Gene Cafe CBR-101 Home Coffee Roaster
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- Roast up to 250g of green coffee beans in about 15 minutes with the easy-to-use Gene Cafe CBR-101.
- Fully viewable roast chamber and fully adjustable time and temperature allow for maximum control over your roasts.
- Unique 3D off-axis rotation ensures an even roast every time.
- Impressively quiet operation.
- Works with standard 120v power.
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The Gene Cafe Roaster This new roaster has a combination of a drum and a fluid bed roaster which coffee aficionados will love in this new innovative design. The Gene Roaster allows more flexibility to control the roast while having a greater visual advantage with its tempered glass drum design. The roaster's drum has an innovative vortex twisting motion that allows the beans to tumble evenly while hot air circulates around them. Large capacity chamber allow roasting batches as large as 300grams to as small as 50grams. Since the key to producing the perfect roast is having more control over the variables. Two knobs on the front of the unit can be adjusted for time and temperature. A manual cool button allows you to stop the roasting process at any point you feel the coffee is ready. While some of the better roasting machines allow you to program your roast; once the roasting process begins, the flexibility to make changes are limited, if any. The Gene Cafe Roaster has added this feature so that you can make unlimited changes in the temperature and/or time settings before and during the roast. (Since not all beans roast the same- this is a great feature - we love that!) The cool cycle takes place in the drum. When the eternal temps reach 140 F, the drum stops and alerts the roaster with an auditable beep. The unit's operation is impressively quiet. It may take a few roasts to discern from the pops in the roasting stages from the beans hitting the glass as they tumble. In addition to the illustrated owner's manual, a 1 year warranty is included with the roaster. Additional parts include an attachable chaff collector which sits on the side, a chamber support which holds the chamber when not in use, and cup to measure for beans. Never leave a roaster unattended when roasting coffee.
Top Customer Reviews
In the past, I roasted green coffee beans using modified air popcorn poppers, and while you can get some great results, the amount of coffee you can roast at a time is really tiny. I got tired of that, and decided to move up to an appliance that was engineered and manufactured specifically for roasting coffee.
The Gene Cafe is, from all appearances and experience, well built and has some ingenious engineering. The off-axis drum rotation results in very even roasts. The aesthetics are appealing, quite unlike the toaster oven appearance of the Behmors -- for what that's worth.
You are given two controls over your roast: temperature and time. You can adjust both at any time during the roast, resulting in a lot of control over your roast. The control knobs are ergonomically placed and have a nice feel to them when they are turned. An internal temperature reading is displayed during your roast. I find this very helpful when duplicating roast profiles. Unfortunately, you cannot save your roast profile and no pre-programmed profiles are provided, as they are with the Behmor.
Maintenance and cleaning are easy, for the most part, with the Gene Cafe. Clean the inside of the roast chamber by first removing the separator, and then using hot water and soap. Thoroughly rinse and allow to dry. Same for the separator itself. Then carefully replace the separator into the chamber. There are no internal nooks and crannies to clean, which is a great advantage over the Behmor. Clear out accumulated chaff from the chaff collector by simply removing a cap. I use my small shop vac, but you can tap the collector and let the chaff fall out. There is also an area on the bottom of the unit with slots covering a cold air intake fan. The slots need to be brushed out from time to time to clear out any debris that accumulates. I also use my small shop vac for this. The one difficult area to clean is inside the chaff collector. There is a metal mesh screen that oils and chaff tend to stubbornly cling to, and they're not easy to get to if you want to really scrub them. This level of cleaning does not have to be done very often; I've done it once in my 38 roasts (and counting). The entire chaff collector can be submerged in hot water and soap. I used a brush to reach the bottom side of the screen but I was not able to get them shiny clean again. The oils can be stubborn. The top side of the screen is very difficult to get to as there is limited access. I'm trying to figure out a better way.
The chaff collector is large and effective. It is made to attach a dryer vent hose to route the smoke and exhaust as desired. The roasting chamber has a very clever mechanism with a blade that cuts the chaff up as the internal flow of air is used to push it into the chaff collector. This adds a rather loud "thump" each time the chamber rotates; a minor annoyance.
There is high visibility of the beans during roasting. They're right out front for you to see. This is a tremendous advantage, as the appearance of the beans is an important roast control factor. In this regard, too, the Gene Cafe trumps the Behmor 1600.
There are two important shortcomings of the Gene Cafe, however. The first is that it is difficult to hear the cracking sounds during the roast, including both first and second crack. While it is not a loud roaster, there is a whine to the motor that is rotating the roasting chamber, the thump of the chaff cutter blade, plus the sound of the beans sliding across and down the internal vanes of the chamber and the glass sides. These sounds combine to mask out what can be delicate sounds of the cracks you need to hear. To counter this, I (very carefully) place my ear close to the exhaust of the chaff collector. I can best hear what's going on inside the chamber in this manner. The Behmor is much better in this regard, with first and second cracks quite audible. Secondly, the bean cooling process takes too long. The cooling cycle will run until the internal temperature is 140 degrees, however long that takes. The average time for me is about 10 minutes. I have found the beans themselves to be about 135 degrees when the cooling cycle ends and I dump them. I then place the beans in two steel colanders and toss them back and forth until they reach room temperature, which is about 4 more minutes. I use an infrared thermometer for temperature monitoring of the beans once out of the roasting chamber.
I have roasted as much as 8.5 ounces of green beans in one roast, even with quite a bit of chaff, to great success. I have roasted as little as 4 ounces also with great results. This roaster will readily produce French Roasts and even darker, if you like. I have found the roast quality to be excellent.
It is tricky to insert the roasting chamber into the unit itself. Things must be precisely aligned and there are odd angles involved. If you meet resistance, do not force the chamber. It should fall into place. If not, keep making micro adjustments until it does. This is a real inconvenience at times.
Thorough illustrated documentation is included, although the translation to English can be quite amusing.
I do have concerns, based on what others have written, about the longevity of this device. I have not had any problems yet, but at this price point, I expect a device I can use for quite a while. I have not had to utilize the manufacturer's support yet, which is now handled in the USA by Batch Coffee. I will update this review in the future if and when my experience with the roaster and the service provided by Batch Coffee changes. The various parts of the roaster are available for purchase separately should they fail in the future, but installing them looks to be an exercise in small appliance repair. Batch Coffee has online videos showing how to make various repairs. I'm not sure I want to be disassembling and repairing the Gene Cafe myself. Shipping this hefty unit around for warranty or repair service would be an expensive venture, no doubt.
In summary, I would list the pros and cons thusly:
Pros: High visibility of beans during roast. Easy maintenance and cleaning. Direct control of roasting time and temperature. Capable of a dark, full French Roast and even darker. Effective chaff collection. Effective smoke solution. Even roasts.
Cons: Price. The Behmor has double the roast capacity at much less cost. Manufacturer's (Genesis Company located in South Korea) support level (provided by Batch Coffee in the USA) is unknown by me and not widely reported. In comparison, Behmor has outstanding customer support and is widely reported. Difficult to hear the bean cracks during roast. Bean cooling cycle too long, which can result in a duller flavor in the cup. Fussy process to insert roasting chamber.
The bottom line: I've enjoyed using the Gene Cafe and have produced many rewarding cups of coffee. I would recommend it, IF you're willing to spend the extra money compared to the purchase of a Behmor 1600. That may be a big "IF." I see that the price of the Gene Cafe has once again increased, even as Behmor releases the new 1600 Plus, which now offers the same manual individual time and heat controls as the Gene Cafe, adds a two-speed roasting drum, two internal temperature readings, and other features the Gene Cafe lacks. I would encourage you to compare the Gene Cafe to the Behmor 1600 Plus and determine which advantages and features are most important to you.
