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The scoop on small capacity roasters.

Part one of our report on small-batch roasters concentrated on the standard models used in roasting/retailing establishments, essentially 12 kilo models of drum roasters. What I hope to accomplish in this final installment is to include those machines which unfortunately were missed in part one, or which don't quite fit the normal parameters of roaster/retailer operations. However, I also have a few words to say about the relationship one should have with their roasting machinery.

Much of my opinion on this subject comes from numerous conversations with roasters across the U.S., whom I interviewed for Timothy J. Castle's book, The Perfect Cup. However, I recently brushed up on the subject with Jay Endres of The Roastery Development Group in San Mateo, CA.

The Roastery Development Group is a fantastic resource for any questions you may have about roasters and related machinery, and I encourage you to call and keep in mind that there are no stupid questions, or at least if there is, I've already asked it.


Roastery Development Group,

San Mateo, CA

It's hard to believe that I could have overlooked this machine in part one, but as a poor excuse let me say that I've never actually had the privilege to work with an owner of one of these machines. SASA/SAMIAC can almost be considered the Rolls Royce of the roasting machines. It is a French-made machine, and please excuse me for saying this but it suffers a bit from that fact in its marketing. While the machine is wellknown and respected in Europe, it is not the strongest seller here in the States, and part of that is because it is assumed that one should simply know of it.

The unit I will discuss is known here in the U.S. as the Dual 12, because it can roast and cool 12 kilos simultaneously. The technical name is the GE 10/12. This roaster is comparable to the Probat L12 or the Diedrich IR 24, and is ideally suited for in store roasting. The machines are imported from France, and it is the only roaster that is custom made and comes with either a left or a right hand control. While this feature may seem rather insignificant it makes for an ideal machine if for some reason the corner you want to place your roaster in requires the control on a specific side. The machine also has a separate chaff collector which is moveable. This means you can situate the unit in a corner and adjust the venting pipe that goes to the chaff collector to accommodate the space. In other words, the Dual 12 fits into the most awkward situations, making it a custom fitted appliance for the store.

One of the other outstanding features of the Dual 12 (and all Sasa/Samiac machines) is that it is the only roasting machine that still maintains the cast iron drum housing. Cast iron keeps heat in significantly better, and also maintains the heat. This is also the only roaster that has a hook up for fire control. The unit contains a 3/8" water hookup, which, like a hose, allows you to turn a valve and quench any fires in the roaster or the chaff collector.

The Sasa/Samiac unit has four motors that allow for the separate roasting and cooling cycles. It is the only roaster that has thermally digital controls. While with other roasters when you adjust the gas you go by the flame and watch the temperature gauge, with this machine you just program the degrees and the roaster will automatically hit that temperature. It works just like your home heater thermostat. While this is an expensive bit of machinery, it does mean that once you find your formula for a particular coffee, how you want to bring up the roast, you can simply repeat the formula and achieve as consistent results as is possible.

The current cost on a Dual 12 is $21,997. If I'm not mistaken, this makes it the most expensive 12 kilo roaster on the market. According to The Roastery Development Group, the price is justified because the roaster will allow you to do anything you want, pre-programmable. It's not recommended, but you can actually walk away from it. They also cited that the machine is built like a tank and will probably outlive you. Normal delivery time is four weeks for fabrication, shipping three days to four weeks depending on whether you choose air or sea. Custom paint color is a $700 surcharge, standard finish is fire engine red with brass trim.

Neuhaus/Neo tec

(Modern Process),

Chicago, IL

Technically the RFB-G is a sample roaster for Neuhaus/Neotec's big equipment, and big equipment is what Neuhaus/Neotec is famous for. In fact, this company is right behind Probat in world volume of coffee roasters. However, their new addition to the RFB range definitely fits the need of a roaster/retailer who also has a booming wholesale business. Why? It's amazingly fast, capable of roasting up to 200 pounds an hour.

The RFB-G roasts between 10 and 20 kilos of coffee per batch, and can be operating both roasting and cooling simultaneously. The beans are roasted exclusively with hot air, in what is called a fluidized bed. Essentially the beans are in a slanted chamber through which hot air continually blows. Constant rotation and mixing ensures a uniform roast. Heat is supplied by a gas-fired burner, and a powerful fan supplies the rotational motion. Cooling in these machines takes place exactly like the roasting chamber.

The appearance of the RFB-G takes a bit of getting used to as it doesn't resemble your traditional drum roaster in any way. It is a large box with windows for viewing the roasting and cooling chambers. One of the great features about the design however is that the simple construction, (there are no moving parts in the roasting chamber), makes for low maintenance costs and ease of cleaning.

