Hi: I'm a really new home roaster, having received an Alpenrost for Christmas. I have several questions. My first question refers to exhausting the alp thru a range hood. Before I did my first ever roast, I built an exhaust system for the Alp, which consisted of a folded aluminum adapter to my overhead range hood, and flexible 4 inch diameter aluminum dryer duct which led from the hood to the exhaust vent of the Alp. The 4 inch diameter was too small to completely cover the exhaust, but the suction was sufficient to extract all of the smoke from the roaster. By leaving the tubing round, rather than ovalizing the opening to approximate the Alp's exhaust port shape, the range hood could take en excess air around the hood. To me, this seemed like a good idea in that the range hood was not forcing too much air thru the Alp, which could pull too much heat out of it. I then attempted my first roast and heard my first popping sounds at around 14 minutes into the roast. I made a mistake in my exhausting scheme in that I assumed that the renge hood was reasonably tight downstream of the exhaust fan. In actual fact it was not and I filled the hood up with smoke, which escaped into the kitchen. It wasn't too bad really. I didn't set off the smoke detectors, but it sure smelled strongly. So I solved the problem by punching six 1.5 inch diameter holes in my aluminum box, upstream of the exhaust fan, to suck up any smoke that escaped from the range hood duct. I also covered up obvious holes in the duct with aluminum tape. In order to appease my sense of design, I cruised the plumbing aisles at Lowe's, searching for a flexible (rubber) coupling that would nicely connect the exhaust duct to the exhaust port on the alp. I was successful in finding such a part. Now my alp was connected to the range hood by a flexible duct that fitted well to the alps exhaust port. I turned on the hood's exhaust fan and tested my system by holding some cat hair near to the holes that I had punched in my aluminum adapter. The fan happily sucked them out of the house. Hooray!! I also felt air being drawn thru the alp. This concerned me in that I didn't want to change the roasting times to some incorrect value by sucking heat out of the alp with my efficient little exhaust device. So I took the plunge and roasted my second batch of coffee. Hooray!! I didn't get any smoke in the house and hardly any smell either. The first cracking noises that I heard were again at just after 14 minutes. My question is this: I know that my exhaust fan has to be pulling some heat out of the alp because it is augmenting the airflow thru the alp by combining its suction with the suction from the alps exhaust fan. I think that this might be a mistake, but I'm looking for guidance. Do you vent your alp to a hood and did you decouple your exhaust fan from the hoods exhaust fan by fitting a large diameter duct around the alp's exhaust port so that you could suck room air into the exhaust duct along with the smoke from the alp? Or does your exhaust duct fit tightly around the alp's exhaust port? My second question has to do with roast consistancy. I roasted 228 g of green coffee in my first batch, which I set to 11 based on reccomendations from 1st line equipment. Not having any roasting experience, i listened carefully to learn what first crack sounded like. I began hearing popping noises at around 14 nimutes, but these noises were somewhat infrequent. They grew in frequency over the next couple of minutes, but i had trouble discerning if they were first crack or second crack or whatever. The timer on the alp switched the roaster into cool mode and after the cycle completed, I opened up the roaster to discover beans that were dark and slightly smoky smelling. I put them in a jar and loosely fit the lid to let them degas. The next morning I looked at them carefully. Some had spots of oil on the outside. Some were lighter brown than the dark brown to almost black of the bulk of the beans. The blackest beans tasted slightly of charcoal, but most tasted like I expected. Last night, I roasted a second batch of coffee. I decided that I would pay careful attention to the sound of the coffee and stop it sooner. I roasted 220 g of coffee and set the alp to 12. The first cracking noises again occurred at just after 14 minutes. The bulk of the noises occurred later and by 16:30 the popping had quieted down. I hit the cool button at 17:10. This time, I found roasted beans ranging in color from moderate to dark brown, with no oil at the surface the next morning. None of the beans tasted of charcoal, but a few of the beans looked as if they were under-roasted and I pulled a couple out that looked like green coffee. I ground up some of my roast this morning and it made a great cup of coffee, but ... Coffee that we have been buying from our local roaster, Quartermaine, is much more uniform in color. Is this what I should expect from the alp? Am I doing something wrong that I can fix? For instance, would I get better uniformity if I loaded the drum with less than 1/2 lb (228 g) of coffee? If so, how much less? 200 g? Are coffee beans being hidden from view of the heating element? For radiant heat transfer to occur between the elements and the beans, the beans must "see" the element. If the beans get stuck behind the vanes and hidden from view, then they will not get as hot. Do other alp users experience this? This brings me to another question. The alp reverses direction at the end of the cool cycle to unload the drum into the nifty receptacle, much like a cement mixer does. Why doesn't the alp bunch the coffee beans up at the other end during the roasting cycle? I've noticed that the reflective shielding around the drum is getting more oils on it near to the exhaust side of the roaster. Is that because the beans are getting bunched up there? Wouldn't this thing work better with parallel vanes in the drum than spiral vanes? I guess you'd lose the automatic unloading feature, but so what? Anyone got an opinion on this? Okay. Enough questions for now. Thanks for your answers. -Greg Scace
<Snip> the <Snip> exhaust port <Snip> smoke from <Snip> port? I built a vertical plexiglass chamber that just sits over the Alp exhaust with a bath vent fan atop the chamber. The vent fan exhausts the smoke out the window through a homemade removable exhaust using a 4" flexible hose, a piece of plywood and a 4" dryer vent. I know that my contraption pulls additional air through the Alp, but have only seen marginal effects on the roast time (shorter). <Snip> It is normal for you to get some inconsistent colors especially with certain beans. On some beans like Mexican Loxicha, I get a very uniform roast color while on others I get a spectrum of medium to dark beans. The inconsistency of color doesn't seem to affect the roast results IMO. Seems you've done your homework and are on the right track with your Alp. Even if you decide to use the automated settings at a later date, set the timer on 15 and learn to stop the roast based upon listening to cracks and timing from there. See Kathleen's message today.
