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Topic: User-Friendly Roasting over Time (25 msgs / 786 lines)
1) From: George Silver
Right now, I am having a great time roasting with various modified 
Popperys and a variac.  Fiddling with the roasting parameters and 
profiles, graphing each roast, trying new origins, learning about 
smells, etc. is a lot of fun.  It all appeals to the experimenter in 
But, there's another side of me that says, "At some point you're 
going to get tired of the complexity of what you're doing now and 
just be looking to get fresh, properly roasted coffee on a regular 
schedule with a minimum of fuss."
So my question to you all, is who feels they have a roasting setup 
that requires a minimum of twice-a-week effort and  produces maximum 
quality coffee with the least human effort and involvement?  Is the 
user-friendliness in the equipment itself or in the way you use it? 
How do you keep the emphasis on the coffee rather than the process?
All tips and thoughts welcome.
--George Silver
(who's noticed that even Jim Schulman sometimes mentions simplicity as a goal)

2) From: Jim Schulman
On 18 Oct 2003 at 22:25, George Silver wrote:
I just write complicated ;)
The Hottop has the nicest profile of the non-adjustable roaster 
choices, and may do the trick for hands off roasting. 
People have been experimenting with automating the profile 
control on poppers, etc. Fuji makes a nice small PID controller 
that can be ramped in 4 to 5 segments to produce a nice clean 
climb in temperature. Andy Schechter has experimented with this, 
and has no problem controlling the inlet air, but has had 
problems running off the bean temperature. 
He's sent me some of his logs for a statistical massage, and it 
looks like one can solve for a supply air ramp, and program one 
in that will produce quite close to the desired bean profile. 
Based on a few tests of this technique, I'll probably get this 
Fuji controller. It's $129 plain vanilla, and $158 with an RS432 
interface (ties to an RS 232 for a few bucks). It'll be an 
additional $30 for a heatsunk SSR. It's also possible to get one 
with a second TC input that will act as an alarm and shut down 
the heater once the beans have reached finishing temperature. 
So, it looks like automating a profiling roaster will run about 
$175 to $200. I'll be reporting on my experience in a few 
The forthcoming I-Roaster may also be a truly hands off 
profiling roaster. Of course, the Fuji is like the variacs; when 
the popper breaks, just transfer it to the next one. So it may 
be the better deal.

3) From: dewardh
quality coffee with the least human effort and involvement?
I've never claimed a place in the CCA, so they can't kick me out  . . . so
here it is.
I've got a tricked out Rosto with separate fan and heater and thermocouples all
over and a two channel datalogger and an IR thermometer and a constantly
evolving controller box that I've spent more time building and playing with than
I have roasting with, by far.  And probably more than half my roasting is now
done in a stock HIP (plugged into a SOLA CVT to eliminate line voltage
variation) that I just set and (more or less) forget.  If the new Hearthware
roaster can deal with the poor line voltage regulation around here (it draws too
much current for my SOLA) I might just get one and forgo the bother of "high
user involvement roasting".  Or at least save it for just "special events".
I've learned to set the HIP to stop around the start of second crack (give or
take 15-20 seconds) so if I miss the end-of-roast experience it will be close
enough to be just an interesting variation from the norm, not a disaster, and
while its "profile" is pretty far from what I do with the Rosto the end result
is still quite good enough, thank you . . . fresh, from quality beans, and it
makes better espresso than I can get anywhere else in Berkeley. Sure I can get
better body with the Rosto, and bring out some flavor subtleties that seem
missing with the Hearthware, and the wife comments when I produce a "different"
taste from the Rosto, but she generally doesn't favor it enough over the
Hearthware (and neither do I ) to justify the extra bother.  Most of the
"goodness" comes from freshness, Sweet Maria's beans, and not over roasting (the
bane of the local commercial roasters), anyway.
But then again, maybe, if I get the Rosto more "automated" (computer controlled
or whatever), and/or get the controller cleaned up and the panel screwed on one
last time, and eliminate the setup and teardown time for each roasting session,
I'll get back to using it more . . .

