HomeRoast Digest

Topic: newbie questions (30 msgs / 998 lines)
1) From: Bill Martin
Pretty new to roasting my own.  Been roasting local Puna district, 
small grower, Big Island coffee for the past 5 months in a West Bend 
popper.  Grind with Zassenhaus.  Brew in a French Press.
Have some problems with the thermostat in the popper.  Can only get a 
full, very dark, French Roast if I roast late in the cool of the 
evening, or early morning.  So, I have ordered one of the new Fresh 
Roast machines coming soon to Sweet Maria's.
OK... my question(s).  (to begin, anyway)
Are some kinds of beans better suited to a dark French Roast?  Are the 
Kona's??  (I think so...)
If so....  What kinds?
If I want a lighter, brighter roast...what beans?
I'll tackle profiling in a later post, after I get the roaster, and 
have a chance to get a feel for it.
I'm also a bbq're with a new pit, so I'm feeling my way around that at 
the same time.  (real Q, with a capital Q, not backyard hot dogs, 
burgers and steaks....  different thing from "grilling".  Even Emeril 
doesn't fully understand Q, and don't even get me started on Bobby 
 From the fertile slopes of Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island

2) From: Jim Schulman
On 12 Jan 2004 at 17:22, Bill Martin wrote:
I'm not sure about that. Typically, darker roasts work best on 
high altitude coffees, were the beans are dense. Low grown 
coffees tend to get an ashy taste. The SM reviews usually 
highlight beans with dark roast potential. Mexican coffees and 
Central American bourbons usually work well, as do Indonesians 
and and some Africans, especially the Uganda Budadiri/Bugisu.

3) From: Ed Needham
Most of your questions are pretty subjective, but here's a few guidelines to
help you determine if you might roast a bean darker or lighter.
The lighter the bean, the more varietal flavor will be present.  Too light
and the bean will taste green, sour and probably too bright.  Smoothness will
not be present.
Roasted very dark, you taste more of the roast flavor and less of the bean
varietal characteristics.  Darker roasts are less bright and smoother, but
might be dull, flat or just plain nasty.
Remember, with specialty coffee, you are in it for the subtleties of flavor
and you pay good money for those subtle tastes and aromas.  In roasting, you
want to develop the flavor to it's peak and stop.  It usually involves trial
and error until you get a particular bean 'dialed in' to your taste
You mentioned Kona.  Kona is not a powerhouse of aroma or flavor.  It is
subtle but very complex, if it's good Kona.  A roast that is too dark will
mask all the reasons you paid that high price for Kona.  It might be really
good, but a lighter roast would be better.  I'd try Kona, roasting it as
'light' as I could, without going so light as to get the negatives of a light
Each bean has a sweet spot.  The key is to experiment and find what tastes
good to 'you'.
Ed Needham
To Absurdity and Beyond!
homeroaster ... d.o.t ... com

4) From: miKe mcKoffee
Ed, Up until recently I would have agreed 100% with your roast suggestions
for Kona. And for the most part still do. Too dark and what's the point,
bye-bye flavor. However, the melange roast I do all the time for shots and
chilled white chocolate Kona mocha, makes absolutely killer coffee. (the
melange is two batches of Kona, one 13min roast 30sec into 2nd 3min from
start of 1st (my 460f at finish), the other 12 min roast 3min from start of
1st (my 440f at finish, 1st start around 405-410, 2nd would have been
450-455f). 1/2 lighter brighter roast 1/2 me dark roast with just touch of
oil. I made a ristretto cafe' crema Americano yesterday that popped my
tastes buds alive big time. I'd forgotten, hadn't drunk that Kona melange
roast  *coffee* strength in many months. Melange roast. Those Kenya Mika &
Guatemalan Filidelfia roasts we swapped four ways, the mix of all four was
the best. I remember some earlier roasts 2 to 3yrs ago before I had full
control of the profile, sometime they'd be simply outstanding though uneven,
other times not nearly as good. Melange. Single batch melange very very hard
to replicate. Melange. I'm thinking I need to do more multiple batch melange
roasting for daily consumption.
I remember when I came up with this particular melange roast I tried dozens
of single batch profiles trying to hit the taste I wanted, and failed. It
wasn't until doing multiple different profile and degree of roast batches
and combining them that it became the taste I sought. I'd sorta forgotten...
keep looking for the single *best* roast for a bean... I must not forget
Kona Konnaisseur miKe mcKoffee
MCSE (Maniacal Coffee Systems Engineer/Enthusiast;-)
URL to Rosto mods, FrankenFormer etc.http://mdmint.home.comcast.net/coffee/Rosto_mod.htm