Operation on this machine is very similar to the larger capacity models, a real advance for smaller machines. There is a control panel which allows for precise control of the roasting. Operation of the unit is semi-automatic, the coffee is manually fed and discharged under gravity. When I contacted Modern Process, this machine was so new that they didn't even have brochures available yet, however, I would suggest that interested parties contact Dan Ephraim at Modern Process for more information.

Rair Systems, Inc., Chicago, IL

Rair Systems, Inc. is an interesting company because it seems to have interests all over the place. Their latest introduction at the Specialty Coffee Association of America Show in Boston is a prime example of this. Not only will this counter top machine, the Aerabica, roast coffee, but it also does seeds and nuts, and was in fact, originally intended to provide the dieting public with french flies sans the deep flyer.

The machine is only about 14" wide and about the same size as a microwave oven. It plugs directly into a standard electrical outlet, and with the attachment of a dryer-type exhaust hose, you're ready to roast. Batch size of the Aerabica is 1 lb. to 3.5 lbs., with roasting times varying from 9 minutes to 26. The machine can roast up to 10 pounds per hour.

The beans are roasted in a stainless steel perforated drum which has a built-in chaff collector. Hot air is circulated through the drum while it revolves, by a 2000 watt electric heater. There is a small door built into the machine so coffee can be checked for color.

Controls on the Aerabica are digital, and measure the time and temperature of the roast. The machine was designed with the small gourmet store in mind and requires limited user training. The Rair Aerabica machine is a perfect example of how hungry the public is to learn about the roasting process, and while it wouldn't be practical for stores requiring large amounts of roasting, it could be the ideal set-up for gourmet stores looking to offer the aroma and appeal of truly fresh roasted coffee.

Belorama, Australia

Ian Bersten is one of those icons of the coffee industry. This man is one of those whose knowledge of coffee extends far beyond the bottom line, it encompasses a passion for the beverage from bean to brewed beverage. His entry into the roasting machinery marketplace is a countertop model that works on all the well-known principles of the larger roasters.

The Roller Roaster is countertop size, and comes in 6 lb. and a 20 lb. model. While it is small, it is also powerful, the smallest unit can produce more than 400 pounds a week.

Because it uses the fluidized bed method of roasting, training time on this machine is very short, lan quotes 10 minutes as the amount of time necessary to learn how to operate the Roller Roaster. Installation is simple, you just plug it in, and hook up a vent.

Where the Roller Roaster really departs from one's expectations is in the amount of time and energy that went into it. The controls on this little guy are impressive. Everything that can be monitored on a large scale roaster is on this tiny countertop model. The unit can monitor gauge temperature, bean temperature, and roasting air temperature. But, be forewarned, there is a cost to all this precision. The Roller Roaster goes for approximately $16,000.

Roasting Tips

Once upon a time... roasting was all heat and no air, and beans were roasted in something like a cast-iron Weber barbecue. The smoke caused by burning chaff in the chamber intiltrated itself into the beans and imparted a distinct flavor on them. However, this hasn't been true since the 1920's because today most roasters on the market use a great amount of air, removing chaff from the chamber and along with it all those smoky overtones.

It also used to be that the phrase, "bigger is better" dominated the coffee industry. While it may be true that the idea that only big roasters are proper roasters still prevails in much of the industry, with the hard work of many, many coffee lovers most of us don't quite believe that anymore. Today, if you're into coffee (I mean specialty coffee), you're into the bean as opposed as into the maChirle.

And here is where I take my soapbox to deliver, my oratory on what it should mean when you feel the calling to become a coffee roaster. Coffee roasting is an art. Do yourself, your customers, and your business a favor, and before you go out and spend the down payment on a house for a roaster, learn how to cup coffee. Only after you've learned the flavor profiles of coffee can you then learn how to develop the coffee in a roaster. The lesson is that you've got to know the product in order to bring out the best in it, and you've got to recogruze that there is an entire spectrum of flavors in the coffee world that must be addressed. Please, you cannot simply roast everything "Full City" and consider that you are giving the world the best that coffee has to offer.

Below are the specffics of roasting and my top hints, culled from real experts, not from my own feeble attempts at the art.

1. Fifty percent of the secret of roasting coffee is stopping the roast at the fight time. When coffee pops, or as roasters call it "cracks," the noise that you hear is the outgassing of water, which causes the fiber structure of the bean to pop open. When the bean's integrity is altered this way, it allows for the escape of essential offs, essential to flavor and aroma that is. If you don't know when the point is before the oil starts escaping, and you let that oil spray the inside of your roasting drum and run out to your neighbors through the chimney, well, there goes your aromatics.

