We are thinking of getting a new roaster and need some advice from you experts out there. All we have used so far is an unmodified popper. We are getting tired of only being able to do 80g batches at a time. We are trying to decide between the HotTop and the Gene Cafe. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? We have read Tom's comparison and still can't decide. So any help would be greatly appreciated.
I can't tell you the HotTop side but I do have a still shiny new GeneCafe. I've posted about it a few times but it's worth doing again. The GeneCafe gives you a 250(ish) gram load. You can probably do a bit more but it's a size that suits me. That's 8.87 ounces according to my scale, BTW. Total roast time is running about 15 - 16 minutes roast + 10 - 11 minutes cooling. I pay attention during the roast but not during the cool. There's no pre-heat on the GeneCafe - I know the HotTop you have to add the beans at a certain point. With the GeneCafe you set the drum on its stand (the bottom not's flat so you have to use the stand) open the lid and pour in the measured beans. Close the lid and slide the drum back into place. Close the safety cover (clear plastic). Hit the Blue button to turn the machine on, turn the knobs to your starting numbers (I use 18 min and 482 degrees) and push the Red button to start the roast. The drum starts turning, sloshing and tumbling the beans while the fan gently whirrs. Since the air is just for heat it's extremely quiet - the noise of the beans is louder than the fan. I have to listen down near the opening at the bottom of the safety cover to hear cracks over the clicking of the tumbling beans but my hearing's half shot by years of loud music and several years in the 1980's sitting next to screaming dot-matrix printers. The GeneCafe has the best visibility of any roaster I've ever seen - it's darn near a plain glass cylinder with just the central divider blocking your view. The displays show you time left and an alternating display of your set temperature and the current exit air temperature. Bean temperature lags the exit air temperature but the beans eventually catch up. You can change your settings at any time during the roast and you can abort a roast at any point. You can abort the cooling too - either a 'stop early' cooling abort or a 'stop right now' cooling abort. One drawback to the GeneCafe is that the cooling isn't as rapid as it could be. They'd have to add some way to boost the fan speed quite a bit to get it to cool faster. They do provide the 'abort the cooling' option if you have a separate bean cooler but make sure you've got some oven mitts for handling that hot drum if you do. If you use the roaster's cooling you have to stop it just a bit before the point you want because it will coast a bit further. Takes a few roasts to get the hang of it. The 'profile' I've been using is to set to 18 minutes / 482 degrees. I think I'm going to switch to 20 minutes just to make it easier to figure time passed from the time left. I keep an eye on things, watching the beans color and the exit air temp. When I see the exit air temp pass 400 and the beans passing the straw color stage I start listening down near the gap at the bottom of the clear safety cover. When I hear the first snap of first crack I dial the temperature down to 456 which is the final temp I want. I start at 482 because I agree with Tom - the faster I get to my target range the better and once the machine sees the exit air at your set point it starts turning the heat off and on to hold it near there. Once I've dialed the temp down I start watching the exhaust plume coming out of the chaff collector. A good flashlight is a help here. What I'm looking for is that first puff of smoke you get as you enter the gap between first and second crack. As soon as I see any smoke I hit the Red button again to start cooling. Based on getting the flavors Tom describes for Full City / Full City + I think I am, in fact, getting it to go right there. I've just gotten smart and started flipping the safety cover open during cooling - part of what it does is help hold in the heat around the drum which is good during roasting but bad during cooling. There are ways to speed cooling others have reported, including using a shop vac to suck on the chaff collector. That pulls air through the system at a much higher rate and greatly speeds cooling. The standard cooling stop point is 140 degrees so the beans are still a bit warm. I follow Tom's advice and dump into a big mesh strainer that I then stir in front of a running fan to finish the cooling. Warning: some coffees, like the Dry Processed Ethiopian Ghimbi I roasted recently have chaff that sticks to the beans which then results in a chaff storm when you stir the beans in front of a running fan. So that's the GeneCafe perspective: Extremely quiet, extremely even roast, great visibility, good audiblity, easy to watch / smell for smoke, somewhat slow cooling. I'm sure a HotTop user will give you that side. Enjoy! Steve :->
Maureen, If you are wanting to really increase your batch size, don't forget about the RK Drum & a gas BBQ grill. You are able to roast a 1/2 pound to 4 pounds with the RKdrum. You can also build your own drum for under $200. I have built my Ice bucket roaster for under $50. I have been able to roast 1 pound of beans and think that it will roast at least 2 pounds. Jim De Hoog