5) From: Ed Needham
Yup...totally agree.  Wasn't thinking of a mélange.
Ed Needham
To Absurdity and Beyond!
homeroaster ... d.o.t ... com

6) From: Bill Martin
OK...  The Kona's, as I understand, grow from 2100 to whatever...  like 
3k to 5k.  Am I wrong, and is that not considered a high-alt coffee??
Since I'm a newbie at this and don't have all the facts of growing 
etc....  not being confrontational.... just seeking knowledge.
I tend to LIKE about 16-20 oz of coffee a day.  I have been told, (or 
read it somewhere... probably at Sweet Maria's, since I put in an 
entire weekend of about 14 hours reading everything on their website), 
that the darker French Roasts are lower in acid and lower in caffeine.  
True or False.  I prefer the flavors of the darker roasts.....  but 
willing to try lots of different things to sharpen my palate.
On Jan 12, 2004, at 6:23 PM, Jim Schulman wrote:
 From the fertile slopes of Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island

7) From: Bill Martin
On Jan 12, 2004, at 6:47 PM, Ed Needham wrote:
Thank you.  This is very valuable info.  NOW, one more question.  (one 
answer leads to further enlightenment.)
I know... already, about first and second crack.  When you talk about a 
lighter roast... do you get to that second crack??
And I realize, from an earlier post, about the way a profile kinda 
sneaks up on the second crack at a higher and higher temp.  I'm hoping 
I'll be able to do that with the Fresh Roast roaster I have on order.
The reason I mentioned Kona, is that I'm sorta, just around the corner 
from the second best-selling coffee on the planet.  Or should it just 
be: the second most expensive coffee on the planet?
 From the fertile slopes of Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island

8) From: Ben Treichel
Bill Martin wrote:
Actually not. JBM, ISH, and Kopi Luwak are more expensive.

9) From: Ed Needham
Most beans that have not at least touched second crack do not taste good to
me.  Most of my drum roasts go at least 15 seconds into a fairly active
second crack.  That produces a bean that 'may' have a few spots of oil on it
after a few days.
Do a three roast experiment.
Roast one batch and stop it just after first crack stops popping.  Note the
elapsed time.
Roast another to a smoking, rolling second crack, and stop it when you see
oil spots on some of the beans.  Note the elapsed time.
Roast a third batch and stop it in the middle, between the first and second
Grind a little bit of all three and put a tablespoon of each in a cup (three
similar cups work best).
Pour hot, not boiling, water on all three and smell each as it infuses.
After a couple of minutes, take a spoon and swirl each one, smelling each and
noting differences.
Try to sink the grinds, and scoop out most of whatever is still floating.
Sip each one and note the differences.  Swirl it around in your mouth and
note where in your mouth you taste the coffee.  Swallow a few sips of each
and note the differences.
You can slurp the coffee from a cupping spoon if you wish, but it is not
necessary.  Cuppers don't swallow the coffee either, because most of them
will cup many samples a day and would be higher than a kite at the end of the
day and their perceptions would be tainted.  Sampling only three roasts would
not post this hazard.
Ed Needham
To Absurdity and Beyond!
homeroaster ... d.o.t ... com

