I made my first post a few days ago, inquiring about a good beginner's
bean. Thanks for the many helpful replies.
Today I actually got started. Like many, I had a hard time deciding which
hardware to purchase, given the problems frequently reported with every
device save the the Hottop. Having just purchased Silvia and Rocky a
month ago, I wasn't prepared to drop that much cash on a roaster so soon.
Plus it seems other methods might be highly educational.
So I bought the Toastmaster popper at Target today for $15 bucks, AND a
heat gun at a local home improvement store. Haven't tried the latter yet,
and will probably post about it separately, since I'm having second
thoughts about the model I selected.
My first experience with the Toastmaster was VERY postitive. I did two
roasts, using SM's Columbian Narino San Lorenzo, with came as part of 4
sample pack I received for Christmas. I'd planned on putting a Weber
thermometer through the butter dish, but in testing the thermo in boiling
water, it only registered 140F, and there are no wrench flats for
calibration. Oh well. Had to depend on eyes and ears (nose not being of
much use, as a beginner). I did attempt to time each roast, but ended up
forgetting to log times, except for the beginning of first crack, at about
The Toastmaster recommends 1/2 cup max (corn, of course) in the
instructions, so that's what I started with. Weight was approx 85 grams.
I pulled this first roast sooner than I intended. I was expecting first
and second crack to occur close together, but now I'm pretty sure I was
still at the end of first when I spilled the beans. I don't pretend to
have a good understanding of roast stages, but I'm guessing this first
batch would be considered Cinnamon or New England, using SM's
descriptions. Definitely light.
Second batch I decided to up the quantity a bit to 100 grams. Still had
trouble deciding when 1st crack was done, as popping never subsided all
the way, though it certainly slowed. At the point where I was pretty sure
2nd was starting, I transferred the beans to one of two colanders for
cooling. This was the approx. roast I was aiming for--city to full city.
While I didn't check my watch, I suspect the total roast time was about
6:30. I should mention that I was in my marginally heated garage, ambient
temps probably around 50 - 55F. And very high humidity. We're
experiencing a Monsooned Monroe County today.
A couple hours after finishing, my curiosity got the best of me, along
with the intoxicating smell, and I pulled a shot using the second batch.
In reading Tom's description, I suspect this bean is not best suited to
espresso, as it's especially acidic as Columbians go. I also realize a
longer rest is necessary. For whatever reasons, and as expected, the shot
was not wonderful. Again, my descriptive vocabulary is still limited, but
grassy/grainy was the dominant characteristic, along with a thin
body/mouthfeel, and some sourness. The latter might have been my
technique, as my shots are far from consistent, even with good, fresh
beans. (I intend to PID next month.) The real test will be tomorrow
morning with the press pot.
But don't think I'm disappointed--quite the contrary. The whole process
(including clean up) was really easy, and based on all of two roasts,
apparently controlled and repeatable. The second roast appears to be very
even. It sure looks and smells right.
At this point I want to learn more about what constitutes a good profile,
and how to best achieve such without additional equipment, e.g, Variacs.
I was encouraged by the fact that the roasts didn't go too quickly, no
doubt in part because of my low ambient temp, nor too slow, as I've read
about folks having to make modifications just to get to 2nd crack.
So far, so good.