Actually, it doesn't matter what roaster you use, you still have to
experiment with good coffee. I've done over 250 roasts on my first Alp,
and it's still a bit of experimentation on first-roasts for any batch of
coffee I get. However, going by the cracks, smell, smoke, and time
really does help - coffee is very communicative as to its level of
roast. It's just a matter of learning it's language. Like morter -
usually the first shell is off. However by the results of that first
shot, the second has a greater chance of being dead on. Same with your
coffee. All else being equal - ambient temp, bean lot, blend ratio,
etc... you're well on your way to a spot on roast. Heh - doesn't help if
you've only two roasts of coffee available tho...
I like my Kona on the light side. I'm familiar enough with my Alp that I
can usually hit it pretty close the first time and dead on the second
time. Getting darker, tho, seconds become even more critical. It's not a
cheap hobby. But if you roast a *lot* of less expensive coffee, chances
are you'll have better luck with the more expensive coffee like Kona.
Now...all that aside, my numbers are useless to you. There's many more
variables involved. First, no Alp is identical. Heck, no roaster is
identical. Second - even differences in elevation can make a difference.
Differences in ambient tempurature, humidity, where Jupiter is ,
etc... Not to mention the differences in the bean. My Kona is probably
different from yours - different plantation, different lot, whatnot.
Heck, even the difference of whether or not you clean out all the chaff
between roasts in multiple roasts makes a difference. The only thing to
compare is the general approach to getting that "perfect" roast.
Finally, not only is the roasting totally variable between two people -
but brewing differences too! And additive differences, like steaming is
also very variable. It's a wonder we can compare notes at all! :)
There are general rules here and there to get things started, but once
started all the rest is very personal - does it taste good to you? Does
it require more roasting, less roasting, more extraction, less
extraction, more steaming, less steaming, etc... No set of numbers or
time I give you will help - especially since you're already well into
working out your regimen. The best thing to do is keep experimenting as
you are - methodically and in baby steps. Familiarity with your roaster
and environment will usually allow you to achieve a close initial roast
- be it City or Full or whatnot. The same goes for the next correction
roast. I'm assuming you've ditched the preset buttons and are going by a
stopwatch and other senses here. If not, ditch the preset buttons and go
by a stopwatch and other senses (sound, smell, smoke - oooh...lotsa
's's). On critical roasts with very limited supplies, I'll also peek
under the hood sometimes when I'm close too. Not quite like taking a
sample from a real roaster and depends on quality of light, but it does
help. Just don't lift the lid up very much and don't keep it up for long.
But the best ballpark chart is Tom's reviews. The rest is
experimentation and satisfaction...and personal preference. After all,
you're not wearing Tom's tastebuds and he's not wearing yours - you may
like it lighter or darker than he likes it. It's a good starting point,
but also develop your own personal preferences for it too. If you roast
something to Full City and think it's lost too much varietal character -
then lighten it up the next roast.
David O. Desmarais wrote: