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Mostly good roaster -- here are the details.
on December 14, 2013
I have used the FreshRoast SR500 for 19 months. After a short learning curve, the results are excellent. However there are numerous issues. Here are my thoughts:
1. When you start the roaster, the default timer setting is six minutes--this is never enough time for a darker roast. To increase the roast time, you must press the 'up' button. Each press of the button increases the timer by six seconds. To set the roaster to the maximum of 9 minutes and 54 seconds, you must press the button a surprising 39 times. This is what I do every time I roast. It's a real hassle. Depending on your temperature setting (low, medium or high), you may need to add more time after this.
2. When you put in the green coffee beans, they are small and dense, with a relatively high water content. At this stage, the fan that is supposed to circulate the beans is too weak to properly rotate them. So you must agitate them manually, somehow, to avoid an uneven roast. I found the best way to do this is to pick up the entire machine with one hand below, and hold the top on with the other hand, and shake and/or lean the machine. However, the whole assembly is unwieldy to hold in this way. The chaff catcher is top-heavy and can easily fall off, along with the glass roasting chamber. Somehow, I avoided this accident for 19 months, but I recently dropped the assembly, smashing the glass chamber to smithereens. Luckily I found a replacement on Amazon.
3. One Youtube video recommended stirring the beans during the early part of the roast with a wooden spoon handle to agitate the beans. You must remove the chaff collector to do this. As a result, the chaff gets blown into your work area.
4. Therefore, I would say that the weak fan, incapable of circulating the heavy, green beans, is the greatest shortcoming of this roaster.
5. After the beans roast for a few minutes, they dry out, increase in size, decrease in density, and the fan can then circulate them properly without burning half the beans. This happens about 1 minute prior to first crack.
6. Near the end of the roast, I use the LED flashlight on my smart phone to ensure that the color of the roasted beans are exactly as I want them before stopping the roast (accounting for a bit more roasting during the cooling cycle). Consistent lighting is very important in my opinion, since sunlight, incandescent, florescent, and LED lights all contain different wavelengths.
7. The post-roast cooling process is rather slow. The beans will darken a bit more after it begins.
8. After the 3-minute cooling process, the chaff collector is still too hot to handle. I usually do two cooling cycles. After that, the chaff collector is still hot, but you can at least remove it.
9. Despite these problems, I learned to get excellent results with this machine after roasting several batches. However you cannot set-and-forget. The roasting process requires close monitoring.
10. Green coffees vary somewhat in their water content. I found that, after roasting, I was left with 3.2 ounces of roasted coffee. At that rate, I need to roast coffee approximately every 4 days. It ends up being a time sink. At some point I will purchase a larger roaster.
11. With a bit of practice, you can get excellent results with this machine, despite its limitations.