The Problem with forums - Part2

Part2 - The budding home roaster

This is the 2nd of my humorous little series of articles about Coffee Forums (but it probably applies to many other types of forum). Any similarities to any actual forum, person or company…living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Home Roasting

Now there is a popular little subject if ever I have seen one and sure enough, at some point to gain the admiration, respect and awe of your forum peer group (and any illuminati), you will want to start home roasting…..So where do you start, because you sure as hell don’t want to spend any money if you can help it., ah of course, ask the forum for advice. So you post your question.

“I have been lurking in the home roasting section for a while now and want to begin home roasting, I don’t want to spend too much initially and am looking for any advice?”

Now of course you haven’t been lurking for very long at all, but you don’t want to let them know that, you also only managed to read about 7 of the forum threads before you “lost the will to live”…partly because you couldn’t be ar$ed and partly because they were so filled up with crap that it was difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. So it’s easier just to ask the question, besides everyone seems pretty knowledgeable. The flurry of replies is amazing and is as follows (my comments in italics):

  • “Why bother home roasting when you can buy great fresh roasted coffee from “Bettabeans Roastery”, but if you do want to start roasting they sell great green coffee too.”

Well there you go, what an answer, terrifically helpful, although now you know where everyone gets their green beans from!

  • “The machine to get is the Ploptop, absolutely the best home roaster on the market and available from “Bettabeans Roastery” available in a number of models from expensive, to very expensive, but worth every penny.”

Wow this looks the business and sage advice from someone who has only used one roaster before.

  • “Try a whirlypop, I’ve used one for years and been enjoying great coffee and you can get one from….you guessed it” “Bettabeans Roastery””

Please kill me before getting me a whirlypop to roast on!

  • “The oven is the best place to start”

The oven is for cooking Sunday dinner, TV dinners and oven chips…..for roasting coffee, it leaves a lot to be desired. Its long roasting times makes every type of coffee taste the same (not very good). You felt like asking if you could get an oven from “Bettabeans Roastery”, but thought the better of it.

  • “I have a commercial roaster; you can’t beat em, just get yerself and old Probat or Deidrich etc. gas model preferably.”

Has completely ignored your question and the many thousands of pounds of cost involved. It is of course a chance to air the fact that they have a nice commercial roaster

Now your next question “does roasting generate a lot of smoke?”

I think the only answer to give here is “is a frogs ass watertight”. Surprisingly though you will get a wide range of answers.

Let’s assume you avoided some of the more challenging methods of roasting, such as the popcorn maker, oven, whirlypop, I-roar and similar….decided not to fracture the wallet to get a commercial roaster and decided on the Ploptop rather than the Keene Gaff roaster. Fine now you have your roaster at home….it’s cost anything from £250-£700. Great, so you start to roast and find that things are not working out as planned and you post “that after 20 minutes your beans didn’t go brown”. Amazingly in the absence of any further information, and no other questions (like did you turn your roaster on), there come the suggestions of, turn off all other electrical appliances in your house when roasting, or the Variac…..yup lot’s of sage advice about a Variac and "how pretty essential to ensure..….", "Bills got one" etc. even "Variacs will keep the voltage to the roaster constant".

Variacs (a quick digression)
Now you probably didn’t know what a Variac was (and never really wanted to) until you bought a home roaster, some models of home roaster are more needy than others. You do the research (e-bay is your friend) and stick a bid in for a Claude Lyons Regavolt 6, 8 or even 10 amp……Terrific you won the bid and your wallet is a further £80-120 lighter (the postage was a lot). It arrives a few days later…yeah, not what you expected, bit bigger than it looked in the picture, heavy too, but you had sage advice to go for an 8 or 10 amp unit. You think, my god, it’s going to look like Frankenstiens laboratory when I get this lot rigged up to roast my beans.

Oh, something else you find out (unless you spend oodles of money) the Variac doesn’t “manage” the voltage at a preset level, it’s a sort of step up/step down transformer that can be set from maybe 80% to 115% (depending on model) allowing effectively 240 volts to be stepped up to a maximum of 276V. So if your mains voltage is a bit low, say 220V and you step it up to 240V (about 109%)…if then unbeknownst to you the input voltage rises to gradually to 240, then you will be supplying your roaster 261V! whoops…phhtt!

So know you have spent loads of money and have a small electronics lab in your Kitchen, Garage or Shed. The next question is, how you actually roast…surprisingly this question won’t get you many answers, everyone knows what to roast in, but they seem strangely reticent in telling you how?

Not daunted by this you have a go and post (including pictures) about your early efforts.


“I roasted some Monsooned Malabar today and it got to 1st crack in 18 minutes and reached this colour in 23 m, I have also attached a picture of my roasting setup taken after the roast”.

The replies flood in thick and fast, “well done”, “terrific mate”, “sounds good”…”bet you can’t wait to taste them”.


Now at this point you are a bit confused and rightly so. This is because you have never had beans so dark and shiny before and there was a fair bit of smoke from the roaster (well actually there was loads of smoke). However, your first stumbling attempts were successful and according to those who know better….the boy did good. Great, so now the 3 day wait, but of course it’s your first roast so after a few hours you pull a shot. Eyuuurgh, it feels like your taste buds have been pulled out of your mouth, coated in that stuff they use to stop you biting your nails, and then re-implanted. My god you have never tasted anything so horrible and the taste simply won’t go away, no matter how much water (or whiskey) you drink. Hmm time for another post.

“Guys, I just couldn’t wait and had to try the coffee as an espresso. I must admit although it was nice… was slightly bitter compared to what I was used to”

Now of course this is just a feeler post, because they all thought it was alright, even if you did think that it would have stood you in good stead as a portfolio picture if applying for a job at the local crematorium.

The replies flood in and they are reassuring:

“You need to let them rest at least 3 days, the flavour keeps improving”, “Maybe your water temperature is a little hot, try a longer cooling flush” and “I don’t like mine quite as dark as that, try about 20 seconds less next time”.

So you persevere with coffee so disgusting it makes your stomach churn and it only gets worse….eventually they end up in the right place, the bin. Of course this needs another post.

“Yeah I waited 3 days, but they didn’t really improve…I think maybe I just don’t like these darker roasts”

The replies are even more reassuring

“Yeah I thought they looked a bit dark”, “I still think you should have done a longer cooling flush”, “I would have added them to a blend” and of course “better luck next time”

Well with this kind of information and support……how can you fail? Next time you resolve to get better beans, that should sort out any rough edges on your roasting. Hmm what have “Bettabeans Roastery” got….ah here we go, The Brazil Cachoeira da Grama Sweet Yellow Bourbon Estrela do Sul, Cerrado pulped natural OCIA 100% organic COE first place winner…..only £30 per kg, yup I will order a few Kg of this, great bean to learn on.

In our next installment, our intrepid hero thinks about upgrading!