to zeroing it after installation (which wasn't mentioned in the instructions I used from BC roasters on hooking it up). A feature of this gauge is that the zero set screw is accessible on the front without taking anything apart, so looks easy. Your supposed to have both low and high pressure ports open when you zero it though, so I'll have to pull the air line, and unscrew the plug from the high side. I wonder if that's the issue, as the needle just lays against the stop until I open up the damper to 3 (out of 10). Once the needle gets up off the stop, it's very responsive to changes on the damper wheel. Doesn't look like there's any harm in trying to zero it out as per the instructions.

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#8: Post by aabud (original poster) »

Yep, zeroing the gauge worked. Now it reads 0 when the machine is off. When I power it up, it reads 2-3pa with the damper closed (I assume because it's not a perfect seal, really), and when the damper is set at 2.5 where I normally roast, the gauge reads 8pa. As it goes to 30, that seams like that's a good range.

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#9: Post by mkane »

One of these days I'll get one of those gauges. As of now we try and leave air alone.

OP, have you tried any convection tests to find a setting where beans reach 1C the fastest?

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#10: Post by aabud (original poster) » replying to mkane »

No, but that might be interesting. What's the protocol/procedure... identical roasts with different damper settings?