GeneCafe Home Coffee Roaster
Watch a 10 minute sample roast video
GeneCafe Home Coffee Roaster
The GeneCafe Home Coffee Roaster brings consistent quality and results to the home coffee roasting enthusiast. For a relatively low price (around $499 as of writing), the GC (GeneCafe) roaster offers custom dynamic temperature and time control.
I have had the GC roaster for nearly 4 months and logged over 40 roasts. So far, I am very impressed with the smart design and reliable results of this coffee roaster.
The GC roaster works best outdoors or under very good indoor ventilation. The smoke and scent of coffee roasting is intense and will linger on your clothes and body for hours. I once roasted indoors and it stank up the house for a long time.
Green coffee beans are available at a wide variety of places online, but I choose to buy from Sweet Maria's coffee. They offer a wide variety of coffee beans and accessories. Plus, their website (link below) is loaded with great information and hours worth of reading.
How it works:
By plugging the GC roaster into a standard electrical outlet, you have a fully capable hot-air, small batch coffee roaster. I usually roast in 200-300 gram batch sizes.
There are 2 rotatable buttons and a dual LCD display on the roaster front panel that allow you to set or alter the temperature and time before and during a roast cycle. My roasts usually end around 16-19 minutes at 460-480˚F, depending on roast level,batch size, type, and outdoor temperature and humidity. I honestly don't have enough experience or historic roasting data to draw any conclusive results. Just as in coffee preparation, there are so many factors that can alter the final roasted results. It is very easy to change the roast time, temperature, or bean type and taste a distinct difference with the results. So far, I am extremely pleased with the coffee I have roasted.
Roasting & Cooling:
As you begin the roast, the beans will slowly change color and begin to expand in size. The beans grow as they lose moisture. At a certain temperature, time, and moisture level, the coffee bean will make an audible crack. When many beans crack in succession, it sounds a lot like popcorn popping. I call this "first crack". As the beans continue to roast, the coffee oils move towards the surface of the bean and the cracking stops. Right around when I typically stop a roast cycle, the beans will begin a second crack. As the 2nd crack gets going, it sounds similar to rice krispies in milk. At this point, oil is usually visible on the surface of the bean.
From my limited experience and research, I have found that rapid cooling of the roasted beans gives you the greatest precision and roast regularity. At the end of a roast cycle the color and appearance of the bean can change rapidly. The bean surface will be dry, then matte, satin, then spotty, and will ultimately get glossy and dark with oil. Sometimes the appearance can change within seconds. It is ideal to roast the bean to your ideal appearance and then stop the roasting immediately and cool. If the cooling is too slow, the beans continue to roast and the appearance/taste can change. The GC roaster requires you to cool the coffee beans to 200˚F, usually taking 4-5 minutes, before you can remove them from the chamber. This slow cooling cycle usually results in the beans changing appearance which will change the coffee taste. In order to get a specific roast, you end up having to guess at the stopping point with the hopes that the slow cooling cycle will yield your favorite appearance/taste. There are some tricks (see below) that allow you to cool the coffee beans, almost immediately, giving you much better and easier results.
Logs & Impressions:
To the right is sample data from the last 4 roasts with the GC roaster. I'm continually documenting my roasts and look forward to doing some sort of analysis once I get enough information recorded. If I find anything noteworthy, I'll make sure to post it here in the future.
Before I bought the GC roaster, I used a Fresh Roast Plus 8 coffee roaster, which is basically a customized air popcorn popper. The Fresh Roast Plus 8 roasts much smaller batches, faster, hotter, and with barely no regularity. Compared to that, the Gene Cafe roaster is in a completely different class. The achievable roast consistency and quality possible with this roaster is likely close to or better than other more expensive roasters. I have learned something new with every roast that ultimately makes my coffee drinking better and better. Since I have roasted the coffee beans myself, I am much more observant and involved with subsequent grinding and extraction. This roaster has greatly enhanced my own appreciation for coffee. One last benefit is that green coffee beans are much cheaper (but not always better) to roast than buying from you local roaster or coffee shop!
If you are interested in, grind, make, and love coffee, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the Gene Cafe Home Roaster. Having the ability to experiment with bean roasting and blending will add a completely new dimension to your coffee experience.
Gripes & Tips:
· I wish this roaster could generate a little more heat. With larger batches, it struggles or never can get up to higher temperatures. It ends up just hitting a temperature it can't rise above. I find this annoying for some reason. I guess I want more muscle.
· It's instructed cooling methods are slow and lessen roasting control. I wish it could cool much faster or just have the capability to dump the beans from the chamber immediately after roasting. Cooling outside and away from the base unit (see below) helps reduce temperature and cooling times but can be dangerous.
· The chamber chaff screen and wiper don't work that well, especially with dry-processed coffee. Dry-processed beans give off a lot more chaff and can clog the chamber screen which dramatically alters the roasting performance. I have noticed that batch sizes of 200 grams or more (with dry-process) can clog the chaff screen and the swinging wiper can't keep up. This will block the exit path of the hot air and change the heating dynamics quickly.
· You can force quit a roast cycle by holding down the red button for more than 2 seconds. By doing this, you can pull the super hot chamber (up to 482˚F) with your hands and dump the coffee for rapid cooling. I use a glove to remove the chamber and then cool the beans in a collander, in front of a slow blowing fan. This way, I can cool a batch of coffee from 480˚F down to room temperature in less than 2 minutes as the extra chaff gets blown off.
· If you don't want to risk burning your hands or body, you can let the roaster cool itself to 200˚F by pressing the red button once (not holding it down). At this temperature, you can pull out the chamber and it will likely not burn you. Depending on batch size, this can take anywhere from 4-6 minutes. You can speed this up by vigorously fanning the coffee roaster during the cooling cycle. Fanning can reduce the cooling time by up to 1-2 minutes.
· Fresh roasted coffee makes an excellent gift. It's a great alternative to bringing a bottle of wine or case of beer to a dinner party.