Greg, Do you need anymore cat hair to test your system? We have 4 resident cats (they produce lots of cat hair) and 4 foster cats available for adoption. You can see these short-tail foster cats at . Look about 2/3 of the way down, right column for "Maizie" and her three kittens. Dave Westerville, OH just 25 minutes from SweetMaria's <Snip>
Greg, Wonderful and thorough questions that I am hoping you get answers for from experienced Alp users. I am still considering and Alp but am inclined to stick with my Hearthware Gourmet till I'm convinced it's the right direction for me to go. I sure like being able to 'see' the beans at the end of the roast (in my Gourmet) to make that final decision to go into the cool cycle. Regards - Thom
Dave, Looks like you folks are doing some good work from what I saw at your web-site. Best wishes. Coffenut :^) <Snip>
Greg, I do my Alp in the garage. I have now done about 6 batches. I use a digital scale and measure 8.0 - 8.2 oz. of green beans. I do believe results will vary based on the type of beans. However, ambient temperature doesn't appear to be a major factor. The important lesson I've learned is to time the Alp from about 15 - 17.5 minutes. At 17.5 minutes, I press cool down and get the city roast that I want. It is not too brown, not always even, but a wonderful coffee. I tried 18.5 and 19 minutes...too dark for me. Precise measuring, however, appears to be key. So far..so good. Frank
What prompted you to add this exhaust system? Did you try roasting the normal way, allowing the Alpenröst to vent naturally through its chaff catcher? The machine was designed for passive venting through the chaff collector/vent, and all the calculations of temperature and time are based on that. It's not just that you're pulling some of the heat *out* of the roaster - by connecting the Alp to your stove vent you are actively pulling an accelerated stream of cold (room-temp) air *into* the Alp. This will change the roasting curve, and is likely to result in the uneven roasts you describe. My Alp sits next to the stove with its chaff/vent aimed up at my kitchen vent intakes. When I see much smoke - no earlier than halfway through the roast with even the chaffiest coffees - I turn on the hood, and the smoke goes out the vent. The vent is rarely on for more than 5 minutes - once the Alp goes to the cool cycle and lets out its puff of smoke, there's little need. I'd suggest that you try roasting exactly 1/2 lb of green beans (which the Alp was also designed for) without all this stuff on the Alp and see what happens. I suspect you'll get onset of first crack a couple of minutes earlier, along with a more evenly roasted batch of beans. Let us know how it goes... Kathleen
Kathleen, absolute ditto to below. It's all we ever need do for venting. Mike My Alp sits next to the stove with its chaff/vent aimed up at my kitchen vent intakes. When I see much smoke - no earlier than halfway through the roast with even the chaffiest coffees - I turn on the hood, and the smoke goes out the vent. The vent is rarely on for more than 5 minutes - once the Alp goes to the cool cycle and lets out its puff of smoke, there's little need.
Kathleen, I roast in the garage here in Florida with the ambient temp this time of the year at about 70 degrees (maybe closer to 30 this weekend). I weigh out 8 oz. of beans on a digital scale. My Alp now starts first crack at about 15 min. and often roasts fairly unevenly. I keep it clean and the coffee tastes great, but I have a similar situation. I take it you updated your creamed cheese scales for a digital? Terry F I'd suggest that you try roasting exactly 1/2 lb of green beans (which the Alp was also designed for) without all this stuff on the Alp and see what happens. I suspect you'll get onset of first crack a couple of minutes earlier, along with a more evenly roasted batch of beans.
