The Kaldi Fortis: A Complete Review

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

#1: Post by WilliamB »

There's another post about the Kaldi Fortis on this Forum, but I still feel as though it does not have enough exposure. There's just not enough information out there for people to view it as a feasible alternative to the Huky 500t, should its features be more appealing. So, my goal with this is to inform those who are curious on the Kaldi Fortis in very high detail, from buying options to ordering to shipping to unboxing and most importantly, to its use. I hope this is helpful, and if there's any questions you have by the end, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer you in the comments and update this main post.





Summary:
The Kaldi Fortis is a beautiful machine worthy of a spot by the Huky in the home roasting community. It's very well built, very functional, and roasts like a champ. It's capable of back to back roasts with very short turnaround time. It's very easy to control the air flow and the heat, allowing for precise roasting.

In many ways, I would say it's just a slightly larger Huky that's a little better built. I could be wrong, but I read that the Huky body is a little under 15 lbs. The Kaldi is closer to 35 lbs. The metal is thick and feels like it's going to be around longer than I will. The motor casing, duct work, and all-in-one cooler/chaff collector make it slightly more streamlined. There's little things about this roaster that impress me, like the little fan to cool off the motor, the ability to adjust how much flame is hitting the drum, the design of the fins in the drum, and how well everything is designed to fit together.



The Fortis really just doesn't struggle to roast all 600g of coffee at once. Of course, that's based on the burner, but I'll go over my setup there later. The beans cool very fast, the air flow is very easy to adjust, and I just feel like I really can control every aspect of the roast. I don't have enough time with it to speak on "what's it like a year later?", but I truly can't see this thing underperforming the Huky over time.
Let's jump in to some of the specifics. First, I'll walk y'all through some buying options, then just how the process worked out for me.

Buying Options: These are estimates, though they should be very close.

- Kaldi Fortis Body (Center 301), Home Built Cooler, Cajun Burner Setup - $1800-$1850.
The Kaldi Fortis (I got the solid drum) costs $1400-ish U.S. Shipping is going to run you almost $200 exactly when shipping to the U.S. For me, it was like $197. So, for $1600 you'll have the roaster body with a Center 301 on your front porch. The burner setup cost me like $110, and a homemade cooler will cost you anywhere from $100-$150, depending on how powerful of one you want. See the end of the post if you would like to know what my cooler design is.

- Kaldi Fortis Body, Kaldi Fortis Cooler, Cajun Burner Setup - $2150
So, I made a mistake. I went this route. I thought to myself, "I might as well get the cooler since I'm already spending this much money." I had all of the links for the stuff I would need to build a cooler myself, and it was $140. The cooler cost $280, so I just went with it. Shipping appeared to be $200 still, so I wasn't worried about it. All seemed good. I was looking at about $2000 price tag at this, which was more than I wanted to pay, but I chose that.

Then came the part that upset me. You should only order the Fortis through gMarket, as it's like $600 cheaper than ebay. Well, one thing I didn't know was that gMarket makes you pay the estimated price for shipping, and once it gets to the warehouse, they make you pay the actual remaining difference. The weight was supposed to be 19kg. Apparently, that's the weight of the roaster body without the cooler. I got an email from gMarket a couple days after the order saying that the weight with the cooler was actually 30.8 kg, making me pay an extra $115 to get it shipped here. So all of the sudden, I'm paying $300 more for the cooler than I would have if I just made it. I'm fairly handy, and the cooling box is a simple design. It would have been so much cheaper to go with a homemade cooling box.

I see that most people pay $1400-$1700 for the Huky, depending on what features you want. You should be paying like $1850 for the Kaldi, if you're willing to build a simple cooling box. For the sturdy build, slightly streamlined design, and the ability to have a roasted 1lb of coffee, that's an attractive pricepoint.

Buying and Unboxing:
I ordered the Fortis through gMarket. I made sure to get the solid drum model, as most Huky users seemed to prefer the solid drum (in use, they're the same machine). It came with just about everything I could need and then some. They even threw in a pound of coffee and little gloves. Now, it should be noted that the plugs are European, and while the cooler came with an American plug adapter, the body did not. I ended up cutting the plug and replacing with a cheap head from Walmart. It only cost me like $3 and took 5 minutes.

Do not miss this: If you buy the Center 301 model, it DOES NOT come with the cable to hook up to your computer. I ordered one off of Amazon that I thought would work, but it didn't. If you want, email Mr. Li who sells the Huky and ask for the cable. I personally expected it wouldn't work, and already wanted to get a Phidget 1048. I ordered one as soon as the cable didn't work and didn't look back. It works like a charm.

