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The Hearthware i-Roast Has Arrived!


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After a year of waiting (the product was promised for December 2003 but has been held up for prototype revisions) I have finally received a Hearthware i-Roast home coffee roasting unit from Sweet Maria's. The UPS guy brought it yesterday and I've been tied up with other obligations so it's still not unpacked, but I did break into the box in order to extract and read the instruction manual and accompanying literature.

I'm looking forward to taking the i-Roast out for a spin. For those of you who haven't been following the i-Roast development effort, the i-Roast is intended to be the next generation of home coffee roasters. Its main claim to fame is that it has programmable roasting profiles, so that you can set a program that goes like, for example: stage 1, 350 F for 3 min.; stage 2, 460 F for 3 min.; stage 3, 470 F for 4 min. (That's the profile Sweet Maria's recommends for Brazil coffees for espresso). The unit also has a healthy capacity, said to be 130 to 150 grams of coffee beans, as opposed to the approximately 70 grams that my FreshRoast can handle without choking.

The machine seems to have a lot of parts -- easily twice as many as my FreshRoast -- that need to be assembled and disassembled when you roast, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Stay tuned.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've been tempted to buy a home roaster once we move into our new house (the house we live in now is so packed with stuff, my wife would kill me if I got one now). One issue I have with these roasters is smoke. Some people say they smoke, some say they don't. What is your experience with your previous model and (when you finally try it) the new one?

Thanks!

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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I've been tempted to buy a home roaster once we move into our new house (the house we live in now is so packed with stuff, my wife would kill me if I got one now). One issue I have with these roasters is smoke. Some people say they smoke, some say they don't. What is your experience with your previous model and (when you finally try it) the new one?

Thanks!

All home roasters smoke; it is merely a matter of degree. The two main factors controlling the amount of smoke are the amount of beans being roasted and how dark the roast is. The darker the roast or the more beans being roasted, the more smoke.

For a countertop-sized roaster like the I-Roast or the FreshRoast, they don't smoke all that much, generally. But particularly with an I-Roast, you might want to roast under s stovetop hood fan or the like.

More information than you ever thought possible on home coffee roasting can be found here: coffeegeek In particular, go to the forums section and look at the home roasting forum

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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adegiulio, the iRoast has an attachment for hooking up a dryer vent (like the ones used on a clothes dryer) so you can vent the smoke out of the house. I haven't found it to be necessary - the amount of smoke produced really isn't a problem unless you're going for super-dark roasts and doing multiple batches.

I'm still trying to find a good roast program for the iRoast. My first few batches have turned out much darker than I intended. I just finished a batch with a greatly reduced third-phase roasting time. It looks and smells better than my previous attempts. Just a whiff of smoke in the kitchen, and I didn't even pull the battery out of the smoke detector. :biggrin:

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Am I weird to think that 150g is a little small to make it worth the effort? 150g is 1/3lb. That's less than a week's worth of coffee. Am I just going to run 3 cycles of this thing on Saturdays to give me 1lb worth or is it 'turn it on and go to work' easy?

Basically what I'm asking is whether these things are worth the hassle? If so, I may be getting a last minute 'christmas gift' for myself :biggrin:

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Am I weird to think that 150g is a little small to make it worth the effort? 150g is 1/3lb. That's less than a week's worth of coffee. Am I just going to run 3 cycles of this thing on Saturdays to give me 1lb worth or is it 'turn it on and go to work' easy?

Basically what I'm asking is whether these things are worth the hassle? If so, I may be getting a last minute 'christmas gift' for myself  :biggrin:

I have one word for you: heatgun/dogbowl. Using this technique, I can roast and cool one pound of coffee in 20 minutes. See here for details.

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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Folks... I'm going to start a separate thread on Home Roasting - should I do it? Pros and Cons.

It appears that there are loads of both good questions from potential roasters and useful feedback from those who've been doing it. We can benefit from having a general discussion in that vein while keeping this thread focused specifically on the new I-Roast. It truly has been a much anticipated machine, as Hearthware's last product (the Precision Roaster) was problematic at times but well respected and widely used. I think it warrants its own discussion.