10) From: Jim Schulman
On 12 Jan 2004 at 20:15, Bill Martin wrote:
They may grow that high, but they are considered like low 
altitude beans because they aren't particularly dense. Centrals 
and African beans typically grow from 1500 meters and up (4500 
feet +).
Also there's a miscommunication here. You're talking about a 
French roast, i.e. one taken to the end or beyond the second 
crack; whereas Ed's and Mike's darkests roasts are to the front 
half of the second crack. Almost any bean will be fine till a 
rolling second; but beyond that, they can turn to carbon/ash 
very quickly.
Finally, if you're roasting dark because of health concerns, 
don't. Specialty grade Arabica coffees have about 2/3 of the 
caffeine of most supoermarket brands, since these contain a high 
proportion of high caffeine robustas. Roasting dark also cooks 
out the anti-oxydents and other compounds that have anti-
inflammatory properties which are just beginning to be 
appreciated. And while flavor is subjective, almost all coffee 
lovers tend to move towards lighter roasts as they grow more 
experienced with the range of coffees and their flavors.
If caffeine is a real concern to you, you may consider trying a 
mix of regular and decaf beans (you'll have to roast them 
separately, since decafs roast either faster or at lower temps). 
City and Full City roasts of such blends may be tastier than 
French roast 100% caf beans. They will certainly have a lot less 
caffeine, which is a very heat resistant compound that takes a 
lot longer to roast out than the coffee flavors.

11) From: Kenneth Roberts
Re: oil spots and Fresh Roast Plus ...
Someone mentioned a FR+ on order.  In case it hasn't been mentioned ...
Just know that they roast Very Fast.  Since the amount of oils forced to
the surface goes up not just with How Hot the beans get, but also How
Fast you heat them up ... with straight FR+ you can see very oily beans
even before 2nd crack.  That's been my experience.  Unless you modify
the unit or do the heat-on/heat-off game to slow things down a bit.
From: "Ed Needham" 
good to 
on it 

12) From: Ed Needham
Air roasted beans do 'seem' to show oil quicker than drum beans, although I
have not done a side by side comparison.
Ed Needham
To Absurdity and Beyond!
homeroaster ... d.o.t ... com

13) From: jonathan westphal
Hello all,
Well, I have only been home roasting for a month now, but I have
definately caught the bug (am drinking a fine, fine cup of Guatemala
Antigua this minute in fact).  This may be a dumb question, but I
didn't see it in the FAQs:  I have been roasting in a popper, and the
plastic attachment at the top is getting pretty melty and warped. 
Should I be concerned about this?  Don't think I am overloading the
popper, as I am only roasting 1/3 cup at a time.  It is kinda cool
actually, looks somewhat like a popper if it were designed by Salvador
Dali ;-)
Now even if I had to buy a new popper a few times a year I would still
be saving loads of money over buying my own roasted coffee (not to
mention the huge difference in quality and freshness) so I don't
really care, just wondering if this is normal (I do reallize that
roasting 5 batches in a row *may* be pushing it, I generally let it
cool off a bit between roastings now).
As an aside, I am fairly certain I will be asking Santa for a proper
roaster.  Anyone care to recommend a reasonably priced model suitable
for a beginner?
Jonathan Westphal
Hampton NB Canada

14) From: Brett Mason
some of us replaced the plastic lid with a soup can, opened both ends,
and trimmed to fit inside the opening of the popper.  This chimney
allows more beans, and helps retain the heat...
You could try a pop-art display at the fair with your melted lid - I
see blue ribbons coming your way!
On 7/6/05, jonathan westphal  wrote:
ribes) go tohttp://sweetmarias.com/maillistinfo.html#personalsettings<Snip>
Brett Mason
   _(( )_  Please don't spill the coffee!

15) From: Tim TenClay
I dumped the popper top when I bought my last popper - I just found it
annoying and it seemed to hold in heat making my roast go quicker (and
I like it slower).
Also, if you're doing a 1/3 of a cup at a time, you probably don't
need a soup can, but if you're interested in roasting more than that,
you might.  I find that if I try to roast a larger batch, the beans
jump out just after first crack if if I don't have a soup can.  Be
careful though, I've found that if I do more than about 100 g. I need
to stir the beans manually since the fan in the popper can't push that
many beans around (at least, it has trouble until they're yellow --
once they're yellow, they "flow" better.)
Grace and Peace,
On 7/6/05, jonathan westphal  wrote:
ribes) go tohttp://sweetmarias.com/maillistinfo.html#personalsettings<Snip>
Rev. Tim TenClay
Dunningville Reformed Church (www.dunningville.org)
Knots & More Tatting Supplies (www.knotsandmore.com) NATA #253

