I got the chance to play around on a cool new sample roaster today. The machine is manufactured by Taehwan, in Korea. The brand name is the Proaster.
Proaster had a shop roaster up and running at the Roaster's Guild retreat in Oregon last week. They already offer larger batch roasters. This week they paid a visit to Boot Coffee in California and helped install this two-barrel sample roaster.
Good-looking machine. It took only a couple of hours to hook up the gas and electricity. The machine is surprisingly light, but as you can see below, the actual machining and manufacturing is high-quality. Below you can see the interior of the machine, viewed from behind with the back panel taken off.
The batch capacity for each barrel is anywhere from 100 grams to 200 grams. That's a good size for sample roasting, as you typically receive 300 or 350 grams per sample from a producer or importer.
We had a bit of trouble calibrating the thermocouples exactly, but that's hardly a surprise considering the thing was shipped all the way from Korea. In general, it was a pleasant experience roasting on this machine. Even the "bad" batch of coffee (the first roast we tried, with miscalibrated temperature readings, which went too fast overall) turned out with a nice flavor in the cup.
Many roasters who are just starting up their businesses agonize over how to deal with sample roasting. A shop roaster can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Few companies can afford to invest another $8,000 - $15,000 on a sample roaster. The Proaster sample roaster is priced significantly lower (though still not cheap!) and so far the results have been very nice. Of course, it will take more time to reach a completely-informed opinion. But so far, so good!
Sometimes it's the little things that can make a difference. This machine has an innovative design for the doors that allow for discharging the beans. When the machine is empty, you can look inside and see the interior design of the drum. Pretty cool.
We turned some students loose on this machine, just throwing them into the deep end of the pool, and (smart people) they were able to come up with some pretty well-developed sample roasts right off the bat.