Hottop Vs Gene Cafe - First Test

Hottop Vs Gene Cafe - First Test

Hi Everyone,

ok so its fallen on my new coffee shoulders to do the write up on Friday night. Many of you know me, but as a quick background, i've been in the coffee scene now for about 5 months. I purchased a Expobar Pulser and Macap MC4 at the end of October/ start of November.

I've been roasting on my Whirley pop for about a month now and its time to upgrade. After much looking around, i've narrowed it down to 3 machines :
- The standard Hottop (~£340)
- The new Hottop (~£640)
- Gene Cafe (~£260)

I've decided not to go with the new hottop as the price difference between the two was just too much. Also reading other write ups, the increase in price (almost double!) did not seem to give an appreciably better roast. So then down to the standard HT and the Gene. Coming into the night, I have to admit that the HT was leading in the "roaster race" due to the sheer volume of people happy with the HT.

5 of us were there for the event - turned up : Paul L, Paul B, Nick, Dave and myself which gave us a good cross section of experience. After a quick coffee, we went to Dave's shed for the main event. The first part started out with Paul L giving us a quick walk through of the features of the HT and then Dave doing the same with the Gene.

Straight away, it did seem that the HT was a more serious bit of kit, but at the same time, looked like it would have been a bit more effort to clean. At this point, I was still expecting the HT to give a better roast. One thing we noted at this stage was the requirement of filters for the HT whereas the gene did not require any. Filter costs will be something that potential buyers may want to consider as they can get quite expensive.

The ambient temperature there was around 7-8 C and the beans had a highish humidity - also the beans rested in the same room that the roast was done. This means we didn't have to take separate humidity measurements on the place where they rested and heat measurements where the roasting takes place.

2 bean's were roasted, a Kenyan AA and a Nicaraguan. First up was the Kenyan AA which we decided was to be roasted just to the end of first crack. Dave loaded up 225 grams into the Gene and set the temperature to 240. First crack was reached somewhere around 13:30 and second crack around 18 minutes.

Next we loaded up 225 grams of the Kenyan AA into the HT. Paul pre heated the machine, then loaded up the beans when the machine beeped. This roast was killed at around 17:45.

Dave had been unhappy with the Gene roast and so decided to load another 225 grams of the Kenyan AA but this time take the temperature up to 245. This roast also ended at around 18 minutes but the extra 5 degrees made the first cracks more audible. The colour of both roasts looked fairly similar but slightly more even on the HT. The smoke exiting through both machines was neglible compared to my whirley.

Firstly on seeing the two machines roast side by side, the HT is amazingly quiet… First crack was very audible. The Gene was slightly louder - you can hear the beans rolling around but its still no where near as loud as a Whirley Pop and I didn't have any problems hearing first crack. After the roasts, the Gene quickly cooled in a few minutes where the HT had to rest a lot longer. Because the Gene cooled so quickly, we were able to do the second roast of the Kenyan AA all in the same time that it took for the HT to be ready.

The next roast up was the Nicaraguan. With this one, we decided to take it just into second crack. With this, it was pretty much the same story, except we decided to roast them both at the same time. The HT was given time to do its pre heat cycle and the beans loaded at the same time the Gene was started. Once again, the Gene finished around the 18 minute mark whereas the HT we killed at around 20 minutes. Roast colour looked very much even between the two.

After seeing both roasters working side by side, I was very impressed with both machines but to my mind, the Gene was the better option for me. Its ease of loading, clear screen to see the colour of the beans and ability to manually control the roast made it a winner in my books.

So, that's the machines in action… what else is there to do but try the beans out? I was very uncomfortable about trying the beans out immediately after roasting. Everything I'd read basically screamed DO NOT try it straight away because of the beans needing to de-gas etc. Still, i'm game (dumb?) enough to try anything once so off we trotted back to the kitchen. The format here was simple, we had 10 generic disposable cups arranged into 2 rows of 5, one row marked with an X which would be used for the Gene roasts.

Dave ground and pulled 2 doubles of the Kenyan AA, poured them into the cups and then diluted it with water. The cups mixed around in their rows, without anyone watching. Then Paul moved in and also randomly mixed the cups around to give us a blind tasting.

Even to my pretty primitive taste buds, one roast tasted "alive" with flavour while the other one tasted a little dull and muted. Adding milk (and sugar) to the coffee, it was still obvious that one was better. Now, to be clear, they were BOTH good and I would be happy drinking EITHER coffee, but one was better. We all put forward the cup that we thought was better and then looked at the bottom. Mine had an X and so did everyone elses.

Ok, onto the Nicaraguan… exactly the same format was used. This time, I found it harder to choose between the two but the others didn't find it as difficult as I did. Both left what I can only describe as a slightly oily feel in my mouth and also tasted quite dry. The two cups tasted quite different, and I enjoyed them both, but in the end put forward my choice. Once again the X.

After discussion, Paul and Dave made it quite clear that the difference in tastes was not produced by the roasting action of the Gene but rather the time taken for the roast. In an earlier experiement, Dave and Paul had found that roast times of around 17 minutes produced a markedly improved flavour than those in excess of 20 minutes (using a HT). But, to get roast times of around 17 minutes on the HT, they had to reduce the batch size to around 150 - 175 grams.

Ok so to cap of my large piece of dribble, what am I saying here? Well, I like both machines and think that anyone would be happy with either but with the batch sizes and the features mentioned earlier, I like the Gene and will definately be getting one as soon as my budget permits! The other interesting thing I found out about the night is that yes it was possible to drink coffee straight after roasting and it still tastes quite good. Obviously not as good as if you let it sit for a few days, but definately drinkable. I want to say once again that I would happily drink any of the coffees produced that night and I'm sure the tastes of each would just keep developing in time.

Hope this helps anyone else who's interested in these two machines.


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