16) From: Dave Vanness
jonathan westphal wrote:
Jonathan --
For a beginner (with some experience with a popper), I'd recommend the 
Zach and Danni's  -- the last machine I used before I took the plunge 
into BBQ drum roasting.  It's inexpensive, can be used indoors with less 
ventilation than other machines (due to its catalytic smoke-eater, 
which, though not perfect, works pretty darn well).  Only drawback I 
could find was that you had to decrease volume to get a roast beyond 
full city.  But I rarely wanted dark roasts (except when roasting for 
Starbies-addicted friends), so it didn't bug me.

17) From: hazzmat
jonathan westphal wrote:
I have a Toastmaster popper which seems to be patterned on the PopperyII 
(Not completely sure about that) You didn't say which model you were 
using. As others have mentioned, you can replace the plastic top. I cut 
up a soupcan with my dremel tool, so the beans would stay in but hot air 
could get out. However before I used it, the cut edges began to rust. 
Since they were very sharp and I'm probably not up to date on my tetanus 
shots, I threw it out. Instead of the soupcan or original top, I am 
using a glass hurricane lamp chimney I bought for $2.99 at an Ace 
hardware. If I had known they were so common and inexpensive I would 
have bought one the same day I got my popper from Target. The hurricane 
lamp glass I bought has a 2 5/8 inch diameter base which fits just 
inside the popper.

18) From: Jerry Procopio
After roasting with popcorm poppers, iRoast, HGDB, SCTO and now finally 
an RK Drum, I would recommend your next step be HGDB (heat gun/dog 
bowl).  Even new, a heat gun isn't very expensive, nor is a stainless 
steel dog bowl.  You have the advantage of increasing the size of your 
roasts depending on the size dog bowl you get.  I have a 96 oz. bowl and 
I have heard that one can roast 14 - 16 oz of greens.  I found that I 
got uneven roasts with that many beans but find it perfect for 12 - 13 
oz. batches.  The REAL advantage of HGDB roasting (for the beginner 
anyway) is that you really get to see the roast develop through the 
different stages.  You'll learn that roasting is really a "see & hear & 
smell" operation, not just a matter of reaching 1st & 2nd crack.  I'm 
now roasting primarily with an RK Drum and don't get to "see" what is 
going on inside the drum, but because of my experience with the HGDB, 
the "hear & smell" have more meaning.  IMO the HGDB method should be a 
prerequisite for any type of roasting other than maybe popper roasting.
Get the HGDB now, then by December you can be asking Santa for an RK 
Drum setup.
jonathan westphal wrote:

19) From: Justin Marquez
On 7/6/05, Jerry Procopio  wrote:
I concur!  For my most favorite green beans -  I always roast them via
HG/DB in its smaller batches for the ultimate in control.  I also
roast all new greens as they are added to the stash via HG/DB for the
first couple of batches to evaluate where I think I like 'em best. 
Hopefully, I will eventually get really comfortable with the drum as I
get more experience with it. I still worry about burning the last
pound of something I can't get any more of, although I haven't yet
torched any in the drum.
Safe Journeys and Sweet Music
Justin Marquez (Snyder, TX)http://www.justinandlinda.com

20) From: Mark Weber
  I started roasting about 3 weeks ago with a Fresh Roast + 8.  The coffee that results is, as you all know, far superior to that made from the beans in supermarket bins.  My wife loves it!  Finally, a hobby that my spouse thinks is worthwhile.
  Anyway, the variac that I ordered a week ago just arrived yesterday.  I should have ordered a thermometer before this.
  SM offers a Digital Thermometer with a thermocouple wire probe.  How do you get the wire probe to stay in or near the middle of the roast chamber when roasting?  If you can't, does it matter?  If this is a problem, would a regular thermometer be my best bet?