4) From: Felix Dial
Great topic to bring up George.
I too am having tons of fun modifying roasting parameters (heat, fan,
duration, etc...) and learning how changes in these variables affect the
taste of the coffee that's brewed.
It does take effort on my part to monitor temps and to twiddle the dimmers.
I'm sure at some point I'll get sick of the whole thing and just have fresh
roasted coffee express delivered!  What I really like about my setup is
that, even though it requires some work, I can get consistent results.   I
know that if tomorrow I drink coffee XX that I roasted to 440F for 13
minutes, then next week when I roast coffee XX for the same time and temp,
the coffee I taste then will taste the same as the coffee I'll drink
Roasting coffee is quite a production for me.   I have a list of items that
all need to be in place and plugged in before I actually dump beans into the
popper:  surge protector, control station, popper, gloves, digital
multimeter, thermocouple, colander, fan for cooling beans when I roast with
a poppery1 or 1400W pumper, glass chimney, either mason jar or valve bag,
and of course, batch of green beans.  Roasting itself takes about 12-14
minutes, but with setup and takedown, one batch requires about a 30 minute
total commitment.  It doesn't sound like much, but there have been days
where I just couldn't find the time to roast and have had to settle stopping
at a coffee shop the next few mornings on the way to work.  With two kids
ages 2 and 3, I don't have much free time.
Using a PID controlled popper would certainly make the process much easier.
p.s.  I must add that when I do have big blocks of free time and can roast
coffee, I roast extra amounts and *gasp* freeze them.  I thaw and use when

5) From: Felix Dial
Hello Jim,
A quick google search produced "Fuji Electric PXV3 Fuzzy Logic Controller".
Is this the same product?   I've seen Tom Gramila's web page on his computer
controlled poppery1
http://home.columbus.rr.com/thegramilas/coffee/roaster.html). Are there
any other URLs on PID controlled poppers you can recommend?
Thanks in advance.

6) From: Jim Schulman
Hi Felix,
I'm guessing the PXV3 has been superceded by the PXR3, which has 
the same features, some added ones, hardware add ons (including 
a computer interface with software) and sells for the same price 
($129 athttp://www.pfinst.com/PXR3.htm).As for PID controlled poppers, I'm only aware of Andy's efforts, 
which are in the early stage. Tom Gramila is doing a direct 
control from a computer. Someone recently posted on alt.coffee 
that he's dong delta control via a computer (this means the 
supply air is being held a fixed delta, aka difference, above 
the bean temperature). Delta control will give a smooth convex 
curve profile, not as extreme as a fixed temperature airroast, 
but less flat than a drum.
I think this is a fairly new thing. We all started manually 
profiling last year, and getting much better roasts. Now we've 
all more or less settled on good profiles, and are looking to 
make it as easy for ourselves as possible. 
PID may not be the best route. Another alternative is to buy an 
IO card or serial bus module with two analog inputs and an SSR 
output. The expense is roughly equivalent (action electronics 
sells such modules); but the time and expertise required to 
program the unit, add TC transmitters, etc. is formidable.
I'm going to go the PID route, since it can definitely work to 
get a targeted supply air ramp, and one can work out one that 
gets the desired profile. However, it won't be as flexible or 
convenient as a fully realized computer control.
On 18 Oct 2003 at 23:36, Felix Dial wrote:

7) From: Ken Mary
My simplest equipment and procedure seems to be turning out equal or better
coffee than my best hands-on profiling. I am now beginning to use a WBI with
a heater switch and dimmer to set a single airflow from the start to achieve
a timed end point and correct cooling rate. I just dump in beans after a
preheat, wait for the desired end point, switch off the heat, and dump the
cooled beans after 3 minutes. I also use a newer Wearever popper with a heat
switch only and similar procedure. The Wearever needs some tweaking, maybe
some airflow control to get the cooling rate extended to my preference. I
also preheat the Wearever, which gives much better results than a cold
I figure a purely mechanical, non-temperature dependent, timed profile
requiring minumum external input will give the most repeatable profile. My
roasting always takes place in the kitchen so the environment is more or
less a constant.
Of course by next month I may have my continuous IR bean temp readout set up
so I will be back to constantly watching the temps and fiddling with

8) From: David Westebbe
I too got sick of hauling everything outside.  So I did two things:
I modified my 'Pumper so that everything fit inside the case.  It was a
challenge to find a small enough transformer, but I eventually found one
that fit.  I decided against an external control box, because I didn't want
to have two pieces.  It is MUCH easier to have one piece than to have
several.  I set it up so I could cool the beans in the popper.  That
eliminates a couple of pieces right there.
I started roasting in my fireplace.  That way, I need not haul things out to
the back porch.  I can just leave the popper there, already plugged in, and
that way, I need not carry anything.
 Roasting itself takes
Yep.  I know what you mean.
 and have had to
One solution is to roast extra and keep it in the freezer.  It is less good
than fresh coffee, but better and cheaper than store-bought.  And, it takes
even less time than going to the store!

