My unsuccessful roasting attempts

Roasters and roasting

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Postby motoman » Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:00 pm

bronc wrote:The problem is not the cooling process. 3 mins in the roast the beans are already almost charcoal color and there is smoke everywhere.


There's your problem Bronc, throw the popper away. It is getting far hotter and far to fast for a proper roast. It looks to me that the beans are burnt on the outside before the inside is roasted. Good for a rare steak but suicide for poor little beans.

I am no expert (see my idiot posts elsewhere), more beans with the tin can method should cure the problem. Don't give up, the first time you get a decent cup it will be worth it.
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Postby bronc » Tue Feb 19, 2013 2:04 pm

No way I'm giving up :lol: I know that's the problem but I still haven't been able to solve it. Fortunately, I have another popper on the way and I just won an UK version to the Stir Crazy from eBay so hopefully I'll be able to make a Turbo Oven/Stir Crazy.
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Postby Superlight » Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:06 pm

I think the popcorn roasters are pretty variable - I've an I-Roast2 for roasting but started with a Popcorn roaster. I've just looked back at old posts and found that I was reporting that my roaster was slow at roasting and I found that I wanted (maybe just my impatience) to speed it up as opposed to slow it down and I was resorting to occasionally covering the top of the lid with a cloth to retain heat. I do recall also that the lid didn't take too kindly to that and deformed a bit !
That roaster failed at some point so I picked up another recently when Lidl had them on offer again - emergency backup as my I-Roast2 has done great work over the past few years but some bits are now quite secondhand looking with the lid missing some little parts - still functions fine. I gave my recent purchase a quick shot just to see how well it worked - this roasted the batch of beans really,really quickly, in the order of 3 minutes to reach very dark. A suggestion made to me was power-cycle the roaster and also agitate the beans with a wooden spoon. Maybe give it 1 minute to get up to temp then 30 secs on/30 secs off sort of thing ?
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Postby bruceb » Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:29 pm

If the roast temperature is too hot it is too hot and there isn't much you can do about it aside from modifying the machine. Using my drum roaster I try to aim for roast times of 16 - 18 minutes. The quality of the roasted coffee is not just related to how dark the beans get, but how long it takes them to get there. You can blacken the beans with a blow torch, but you won't be happy with the coffee you make from them. Maybe you can find someone with the skill of adding a dimmer to the heating element of perhaps you can find a used, modified one on e-Bay or by asking around in coffee groups.
Three Francesconi (CMA) espresso machines - Rossi, San Marco, LaCimbali, Faema and 2 Mazzer Major grinders- CoffeeTech Maggionlino, Hottop, Alpenröst and HW Precision roasters.
I decided I needed a bit of a change so I roasted some Monsooned Malabar. That was a change!
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Postby ahgee2 » Thu Feb 21, 2013 4:03 pm

I feel I have to put in a good word in defence of the humble popper! I have been roasting with a popper for a few years now. With the right beans and the right profile, results are as good as most of what I have tasted from speciality roasters. When it goes wrong, it's not the fault of the popper, but more that I still have a lot to learn about selecting the right beans and profile.

Of course this is a modified popper - the standard modification of inserting a thermocouple, separating the fan and heater, powering the fan through a variable DC supply (to control air flow) and the heater through a PID. This really does give fantastic control over the roast, I can do arbitrary profiles, batch size is limited (175g) but fine for home use. It must have cost me around £50 to put together, but does require a little electronics/hobbyist experience. It is sad that, without this experience, home roasters are forced to shell out a lot more money for, in my opinion, vastly inferior roasters. Why does it have to be so complicated?
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Postby bronc » Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:45 am

So I got my new popcorn maker (IMEX 1200W from eBay UK) today. I immediately opened it to remove the bubble from the bimetallic thermostat and then headed to the balcony to try it. I'm somewhat happy with the results. I've taken a couple of photos comparing them to a Brazil Daterra Yellow Bourbon roasted by one of the two specialty coffee roasters in Bulgaria. He claims that the roast is FC but it looks pretty light to me - maybe around City+. As to my beans (Malawi Geisha from RaveCoffee) - I'd say it's probably FC+ as I'm pretty sure I heard a few second cracks. I roasted them in to batches - around 50g each because the popcorn maker couldn't turn any more beans than that. I was able to get around 9-10mins with the first batch and around 12-13mins with the second one by transferring the beans from the popcorn maker to a pot a couple of times during the roast. No science involved, just watching the color of the beans change. On another note, I won an auction for a popcorn maker similar to the West Bend Stir Crazy and I hope I'll be able to assemble a Convection Oven/Stir Crazy setup in a few weeks time. Here are the promised pictures - http://imgur.com/a/RhZO7 . What do you think?