21) From:
great question, one of the professors will respond...
---- Mark Weber  wrote: 

22) From: Robert Joslin
    I guess the faculty is out to lunch.  I'm just the janitor, but I think
I can help.  The simplest solution is a regular thermometer with a metal
probe.  This is fitted through a small drilled hole in the top of the
roaster.  It will stay in the same relative position even with bean
agitation.  The depth of insertion can be regulated with a clip on the upper
part of the probe.  HOWEVER, you can also use a digital thermometer w/ wire
probe.  It can be stabilized by using a piece of 1/8 inch thickwall copper
or brass tubing, threaded on one end for about 1/2 inch and secured through
the top of the roaster by a small nut on the inside and the outside of the
top. The thermocouple wire is threaded through the tubing so that the very
tip extends outside of the tubing near the center (when in motion) of the
bean mass.  I don't know that there is any advantage with either
arrangement.  I've used both and gotten comparable readings.  Just remember
that the value you are reading is not internal bean temp, so your numbers
won't correlate closely with any temps listed on roasting guides for level
of roast.  Check the list archives.  There have been lots of discussions
about this topic that are more detailed than my brief reply.  Good Luck.
Happy Roasting!      Josh
On 8/14/07, pchforever  wrote:

23) From: raymanowen
I'm not faculty but I am out to lunch!
SM's digital thermocouple thermometer is extremely useful, and you aren't
limited to using only the thermocouple wire provided with the meter. You can
use any type K thermocouple of any length with a miniature connector plug on
some extension leadwire. You could get a stainless steel or Inconel sheathed
grounded probe
Hint: The temperature readout you get is exactly the temperature of the
junction of the two wires at the end of the wire. Nothing else. If you think
you're reading something else, it'll be a lie. You might as well remove the
plastic sleeve entirely at the end of the wire. Its melting point is below
the temperatures you'll be using, so take it off first and save grief and
The white insulation with a blue marker indicates that the wire has type K
thermocouple calibration- it's not cheaper extension wire. That just means
that if the tip ever breaks off, you'll achieve the original accuracy if you
just find a way to twist or crimp the bare wires together again. If you want
fancy, you could TIG weld them together, or gas weld with a reducing flame,
Remember, don't do anything that will sink heat away from the tip- the wire
can be used at over 2000degrees F. Don't try to protect the thermocouple
from heat!
If you're measuring temperature at the tip and keep the leadwire as cool as
possible, you're operating a Polish snowplow. Don't poll the heat away with
cool leadwires.
Cheers -RayO ,aka Opa!
Got Grinder?
On 8/15/07, Robert Joslin  wrote:

24) From: Ed Urbanski
Hi all,
I am a newbie to home roasting as my wife gave me a Gene Café roaster over
the holidays.  I have read the materials on the SM site regarding roasting
in general and about the actual roaster.  So far, I have been successful in
getting some good results but looking for some direction or suggestions for
improvements.  Currently, (due to the smoke) I roast in the garage and the
temp at best right now is 65 degrees (Kansas).  The time to 1st crack is
longer than what I read on the roast comparisons at around 10 to 11 minutes.
Here’s my questions:
1.       Is the outside temp affecting the longer time to first crack?
2.       I crank the temp all the way up to start, then hit cool to stop the
roast (depending on the roast).  In some of the suggestions online there are
comments to back down after first crack, but back down to what and for how
Any suggestions or direction is greatly appreciated!
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25) From: Allon Stern
On Jan 20, 2009, at 6:18 PM, Ed Urbanski wrote:
Do you also fry an egg on the highest heat possible?
It isn't a race. This is cooking.
There is a knee around 1st crack where the roast moves from  
endothermic to exothermic reactions. If you don't back off the heat,  
then you'll race forward into 2nd crack. Many of us find that  
extending the roasting between 1st and 2nd develops the flavors much  
Back off to where? Well, I back off as much as I can without  
backsliding. You want the temperature of the roast to progress -  
always getting hotter, never getting colder until you're done. So you  
don't want to cut the heat entirely - but you don't want it racing  
away from you either. It's a balance.
Having an accurate temperature measurement is useful.
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26) From: Brian Kamnetz