9) From: Prabhakar Ragde
I am currently wrestling with an unmodified FR+ and Variac, and not
doing too well at it. The only reason I'm doing it is because my HWP
is starting to wheeze (I still retreated to it the other day when I
had company coming and needed a reliable roast). Straight out of the
box, the HWP met your parameters as far as I was concerned, because I
only drink one double ristretto a day. Thus the user-friendliness was
a combination of the equipment working well and my attitude of not
trying to go beyond the 95th percentile in roast quality (fresh roasts
plus Tom's blends getting me there, and yes, I know, many of you think
I was only at the 5th percentile). I, too, have high hopes for the
I-Roaster, but not so much for its profiling as for the possibility
that Hearthware may have eliminated what made the HWP so fragile. I
really don't have the time to fuss with roasts; half the time with the
HWP, I have my laptop out on the porch and am clicking away with one
eye and two ears on the roast. I bet that puts me in the silent
majority on this list, though of course with silent majorities it is
hard to tell. --PR

10) From: javafool
I don't mind roasting when I have time but I too roast because I really like
good coffee. My standards are high enough that the only way to get the
coffee I like is to roast it and brew it myself.
Terry F

11) From: jim gundlach
I have my roasting time down to less than 25 minutes per week.  I 
usually roast once a week.    I use three methods of roasting, two of 
them over a wood fire on the BBQ's.  One usees a drum with a motor and 
the other uses the Androck over the fire popcorn poppers.  Usually when 
I roast over a wood fire I use the fire to produce the bed of coals for 
cooking food for lunch or dinner.  The other method is using a wok on 
the gas kitchen range.  All three methods give me substantial control 
over the amount of heat I am applying to the beans and I have settled 
into a profile that starts relatively slow through the drying stage and 
speeds things up into and through the first crack and slows it down as 
the first crack ends and keeps it slow until I quit at some point 
between the first hint of the second crack and a rolling second crack.  
My actual roasting time is usually 15 to 18 minutes.  Of the methods, 
the drum is the least demanding of constant attention.
The methods are primitive but I find I have sufficient control to 
profile like I want to and it takes less time to roast a weeks worth of 
coffee than it does to run down to the closest store and get a few 
Jim Gundlach
roasting over pecan wood fires
in La Place, Alabama

12) From: Michael Guterman
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">
javafool wrote:
  I don't mind roasting when I have time but I too roast because I really like
good coffee. My standards are high enough that the only way to get the
coffee I like is to roast it and brew it myself.
Terry F
I love fresh roasted coffee.  Roasting it is pretty much a means to an
end for me.  The Hottop suits that attitude to a "T".

13) From: Mike Gallant
	I concur with the means to an end point of view, especially with the 
reduced free time available to me with the arrival of a new baby. 
Hottop was a bit out of my price range at the moment, but I happened to 
have an unused gas grill sitting around, so I am now just loving 
roasting with my RK drum (disclaimer: not a shareholder, just a happy 
customer ;). I typically only drink espresso, and only one 
blend/varietal at a time, so doing a single 1.5 lb batch in the drum 
when I have a 1/2 hr of breathing time sets me up for a week or so, as 
opposed to the hour+ it used to take with the Rosto.
On Oct 19, 2003, at 12:07 PM, Michael Guterman wrote:

14) From: George Silver
At 7:27 AM -0400 10/19/03, Ken Mary wrote:
Ken,  Could you share some of the details of how you found the right 
setting for the dimmer?  I have been trying to find a variac setting 
that works in this way with a Poppery II, but so far it eludes me.
How long does it take to get to first crack?  How long to second?
The preheating seems to be a necessary part of your preferred drill. 
Why is that?
(I'm not disagreeing with your experience, just curious.)
Sounds like you have found a way of roasting that's of great interest 
to some of us "95 percenters."  (95th percentilers?)
-George Silver

