First Look: Craftsmith Roasters Craft 04

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

#1: Post by TitoM »

Craftsmith Roasters is a relatively new manufacturer from Taiwan. This post is a "first look" experience with their (400g) Craft 04 roaster. As of this writing, I've roasted less than ten batches on it and plan to follow-up after I've gained sufficient experience.



Upgrade. I've used a Huky 500 around 10 years and haven't posted in HB for some time. Five years ago, we moved from NYC to NJ and since then have been roasting in an "unfinished" garage. I've logged close to 700 batches on the Huky and this year decided to upgrade for a couple reasons: it isn't enjoyable roasting in the garage (too cold during winter, too hot during summer), and the perforated drum in this Huky makes it too smoky for indoor use. I've stopped hooking up a PC for Artisan years ago, and have been doing mostly the same profile as I only drink espressos, and roasting has ceased to be a fun activity.

Evaluation. The initial plan was to replace the Huky with the Arc 600 as Crop To Cup / Showroom Coffee is just an hour+ drive away. Speaking with their rep, they had a unit available for pickup but I was still negotiating with my wife to locate the roaster in her pottery studio. That conversation didn't go too far even if the location would've made venting easier. The main objection was that a relatively large footprint (24" x 36") table would affect her workflow. But she also agreed to a smaller footprint if I could wheel the roaster out of the way. This had me considering a different route with a larger roaster for the garage and the thought to fix it up. I called Randy of Buckeye Coffee Roasters who patiently answered my questions with the BC3.5. I know there's the BC2, or even the older BC1, but with the Huky I've fumbled its removable cooling tray more than once, causing a bias towards this feature. Meanwhile, I emailed a couple contractors for estimates but had no response. I understand summer is peak season and mine was a small project so it was back to square one.

Decision. I don't remember how I came across the Craftsmith brand, possibly through Facebook or Youtube, but seeing the Craft 04, I was drawn to its compact design that had the burner firing on one side, the electronics kept as far away from the burner and the cooling tray which lay under the drum. Quite honestly, coming from a Huky, any of the roasters mentioned would've been more than sufficient, so I'm not gonna say the Craft 04 is better, and instead shall call out where it's different. If these differences appeal to you, then perhaps that can turn into a buying decision, but in my case, I admit finding the Craft 04 very pretty and its design and smaller footprint was enough to convince me to contact the manufacturer.



Design. In the Craftsmith line, the Craft 04 is the only model with electronics that are opposite the burner, having the roasting drum between the two. The drum is available in two versions: perforated and solid. Since I wanted to roast indoors, I opted for the latter version. The electronics as you can see above has the bean temperature (BT) display above the exhaust temperature (ET) display and these have little icons etched into the front plate. The three switches are the power, fan and cooling arm switch and below that a potentiometer to control drum rotation speed. Unlike the Craft 12 or Craft 50 which places the cyclone chaff collector to its side, the Craft 04 has this at its rear and lets you control the air intake through the cooling tray via a manual damper, allowing shared use of the fan. Compared to the Huky where the ET probe can be considered more of an (maximum) "environmental" temperature measurement, the placement of the ET probe in the Craft 04 is higher on the throat where the hopper meets the drum. The larger ET probe is roughly 3.15mm whereas the BT probe is 1.6mm. Air flow from the roasting chamber to the cyclone is controlled by another manual damper. The only display gauge is its gas pressure gauge on the lower right and behind that is a motor that uses a chain-drive for the drum. The drum door is blocked from fully opening by a guard that funnels the roasted beans down towards the cooling tray, and a lever opens the chute of the cooling tray. For instrumentation, a USB port is located at the back of the electronics box. To collect chaff, there's a chaff tray under the drum / above the cooling tray and a spring loaded door to the main chaff collector.

Acquisition. From the initial email throughout acquisition and post-sales, the Craftsmith team has been fantastically responsive, taking and sharing pictures and videos to answer any questions. All email communications were in fluent English. Asking about a demo unit one was available so I purchased that at a discount. I paid via a bank transfer 6/29 and Craftsmith confirmed receipt of funds 6/30. Craftsmith disassembled and cleaned the unit and by 7/7 Craftsmith had been shipped two boxes via Fedex. A Fedex agent called me 7/9 and asked me to submit CBP form 5106, afterwards charging a total amount of $125 for importation duties. Both packages arrived different days with the latest one arriving 7/15. Bear in mind that while I received the roaster 17 days after paying for it, the actual lead time for Craft 04 can vary depending on whether they have a unit in stock.