At 04:11 PM 12/28/2000 -0500, you wrote: <Snip> I built the exhaust system because I had been told that the alp would make a ton of smoke and I didn't want it in the house. I also didn't want to coat the hood and mesh (condensation / filter device near the fan) with residue. It also gave me freedom to put the roaster on a counter - a convenience but not a necessity. I was certainly aware that I could be changing the behavior of the roaster if I pulled air thru the roaster, so I took steps to minimize this. Last night, I decoupled the exhaust duct from the chaff collector / vent and roasted two batches. You are right that my exhaust system was affecting the results. I got my first bean cracking sounds at around 13:30, compared to 14 minutes, the night before. I hit the cool button at 18:30 on my first batch, and learned what burned beans smell like. I think that I needed to do that. During the process, the smoke began to smell markedly different. Maybe this is a clue that I can use. I split the difference between the roast time from Weds. and my charcoal experiment, and got a slightly darker roast than I would consider perfect, but it was my best one yet. I'm learning!!! I still see some variation in the color of the beans and the darker ones taste different from the lighter ones. But the overall taste in my cup is good and I'm learning what various degrees of roast look and taste like. I'm dying to put some thru my espresso machine. This is fun!!! -Greg <Snip>
>> I take it you updated your creamed cheese scales for a digital? Terry: You've got a good memory! Yes, I got a little digital scale. First thing I did was check it against the mechanical, and they agree exactly. The digital is more precise (that is, has a digital readout that is unambiguous compared to matching up lines on the mechanical) but also has some irritating defects: short shut-down cycle with no memory. Pausing can be fatal... That unevenness puzzles me. Are you using an extension cord by any chance? KT
>> During the process, the smoke began to smell markedly different. Maybe this is a clue that I can use. Smell is important, but because of the way the Alp collects chaff (in a tray beneath the heating unit), much of the most obvious smell with some beans is pure chaff, which actually obscures the coffee aromas that would help. When I was roasting with the FreshRoast - which sends most of the chaff flying upwards away from the heating unit - smell was easier to use. But over time I'm learning to sort out the burning chaff smell from the roasting coffee smell, and you probably will too. Sounds like you're roasting up a storm there... KT
In a message dated 12/29/00 4:35:16 PM Eastern Standard Time, KTINKEL writes: That unevenness puzzles me. Are you using an extension cord by any chance? I do use a 20 foot long 16 gage extension cord as I always have. Interesting that my HWP will warm the cord at the plug (not hot, just mildly warm) but the Alp seems to draw less current and the cord and plugs stay cool. I get uneven roasts from probably 1/2 of the bean varieties I roast, and the rest roast quite uniform. First crack jumped from 12-13 minutes to 15 minutes a couple of weeks ago. Other than time, all else is the same. Same sounds, same degree of roast 3 minutes after start of first crack and same absolutely wonderful flavors. I'm not sure what happened, but for now it seems to be under control. Terry F
>> I do use a 20 foot long 16 gage extension cord... My husband the engineer says that's marginal for the Alp's needs. You don't risk a fire, but it is likely that the power will drop somewhat. Find a 20-foot 14-guage extension cord if you can find one; or even better, 12-ga. Mind you, he doesn't promise that this is the cause of your uneven roasting - but it is a variable you can easily eliminate. Lengthening of time to first crack does sound like a power drop, and that can happen before the juice reaches your house. Another reason to get a larger-capacity (12-ga) extension cord - at least optimize use of whatever you receive. KT
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN"> Hmmm......Have you checked the positions of the transiting planets at the time of roast?? Especially, Mars/Uranus...Also, you might want to check the sunspot activity on the days preceeding the roasts... Let us leave no stone(star?) unturned in our quest for the Holy Cup... Ciao, Angelo That unevenness puzzles me. Are you using an extension cord by any chance? I do use a 20 foot long 16 gage extension cord as I always have. Interesting that my HWP will warm the cord at the plug (not hot, just mildly warm) but the Alp seems to draw less current and the cord and plugs stay cool. I get uneven roasts from probably 1/2 of the bean varieties I roast, and the rest roast quite uniform. First crack jumped from 12-13 minutes to 15 minutes a couple of weeks ago. Other than time, all else is the same. Same sounds, same degree of roast 3 minutes after start of first crack and same absolutely wonderful flavors. I'm not sure what happened, but for now it seems to be under control. Terry F
Yep, the transiting planets and sunspot activity were the first things explored, then I looked at noise level attributes like extension cords. Any other suggestions? Terry In a message dated 12/30/00 3:51:52 PM Eastern Standard Time, angelo writes: Hmmm......Have you checked the positions of the transiting planets at the time of roast?? Especially, Mars/Uranus...Also, you might want to check the sunspot activity on the days preceeding the roasts... Let us leave no stone(star?) unturned in our quest for the Holy Cup... Ciao, Angelo