15) From: Ed Needham
There are times when I want 'process' and really get into the roasting.
Other times, all I want is roasted beans for the next few days.  Since I've
been roasting on a 5 pound grill roaster, I usually only roast once a week,
or sometimes twice if someone wants a few pounds of my beans.  One or twice a
week is fine with me until I get to the point where I might make a few bucks
selling beans, then I wouldn't mind roasting more often.  I'm not really
going out of my way to start a business or even to market my beans, but I
usually have to roast 5 to 10 pounds a week to satisfy my family, co-workers
and a few guys at the local pub.
Ed Needham
To Absurdity and Beyond!
homeroaster ... d.o.t ... com

16) From: Dan Bollinger
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN">
Interesting machine. It uses a fixed, vertical drum 
and rotating dashers. I played with dashers and I could not get them to stop 
jamming on the beans. Even with tight tolerances, a broken bean would get 
trapped between the dasher and drum. Perhaps they keep the dashers away from the 
sides?  If the two light green rectangles are dashers, then I suspect 
that's the case. If so, I'd be worried about uneven roasts since 
beans trapped along the side of the drum are also near the heater. 
From the scale of the machine in the photo, 
comparing it to the KitchenAid mixer, it apprears the machine will easily roast 
1/4 pound, but not over 1/2 pound. 
There's 20 to 22 buttons on the thing. Looks 
intimidating for the market they are trying to reach.

17) From: Dan Bollinger
Ditto.  I bought a little timer on a lanyard the local gourmet shop. I wear
it around my neck so I don't forget the roast.

18) From: Michael Walls
I found this website the other day. http://www.rostkaffe.com.I looks like they have built one but don't have the money to go into production. They show some basic designs but don't go into any details like batch size etc.  If it works and has a good batch size it might be a good investment if anyone has $100k. 
Mike Walls

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19) From: Dave Huddle
I've got a variety of roasters, Melitta Aroma(won't)Roast, WBPII,
Hearthware Gourmet, Hearthware Precision (black, worn out), FreshRoast,
Home Innovations Precision (white), Zach & Dani's, AlpenRost.
My time is limited & I'm not much of a tinkerer.  Can't say I really
enjoy roasting, but I REALLY enjoy fresh roasted coffee.
My favorite, minimum fuss, roasting set up is the Alp.  I roast in an
unheated, attached garage.  In cold weather, I light a kerosene heater
for MY comfort; in hot weather I turn on a big fan.   The Alp stays in
the garage, on a low shelf, (covered with a box when it's not in use).
Usually, I roast in the evening, sitting by the roaster and reading the
morning newspaper.  (Actually, this uninterrupted time to read the
paper is my favorite part of coffee roasting.)  I use a timer to keep
track of roast duration and monitor the sounds of the cracking beans
and the aroma of the smoke.  Sometimes, early in the roast cycle, I go
back in the house to do other chores, but I keep my timer with me.
NO thermometer, no profile.  Just load, turn on, and listen.
I always stop the roast manually, and tilt the roaster when it reverses
direction so the beans dump faster.  When they are all dumped, I put
them in a colander and use an old shop vac to pull cooling air through
them.  Sometimes I start this external cooling while the Alp continues
to run in reverse.
We use 50 grams every AM, & I use another 28 grams at the office on a
'normal' day (almost all drip brew).  My usual yield of roasted coffee
is ~186 grams, so one roast gives me 2 days of roasted beans plus about
30 grams left for an extra two cups now & then.
I almost never roast more than one batch at a time, so I usually roast
3 times/week.  Got to schedule my evening roasts around the kids music
Dave	Westerville, OH 