Installation. There were two problems during installation: although it wasn't apparent from inspecting its box, one of the feet and part of the chassis holding it got bent from what appears to be an accidental drop; secondly, I discovered during installation that screw holding the impeller inside the fan assembly came loose. Luckily, removing the damaged footer, the roaster's stability isn't affected and the side it was on isn't the "presentation" side. For overseas customers, Craftsmith could crate the roaster, as they do with the Craft 12 and 50, but that would increase cost and slow down shipping for the Craft 04. An alternative is to remove the feet while shipping and use packaging material that can mold to the shape of the roaster (e.g. instapak). For the fan issue, when I figured the impeller wasn't turning and had dropped to the bottom of its housing, it was an easy fix. Craftsmith has an assembly video and my guess is that it took between 2 - 3 hours to assemble the roaster without any assistance. I exchanged numerous emails with the Craftsmith team over the next several days and always had quick responses and guidance.



Operation. The first two roasts were uneventful. Roasting indoors with the Craft 04 (and venting outdoors) the smell wasn't any worse than frying in our kitchen, so my wife agreed to keep the roaster in the kitchen instead of a "nook" behind the door in her studio as we originally planned. The roaster is also relatively quiet, using a SPL meter on my phone, it measured 57dB from 2 feet away. I vent the roaster and run the gas hose through a casement window as can be seen below. Craftsmith has a video of the Craft 04 alongside the Craft 12. If you've used a gas fueled drum roaster, I think you'll find it easy to learn the Craft 04.



Coming from the Huky where I use a variac to control the fan, e.g. setting the variac to 45V at 225F BT, then full 110V prior to drop, I decided to mod the fan and use a fan controller, instead of having the fan on full all the time and controlling air flow via the manual damper. The initial mod shown below proved to have too high voltage output (70V) at the low setting so I bought another controller which allowed adjusting an internal pot to get a low 45V.



This was a mistake! Keeping the fan off initially had me wondering why it was so difficult to start the burner and at some point, flames came out of the back of the burner cover, discoloring the paint. Coming from the Huky where the burner is directly under the drum, gas flow would naturally go upwards, fan or no fan. With a side-firing design like the Craft 04, however, air flow has to be pulling towards the drum to direct the gas properly. Again, the responses from Craftsmith team were immediate as they identified my problem and afterwards shipped a replacement burner cover to me at no cost. Having learned this lesson, ignition is now easy and consistent. I may revisit the fan mod in the future, perhaps in conjunction with installing a differential pressure/magnehelic gauge.



Impressions / Observations. After a decade of hobbyist-level roasting, I've become jaded and was on "auto-pilot" with the Huky. There was no pleasure in roasting in my garage environment, but I could target my preferred profile with a reasonable degree of consistency. Compared to the batch size I use with the Huky (1 lb/454g), the manufacturer recommended 400g for the Craft 04 at 2 kPa can finish a medium dark/Full City/440F within 12 min, as opposed to the 15-20min on the Huky (depending on external temperature conditions). I'm pretty sure the Craft 04 can do 1 lb/454g as its burners have more headroom, but I'm liking doing the smaller batch size as I now look forward to roasting! Surely, the indoor roasting experience is much more pleasurable with the Craft 04 but I'm also willing to be patient and go through a more natural learning curve, roasting 400g every 5-6 days.



Checking with Craftsmith more recently, the recommended gas pressure level is below 1 kPa, so I'll try that in my next roast. I did get a PDF user's manual at the time of purchase, although the page below is a newer addition.



Given the current Craft 04 is an initial version from a relatively new manufacturer, some issues can be expected. For example, a small number of beans would escape the drum door chute on drop. This could be remedied by having a wider cooling tray or slightly modifying the chute design. Another issue was with a peaberry blend on a pre-loaded the hopper that "choked" as I released its lever. I also would prefer the standard US gas-fitting on ranges/stoves, but since this was a demo unit, it came as-is with the current barbed fitting. The gas valve can also be a little tricky to control to get to the desired pressure level. And finally, while it would've increased the price, I prefer a manual dial damper to regulate exhaust air-flow to the Craft 04's sliding vent design. For me, none of these are significant issues and do not detract from my joy in using the roaster. Whether this sentiment shall hold after a few hundred roasts remains to be seen but, for now, I have no regrets and if I had to go through the decision process all over again but knowing what I know now, I would still make the same choice.