Now, when you order from gMarket, you really shouldn't look up reviews. gMarket is just like eBay in the sense that how "reliable" it is, is entirely seller based. The seller for the Kaldi Fortis has good reviews and after hours of scouring, I couldn't find a single negative thing about him. He packaged the item really well, and it was on its way to the gMarket warehouse the morning after I ordered it. The package was sent to the gMarket warehouse and sat there a few days before they emailed me about the additional shipping fee. After I paid, it took another two-ish days for them to send it to the airport. The process from the airport to the U.S. customs office took like a day and a half. It passed customs in like an hour and was on my porch 9 days after I ordered it. I was very impressed. It seems like the average time it takes is like 12 - 15 days, but it really depends.

The Fortis was very well packaged. The cardboard was thick, there was Styrofoam everywhere, and there wasn't even a hint of damage, even though the box looked a bit worse for wear. Everything worked like it was supposed to. I'm still thankful I have the Center 301 in case I'm ever wanting to roast on the go and not use my computer.

Roaster Details:
This roaster is well built. The metal is all thick, the welds seem decently strong, and it's a good-looking machine. Aesthetically, I like the Huky better. The all stainless-steel look of the Huky is incredible, but the Kaldi definitely has a charm of its own.

For those of us who haven't had a roaster like the Hottop, Quest or Huky, this thing is relatively small. It's not actually small, but relatively. The size is comfortable and can stow away in the corned or a garage or closet without too much need of moving things around. Granted, the Fortis is heavier in hand than I gave it credit for. The body weighs ~35 lbs, and the cooler weighs 18 lbs. It's not necessarily cumbersome, but it's all metal.

The drum of the roaster is impressive, with its two layers of fins. The back is well perforated, and I think the drum is decently thick, though I haven't taken it apart to see the thickness. There's more than enough bean agitation for the ~70 rpm motor.





When you turn it on, it's really quiet. The loudest thing by far is the sound of beans tumbling around in the drum, and even then, the system is quiet. This was a really pleasant surprise coming from a home-built roaster that uses an annoyingly loud ice cream make motor.



The drop hatch (I don't know what it's technically called) is made of cast aluminum, and the viewing glass is extremely nice to have. When you open it, the beans tumble out quickly. Typically all of them are in the cooling tray in no more than 4 seconds. And then, when you close it, it feel like sort of locks into place. You have to force it the last little bit. I love that feature - I'm never scared of it cracking open a bit while roasting.



I will say that the tryer is a bit sticky, but that could be easily remedied with a file or some sand paper. The little lip on the trier is the indicator of how you should orient it - lip down. I wish the tryer was a bit longer, but that's a tiny thing to nitpick. It's plenty big, I just think that it being longer would be more satisfying. The wooden handle feels and looks nice, and I think it accents the machine well.



The thermocouples seem to be very high quality. I'm personally planning to install another one for MET, since a lot of people seem to think it's a nice feature for like $15. I think that the thermocouples are in extremely convenient places. The BT and the ET have mapped well for me, and temperature wise follow what I would expect.



The motor box on this thing is nice. It perfectly houses the Center 30x thermometers and leaves room at the back to connect to the computer. There's a little switch to turn on and off the motor's fan, and the power switch on the motor is satisfying. The cable is thick, and feels like it's well worthy to power a coffee roaster.



The funnel on the top of the roaster is a bit smaller than I would like. Again, this is a tiny nitpick. If you're going to charge at 600 grams, you're going to just about fill the funnel. I personally would like more wiggle room, because I've definitely spilled green coffee beans before. It takes like 2 seconds from the opening of the slide for all of the beans to be in the drum. The only time I've had green coffee beans get caught in the exhaust pipe was when I didn't open the slide all of the way, and even then it was only like 6 greens.



The exhaust pipe that came with the cooler was a very tight fit to the Kaldi. It took me a couple of minutes to force the pipe on, but it technically fits perfectly. I will say, the smoke leak on this machine is almost non-existent. I haven't seen any smoke come out of this machine anywhere. The only time smoke enters the room is when you take the tryer out, and while the beans fall into the cooler. Granted, the smell of coffee is pungent, but there's almost no smoke. When I've looked at the exhaust pipe, there's definitely plenty of smoke coming out. I'm not sure what my neighbors think of me.

On the underside of the machine, you can see that you can adjust this little hatch to change the way the heat hits the drum. Personally, I'm not an expert enough to know what to do, so I just leave it closed. Perhaps someone who knows a bit more than I do could shed some light here?







