HomeRoast Digest


Topic: The Alp: + Summer problems (10 msgs / 231 lines)
1) From: Jacobs family
The ambient environment is not of concern only to Alp owners.  Summer
roasting is much more challenging than winter roasting (oxymoron!).  Among
my troubles are the problems of cooling which are well documented in this
forum.  In addition I have difficulty visually judging the end of the roast
due to the increased ambient light.  (I roast outdoors.)  My heat source (a
gas grill) also produces much higher temperatures even on the same settings.
I suspect the Alp is designed to work under many different conditions -
perhaps the high settings are optimized for roasting on a cool summer
morning in an unheated Swiss Alpine summer lodge.

2) From: OligoNuk
After a long hiatus from the message board- I'm back after seeing a 
conduction roaster (Alpenroast) on Tom's web site.  I was waiting oh-so 
patiently for the Unimax to be resurrected- but the Alpenroast looks like 
what I might like.  Any quick responces to the roast results in general?  Is 
this a no question- BUY kinda roaster or a wait for better? Granted I could 
be waiting another2 years for a such a roaster- or spend alot for a Diedrich 
or the like!
-Todd

3) From: Michael Vanecek
The Alp is a competent roaster if you recognize it's limitations. You
won't be able to see the roast so you'll have to rely on ears and nose
primarily and once you've got things calibrated you just might be able
to rely on the level settings. For most general purpose roasting, the
level settings seems to be fine, but be prepared to toss some coffee
while determining what level of roast goes with what setting. Each unit
and each coffee is a little different. Preferably, the use of a
stop-watch and close attention to the roast is prefered over using the
buttons, so you can just set it to it's max setting (the setting of 1 to
15 is a time setting only, going from 16:35 and up in 15 second
incriments), and ignore the setting - use your stopwatch, time the first
crack (depending on the machine, ambient temperatures, coffee and the
phase of the moon though possibly planetary alignment could be a factor
too) and then depending on how far past first crack you wish to go for
level of roast wait then press the cool button. It'll take some
experimentation, but that's what taking notes is for. If your perfected
roast happens to land in the time zone of one of the settings, then you
have a choice of manual or semi-automatic. Also, don't freak out if you
see a lot of smoke. That is for the most part no real indicator of level
of roast, but an indicator of the chaff landing on the burners on it's
way to the chaff-tray, and the chaff in the tray smoldering. If you
roast a lot of one variety of coffee, it can be a helper - but a lot of
smoke doesn't necessarily mean you're crisping your coffee. Different
coffees produce different amounts of chaff, so a little smoke from one
variety doesn't mean another variety won't necessarily put out a lot of
smoke. Smell, however, can be a helpfull factor. You'll notice subtle
changes in the roasting aroma as your coffee goes through it's levels of
roast. For me, hearing the crack and timing is most important, smell is
a large helper, and if I'm roasting a particular coffee I'm really
familiar with, smoke output can be a helper, but nothing more than a
helper. Some people will crack open the roast-chamber for a peak, and
some even spoon out samples (be very careful not to disturb the drum if
you do this - it doesn't take much to offset it from the rollers). Check
out the list history for further suggestions as far as timing how far
after first crack and such to give you a starting point. All in all, I'm
tickled with my Alps. I got two because I was having a problem with one,
but it turned out that the problem was related to the wiring of my shop
rather than with the Alp, so now I have a backup to help out when
holidays bring a lot of relatives...
Cheers,
Mike
OligoNuk wrote:
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4) From: coffenut
Todd,
The Alp has served me well for over 3 months now and about 25 roasts of a
wide variety of beans.  Lately, there have been some out-of-box quality
problems with some of the units being calibrated too hot.  A review of the
past 2 weeks of messages in this board will tell you everything you would
want to know about that problem.  Tom says that he feels SwissMar is
addressing the problem and that his latest shipments should be ok.  SwissMar
is a very professional company and will treat you right if you ever need
their help.  The Alp is well made and does an excellent job.  Look at how
long Tom has been roasting on his original unit and you get a feel for the
Alps ability to consistently produce after many roasts.  If you love
Indonesian coffees, this is definitely the box for you.  It provides that
full-bodied roast that really benefits the Indonesians.
Be thinking about how you will handle smoke from the unit.   Tried doing it
in-doors and my wife promptly introduced me to the deck.  If you have a
"strong" vent fan on the stove, that may be enough or you can improvise as
others have done with a little ducting and fans that move the smoke
outdoors.  I'm still roasting on the deck, love it and would stay there if
the weather would always permit.
I wouldn't wait for some newer technology and am not aware of anything in
this class/price range on the horizon.  Definitely a good investment if your
budget allows.
Coffenut  :^)