Next Steps. Instrumenting with Artisan is the next priority. Given the smaller footprint of the table, I'm thinking of mounting a 7" touchscreen+Raspberry Pi on top of the electronics module. Possible air flow mods may follow. All these may take several months as my day job keeps me busy enough. At the very least I plan on having at least a couple dozen roasts on the roaster before I add to current impressions.



Recommendations. So who shall enjoy the Craft 04 roaster? I think a hobbyist roaster who has a bit of DIY spirit and won't think twice about dismantling the roaster when necessary to maintain, troubleshoot or modify. It seems everything in the Craft 04 roaster is made easily accessible and the responsiveness and sensibility of the manufacturer eliminates any fear that an owner may have that they'll be left on their own. On the other hand, those with commercial roasting aspirations shall gravitate towards the larger Craft 12 or Craft 50 as another option to more familiar brands here in the US, keeping in mind that these roasters are not CE/UL certified. For those needs, it's best to check local code and consult with the manufacturer. Meanwhile, those who outgrow the Huky and want to make a baby-step up may also consider the Craftsmith DIY002 as another option.

Keep up the great work Alfred, Kenny, "Mr Designer" and Craftsmith team!

Thanks for reading!
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yakster
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#2: Post by yakster »

Nice, thorough review. Thanks for sharing.
-Chris

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TitoM (original poster)

#3: Post by TitoM (original poster) »

You're welcome yakster!
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TenLayers
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#4: Post by TenLayers »

It's a handsome unit as well. Congratulations.

TitoM (original poster)

#5: Post by TitoM (original poster) »

Thanks, TenLayers!

Storage nook--

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CarefreeBuzzBuzz

#6: Post by CarefreeBuzzBuzz »

I saw the import cost but did I miss the total cost of this purchase?
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TitoM (original poster)

#7: Post by TitoM (original poster) » replying to CarefreeBuzzBuzz »

Best to reach out to Craftsmith Roasters for the list prices, CarefreeBuzzBuzz, as mine is a discounted demo unit.
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Capuchin Monk

#8: Post by Capuchin Monk »

Thanks for the review.
TitoM wrote:Meanwhile, those who outgrow the Huky and want to make a baby-step up may also consider the Craftsmith DIY002 as another option.
Their entry level roaster is a bit pricey. :?

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hankua
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#9: Post by hankua »

Nice write up!
I've roasted on some of Craftsmith's earlier machines and met him on multiple occasions. He's a home roaster, inventor, and tinkerer; also has an interesting blog. There are several unique aspects to his new designs, one being the vertical layout and the other having a side burner. There are no small side burner roasters on the market I can think of, at least for hobbyists.

A magnehelic gauge will probably be enough to get the air flow adjusted where you like it and they could make a matching bracket. Otherwise a refit with a DC fan from Cam York would bolt up as that's the brand of blower he uses. Maybe because of the way heat is directed by airflow, just a few damper settings could be enough?

TitoM (original poster)

#10: Post by TitoM (original poster) »

Capuchin Monk wrote:Thanks for the review.
Their entry level roaster is a bit pricey. :?
You're welcome, Capuchin Monk. As for the DIY002, I think it's roughly the same price range as a current Huky, although without a stove.
hankua wrote:Nice write up!
I've roasted on some of Craftsmith's earlier machines and met him on multiple occasions. He's a home roaster, inventor, and tinkerer; also has an interesting blog. There are several unique aspects to his new designs, one being the vertical layout and the other having a side burner. There are no small side burner roasters on the market I can think of, at least for hobbyists.

A magnehelic gauge will probably be enough to get the air flow adjusted where you like it and they could make a matching bracket. Otherwise a refit with a DC fan from Cam York would bolt up as that's the brand of blower he uses. Maybe because of the way heat is directed by airflow, just a few damper settings could be enough?
Appreciate the kind words, Hankua. Indeed there's really no need for a fan mod and Craftsmith has a recommended manual damper setting as well, in my case I just got used to adjusting airflow using a variac on the Huky. As for mounting a magnehelic gauge, Craftsmith provided an extra fitting which would can be connected to the neck, and I'm thinking the gauge can be mounted on top of the burner cover via a small DIY bracket.

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