P.S. They look a bit inconsistent but I think this is mainly due to the light. In reality they look much more consistent.
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Postby simonp » Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:05 pm

Look OK to me, some beans do roast unnevenly so I wouldn't get too worried about that. Often with popcorn maker roasting to get a decent batch size you need to agitate the beans with a wooden spoon or similar until they lose some moisture & therefore weight. It is all part of the fun of "hands on" roasting!
I actually find that even done in the Hottop my beans always have a darker surface the professionally roasted beans done in a gas roaster. I will roast and stop before 2nd crack (the same as the pro roasted ones) but the outside of the neabs will be darker. I think that the closer proximity of the heat source to the bean surface scorches it slighly, possibly also due to the more moist atmosphere in a gas roaster. This is just my take on it without any actual proof though :)
If you compare the taste of the beans when brewed or by cupping you will get more of an idea of the roast level/differences.
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Postby GeorgeW » Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:46 pm

ahgee2 wrote:I feel I have to put in a good word in defence of the humble popper! I have been roasting with a popper for a few years now. With the right beans and the right profile, results are as good as most of what I have tasted from speciality roasters. When it goes wrong, it's not the fault of the popper, but more that I still have a lot to learn about selecting the right beans and profile.

Of course this is a modified popper - the standard modification of inserting a thermocouple, separating the fan and heater, powering the fan through a variable DC supply (to control air flow) and the heater through a PID. This really does give fantastic control over the roast, I can do arbitrary profiles, batch size is limited (175g) but fine for home use. It must have cost me around £50 to put together, but does require a little electronics/hobbyist experience. It is sad that, without this experience, home roasters are forced to shell out a lot more money for, in my opinion, vastly inferior roasters. Why does it have to be so complicated?


I do have a great admiration for people such as yourself who choose to rely on their creativity and skills to create an alternative to what is commercially available. They are part of a great British tradition and it's heartening to find it still alive and kicking.
I suppose that one reason for the majority of roasters choosing to buy a ready-made product would be the lack of spare time given the pressures of modern life. The low esteem in this country for those with practical skills I suspect would be another factor.
Personally, I'm always curious about how things work and how I can improve them. Nothing that I purchase remains in its original form.
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Postby bruceb » Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:02 pm

Most popcorn poppers will not work for coffee roasting without modification. Many people are unwilling or unable or afraid to open up an electrical device, rewire, add parts and/or solder connections and then put it back together and plug it in. When you read some of the things that people have done it may be best this way.
Three Francesconi (CMA) espresso machines - Rossi, San Marco, LaCimbali, Faema and 2 Mazzer Major grinders- CoffeeTech Maggionlino, Hottop, Alpenröst and HW Precision roasters.
I decided I needed a bit of a change so I roasted some Monsooned Malabar. That was a change!
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Postby bronc » Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:04 pm

simonp wrote:Look OK to me, some beans do roast unnevenly so I wouldn't get too worried about that. Often with popcorn maker roasting to get a decent batch size you need to agitate the beans with a wooden spoon or similar until they lose some moisture & therefore weight. It is all part of the fun of "hands on" roasting!
I actually find that even done in the Hottop my beans always have a darker surface the professionally roasted beans done in a gas roaster. I will roast and stop before 2nd crack (the same as the pro roasted ones) but the outside of the neabs will be darker. I think that the closer proximity of the heat source to the bean surface scorches it slighly, possibly also due to the more moist atmosphere in a gas roaster. This is just my take on it without any actual proof though :)
If you compare the taste of the beans when brewed or by cupping you will get more of an idea of the roast level/differences.

I forgot to mention that I didn't stop agitating the beans using a wooden spoon. I think it helped a lot as well. I'll let them rest for 1-2 days and I'll try them. The other beans, the ones I bought, taste really sour and I can't find any complexity in the taste. I don't know whether I can't taste them or something else.. Right now I kind of feel that specialty coffee is a lie and tastes no different than supermarket coffee. :(

P.S. Forgot to mention that I'm using a Gaggia Classic and Tiamo Hand burr grinder. Not the best grinder but I'm saving for a 2nd hand Iberital MC2. I'm aiming for 1.6 brew ratio for 25-30secs.

