I have been homeroasting on and off for almost 10 years.
I agree with Glenn S.
The gear is not quite there yet.
Sure, there are vendors out there more than eager to set you up with a home \"toy\" coffee roaster.
Truth is, roasting 4 ounces of great coffee at a time does not necessarily yield 4 ounces of great roast coffee. Far from it. At best, you can get a roast that is brightly acidic but lacks the body of coffee roasted in a more traditional and orthodox fashion.
While I would agree that those 4 ounce machines (I assume that you're referring to the popcorn/hot air derivatives) are not quite up to snuff, I would say that there might be one or two home roasters that are making home-roasting a more worthwhile enterprise.
I am referring to the relatively new Gene Cafe by Genesis and the Hot Top. Though I have had no experience with the latter, there are many who claim excellent and consistent results.
I have had the recent fortune of being able to get my hands on a Gene Cafe, and I must say, it is leaps and bounds over other air roasters. Of course you pay a little extra for this. But if you're serious about home roasting, then I think $500 for what seems, at least so far, to be an excellent product, might just be almost worth it - especially if you are the type to spend $1000 + on espresso/grinder combos, etc...
Though I have only been dabbling with the Gene for a few short weeks, I will give a quick PROS/CONS list as I see things so far:
*Will handle 1/2 Ib (roasted weight) batches
* Unlike Hearthware and the like, you can roast back to back batches (Hearthware recommends something like 1 roast/day - quite a limitation)
* Nice chaff removal system (almost perfect)
* Easy intuitive (time/temp) controls that are adjustable on the fly
* Convection/conduction roasting. (Not sure yet if this really means you get the best of both worlds - ie, bright floral/fruit tones of the convection roasters/smoother, deeper body flavor of the bigger conduction/drum roasters - but I like what I am tasting)
*While there are no programmable profiles, roasts from ambient temperature conditions are very consistent given the same settings. For the most part, I think profiles on a machine like the Iroast are largely gimmicks anyway...
* Good ergonomics. Glass cylinder makes it very easy to monitor roast progress.
*Price? Over $500
*No programmable profiles, but see above.
*Still a little small on capacity. Try to stuff much more than 280g green into a roast (depending on bean type) and you begin to loose consistency of roast. 250g-260g or less seems to work best.
* With the chaff-iest of beans, there is some potential for fire hazard if you try to roast too much (while effective, with too many beans, the chaff removal system gets clogged - and potentially catches fire - or at the very least gives the beans at the chaff collector-end a bit of a char.) But this is something you learn relatively quickly and desists to be a problem.
*Cooling Cycle. What? There's a cooling cycle? Yes. Cooling is probably the Gene's biggest letdown. It cools, but not nearly as fast as it should. But again, you get used to this and learn to stop the roast a bit early. I was skeptical at first, but it's really not the detractor you think when you first get it.
Reliability? To be determined. But so far, looks to be a well-made machine. And makes no mention of those limited-use recommendations like other convection roasters (Hearthware) that just makes you feel so confident that your machine was built to last... ahem... The Gene's parts look solid. The black heat/fire resistant plastic that encases it actually looks good and, contrary to what you might think, does not look cheap at all. It does it's job well (never more than warm to the touch - but watch out for the glass and one or two tiny exposed metal parts on the cylinder when removing after roasting...).
Here's hoping for years of happy roasting from the Gene. I have a feeling I may not be disappointed.
That little roasting appliance is the end point for some home roasters, and only the beginning for others. I think it is natural for folks to be enthusiastic over things like this, and to perhaps lose objectivity along the way.
My main objection to the article is that while it does a fairly good job comparing apples to oranges, it doesn't deal at all with pears. By that I mean that home roasters who are serious about fine coffee and have access to the best of the professionally roasted beans generally understand that they will never be able to compete with the combination of great beans, wonderful equipment, and the years of experience that professional roasters bring to the table.
