Meet my coffee roasters

It’s been a long journey for my homeroasting hobby, trying various roasters, modifying them along the way to suit my needs.

So here they are, in chronological order…

Fresh Roast + 8

I got the FR+8 roaster simply because it is the cheapest dedicated coffee roaster I could find. It was made for the sole purpose of roasting coffee. Got this for $90. Other cheap homeroasters are the Nesco for $169, and iRoast for $180. Still not so cheap for me, with their small roast batches.

My Fresh Roast + 8. Now gathering dust.

My Fresh Roast + 8. Now gathering dust.

The FR+8 is good if you’re the only coffee drinker, meaning you’re living alone in your house or apartment, or you have a wife who doesn’t drink coffee. It can roast only maybe half a cup worth of beans! If you drink 3 cups a day, you might be roasting every day.

But this coffee does its work fast, faster than any roaster I know — 3 – 5 minutes and you’re done. Below its heating element is a powerful fan, pushing hot air into the roasting chamber, forcing the beans to float in the hot air.

My unit was problematic though, as its thermal fuse kept breaking, so I had to replace it often. It’s the 220v unit. It’s made in the US, and they have 110v there, so maybe the maker perfected the 110v version with lotsa tests, but could not do so with the 220v version. I think the fan wasn’t powerful enough, too, as I sometimes had to shake the FR+8 to help agitate the beans, which is not easy handling with very hot materials.

I eventually got tired replacing the thermal fuse, and so I went retro instead with the …

Rice pot roaster

The cheapest coffee roaster!

The cheapest coffee roaster!

Had I known I could roast with nothing but just a rice pot and whisk, I should not have bought the FR+8. That would have been worth 15 lbs of coffee, delivered to my home. I discussed this in previous posts — materials needed, and guide. Others use a pan instead of a pot, but with lower walls on the side, your beans could be flying all over as you stir.

Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper

The Whirly-Pop

The Whirly-Pop

The Whirley, like the rice pot, is yet another Y1K compatible roaster. As it’s name suggests, it was built to pop popcorn. But homeroasters find this to be a cheap yet good coffee roaster. Just some work coz, like pan roasting, you need to stir the beans continuously. No rest at all. As you rotate the stirring handle, a wire also rotates inside, stirring the beans. The beauty with this cheapo roaster, it roasts quite a bigger batch against the FR+8. You can do half a pound, maybe even more.

I pushed my luck with the Whirley, roasted maybe 3/4 lb a few times, and the plastic gears got damaged with the heat. I went around machine shops here if they can replace the gear with metal. They were charging me 2,000 pesos for the two gears! Even more than the $25 I paid Sweet Marias for the popper. I almost gave up repairing the gears, and then Eureka! I’d thought of something else — doing away with the gears, transferring the stirring handle above, instead of on the side. So no more gears to worry. I got used to stirring above the popper until now. I’m still using the Whirley when I have to roast small beans, like Yemens and Ethiopians, which happen to be my favorites.

Plastic gears removed, stirring handled transferred above.

Plastic gears removed, stirring handled transferred above.

The funny thing about this popper, I bought this from the US, and had it shipped via JohnnyAir, of course by air, collect. It was light anyway, so I thought shipping would be cheap. I didn’t know then that airline and courier companies have what they call as “volumetric weight.” They were charging me $100 for the shipping! So I told them they can have it coz I’m not gonna pay that much for shipping for a $25 item. They eventually gave me a better price. And then lately, my friend Arnell U. said he found the same popper in one of the supermarkets in Metro Manila for 1,500 pesos.

If you wanna start roasting on a tight budget, I suggest you get the Whirley. More energy efficient coz it has a lid, unlike the open pan/pot roasting method. You can also find a way to modify it, maybe using a drill or some motor to rotate the stirrer for you so you won’t develop arms as strong as Popeye’s. Better if you buy a thermometer along with this, as the thermometer gives additional guide for a more consistent roast.

Rotisserie Oven Toaster

Eventually, I wanted some hi-tech, some automation in my roasting. I still could not afford, or maybe doesn’t want to spend on, a dedicated coffee roaster with the batch size I need, which is at least half-pound per roast. The Gene Café is $495, while the HotTop Drum is even more expensive at $730. The Behmor is cheaper at $299. It is somehow affordable, but there’s no 220v version yet. The manufacturer told me in an email they’re already testing the prototype, but release date has been delayed repeatedly.

My Imarflex rotisserie

My Imarflex rotisserie

And so I researched on modifiable kitchen items. The rotisserie oven popped up in my Google searches and in the coffee forums. The advice was to get a unit that has at least 1,500 watts for it to roast within recommended time, meaning less than 20 minutes. Or you’ll be “baking” your beans, not roasting.

I eventually found a 1,500-watt “Imarflex 3in1 Convection & Rotisserie” at the SM Appliance store in Cagayan de Oro for 3,500 pesos.

Then I went to one of those tinsmiths to have the drum made. I used stainless steel for it. My drum is rather crude looking, but it does the job. The mesh is a little big, so smaller beans get past through it. But I heard they have the same problem with the Behmor, such that Behmor later came up with a drum with finer mesh for the Yemen and Ethiopian beans. [See update here for my mod'd Behmor drum to fit my oven toaster rotisserie.]

At first my roasts were beyond 20 minutes. So I went to an electronics repair guy and have him disable the thermal sensor that will turn off the switch once it senses a certain temperature. Since then, I’ve been getting roasting times of around 12 minutes for 12-ounce (volume) roasts, and around 18 minutes for 20-ounce roasts. Good enough.

Drum made of stainless steel

Drum made of stainless steel

This rotisserie has a few problems though. The motor that rotates the rotisserie broke down a few times. Sometimes, the drum just falls off while roasting, maybe some loose parts there. When I get the time, I’d bring this to a technician for some hacking.

Build your own!

Now, if you feel like roasting your own beans, check this out and see how innovative roasters, in their quest for coffee nirvana at home, built their gear.


2 Responses to “Meet my coffee roasters”

  1. Dave Cortese on April 10th, 2009 11:50 pm

    Do you know where I can get instructions for repairing the IRoast 2?


  2. Bobby on April 11th, 2009 7:16 am

    Hi Dave,

    Would it be best to contact the manufacturer for that?

    Like, when my FreshRoast+8 broke down, I called the maker, and they were actually very helpful giving me instructions what to do, what fuse to buy, how to replace it.


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