I've been home roasting for almost 10 years now and over that time I've roasted on an iRoast, Gene Cafe, Behmor, and Huky 500. But it was not until I got the Huky with gas control, a consistent bean probe temp, and Artisan profiling that I felt like I could really control the roaster and get good results to suit a particular coffee. Over the past year I've been doing a lot more roasts for friends and neighbors and all that hands on experience has really improved my roasting.
The Huky is a fantastic little roaster, but in the process of doing six back-to-back batches at a time on it I also learned about some of its limitations as a roaster. First, while it's called a 500 gram roaster it does not really handle 500 gram batches well. I got my best results with batches of 300-350 grams and the most I could do and get decent results was 400 grams. The IR burner with a standard 11" WC regulator just doesn't put out enough heat to do quick enough roasts for these larger batch sizes. Second, it's not very user-friendly for doing back-to-back roasts. You need to take off the exhaust tube to charge it, clean the chaff collector between each roast to maintain adequate airflow, and it's a little challenging to vent externally - none of which are a huge deal when doing one or two batches, but become bigger issues when doing production roasting.
So a few months ago I started looking around to upgrade to a larger more professional roaster. I searched on local PDX Craigslist for used roasters and didn't see anything in a good size for home roasters with a 1 kg capacity. So eventually I realized I'd probably have to buy new. As I looked around it became apparent that there really aren't a whole lot of roasters in this size range. The most popular HB 1 kg roaster appears to be the North TJ-067. I've had the opportunity to see DrGary's TJ-067 in action and it's a little bigger than what I really wanted, which is not surprising since it can apparently roast up to 1.5 kg. The new TJ-066 is a nice looking 500 gram roaster which appears like it will address many of the Huky's limitations, but the drum size and capacity may not be much different than the Huky. Since I roast 340 gram batches to yield 285 grams to fill a 10 oz bag I was really looking for a roaster than can easily handle a 680 gram charge so I can roast two bags at once.
Finally, after looking for awhile I came across the new BC-600 from Buckeye Coffee in AZ. To be totally honest the Buckeye website is not the greatest and looks like it's straight out of the 1990s with a very cluttered design that is totally contrary to the minimalist design style popular nowadays. They also have a lot of video demos of their roasters complete with dramatic music and photo montages. My initial first impression based on the website and videos was not really favorable, but the BC-600 looked like it might be just the roaster I was looking for size and feature-wise so I decided to pick up the phone and call them to find out more. I spoke with Randy Harper the owner of the business and he was super helpful, very patient, and willing to answer all my questions about the roaster and their entire product line. Buckeye imports three different Chinese made roasters: (1) the Arizona line - which are very similar to the North roasters but have a few unique features (kind of like comparing a Lucca to a Quickmill espresso machine), (2) the Sedona line - which are made by Santoker (remember the Revolution 500 that was purchased by a bunch of HB users direct from China), and (3) the BC line (with sizes ranging from 300 grams all the way up to 18 pounds). Buckeye mostly sells 2 kg and up sized roasters to people looking to start a small roasting business, but has started to import some smaller roasters that would also be suitable for home roasters.
Buckeye only recently started carrying the BC-600s and so Randy was just getting familiar with it himself. I had a ton of questions I sent him via email and he always responded promptly with the information I requested. He also put together a few videos to show the roaster features and demonstrate it in action doing a small batch and a large batch. There was no pressure at all and he seemed genuinely interested in just helping me to figure out what would be the right roaster for me, even if it is not one that he sells (as he recommended I check out Mill City Roasters and spoke highly of them as a company). As a result the initial impression I had of Buckeye based on the website completely changed and I came to the view that Randy is a very credible guy to deal with who just lacks web design skills, but is just trying to provide his customers with as much info as possible - as the old adage says you definitely can't judge a book by its cover. As a result I began to appreciate the website and videos for their kitsch (and unintentional humor due to spelling errors such as "new shatless design" instead of "shaftless").
Based on the specifications the BC-600 appeared to meet my needs with effectively double the capacity of the Huky and it looked like it would also address all of the Huky limitations in doing production roasts as it has all the features of a larger professional roaster. So I decided to purchase one. Randy sent me a contract and a link to a portal to pay by credit card and within a few days my roaster was shipped via Pilot Freight Services on a lift truck. Randy sent a tracking number and I used Pilot's online system to schedule the delivery time. A few days later the driver arrived right on time and unloaded the pallet and crate and put it right in my garage for me.
Unpacking the roaster
The crate arrived in very good condition.
The roaster and crate together weighed almost 200 pounds. I removed the side panel from the crate and the roaster was packed very carefully with lots of bubble wrap and plastic wrap and was strapped down to the crate in about five places.
