Best Ambitious Beginner Roaster Recommendations

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

#1: Post by freemanator »

Hi Guys, I have recently decided to step up my coffee game some more, and want to add home roasting into the equation.

My desire to do this is driven by a number of factors:
  1. Interest and hobby, so to enjoy a process
  2. Drink great coffee, so I want to be able to be good
  3. Reduce the high cost of good quality coffee, by buying green
Feel free to chime in if any of these seem dumb, I am aware that the machine cost will take a long time to amortize off against the cheaper bean cost, but I just feel different about one off buys versus ongoing ones.

Priorities
Doing some research into the process and also my and my families needs and desires, I have come to a list of desires:
  • Electric powered - as ease of use is desirable
  • Drum based, versus fluid bed - as it seems the preferred choice for quality
  • Capacity - Small, but not very small. Happy to run multiple times a week, and we currently don't drink loads of coffee, although I could see that changing. So 100g minimum, and no need for more than 250g
  • Control - I would like good control over the process, either digitally, or manually, but repeatable
  • Coffee style - Currently drinking mainly cafitierre (aka French Press) or Aeropress or Pour over where I prefer a lighter roast with more nuance, but wanting to make Espresso too.
  • Customisation - Would be very up for having something that can be modded and customized over time by a competent DIYer
  • Size/Appearance - Either small, or reasonable looking or both - My wife will appreciate not putting an ugly box in the kitchen
  • Usage location - Outside is fine, but keeping indoor, or just outside the backdoor would be nice
  • Budget - Ideally I'd like to minimise the spend to the £200-300 mark, but am open to going higher if I can be convinced the quality is worth it.
    But would imagine £800 or so would be a pretty hard limit
  • Location - I am happy to import, although reduced cost/time to acquire would be nice
This is what led me to the Ambitious Beginner summary, as I am not interested in just getting started with a popcorn machine, and would like something I can use now and grow with, and unless I start to go nuts with the process, won't feel a desire to upgrade for a while.

Machines
To that end I've been doing some looking into what machine to buy, and hence I wanted to talk through some of the options I've found and solicit some up to date advice, as I've struggled to find recent posts on some of the options here on the forum, especially from a comparative standpoint.
Does anyone have any advice on the machines I suggested, or any other ones to consider? Or any good guides to read on the subject?

User avatar
happycat

#2: Post by happycat »

Bear in mind the weight loss during roasting. 15% or more.

If you roast 100, get 85 out, you won't even get three 30g-500ml brews out of it.

Roasting requires setup, examining beans, preheat, cool down, etc. Doing that frequently will start to not be fun, particularly with small batches. You might find yourself continually behind. It also means that you won't have enough coffee to really get to know a roast before you have to do anoher one.

I'd actually suggest roasting by hand for a bit to get a sense of the process and yield. Ethiopians have been roasting with a tiny metal pan for ages. A stainless skillet will do the trick too.

I started with a popcorn popper for maybe six months or so. That convinced me that it was worth doing for me, and I was willing to buy a Quest.

I'd also caution about any product that has overly simplistic controls (presets and oush buttons) or ties you into an ecosystem they control. Control is everything with coffee roasting.
LMWDP #603

Flair Espresso: handcrafted espresso. cafe-quality shots, anytime, anywhere
Sponsored by Flair Espresso
sfdamon

#3: Post by sfdamon »

I learned on a FreshRoast (100 grams, fluidbed, $150) for about a year before upgrading to a Bullet (1000 grams, drum, $3000). I feel that was a great way to start because the FR is low commitment on time and money. It's smaller than a drink mixer and you can use it indoors if your kitchen has good ventilation. No maintenance. You can see, hear, and smell the beans, so very easy to learn the different phases of roasting. It's kind of loud. I did about 200 roasts on the FreshRoast before upgrading.

I really like the Bullet. Bullet has temperature probes and software with graphs and recipe playback features. It has excellent consistency and repeatability but it took me a while to learn the machine. It's too big for my kitchen counter, so I put it on a cart and roast just outside my garage. Every 10 roasts or so I open it up and clean it out, about 30 minutes of maintenance.

I gave my FreshRoast to a friend, also an "ambitious beginner" type. She's been roasting with it every weekend for two years now.