5) From: Michael Rochman
Coffeenut, replacement unit arrived yesterday. Same problem. No 
auto mode working...set first batch at 3 and shut it off manually at 
about 19 mins with result of black oily beans. 
Julie called today to tell me that Anthony will call me tomorrow and 
has a fix for the problem, but wants to discuss with me on the 
phone beforehand. 
However, as you mentioned, the unit, manually timed, does just 
what I'd expect it to do. 
BTW, I like it with brighter coffees, too.
Mike
On 17 Aug 2000, at 18:26, coffenut wrote:
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6) From: Kathleen Tinkel
Mike:
   >> ... replacement unit arrived yesterday. Same problem. No 
      auto mode working...
Oh, oh - I'm waiting for my replacement now. Friday earliest; Tuesday more
likely. You make me feel very discouraged...
KT

7) From: Michael Rochman
Don't feel discouraged. If they never got it fixed, it would still be a 
very good product. Let's wait until Anthony calls with the "fix".  Mike
On 17 Aug 2000, at 20:47, Kathleen Tinkel wrote:
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8) From: coffenut
Mike,
Sounds like you may have an additional problem to discuss with Anthony.
Several months ago, he and I were talking about the timings/settings on the
Alp and he said a setting of 1 = 16:35.  If each setting increases that
number 15 seconds a setting of 3 should have shut the roast down at 17:05
and began the cool-down cycle.  With your latest unit, if the roast was
still going at 19 minutes, it was about 2 minutes past when it should have
stopped roasting.  You may want to do a dry run (no beans) on setting 1 to
see just when that Alp is actually stopping at the first setting.  It would
also be a good idea to do a dry run with any future fixed or replaced unit
that you get.  I'd do it with the lid open so you can observe the flaps,
drum, heater, etc to make sure everything is doing it's job at the proper
time.  If that checked out ok, then I'd allow a 30 minute cool time before
testing it with beans so the Alp is cool from the previous test.
I like working with Anthony and learned a lot more about the Alp from our
conversations.  Hopefully, he will get you operational soon and you can
start enjoying the product.  From what I've read from Tom's recent posts
about the roast curve profile, I'm keeping my Alp "as is" since it is
hitting 1st and 2nd cracks about where he would like to see it for the Alp.
I'm now considering my Alp as "semi-hot" since there have apparently been
ones that are even hotter than mine.
Keep your chin up.  I'm sure it was a disappointment to get a 2nd unit
that's not working right.  I'm also wondering how that happened if the
latest units are supposed to be cleared of this problem?  I'll be interested
to hear what Anthony has to say about the situation.
Coffenut  :^)

9) From: Michael Rochman
CN, great idea, thank you. Shall do it this evening.  Mike
On 18 Aug 2000, at 7:41, coffenut wrote:
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10) From: Michael Vanecek
The first Alp I bought was one of Tom's demo units with about 35 to 40
roasts on it. I had problems that ended up being with my source of power
and not the unit and the thing has been going strong ever since. The
second unit is a newer Alp with a different plug number and it is also a
good workhorse, so I have to say I have a pretty high satisfaction
rating with these things. Swissmar was also very helpfull and always
returned my calls too. They sent me a pound of their coffee to help
diagnose the problem. If you're a Poppery roaster or a Freshroast or HWP
there may be a little bit of a culture shock not being able to view the
roast, but you'll get over that quickly enough. The drum is built like a
tank, the burners are thick (not the toaster kind, but the stove-top
kind) and everything seems to be real sturdy. Cleaning is easy - all the
removable parts can simply be put in the dishwasher - drum, vent,
bean-tray and chaff-tray. The rest can be wiped down with a damp rag.
Expect some discoloration on the heat-shield under the lid because of
the heat. But the unit always stays cool enough to touch throughout the
roast cycle, so the heat shield seems to do it's job well (it's cooled
by air being pulled between it and the plastic outer shell). Get one. Or
two. I don't think anyone here regrets it, regardless of the quirks a
few have had with the hot units. 
Cheers,
Mike
coffenut wrote:
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