After removing all the strapping I was able to carefully remove the roaster. All together the net weight of the roaster is around 120 pounds. But the cooling tray and fan assembly is a separate piece which makes it a little easier to handle. I also ordered a 10 foot LPG line with a Marshall regulator that supplies 22" WC. After unpacking everything here is what I got.
Setting up the roaster
Since it is not as large and heavy as a 1 kg plus roaster it was possible to move it by myself, but just barely. It helped to remove the cyclone and I was able to lift it to put onto a 32" x 18" utility cart. One of the really attractive things about this roaster is its more compact footprint with the attached cyclone which makes it easy to keep everything on a single cart. These pictures show how it compares size wise to the Huky 500 - it is a much more substantial roaster than the Huky. To put it into perspective, it is about twice the weight of the North TJ-066 and it's smaller sister the BC-300, but is about a hundred pounds less than aTJ-067.
My initial impression is that the roaster looks very nice. The fit and finish seem to be a step up from the handmade Arizona and North roasters as the BC roasters are factory made. The construction is very solid as it's made of thick steel plate that appears to be powder coated. The overall design is well-integrated with a sensible layout of the controls. I particularly like the illuminated color coded buttons - green for power, red for heating, yellow for timing, and blue for cooling. Instead of using paint or stickers for the labels they have riveted on an etched piece of stainless.
I had already prepared the duct work before the roaster arrived which made the setup a lot easier. I had a 4" vent through my garage wall to which I added a wye that splits from one 4" duct to two 3" ducts so I could attach the hot air to one of these and the cooling tray to the other. The key thing, however, is to add a back draft damper to the cooling tray line so exhaust and smoke does not back up through the cooling tray. I attached the exhaust and cooling tray to the ducts using 3" semi-rigid ducting and hose clamps, which allows me a little movement of the roaster and cart and will make it easy to periodically check and clean the ducting.
Buckeye supplied a step up/down transformer to allow the 220V machine to be run off a 110V outlet, so I plugged in the transformer to the wall and the machine to the transformer. I connected the LPG line to the back of the roaster with some plumbing PTFE and connected the regulator to the tank.
The machine switched on just fine and everything worked as it should. The drum motor switched on, the PIDs were reading out the correct temp in F, both of the fans worked, and the electronic ignition fired it up right away. The machine comes with two probes and Japanese designed Omron E5CC PIDs , one for bean temp and one for exhaust temp. It has a USB port in the back and just uses a standard USB printer cable (supplied) to connect to your computer. In Artisan it uses the MODBUS setting and I set it up with the manufacturer's recommend settings. At first I could not get a temp readout in Artisan but after playing around with it I realized that I needed to install the correct FTDI driver (FT232R) used by the OMRON PIDs. Once I did that it read my temps in Artisan just fine.
Here are some specs for the roaster:
- Nominal capacity: 600 grams (but it will clearly handle more than this and I plan to discuss this in more detail in later posts)
- Dimensions (outermost): 19" wide by 29 1/2" high by 32" deep
- Weight: 120 pounds net
- Drum: 6 3/8" diameter x 6 3/4" deep, solid 11 gauge 304 stainless steel
- Drum motor: ADDKA with variable drum speed from 0 - 100 rpm
- Gas: LGP or natural gas with push button electronic ignition and auto shut off (based on high temp setting)
- Burners: 3 gas burners (compared to 2 for North TJ-066 and 4 for North TJ-067)
- PIDs: Two Omron E5CC with bean temp probe placed just above the door and the other in the hot air exhaust
- Cooling tray: Removable 12" wide by 2 1/2" deep, no stirring arms, separate cooling fan for 3" external ducting
- Cyclone: 25 1/2" high by 6" wide, mounts to roaster with 3" duct for external venting, dial to control fan speed, hinged door to empty chaff
- Hopper: Stainless steel, 9 3/4" wide by 5" high, with trap door lever (plenty big)
Though I've only had the roaster a few days, in true HB spirit, I've already done my first mod. I had my friend LDT (another Huky roaster) over to check it out. When I remarked that I wasn't thrilled with the trier handle he said, "Well that's no problem we can make a much nicer one this afternoon." And that's exactly what we did over at his house. I'm just super thrilled with the trier handle he made - a true craftsman!! A very easy and nice improvement over the stock handle.
I've only done about a half dozen roasts on it so far which have gone quite well, but I'm still getting comfortable with it and learning how to control it. So I plan to wait until after I've had a little more experience with it before I add a few additional posts about roasting with the BC-600. In the meantime, if anyone has any questions let me know.