The roasts I've had so far have been great. Honestly, I've solely followed Huky advice and it's translated to the Fortis like a charm. Seriously, this thing is the Huky's brother. There isn't a single bit of Huky advice I've seen that hasn't translated perfectly to this machine. As for roast quality, I'm going to go out on a limb (because I don't have a Huky) and say that this machine has the potential to produce slightly better results. I say this ONLY because the cooler is fully controllable, and the extra weight could make it slightly more thermally stable once it's heated up. On a scale from 1-10, if the Huky is a 7.2, the Kaldi is like a 7.3-7.35. I think the difference shouldn't be very noticeable.

However, YES, this thing puts out great roasts. I don't have enough experience to say that. But, this thing is literally just like the Huky. So, when you're wondering what quality of roasts you can produce, just look at the Huky. You're absolutely going to be satisfied. Every aspect of the roast can be fine-tuned, just like with a professional roaster. I think that this machine is on par with the Huky in every area, if not slightly better in some.
When I roast, typically, I can have a 3 minute turnover rate between roasts. Since the cooler and chaff collector is the same thing, I have to allow the beans to cool before I can start again. But, from a full 600g, it takes like 2:30 to cool. While the beans cool, I'll keep the motor on and try to get to the charge temp. I'll pull the beans out, run like 60% air through the machine like 30 seconds, and it'll be good to go again.

The Chaff Collector and Cooler:
I have to admit, I like the cooler. It wasn't worth the extra $300, but it's nice in hand. The controls are simple - a dial from 1 - 9. I typically don't go above 5 while roasting, but crank it up to 9 while cooling. The roasts tend to cool in like 2 minutes, which is really nice. I agitate it with a wooden spoon, and that seems to speed up the process even more. The cooler weighs 18 lbs and was a bit confusing to me at first. When you use it, you only keep the mesh screen piece in to collect chaff. When you're ready to cool, you swap it out really quick with the perforated metal one. Doing this gets rid of all of the chaff. If you want to keep chaff out of the blower, you can just drop the perforated metal one on top of the screen one, and it fits well.







Aesthetically, it's pleasing. It looks and feels good, and is really simple. It comes wit plenty of piping and has a couple nice features. I haven't seen any smoke leak from it. So, yeah, it's nice. But I don't think it's worth $400. Going back, I would definitely build one myself.

Burner Setup:
I read in the Huky forum that the Cajun Burner was by far the most popular alternative to Mr. Li's IR burner, so, that's what I'm working with. I ordered the burner from BBQ guys, and with shipping, it cost me like $30. I utilized a tee end, a pressure gage (link at end of paragraph), a 0-10 psi propane regulator (link at end of paragraph), and a couple of fittings you can pick up at Lowe's or home Depot. In all, the burner cost me like ~$110. I have a valve I used, but honestly, I think the pressure regulator on the propane line is a BEAUTIFUL valve. It's so easy to fine tune on, and I love it for adjusting the gas pressure, so I just opened up my valve all the way and adjust the regulator when I need more or less gas.







https://www.amazon.com/Dwyer%C2%AE-Pres ... 6+kpa+lpg4


https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MD ... UTF8&psc=1


Currently, I don't have any roasted bean pictures. I don't feel super comfortable sharing the pictures, because I'm still learning this machine. I'm not the best roaster yet. I came from a homemade machine similar to the Behmor 1600, and this is my first experience with gas. I've only roasted a couple of pounds so far. If you're thinking "well, he has no place to talk about roast quality," you're right. I'm basing my belief of the roast quality based on the fact that this machine is just about identical in practice to the Huky, and that other people who have had this machine on the forum seem to be a big fan of it. What is needed to create great coffee, so it seems, is the ability to control all of the variables of roasting and fine tune them. This roaster does that like a champ.

If you have any more questions about it, just let me know! I hope this helps some of you in your decision making process.

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DanoM

#2: Post by DanoM »

Great review! I think you hit all the points of the machine quite well.
My tryer was a tight fit that would bind and I had to spend a bit of time sanding with sandpaper on a dowel connected to a drill. Now I have a tight, clean fit that turns fine. The only issue I've had with my Fortis so far.

I use the damper full open during the warmup phase to get the drum fully heated, close it to 1/2 before I drop the beans, and close it all the way at the "dry-end" phase. By mistake I left it wide open for one roast of Ethiopian beans, and still had an okay roast.

I opted for the Center 306 for ease of connection to the computer, but since I already had a Phidget it wasn't necessary. Were I to order again I'd just get the 301 and connect my phidget directly to the sensors - no need for a 9V battery that way. Currently, I am going through the 306 though.