However, for a goodly number of folks, that superlative professionally roasted coffee is simply not available. Their home roast is competing with grocery store beans, Starbucks, or some \"gourmet\" bean roasted some months ago and imported from Seattle, Chicago, or Vancouver.
I think there is a useful analogy with home espresso making as well. I just purchased a pretty good espresso maker--a Bezzera BZO2A--and I have a pretty good grinder, a Rocky doserless. Over the course of the next year, I may pull 1000 shots. There is no way on earth that my espresso will approach, much less surpass, that which an experienced barista using top notch equipment and superbly roasted beans can produce. It just isn't going to happen.
That doesn't mean I shouldn't make espresso at home, work at improving my technique, or be proud of what I can accomplish.
As I said, the homeroaster who buys a little roasting appliance today and is pleased as punch with the results, might, in fact be producing better coffee than he is used to getting from the beans that are available to him, just as my espresso, given some work on my part, might be better than what I can get in my neck of the woods.
More than that, experience with the small roasting appliance that seems so wonderful initially, might, if the enthusiasm continues to build, lead to purchasing (or building) a better machine and spending the time and energy required to be able to roast some mighty fine coffee at home just as, over time, and perhaps even better equipment, I might someday make mighty fine espresso.
There is some truly wonderful homeroasting going on, by people who have kept meticulous records over an extended period of time and who have learnt from each and every batch they have roasted. These are not the folks who spill four ounces of beans into a roasting appliance and then watch 9 minutes of Judge Judy before they hit the cool button.
With the current interest in home roasting, a growing willingness for people to invest in better and more expensive machines, and the commitment we are seeing from manufacturers to improve the machines they put out there, homeroasting will only get better over time.
It's not for everyone, but it doesn't have to be.
Vicki (who is happy, happy, happy with her latest bread machine/heat gun roast of a truly lovely Yirg, but whose last Brazil Yellow Bourbon roast just plain didn't do it)
Very good points. By all means. Roast 'em if you got 'em with whatever you got to roast 'em with.
However. from my limited experience with the popcorn style roasters - I would have to say, all other variables removed, that some home roasting conduits will definitely get you closer to coffee nirvana than others.
I have not been roasting long, but before the Gene Cafe, I would use a perforated pizza pan and my oven over a popcorn style machine.
I started with an iRoast2, and it definitely has limitations. It is what it is, which, is, perhaps, all it needs to be for some folks.It was enough to get me hooked.
I decided to give the bread machine/heat gun a try because I have a mobility issue that made using a dog bowl tricky, and I liked the stirring action of a bread machine. I couldn't deal with the smell or the smoke of the gene cafe or the hottop in my house. Someday, if I have the money to renovate, and put in a really good ventilation system, I might give one of those a go.
My goal was to have more control over the roast--primarily to be able to control the ramp up to first and the time between 1st and second--should I care to go there. I also wanted to try some of the beans that folks say are best at city/city+, and that just wasn't going to happen in the IR2, well, not unless I wanted to use beans that were roasted for only six minutes or so and bright, bright, bright.
I roast in my unheated garage, and if I pre-warm the bread machine with the HG, I can roast when it is -20 out. I have to wear a down jacket, long johns, a hat and gloves to do it, but still...
The IR2 needs an ambient temperature of 50, so it is an inside machine for me--in fact the manufacturer states it should be used inside.
I don't think that the roasting appliances that were designed to be used inside are necessarily dangerous, BTW, any more than a self-cleaning oven, that heats up to 800 degrees to do its thing is. You have to pay attention, and follow the directions, but that is true with my toaster oven, too.
Is there a home coffee roaster that will bring out the floral tones? I use a NESCO , but use a George Foreman rotisserie, George Foreman Grill, flexible infrared thermometer and now I borrowed my daughters WEST BEND popcorn popper and guess what. Some of the beans are showing floral tones!
What home roaster will not loose floral tones ?