Sample roaster for learning to roast well?

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

#1: Post by catadromous »

I have roasted at home with air poppers on and off for years, but now I want to really learn how to roast well and develop a skill set that will allow me to roast competently on drum roasters of various sizes. I also want to improve my sensory skills and think these go hand in hand. I want to buy a roaster that will facilitate the learning process that will also be able to serve as the sample roaster at a coffee farm I own in Colombia with my brother-in-law. I really like the Roest and the Ikawa, but they are really expensive and are so automatic they may not be best for learning to roast on other machines. The Mill City 500g is also very interesting to me, but is also really expensive. The Quest and the Aillio seem like good possibilities and I am leaning toward the Quest because it is less expensive. Are there other roasters I should consider? Will I be able to learn top notch roasting skills on the Quest? I prefer a gas roaster because power on the farm is not reliable, but may have to compromise. The actual sample roasters (Probat, Quantik) I have used have not impressed me with ease of control, and are really expensive to boot. Any really good reason to spend the money for the Mill City over the Quest? I am in Minneapolis, so the Mill City is good from that point of view.



User avatar

#2: Post by bean2friends »

You should at least consider the Huky. LP gas. But of course you always need electricity.
I think it's terrific for developing your skills.

Supporter ♡

#3: Post by Nunas »

The Quest for electricity. The Huky for gas. The Cormorant for gas (but wait times for orders are rather long). Also, there's a new, bigger Quest coming out. There's a new, bigger Behmor coming out. These last two are not yet available so are untried. But, given the track record of their other offerings, they should be considered. Of all these, the one that excites me the most is the Cormorant and it would be good for you as it's gas; if you search these pages you'll find lots of information about it.


#4: Post by crunchybean »

No you will not. The Quest is a tool, knowledge is the skill.


#5: Post by catadromous »

Yes, I forgot the Huky. I don't much care for the way the fan sits right in front of the roaster, but I like the fact that it is gas. How do the Huky and the Quest compare to traditional sample roasters? Other options?



User avatar
Supporter ★

#6: Post by Almico »

I think it depends what you mean by "sample roaster". The industry considers a sample roast to be 50-100g of coffee. The industry standard sample roasters are the small barrel type like the Probat, Jabez Burns etc. They are designed to flush out defects in order to making large purchase decisions and to distinguish several coffees from each other at a cupping table. They do not have very good thermometry and are not good at profiling a roast or learning how to roast in general.

There are newcomers to the coffee world that are apparently very good at roasting small quantities such as the Roest and Ikawa. They are capable of profiling a coffee, but I don't believe they use the same type of thermometry measuring systems as their larger production counterparts. I don't believe the knowledge gained from them will translate easily or well to a larger roaster. So that brings in to question how valuable they are in "learning to roast well".

Then there are the small production roasters such as the 500g Mill City, Huky, Cormorant and even the Quest. These roasters do use the same thermometry probes as their larger production counterparts, but do not do well with 50-100g "samples". There is just not enough bean/probe contact to get reliable and transferable data.

I am currently using a Cormorant as my "sample" roaster and find that, even with my modified probe placement, it requires at least 200g of coffee, preferably 250g+, to get descent data for "learning to roast well".
★ Helpful

User avatar
Supporter ♡

#7: Post by hankua »

Based on your original statement, and being in Minneapolis; I'd sign up for the classes offered at Mill City and progress to the advanced level before buying any roaster. There is a builder in Taiwan who makes a hand cranked version of his gas machines that has thermocouples. This type of machine design could be fabricated in Colombia using local metalworking shops. It uses natural ventilation with a perforated drum. And the machines below can be ordered with a charcoal adaptor for roasting instead of gas.

Supporter ♡

#8: Post by false1001 »

The Quest is a great roaster for learning how to roast as the small batch size means you can do three sweet spot roasts on just one pound. You can quickly iterate on roasts and it will heat up pretty fast. It's also very nimble to control so you can tweak your profiles to your heart's content. However the downside is if you're drinking your own roasts you'll have to roast a couple times a week.

The Huky is a nice compromise between something small like the Quest and the larger Bullet/Mill 500g. Relatively cheap, well made, can do double the size of the Quest. The Huky is gas though, which may make things more difficult to set up in a home. The biggest pro of the Huky is the huge community around it. Pretty much anything you'll need is a google search away, and people have modded their Hukys to hell and back.

The Cormorant is essentially a higher quality, more refined Huky.

Note that the Huky, Cormorant, and the Quest are manually controlled and you'll need to do some work to get roast logging set up and configured.

The Bullet R1 is electric (huge selling point for me) and extremely flexible. Plus the hardware/software updates Aillio has come out with have been fantastic so far. Roast logging/digital control are best in class. If you're willing to do larger batch sizes it can function as a cool sample roaster as well, since you can program profiles and churn out samples with a lot of consistency. The sweet spot of the Bullet bottoms out around 200g though (smaller roasts are very feasible, but with relatively limited control and logging will be a bit off) which makes it a bit impractical as a sample roaster for home roasters. It will be harder to translate profiles from the Bullet to a traditional gas roaster due to its induction heating element.

If you ask me there's really no need for the Mill 500g these days. The Cormorant seems like a better option for cheaper at the same batch size, the Bullet can do a larger batch size (again, for cheaper), and the Ikawa Pro will do true sample roasting far better and more consistently. Pretty much any of the roasters above has good enough support, although for a business you might like the contractual support Mill City provides.