With all that said, I've not roasted ten batches with my new Red Gene Coffee Roaster and I am very satisfied with the device. I bought five pounds of Amazon's Jamaican Blue mountain 'Blend' to break it in. I intended to roast the first batch to a Full City. I set it to 482 degrees and 18 minutes per the recommendations from the manual. Since I've never visualized the beans cooking, I was surprised to see the color does not change much until the last 5-7 minutes of the roast. And then it changes very fast in the last 2-4 minutes.
So at 16 minutes and a temperature of 468 degrees, I bumped the timer up to 21 minutes. At 18 minutes and a temperature of 482, I rapidly turned the timer down to 1 minute, then to 0 as the beans went quickly from full city to French, to an oily Italian roast. Ultimately I found that 440 degrees and 17 minutes for 250 grams of coffee makes a nice full city to Vienna Roast with this blend. I can see that as I get more experienced, I'll better understand how to set the temperature and timer, but it's very nice to have that flexibility to change the time or temperature on the fly.
One thing I noted on earlier roasters I've owned is that the cooling cycle was very effective, but not so on the Gene Roaster. It takes ten minutes to drop the temperature from your selected roast temperature down to 140 degrees. That means your coffee beans continue to roast for another 3-5 minutes, although so far it only seems to increase the color by one step (city to full city, etc.).
Some reviewers go to extra effort to cool the beans more rapidly, and I admire their effort. I'm going to just keep working with the Gene Roaster until I get a repeatable combination that I can rely on. I'm thinking that's 440 and 15 minutes for city, 440 and 17 for full city, and 452 and 18 minutes for French or Italian roast.
If you go to 482, you'll note that it takes the Gene about 16-17 minutes to reach full temperature, depending on how large the batch of beans is. Once you see 482 degrees on the thermometer, it roasts to dark colors quickly, so be careful.
A few reviewers commented on the longevity of the device. I can't address that at this point. If I get 2 years of service out of the device, then it's more than paid for itself in the lower cost of green coffee beans (and more satisfying coffee).
The roaster does a superb job of heating the beans consistently. The off-center axis keeps the beans moving and very adequately stirred. There is a substantial 'fin' hinged on the downstream side of the cooking chamber. As the chaff blows from the beans and jams up against the exit slots, this 'fin' swings each time the roaster rotates, and it effectively keeps the chaff from clogging the exit vent. Very good design. It makes a moderate 'clunk' each time it swings back and forth, but it's not objectionable. If you pour the roasted beans out onto a cookie pan, you'll see consistency in the roast. Unlike all my other roasters, including the Behmor, there was a fair amount of variation in the darkness of the beans, but the Gene Roaster beans are very consistent.
Some reviewers noted that the Roaster did not put out a lot of smoke, and that's accurate up to a city roast, but as you move to the full city and darker roasts, the smoke can really pour out. The Dark Italian roast I accidentally made was cranking out enough smoke to make me worry I was making charcoal. However, even though the batch was dark, it had about the same taste as Star'burnt' dark roast, or maybe Shock Coffee.
The Jamaica Blue mountain blend at the full city roast makes a very mild coffee with slight fruity and chocolate tones and no bitterness. I had to cut back over 50% on sweetener with this roast and blend. It makes an outstanding Irish coffee (with Jamison's, one tsp of sugar, and whipped cream. . .)
The roaster comes with a measuring cup that supposedly holds 100 grams of beans, and the manual recommends no more than 250 grams of beans, or 2.5 cups of green beans. That is more than the marked line on the side of the roaster for dry processed beans, but this amount cooks well and evenly. The increased volume of the swollen cooked beans suggests that's about the most you can roast without overloading the roaster with the beans swelling up and jamming the device.
I'm going to begin maintaining a log on my roasts with the Gene Roaster to develop some custom 'profiles' of my own. For now though, I'm sticking with the mentioned 17 minutes at 440 degrees with this specific blend.
My only advice to anyone using the device for the first time -- if you've not watched coffee beans cook before, note that the majority of the color change is at the very end of the roast, and it progresses very rapidly. Start low on temperature and time, and move up as you gain experience. Also note that 250 grams of roasted coffee beans will only last a couple 3-4 days. You may find yourself brewing more coffee, or at least larger batches, as you will drink more.