27) From: Scott Miller
Eddie Dove and some others have used the Gene Cafe lots and will have
some great input on specific things to help you.
Best thing regarding heat and time is to log data from your roasts so
you can repeat roasts that give you results you like! Some folks use
spreadsheets to do this.
Enjoy the journey!
On Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 1:16 PM, Brian Kamnetz  wrote:
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28) From: Bob
Congrats on the GC - I've been using mine for almost as long as
they have been around. It is a very versatile machine.
Does ambient temp affect the time to 1st C? Sure, the machine is
sucking in the air and heating it up - but 65° F is what my
basement usually is at, and the GC does just fine. Yeah,
basement - I have the oversized chaff holder attached to a dryer
hose hooked up to a bathroom ceiling fan venting the smoke
A couple of easy things to do:
1: Pre heat - ramp up the temp of the unit to 360° - 365° with
an empty chamber, do an emergency stop (hold the cooling button
down to force it to quit) then fill the chamber.
2: Ramp up to 482° until you start/hit 1st C then DROP the heat
to 465° and let the roast continue to it's desired degree. You
can ramp it back up if desired, but I've found that letting it
continue at the lower temp tends to bring out the better flavors
in the bean. You should be able to hit 2nd C without any effort
after a few more minutes if that is your desired results. I set
the timer to 20 min., you can raise / lower it to suit yourself
as the roast proceeds.
3: Hit cooling *before* you are done roasting - that bean mass
is hot and will continue to roast for a while as it starts to
cool down. The difference between Full City Plus & Charbucks can
be a few seconds.
4: get more beans. You're gonna need them.
5: play - it only gets better.
Bob - Parker, CO

29) From: Jon Segal
You will get a lot of responses on this.  It takes longer than 10 to 11
minutes.  I have the GC and have been roasting for 6 months.  I've roasted
65 batches.  I sent the same email 6 months ago.  I'm not sure it really
matters that much.  You will hear from some of the hardcores that temp.'s
should be a certain profile etc.  I've tried all of them and I don't detect
much in the difference in taste.
I've done full blast roasting - as fast as you can.
Currently I'm doing what many GC roasters suggest.  300deg 5 minutes (to
dryout beans to remove bitterness) 460 to 465 degrees til 1st crack and then
reduce 5 degrees til roast is complete.  Most roasts will range from 15 to
17 minutes this way.  Decaf roasting will be significantly shorter.
If you want to try even more control over temperture that some emailed me
(supposed to match graphs of professional roasters - not sure on this)  try
the following roast profile:
265 deg 2 min
275 deg 1 min
285 deg 1 min
295 deg 1 min
325 deg 1 min
355 deg 1 min
385 deg 1 min
395 deg 1 min
405 deg 1 min
415 deg 1 min
425 deg 1 min
435 deg 1 min
445 deg 1 min
455 deg 1 min
This works nice but requires a lot of attention.  You have a lot of control
over managing the 1st and 2nd crack when you figure out that between 445 and
455 the pops will begin.  Sometimes need to go to 465 or 460 to get good
roll on 1st crack.
I think that if you did a side by side tasting on these different profiles,
you'd probably find out that they all taste good with no discernable taste
variance.  Roasting at 465 instead of max will give you more control between
1st and 2nd crack.  It is my understanding from everyone that I've contacted
or heard from, that this is desireable.  Lengthen the roasting between 1st
and 2nd crack.
I'm still new to this as well.  I think that serious manual manipulation of
the tempertures don't have as much impact as others do.  Please notice how
long it takes for the temperture inside of the chamber to heat up.  There
aren't any sudden temperture swings.  It takes a long time to ramp up.  Let
me know your thoughts
On Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 5:18 PM, Ed Urbanski wrot=
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30) From: Scott Bukofsky
You can check out my blog  which
has lots of Gene Cafe profiles.  In general, I look to hit first crack
between 12 and 13 minutes, with a total roast time of around 16 minutes,
give or take.
I don't recommend ramping to full heat and staying there.  The coffee needs
time to dry and come up to temperature early.
On Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 6:18 PM, Ed Urbanski wrot=
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