@bruceb - I'm not afraid to do it but I don't know how.. :( My popper has some kind of a circuit board attached to the fan and that makes everything even more complicated as most circuitry diagrams I've seen don't have such a thing.
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Postby simonp » Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:34 pm

bronc wrote:The other beans, the ones I bought, taste really sour and I can't find any complexity in the taste. I don't know whether I can't taste them or something else.. Right now I kind of feel that specialty coffee is a lie and tastes no different than supermarket coffee. :(


No, it is certainly not a lie, when you get it right there is a HUGE difference, so don't lose heart. If the taste is sour it could be that your brew water temperature is a bit low, the beans need a longer rest, or they are just not roasted well. Acertianly lighter roasts need ate least 4-5 days for the falvoiurs to develop properly.
It is worth checking the temperature of the brew water on your machine. There is a simple approximate was using a thermometer and styrofoam cup, look online and there is plenty of info on it.
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Postby bronc » Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:52 pm

To be honest, I don't really see a reason for the water to be not hot enough. I changed the boiler because it was broken so there is no scale buildup.. I don't know. And I have no idea where to buy a styrofoam cup from in Bulgaria - most coffee vending machines make the coffee in a paper cup. They are sold only in batches of 100.
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Postby ahgee2 » Sat Feb 23, 2013 10:35 am

bruceb wrote:Most popcorn poppers will not work for coffee roasting without modification. Many people are unwilling or unable or afraid to open up an electrical device, rewire, add parts and/or solder connections and then put it back together and plug it in. When you read some of the things that people have done it may be best this way.


I wasn't trying to suggest that inexperienced people have a go at this - you are of course right, it might be dangerous - but for an electronics hobbyist it's a couple of hours simple work. The real point I was trying to make (not very clearly, apologies) is that if an excellent, fully controllable roaster can be put together by me for £50, why can't a manufacturer offer something similar? I have seen it suggested that the machine I have arrived at is somehow dangerous and would never get a CE mark, but I have not had to bypass either the bi-metallic strip or the thermal fuse (as soon as you get proper control of the heater, the environmental temperature doesn't get sufficiently high to open the thermal breaker), so I don't see how it's any less safe than an unmodified popper, give or take my wiring skills .....
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Postby simonp » Sat Feb 23, 2013 12:16 pm

bronc wrote:To be honest, I don't really see a reason for the water to be not hot enough. I changed the boiler because it was broken so there is no scale buildup.. I don't know. And I have no idea where to buy a styrofoam cup from in Bulgaria - most coffee vending machines make the coffee in a paper cup. They are sold only in batches of 100.


You get away with using a plastic cup instead. The only other way us to use a thermocouple meter and a bead thermocouple over the rim of the basket and measure the temp on the coffee puck, but a packet of cups would be cheaper.

Sourness comes from too low brew water temp, beans roasted too light for that bean, or underextraction. If I had to guess I would say the latter. Even if you are getting the expected shot volume, you could be getting channeling. Whenever I pull a sour shot it is almost always down to this.
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Isomac Rituale
Mazzer Mini
Mahlkonig Vario
Chemex
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2 Bodum press pots
Hottop updated to a B with Compuetr control
Imex roaster, dimmer mod on heater (under spare bed)
Rival popper, with split motor and dimmer mod on heater (retired)
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Postby bronc » Sat Feb 23, 2013 12:27 pm

I just pulled a shot with the Malawi. 14gr in, 33sec - pouring started at the 10th second, output ~30g. There was a lemony touch but the aftertaste was bitter. Not as sour as the Brazil Daterra I bought but.. Any suggestions? Grind a bit coarser or stop the shot earlier? I might've gotten channeling because at one point the shot started pouring a bit faster and the puck was kind of split. I think there was some blonding in the end as well. I poured it in some frothed milk and it's ok but I tihnk that's mostly due to the fact that the milk's a bit too much for the espresso that was left after I tasted it. :lol:

EDIT: I tried one click coarser but I must've tamped harder because the shot came out pretty slow again. This timed I weighed it after I finished with the extraction (can't fit scale under the portafilter because the glass is too high :/) and I stopped it at 17g which is pretty early but the shot started to blond.. The taste is sour and bitter. Probably a bit less sour than before but more bitter. Next time (tomorrow) I'll try either lighter tamp or coarses grind.
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