Since I don't have the tools here to make a really nice cooler I did opt for their cooling system, and find it to be a really nice setup. Personally, I'd buy it again were I doing this all over.

My roasts are getting better all the time, but I need to get a better burner setup. For now the disposable butane canister, tabletop stove works fine. Roasts have been getting more flavorful with caramel, nut, spice, chocolate and other notes from Ethiopian and Guatemalan beans.
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hankua
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#3: Post by hankua »

Very nice review, and thanks for detailing how to go about getting a Kaldi setup. I'm a little confused on how the shipping worked out, was the roaster and cooler packaged in the same carton or separately? We're you charged double shipping or just the rate for the two items combined?

I don't thing you made a mistake getting the designed cooler at all, and will probably appreciate it later on after the sticker shock wears off. A coffee roaster should have a heat resistant blower on the chaff collector, and if you want variable speed a 24 volt DC version would be the best and not that easy to source. Assuming you found the right cmf blower for the roaster then a variety of other parts including making a cabinet would be required.

And the cooler kind of matches the roaster. :D

DanoM

#4: Post by DanoM »

hankua wrote:Very nice review, and thanks for detailing how to go about getting a Kaldi setup. I'm a little confused on how the shipping worked out, was the roaster and cooler packaged in the same carton or separately? We're you charged double shipping or just the rate for the two items combined?
In my case, the GMarket system estimates shipping based on the weight of the roaster itself and doesn't calculate the weight of the cooling unit. Since they are shipped in separate boxes and the cooler add substantial weight the shipping cost is increased. I didn't mind the extra cost of shipping for the cooling unit myself and expected a significant bump in shipping. It wasn't double in my case, but probably about 50% more. (Shipping to Japan in this case.)
hankua wrote:I don't thing you made a mistake getting the designed cooler at all, and will probably appreciate it later on after the sticker shock wears off. A coffee roaster should have a heat resistant blower on the chaff collector, and if you want variable speed a 24 volt DC version would be the best and not that easy to source. Assuming you found the right cmf blower for the roaster then a variety of other parts including a making a cabinet would be required.

And the cooler kind of matches the roaster. :D
Yeah, I really like the cooling unit. Quiet, adjustable, and cools dumped beans beautifully too. Hopefully WilliamB will end up liking his just as much as I do. Sticker shock takes a while to wear off sometimes though!!!
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WilliamB (original poster)

#5: Post by WilliamB (original poster) »

hankua wrote:Very nice review, and thanks for detailing how to go about getting a Kaldi setup. I'm a little confused on how the shipping worked out, was the roaster and cooler packaged in the same carton or separately? We're you charged double shipping or just the rate for the two items combined?

I don't thing you made a mistake getting the designed cooler at all, and will probably appreciate it later on after the sticker shock wears off. A coffee roaster should have a heat resistant blower on the chaff collector, and if you want variable speed a 24 volt DC version would be the best and not that easy to source. Assuming you found the right cmf blower for the roaster then a variety of other parts including a making a cabinet would be required.

And the cooler kind of matches the roaster. :D
I think you're completely right about me liking it later on. The more I forget about how much it all costed me, the more thankful I am for my setup. You're right about the blowers, though. My original design took some eBay shopping to find a blower I was comfortable with, and they all looked like they were ~$75.

The shipping was a bit wonky the entire way. The impression I got was that the seller originally shipped the cooler and the roaster together in one giant box. It got to the gMarket warehouse, they weighed it, and added in the shipping charge from the added weight of the cooler. From there, it went over to Japan and was sent over to the states.

When it got to the states, I received a notification saying that the box was too big and heavy to ship, so they split it up into two parts. I imagine the roaster and cooler were both in their individual boxes, then placed together in one even larger box. When they split it up, they showed up in their separate individual boxes but clearly the boxes were from the manufacturer, not from the USPS facility.

Lastly, I was not double charged shipping! It was a "pay the difference" scenario, which I'm thankful for. The total shipping was ~$300, and since I originally paid $200 for the estimated weight, they only asked me to pay the remaining $100 before they shipped it out.
DanoM wrote:Great review! I think you hit all the points of the machine quite well.
My tryer was a tight fit that would bind and I had to spend a bit of time sanding with sandpaper on a dowel connected to a drill. Now I have a tight, clean fit that turns fine. The only issue I've had with my Fortis so far.

I use the damper full open during the warmup phase to get the drum fully heated, close it to 1/2 before I drop the beans, and close it all the way at the "dry-end" phase. By mistake I left it wide open for one roast of Ethiopian beans, and still had an okay roast.

