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On the road to a perfect roast, Part V: option anxiety for certified-control freaks.

In previous issues, we began our interviews with some of the best and brightest roaster technology and roast profiling technology developers in the industry. In this installment, we will continue with the insights from some additional experts, each with their own style of roast profiling technology and guiding philosophy for its use.

Victor Allen Mondry of Original V LLC in Belleville, Wisconsin not only sells new Joper Roasters with available PLC, but also installs profile control systems with modulating gas valves on existing roasters. "Typically, for small roasters, I'd use a profiling controller with 30-100 recipes, user definable, at least 10 steps each," said Mondry. "Simple, but very effective Yokogawa process controllers offer 30-100 roast profile recipes of 10-100 steps each, with enough on-board power to load, roast, discharge and cool a roast. The Yokogawa process controller range includes single and dual PID loop controllers, along with all-in-one multi-loop (up to 6) controller/multichannel (up to 10) real time paperless chart recorder/real time multi-channel data-logger." According to Mondry, the company uses these products along with modulating gas valves, in order to achieve a simple, but powerful roast profiling that is "cost effective enough to consider placing on almost any roaster, yet with industrial quality for the utmost in reliability." During the roasting process, the roastmaster is also able--at any given time--to drive the roast with a quick and easy toggle to manual mode.

"We also offer semi-automatic, touchscreen PLC-based profiling, with power to run additional upstream (green silos) and downstream (de-stoner, roast silos) equipment," Mondry said. "Our semi-automatic installations can, for example, roast 10 batches of Colombian unattended, drawing the green coffee as needed from the appropriate silo, and delivering each roast to the appropriate silo, if you wish. Beyond that, we offer Industrial Factory Automation PC profiling and plant automation, including a touch-screen Industrial Personal Computer running a full-fledged factory automation software. This level of automation can perform all of the functions of the semi-automatic system, while also run your green coffee cleaner, coffee grinder, green or roast coffee blending, and feeding your packaging machines. In addition, it can maintain real time inventory records of your green, roast and blended coffee."

Recently, we had the chance to speak with Michael Whitley and Shawn Contreras from Diedrich Mfg., Inc. "On our entire IR Series, you have got your basic manual controls," Contreras stated. "We have airflow dampers, which are used to increase or decrease the amount of convective heat, and to blow out chaff, the flame and manometer shows you how much gas pressure is going to the burner. We use a manometer to help gauge energy consumption. In addition, we have plenty of aesthetic options; the fit and finish if you will; custom artwork, color selections, pin striping and stainless steel. However, we also have functional upgrades like a map light and automation."

Whitley informed us of some misconceptions about automation, data logging and the Diedrich solution, in particular. "With our Level One Automation System for shop roasters, you can still roast manually. We're not pushing a button to have the quality of your coffee be determined by a computer. Our theory is that the roastmaster is a trained and talented individual, and what we're doing is recording the roastmaster's creative manual adjustments to the airflow, fuel setting and bean temperature in milliseconds. Then, we display it in 15-second increments, and provide the option to store this in a database for future use. Roasting is still an art. With our system, the toastmaster can record, store a profile and if they choose, they can call up that profile, and heat up the roaster to the starting temperature. The roaster will then automatically duplicate the mechanical changes that the toastmaster has recorded."

Whitley mentioned how some of the industry's most experienced individuals have gone on to question their task, stating that they're "just having a machine do what I should be doing myself." However, he said that these machines are simply doing what you've already done. "You can then edit the profile, make the roast shorter or longer, and manipulate the profile offline. You can also copy one profile, tweak it and save it as another profile. You'll find that with other systems, there are three different checkpoints and a line is merely being drawn between them throughout the roast."

Data to Enterprise

"With a 'data-logger,' an often misused term, all you're doing is showing control points that are recorded, whether or not that can be duplicated is dubious. Ours is a PID-based system," Whitley said. According to him, however, this system is completely different. "A data-logger is not an automation system. With different data-logger and roast profile systems, the frequency of the control points vary. If you vary from the path you're going to vary the results. Our system is pretty complex. Our control points are recorded very close together in milliseconds, although it's displayed in 15-second increments because of the monitor real estate constraints, but the adjustments are still being made by the millisecond. There's a difference between drawing a beautiful line with software and using a closed-loop PID system."

Is Automation Right For You?

Whitley also went on to explain whether automation suited certain roasters.

"If you're approaching automation where you want this to automatically duplicate some 'magical algorithmic profile' and you're looking to eliminate coffee cupping, profile development and quality control, then this is not for you. Each coffee has its own unique characteristics and when you develop a roast profile, you're making your own unique recipe for it. When you have a great quality assurance program and you've developed your own profiles and understand the changes in coffee as it becomes past crop and so on, then our system can help you obtain better consistency," Whitley said.

Keeping Up With Your Shop

"The 'Level One Automation System' includes a vivid color touch screen with a PLC-based Operating System." According to Whitley, Diedrich Manufacturing, Inc. is also initiating an inventory program, in which the user can manage their green and roasted coffee in a "credit/debit" type of method. "It's an enhancement that we'll be launching first quarter of 2007. The automation technology continues to evolve to encompass and include more value for the roastmaster and business owner. A customer could come back to the roastmaster and say, 'You know that Costa Rican coffee you had a few weeks ago? I really want to buy that again!' With our system, the artisan toastmaster, who may have roasted that coffee in 20 different ways since then, can now go back and find and reproduce his roast profile in question. What's important is the traceability all the way back in time--from the profile, supplier, lot number and plantation. The roastmaster may look back at the data, see a particular lot number and be able to work from there or identify something in inventory [that is] very close to the original bean," concluded Whitley.

Paul Thornton, chair of the Roasters Guild executive council and roastmaster for Coffee Bean International, summarized the issues surrounding profile roasting, "Although technology is much grander than even a few years ago on this subject, it still follows the same conceptual direction of tracking time, temperature, moisture of beans, density of air, etc. Some systems and concepts take into consideration all of these factors, while others take into consideration just some of these factors. I think it would be very important to make clear that the concept of profile roasting is not simply automation, but following a designed map so the same path is taken from point A to point B every time." Thornton feels that ther is a give and take with this, and that one can profile roast and not use an automation system. According to him, non-automated profiling opens the door to a human element error factor, where as automated profile systems opens the door to the lack of the electronics' ability to capture important factors that the human element can capture. "My experienced opinion is that automation and profile roasting are two different topics and neither can make a perfect world for roasting, but using both can get the closest, as I believe there is a place for both."

Next Month we'll be finish up the series with an in-depth discussion with Karl Schmidt, president of Probat-Burns. While the question of "how" to roast may never be answered, we proceed with the underlying belief that the question of "why" is not so much the admittedly critical issues of consistency and cost control, but rather for a cup of coffee that a particular coffee drinker will savor and enjoy.

Timothy J. Castle, qahwah@aol.com; Victor Allen Mondry of Original V LLC, Belleville, Wisconsin, +(1)(608) 695-3910; Joel Starr, joel@castleandcompany.com; Michael Whitley and Shawn Contreras from Diedrich Mfg., Inc. Sandpoint, Idaho, +(1) (208)263-1276, www.diedrichroasters.com; Paul Thornton, Coffee Bean International. Portland, Oregon, +(1)(800)877-0474, www.coffeebeanintl.com
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Title Annotation:Roasting Technology
Comment:On the road to a perfect roast, Part V: option anxiety for certified-control freaks.(Roasting Technology)
Author:Starr, Joel; Castle, Tim
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:1491
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