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First batch made on preset 2, which is the darker roast of the preset profiles. I'm being very geeky and using a scale to weigh the beans. I'll grind and brew some coffee tomorrow and report on flavor. Initial impressions of the machine: nicely made; fits together like a quality piece of equipment; very loud (which makes it hard to hear the "cracks"); nice mechanism for circulating the beans that reminds me of a movie-theater popcorn popper; in general seems a far superior piece of equipment to my FreshRoast.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Am I weird to think that 150g is a little small to make it worth the effort? 150g is 1/3lb. That's less than a week's worth of coffee. Am I just going to run 3 cycles of this thing on Saturdays to give me 1lb worth or is it 'turn it on and go to work' easy?

The general idea with home roasting is to have fresh roasted coffee all the time. For this to work out best, you pretty much need to roast a couple times a week. The downside is that you have to roast a couple times a week - the upside is that your coffee is always fresh. In addition, with small batch sizes you gain the ability to try lots of different coffees and lose the stress of worrying about screwing up a big batch of beans (can be a real issue with some super expensive beans, believe me).

Home roasting is not "turn it on and go to work" -- you'll need to sit over it, watch, tweak... you get the idea.

Basically, if you're really into having fresh roasted coffee all the time, are willing to put some work into it, and like playing with toys then home roasting is great. If fresh roasted coffee is not that important to you or you don't have the time or you don't like tinkering, it's probably not an ideal solution.

fanatic...

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The coffee from this first roast was excellent. There's a substantial difference between the flavor of the same coffee beans roasted to approximately the same darkness in the i-Roast versus the FreshRoast. The i-Roast roasts slowly and with gradually increasing heat, and the coffee is more complex and mellow for it. It doesn't have as much of the brassy, acidic aspect of the beans that come out of the FreshRoast. I may actually roast several more batches on preset 2 before I branch out.

More to come.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The i-Roast roasts slowly and with gradually increasing heat, and the coffee is more complex and mellow for it. It doesn't have as much of the brassy, acidic aspect of the beans that come out of the FreshRoast.

This is good to hear. The change you describe is what many air roasting folks have already been accomplishing by using a "variac" (voltage controller) in conjunction with their existing air roaster or popcorn but....

* variac's are pricey - about $80 - $100]

* they require manual intervention throughout the roast process to achieve the "program" one desires

Despite the small batch size, which does actually have some benefits (as malachi has already pointed out), the I-Roast certainly appears to have promise.

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Today I tripped a circuit breaker because I forgot that the dishwasher was running -- you can't run much more than an i-Roast on a standard circuit. Unfortunately, I have no idea how much time was remaining in the roast, so there was no way to save the batch. Live and learn.

Owen, once I establish a bit more confidence with the i-Roast, I'll send you some roasted beans for an objective tasting, and you can let us know what you think.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Today I tried to go a little darker on the roast and sent the smoke alarm into hysterics. I had completely forgotten that, a few weeks ago, Juan (the assistant superintendent) installed a new smoke and carbon monoxide detector. Well, not only did this thing issue forth with an incredibly loud beep (it's hard to believe three AA batteries can produce such a racket) but also it talked! It would beep, and then it would say "Fire!" in a very authoritative sounding though not at all panicky voice. The problem was, Juan had mounted the thing on the ceiling, and my ceilings are like 12 feet high. My tallest ladder being 6' (and of course you can't really stand on the top step without killing yourself) and me being less than 6', there seemed to be no way to get at the damn thing. Finally, I summoned all my will and extended my body in a glorious move worthy of Industrial Light & Magic, plucked the thing off the ceiling and wrestled it to the ground. As for getting it back up there, that's Juan's problem.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I summoned all my will and extended my body in a glorious move worthy of Industrial Light & Magic, plucked the thing off the ceiling and wrestled it to the ground.

Please, please please tell us that you captured that ballet on video. We'd love to see a replay :raz::laugh:

Just curious - do you use it near a window and use a small fan to get the smoke heading outdoors? I think that short of a range vent hood that has a duct direct to the outdoors, that's about the only way to really deal with the smoke. My Alpenroast is a smoky little guy, especially when I hit the Stop Roast button.

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Keep up the info on the I-roast, FG.