I opted for the Center 306 for ease of connection to the computer, but since I already had a Phidget it wasn't necessary. Were I to order again I'd just get the 301 and connect my phidget directly to the sensors - no need for a 9V battery that way. Currently, I am going through the 306 though.

Since I don't have the tools here to make a really nice cooler I did opt for their cooling system, and find it to be a really nice setup. Personally, I'd buy it again were I doing this all over.

My roasts are getting better all the time, but I need to get a better burner setup. For now the disposable butane canister, tabletop stove works fine. Roasts have been getting more flavorful with caramel, nut, spice, chocolate and other notes from Ethiopian and Guatemalan beans.
Thank you for explaining the damper to me! I haven't really messed with mine, as the bolts are a bit to tight for easy movement. So far, I've been opting for the "fully closed" method. I'll definitely try your methodology for the damper - I really appreciate your advice on that.

I was very tempted by the Center 306. But, I will say the Phidget has been a gem. It's small, the cable is very common, and I'm always roasting with artisan anyway. I can't think of a scenario where I would roast that temp. mapping wouldn't be an option. If I brought my roaster somewhere, I guarantee you I'll have my laptop too.

I do like how the Center gives a display on the screen, which allows for you to "eyeball" a roast if you're ever in a rush. If you get the Center hooked up right, it's perhaps the best option. But I'm quite satisfied with my little Phidget!

As for the burner, I don't have experience with other burners to say if this setup is "superior." But, I found that I don't need to raise the gas above 2.2-2.4 kPa in a roast almost ever, unless I seriously underheated at first and I'm just trying to salvage. A good roast tends to start around 2 kPa and slowly drop down to like 1.2 kPa. When warmed up, I've pushed this burner up to like 3.5 kPa before it sputtered out. So, I imagine that means this has more than enough power for anyone's needs, but I'm no expert in that area!

My first roast with the Phidget, I put in the wrong thermocouple type (I wrongly thought it was J-Types). The charge was anywhere from 500g-550g. I don't remember the exact number. The roast looked like it was heating slow, so I pushed the burner. The wrong reading said about ~300 F at 6:00 minutes. I was so focused on trying to get the temperature right that I pushed myself into first crack at the 6:00 mark while following the faulty reading. I imagine that means this burner has all of the power anyone can ask for if I'm getting it that hot that fast.

WilliamB (original poster)

#6: Post by WilliamB (original poster) »

Thank y'all for the input. I love to hear it.

I will say, I'm very satisfied with choosing this over the Huky. I really think the Fortis was the right choice for me.

DanoM

#7: Post by DanoM »

WilliamB wrote:Thank you for explaining the damper to me! I haven't really messed with mine, as the bolts are a bit to tight for easy movement. So far, I've been opting for the "fully closed" method. I'll definitely try your methodology for the damper - I really appreciate your advice on that.

I was very tempted by the Center 306. But, I will say the Phidget has been a gem. It's small, the cable is very common, and I'm always roasting with artisan anyway. I can't think of a scenario where I would roast that temp. mapping wouldn't be an option. If I brought my roaster somewhere, I guarantee you I'll have my laptop too.
My damper was also a bit stiff and difficult to move in the beginning, but once I used it a few times it became much easier to move. Hopefully yours will also smooth out a bit too.

I run exclusively with Artisan, but through the Center 306. In my case the 306 is superflous, but I haven't taken the time to convert over to my Phidget.
WilliamB wrote:My first roast with the Phidget, I put in the wrong thermocouple type.
What probe type did you have to set the Artisan controls to for proper reading?
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Case17

#8: Post by Case17 »

WilliamB wrote:There's another post about the Kaldi Fortis on this Forum, but I still feel as though it does not have enough exposure. There's just not enough information out there for people to view it as a feasible alternative to the Huky 500t, should its features be more appealing. So, my goal with this is to inform those who are curious on the Kaldi Fortis in very high detail, from buying options to ordering to shipping to unboxing and most importantly, to its use. I hope this is helpful, and if there's any questions you have by the end, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer you in the comments and update this main post.

<snip>
This is a great review! Really helps to show all the details of the machine.

I just checked gmarket... is everyone else also seeing that the fortis is now selling for $1600 base (e.g. $200 price increase), or am I misreading?

WilliamB (original poster)

#9: Post by WilliamB (original poster) »

DanoM wrote:What probe type did you have to set the Artisan controls to for proper reading?
I misspoke in my post. I'm going to change it to give proper information.

I incorrectly assumed it was J type. In Artisan, they're K-Types. That's what's giving me the best readings!

cbullock81

#10: Post by cbullock81 »

Thanks for posting this! I love my Huky, but I wish this information had been available while I was researching roasters.