Hi Maureen, I have a Hot Top (non-digital) and am pretty happy with it. I roast 250g at a time, which is a huge upgrade from the 64g I was roasting in my FreshRoast. The main disadvantage of the Hot Top is there is no way to control the profile. What was programmed at the factory is what you get (unless you want to get into some serious modifying, but I'm not brave enough -- at least until my waranty expires). I find the unit is pretty quiet, it is easy for me to hear 1st and 2nd cracks, but I could hear them in the FreshRoast as well. As far as roast quality, the drum roast will be different from the hot air fluid bed roast you are currently using. When I was using the FreshRoast, there were differences in the coffess, but they all had a 'similarity' to them. I could only tell things apart that were very different (like a kenya and a colombian). When I started with the Hot Top, I learned what bright meant (all the FR roasts were fairly bright), and discovered some of the subtle differences between varietals. It is a whole new learning experience, but that is part of what I like about coffee roasting. I do like my Hot Top, the roasts take about 15-18 minutes plus the 5 minute cooling cycle. I have a thermocouple that I insert into the roast chamber to track temperature, but I find roasting by sound & smell to be very reliable. I always use the longest setting and stop the roast manually when I reach the right level. I'm sorry for a long answer that didn't touch on the Gene Cafe. French --- Maureen Azcoitia wrote: <Snip>http://sweetmarias.com/maillistinfo.html#personalsettings<Snip>">http://lists.sweetmarias.com/mailman/listinfo/homeroast<Snip>http://sweetmarias.com/maillistinfo.html#personalsettings<Snip> Do You Yahoo!? Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around http://mail.yahoo.com
I cannot speak for the HotTop, but I am thoroughly enjoying the Gene = Café. It is an awesome 1/2 roaster. Easy to operate, great user = control of time and temperature DURING the roast, amazingly easy = cleanup, back to back roasts (once unit cools below 140 degrees). = Coffees taste great! Decafs are easy, easy, easy to roast! I would highly recommend the Gene Café! Jim
DITTO! But I am having great success with 300 grams in both decaf and caf.
On Tuesday, May 23, 2006 11:45 PM "Maureen Azcoitia" wrote: -We are thinking of getting a new roaster and need some advice from you experts out there. All we have used so far is an unmodified popper. We ar= e getting tired of only being able to do 80g batches at a time. We are trying to decide between the HotTop and the GeneCafe. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? We have read Tom's comparison and still can't decide. So any help would be greatly appreciated. - Bottom line- either wait until new Hottop comes on the market or buy = a GeneCafe. Personally, I see no point in buying a Hottop now, when a new one will be released in 5 months (and unlike the digital, you can NOT upgrade from a previous model). The GeneCafe has everything the digital Hottop has, and more as far as features goes. Since the roast medium is both air and drum, you get more of a vibrant roast than in a Hottop. But if you don't want that, you do have the option of lowering the temp. to create a more fuller bodied roast. So basically you can do everything the Hottop can do and more with the GeneCafe. The one great thing the Hottop has going for it is that it is sturdy as a tank (the jury is still out on durability and quality of customer service for GeneCafe), and you don't have to fool aroun= d to cool the beans (right now I run the cool cycle on the GeneCafe for 2-3 minutes, then I stop the cool cycle, dump the beans, and water quench in a colander- although if Tom says that there is no need for this, I'm sure there isn't; you could probably just get by with hitting cool, and then pulling the chaff collector to speed up cycle). Now if you wait for the new Hottop, you won't be dissapointed- everything (minus data collector and graph generator (although this MAY be included, and of course minus the ability to change temps on the fly (major bummer!)) you could realistically want in a Hottop. BUT this is not to say it is better than GeneCafe. GeneCafe is a solid contender. Although you can't set profiles ahead of the roast, you can change temps and time on the fly. Plus, well the new Hottop will probably cost around $900, while GeneCafe rings up at about $500. Then comes the question-what do you want from a roaster? Taste is a mute point, you get great taste from either (but you DO have more control over taste with a GeneCafe). How bout' style? The Hottop is awesome, becaus= e it's like having a professional roaster in your own home, but then the Gene Cafe has a tripped out roast chamber design. Hard choice. Do you want less noise? Both are quiet. Do you want Controllability- get the GeneCafe. Or do want consistancy without all the hassel of following the roast with a magnifying glass until you find the proper profile that works for you, because there is no real factory tested preset- then get the Hottop; only