2. Cooling--The faster you are able to cool the coffee, the better the end product. Once you learn how long it takes on your particular machine to cool the coffee, it means learning how much you have to compensate for any roasting that will continue to occur in the cooling bin

3. Fortunately for the big boys they have electrical devices that read the temperature of the beans, the relative humidity of Miami, and keeps track of your important dates. The nice thing about being able to read bean temperature is that when the temperature reaches a certain point, it means a certain color. On big machines this means that they can achieve the same color year in and year out, by measuring and achieving their ultimate desired bean temperature. For those who roast without such sophisticated wiring, however, here's the hot tip. If you're going to roast by eye, then bring a 40 watt lightbulb right above your tryer and look at the color in this light. If this 40 watt lightbulb is right over the tryer at all times, regardless of day or night, your light conditions will remain the same and your full city won't differ depending on whether you roasted before lunch or after dinner. As Jay Endres would say, "If this distorts the looks of your store than good, you're in the coffee business not the decor business."

4. Forget factory support, what you want to do is know coffee so well that you view the roaster as simply a box, a barrel, and some bearings. Learning to play with the air damper on a Diedrich, or to adjust the flame on your Probat is second nature after a while. Just remember that roasters are a piece of equipment to be maintained, and that all roasters have to be maintained every day. Sometimes, with heavy production more than once a day to keep any accumulation of chaff, broken beans, and oils building up.

5. For the roaster/retailer one of the important functions of the roaster in the store is how much it can convey to customers about the product. Use your roasting equipment so that the machine in your store teaches people the process of coffee. If people can't see the equipment and visualize the coffee roasting sequentially, from green beans to the finished product, then they won't know it's a coffee roaster. Remember, it isn't just Colombian coffee freshly roasted, it is your expertise you're selling.

6. In case of a fire, the best protection is an old fashioned water filled fire extinguisher. You don't even have to turn off the machine, simply aim the extinguisher through the tryer and spray.

What the future holds

The thing that the specialty coffee industry has to look at when it looks at coffee in every aspect, not just roasting machinery, is that there is going to be an increased demand. This demand will probably require similar equipment, 12-kilo remaining the standard size for roaster/retailers. However, a whole new class of roasters may emerge and is certainly already receiving attention. That is the counter-top models, or what can be referred to as demonstration roasters. These can be a class unto themselves.

In the distant future, because of increasingly stringent air quality controls, roasters may become smokeless. However, this will be much more expensive than the machines now on the market. While some people are arguing that with roasters, like with cars, electric is the future, this probably won't happen. As anybody who likes to cook knows, you lose control when you switch to electric instead of gas heating.

The market for used machines will continue to be fierce. (Try looking for a used Probat someday, they simply don't exist.) Buying a used roaster is like buying a used swimming pool, people have no reason to get rid of them. Businesses which are growing don't get rid of their smaller machines, they keep it for their next operation. But, because many people don't have the capital necessary to purchase roasting equipment, you may see even more toll roasting in the industry.

There are also plans already underway for making a black box that is retrofittable for any roaster and allows the unit to read bean temperature. This is an add-on component that will upgrade the roaster to give tighter control to the roastmaster. Smaller machines will be doing everything they can to try and gain control over the product and then be able to repeat the results, much like the larger equipment does now. While you probably won't see the market going to smaller or cheaper equipment, it will probably move towards more automatic controls. In two years it may even be passe to have a roaster that doesn't read bean temperature.

The industry can't help but be affected by the emphasis on precision and consistency and with the increased competition, blending will be the key to standing out. Expertise in buying, roasting ability, and unique proprietary blends are going to be the important things to maintain in the market because specialty coffee isn't going to get bigger it's going to get deeper.

New kids on the block--Units to look for in 1994

W. Roure

While I wasn't able to view it in operation, the new 6-kilo roaster looks promising. This shop roaster with electronic controls is an interesting addition to the company's product line. Roure has manufactured roasters for a long time and is well-established in Europe. They traditionally have built rugged machines that allow the small roaster to have the same control as the large processor.


The second new roaster is Petrociru's 7.5 kilo roaster. Historically, this is a quality manufacturer, and they used to make a pretty nifty machine. They should prove to be a welcome addition to the market.

Wendy Rasmussen Moore works with Castle Communications in Santa Monica, CA, specializing in public relations and marketing for the specialty coffee and tea industries.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:part 2
Author:Moore, Wendy Rasmussen
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:Great strides in the Greater Antilles: the reintroduction of Puerto Rican specialties.
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