20) From: Frank Leaver
An interesting thread ... at some point the pursuit of increasingly good 
coffee is matched by the investment of effort to produce it. so the 
human factors in the production process become something to consider, 
once the major technical challenges have been met to one's satisfaction.
Roast frequency is of course a function of your coffee consumption vs 
the unit production capacity of your roast method. In my case using a 
modified FR I turn around four 110g roast batches in about an hour and 
as my usage is only about 2-3 doubles per day, this lasts approx 10 days 
which is about the freshness horizon I can live with.
However, while this appears to mean finding an hour only every 10 days, 
in practice it really means finding an hour on or about the 10th day 
...  I suppose all of us will have variations on this demand unless you 
resort to alternatives such as roast and freeze, buy pre roasted or 
(gasp) do without.
WRT roast setup and complexity, much as I enjoy tinkering I too find 
that over time one values simplicity. To that end I've attempted to 
package the roaster and it's controls as a one piece device and keep all 
the related components in a sturdy wooden tote box, for easy relocation 
to the back patio  or kitchen as the season dictates.http://www3.sympatico.ca/leaver_/FRmodsMain.htmlFor some time I was toying with the possibility of building some type of 
BBQ based drum system until it occurred to me that with my modest 
consumption profile I wouldn't benefit from the potential capacity of a 
drum ... and while the quality could be debatably somewhat better than 
air-roast it doesn't strike me that the simplicity factor is 
significantly improved.
I suppose if the much anticipated I-Roast lives up to specification for 
function and reliability I would seriously consider simplifying to that  
system, but probably only after my FR suffers a mortal failure.
What would it take to abandon homeroasting in favour of store bought?  
Something much farther along the price-quality-convenience continuum 
than I can find in the local market ... so I plan to homeroast for the 
foreseeable future.
---- Original Message ----- 
From: "George Silver" 
Sent: Saturday, October 18, 2003 7:25 PM
Subject: +User-Friendly Roasting over Time
Frank Leaver

21) From: Ken Mary
This is roaster and bean load dependent. I find that full air wants to blow
beans out the top of my WBI, the dimmer is turned down so this does not
happen so frequently. By coincidence, this gives me the desired 200F by IR
measurement at 2 minutes cooling rate. But two airflow settings (1 heat, 1
cool) are not that much more difficult. The Wearever does not have as strong
a fan as the WBI so it heats at full fan power. But I need to set up a
dimmer to control the fan during cooling, since even with the motor resistor
heat, the cooling is too fast. Both roasters have (or will have) dimmers to
control fan only, heat is full on.
I use a Kill-a-watt meter to read the wattage used by the fan with heat off,
then turn the dimmer knob to my predetermined reading.
It takes about 2.5 minutes to start of first and 4.5 to 5.5 to start of
second for both roasters when preheated, the WBI has a 5 minute preheat,
Wearever 2 minutes.
I prefer the shorter profiles overall. Even though a cold start will get to
first in about 5 minutes, I prefer the flavors that result from the quick
heatup in an already hot roaster.

22) From: Kenneth Roberts
I can really identify with this ...
End of last week, after about a month of failing to find time to roast (and
I don't even have a setup like yours ... just busy with the crazy family
life ... we've been surviving on illy whole beans--not too bad, all things
The other day, I decided to forgo all the planning and "profiling" and just
roast batches of beans "unattended" in the FR+.  I set up my laptop at the
kitchen table to work, then just put beans in the machine, turn on the timer
and let 'er rip.  (I did weigh each batch before putting them in, I must
Didn't pay much attention to what the beans were either -- a bunch of
central and south americans.  Mixed them all together post-roast and had a
shot this morning.  I have here a really bright, pleasant, citrus-ey shot,
it's like my morning espresso and morning OJ all in one!!
Chalk one up for the monkey-method!!
From: "Felix Dial":

23) From: Lowe, David
I do like to tinker and such, but in general the goal is superior coffee. And like many, time is a factor for me. At times I'll fuss a bit more and pay more attention to the details. Then I'll go back to a more approximate approach: monitoring the roast while doing other things, using a timer, checking the thermometer and tweaking the fan speed every few minutes. (My WB1 set up is with an on-off for the heater and a voltage boost transformer/dimmer (like miKe mcKoffee uses) for the fan.)
If the new Hearthware I-Roast is robust and lives up to its promise for profile control it just might the ticket for me: control with minimum effort. But it needs to be robust, or I'll just stick with what I have.
Dave Lowe

24) From: Felix Dial
From: "Kenneth Roberts" 
... SNIP ...
After the first few sips of a less than perfect attempt at a city roast, I
often chant in my head "please say citrus, please say citrus, please say
citrus" as I read Tom Owen's tasting review for the coffee I just brewed ...
   Felix "sour schmour" Dial

25) From: Oaxaca Charlie
 I've come to apreciate a wee bit of citrus in my city roasts,
when there's some Bourbon or Caturra variety in the mix. Just so
long as it isn't grapefruit.(!)
--- Felix Dial  wrote:
Brick Oven Roasting in British Columbia
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