Nunas
Supporter ♡

#4: Post by Nunas »

I agree with David and Damon; an air roaster is great for learning how to roast. I still have my venerable FreshRoast SR500, which is what I use if anyone wants a demo of how to roast. As for something more permanent, to me, apart from your budget, your description of needs and wants matches a Quest very closely. I have an M6, which easily does a pound at a time. I had an M3 which easily did a half-pound at a time.

coffee home rost

#5: Post by coffee home rost »

I think it is necessary to get good coffee that the roaster machine has the following specifications:
- Temperature control.
- Air flow control.
- Drum speed control.
- Three temperature sensors for the coffee bean, as well as for in air temperature and exhaust air temperature .
- Responsiveness .
- Double Wall Drum if it works on gas.
- The possibility of linking it to the program Artisan and Cropster.

freemanator (original poster)

#6: Post by freemanator (original poster) »

happycat wrote:Bear in mind the weight loss during roasting. 15% or more.

If you roast 100, get 85 out, you won't even get three 30g-500ml brews out of it.

Roasting requires setup, examining beans, preheat, cool down, etc. Doing that frequently will start to not be fun, particularly with small batches. You might find yourself continually behind. It also means that you won't have enough coffee to really get to know a roast before you have to do anoher one.

I'd actually suggest roasting by hand for a bit to get a sense of the process and yield. Ethiopians have been roasting with a tiny metal pan for ages. A stainless skillet will do the trick too.

I started with a popcorn popper for maybe six months or so. That convinced me that it was worth doing for me, and I was willing to buy a Quest.

I'd also caution about any product that has overly simplistic controls (presets and oush buttons) or ties you into an ecosystem they control. Control is everything with coffee roasting.
Thanks this is helpful Happy cat, and I can see echoed below.

Have also been hearing good things about the Hive, and like the idea of something I can connect up and get some data logging from, but as you said a manual hands on process where you can see, and smell the beans.

freemanator (original poster)

#7: Post by freemanator (original poster) »

sfdamon wrote:I learned on a FreshRoast (100 grams, fluidbed, $150) for about a year before upgrading to a Bullet (1000 grams, drum, $3000). I feel that was a great way to start because the FR is low commitment on time and money. It's smaller than a drink mixer and you can use it indoors if your kitchen has good ventilation. No maintenance. You can see, hear, and smell the beans, so very easy to learn the different phases of roasting. It's kind of loud. I did about 200 roasts on the FreshRoast before upgrading.

I really like the Bullet. Bullet has temperature probes and software with graphs and recipe playback features. It has excellent consistency and repeatability but it took me a while to learn the machine. It's too big for my kitchen counter, so I put it on a cart and roast just outside my garage. Every 10 roasts or so I open it up and clean it out, about 30 minutes of maintenance.

I gave my FreshRoast to a friend, also an "ambitious beginner" type. She's been roasting with it every weekend for two years now.
Thanks SFDamon and Nucas. Do you know if there is a 220/240v Freshroast, or an alternative that would work in the UK?

Coming round to the idea of a smaller investment initially, and then splurging later.

Decent Espresso: espresso equipment for serious baristas
Sponsored by Decent Espresso
Nunas
Supporter ♡

#8: Post by Nunas »

Alas, the SR roasters are only made for 120-volts. For some reason unknown to me, they are said to not work well via a transformer. You might want to look here IMEX CR-100 roaster I understand that some UK vendors recommend this one to folks who come in seeking a FreshRoast. I don't know anything about them, so can't comment on suitability beyond what I've heard. There must be some other folks here on H-B in 220-Volt land who could recommend something similar to the FreshRoast

User avatar
happycat

#9: Post by happycat »

freemanator wrote:Thanks this is helpful Happy cat, and I can see echoed below.

Have also been hearing good things about the Hive, and like the idea of something I can connect up and get some data logging from, but as you said a manual hands on process where you can see, and smell the beans.
Don't get me wrong... I have a thermocouple and PID control setup on my Quest. I did the mods myself, so the roasting info is there for me to use and react to or program as I please with no restrictions or software limitations.

Contrast that with the comments on the site for one of the products you listed.
LMWDP #603

freemanator (original poster)

#10: Post by freemanator (original poster) »

coffee home rost wrote:I think it is necessary to get good coffee that the roaster machine has the following specifications:
- Temperature control.
- Air flow control.
- Drum speed control.
- Three temperature sensors for the coffee bean, as well as for in air temperature and exhaust air temperature .
- Responsiveness .
- Double Wall Drum if it works on gas.
- The possibility of linking it to the program Artisan and Cropster.
Yes, this sounds like a great list. What machines can satisfy this, and at what price points?

I'm happy to mod in extra sensors if possible.