caveat is that the factory set preset is the ONLY profile you get (unless you wait for the new Hottop). Durability? well the Hottop is a tank. That i= s probably where most of the extra $200 comes in. But the GeneCafe will bode just fine if you treat it as a delicate little princess. It is surprisingly durable, though. We are all buying new roasters at exactly the wrong time in the world of roasterdom. Give it 2-5 years, and I bet that your choice would not be s= o tough. Although I think you will be satisfied and amazed by any purchase yo= u make, you would be even more so 5 years from now. But we all do need something to get us to that 2-5 year mark. So I would go with whatever moves you the most, considering everything I just said. I did recommend tha= t you go with the GeneCafe or wait, but really you can't go wrong between any of the three models. If you really get bogged down, stop. Write down what you want first, then rate each desire 1-5 how important each is. Then compare to the specs for each model. Remember you are not choosing between roasters, you are choosing between a Hottop and a GeneCafe- two separate individuals with their own unique idiosynchrasies. Personallly, I have a GeneCafe, but I plan to check out the Hottop in a year or two (or any other comparable roaster on the market). Buying a roaster is like choosing a mate= - you can't get everything you want unless you choose em all (theoretically o= f course). Word of advice, if you do get the GeneCafe (this is what I have) roast in 250-260g batches for most even roast (book says 280g), although some beans may take well to larger batches (some people roast 300g batches) if you desire. I did try the larger batches, though, and for beans with lot= s of chaff, there were some slight uneveness to the roast (not so at smaller batches or with beans with minimal chaff). Best Wishes, Jeremy
Hi All, A terrible thing has happened to me. I've moved to an apartment without gas. I want to keep roasting indoors, so that means no more butane wonders on the roof. As the subject suggests, I'm toying with the idea of a Hottop or Gene Cafe. Specifically, a digital Hottop, and an analogue Gene Cafe. What does everyone think about both roasters? I'm looking for pros and cons those of you who own one have noticed. Help me spend my money... Thanks, --Derek -- The Uglyroast 3! Coffee Roaster. ...Now 85% less ugly!http://uglyroast.atspace.com
Hi, Derek, I asked this question several weeks ago as I was getting ready to upgrade from my Z&D. The net result of the discussion ended up being: The analog Gene Cafe has the benefit of being able to change temperatures during the roast itself, so you can fine tune it based on what you're hearing, seeing, and smelling. The HotTop has the advantage of having a fast dump at the end of the roast so the beans can cool down quickly, a big advantage according to some. After all the e-mails I finally decided to go with the Gene Cafe. The benefits of being able to change temps duringthe roast outweighed the benefit of the fast cool down for me. I had planned on being in San Francisco this week and was going to stop by Sweet Marias in Oakland and picking one up. But my travel plans changed and I won't be there until September at the earliest. I may just have to mail order it when I return from traveling. Hope this helps. Frank Parth <Snip>
It does help, sort of. I guess that's pretty much the conclusion I'd come to as well. I was really hoping someone would pipe up and tell me that all roaster X's fail, and all roaster Y's work perfectly forever. Perhaps I should lower my expectations... I'm still wondering about a HG/DB, though I'm quite concerned about evenness in the roasts. I roast almost exclusively for espresso, and I drink a lot of straight shots...I really notice roast imperfections. I think I'll start a new thread on that, actually. Thanks, --Derek On 7/13/06, Frank Parth wrote: <Snip> -- The Uglyroast 3! Coffee Roaster. ...Now 85% less ugly!http://uglyroast.atspace.com
Thanks Tom. It's funny that there hasn't been a move to computer-driven roasting control (you mentioned a necessary laptop interface for roast preprogramming). It's not so much that we really need it, but moreso that roasting seems to be driven by a fairly geeky crowd, and I'm surprised we haven't come up with that functionality. Personally, I'd love to see some computer manipulatable/pre/reprogrammable roast information. A simple USB interface would do the trick. That's a lot of R&D though, and I understand there are bigger problems to solve. --Derek On 7/15/06, Tom & Maria - Sweet Maria's Coffee wrote: <Snip> -- The Uglyroast 3! Coffee Roaster. ...Now 85% less ugly!http://uglyroast.atspace.com
Derek, it's been done. Jeffrey Pawlan has developed the software and modifications to control a Hottop and sells it for commercial sample roasting. For home use, I've never heard the price, but it probably falls under "if you have to ask, you can't afford it". My dream machine is (at the moment) a Deidrich sample roaster with Jeffrey's CCR system installed. I'd probably be better off with a Hottop, but the Deidrich is just "way cool", to quote my grandson...http://www.sweetmarias.com/bayarea_homeroasters/bayarea_homeroasters.htmlMichael