After my recent trip to Chicago, and subsequent coffee tastings at Intelligentsia, I have decided that The Coffee Roaster in Lincoln, Nebraska has, by a hair, the best beans I've come across. So, when I move out of Lincoln to go to medical school, I shall have to roast my own beans. It's looking like the I-roast may be the winner... provided it can roast a nice bright roast.

P.S. An mpeg of the smoke detector's aria from "The Roasting Attorney" would be smashing :biggrin:

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Owen, when this all went down, Ellen said "Maybe you should do that near a window?" Normally the range hood, which theoretically (though I am not convinced) vents to the outdoors, is up to the task, but I think I'm going to need to reevaluate.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Normally the range hood, which theoretically (though I am not convinced) vents to the outdoors, is up to the task, but I think I'm going to need to reevaluate.

The blowers that are in typical consumer range hoods, even the "fancy" ones, are inadequate when you get a large volume of smoke. They do fine with bits of airborne grease particles and are especially good at venting odors but don't have the cfm movement to handle the smoke.

A retrofit for a stronger blower should be relatively easy to do and a place like Grainger most likely has the motors. One of my colleagues retrofitted his in this manner. I asked his wife how well it works. "It sucks the cloth naokins off the dining room table when we turn it on - that's how well it works!" was her reply :rolleyes:

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Owen, when this all went down, Ellen said "Maybe you should do that near a window?" Normally the range hood, which theoretically (though I am not convinced) vents to the outdoors, is up to the task, but I think I'm going to need to reevaluate.

Hmmm... I was almost sure you had a regular NYC recirculating hood. Anyway, if you put it next to an open window when you roast, it makes a big difference in terms of smoke,

--

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I have a Broan Microtek System III hood with 300 CFM motor, hooked into the building's main ventilation shaft. I don't think it was a very good installation, though, in terms of the twists and turns the ductwork makes to get to the main vent. It was, indeed, installed by someone not very competent: me, with the assistance of the aforementioned Juan, and also Pablo and Ken. That I am even still alive to tell about it is a miracle.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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First, I roasted some coffee in the oven on a half-sheet pan.

It came out surprisingly well -- better, I think, than most of my efforts in the FreshRoast machine I had been using.

can you expand on this a little?

thanks,

chiel

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The cfm rating of the hood is in theory supposed to be double the square footage number of your kitchen. A 300 cfm hood should therfore be adequate for a 150 square foot kitchen but with 12 foot ceilings and the possibility that your kitchen may be open to another room such as a dining area... you should probably double the cfm of the blower motor to 600 if possible.

An alternative that some people have used is to adapt/attach a flexible dryer vent hose directly to the vent ouput of the roaster and then cip the other end of the hose to the screen area of the duct. This will tupically get 90% of the smoke directly into the outgoing fan and eliminate the drift that sets off the smoke alarm.

There is such a thing as overkill - a 1200 cfm blower will require a 15 amp circuit all for itself and most apartment kitchens, especially older ones, just don't have enough juice to spare for such a thing.

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I'm probably not going to retrofit my hood because, as I mentioned, I don't think the problem is the quality of the hood. When we installed it, I read all the stuff you're supposed to read, took all the relevant measurements, and got the right hood for my kitchen, which has a dropped ceiling 8' high and is approximately 120 square feet. If there is a problem with my hood, it's that the ductwork takes too many turns before getting to the main vent, and that even with a 3,000 CFM motor there's only so much it could do other than make a lot of noise.

The i-Roast actually comes with an adapter that hooks right into a standard piece of duct tubing. I might try that, but I'm not sure I'm enough of a die-hard to start hooking up a life-support system to the roaster every time I roast. More likely, I'll just haul the thing into the "office" (sort of an alcove in my apartment, which has a window) and do it in there by the window.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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More likely, I'll just haul the thing into the "office" (sort of an alcove in my apartment, which has a window) and do it in there by the window.

Its always best to vent stuff directly out the window, especially if you are doing something illegal. :laugh:

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Has anyone tried the dryer-vent attachment? It should be possible to make a cardboard or plywood window insert with a circular cutout for the vent tube - better than leaving a window open in the winter.

After poking around in the coffeegeek forums, I figured out that I had a "chaff problem". The screen at the top of the unit was getting plugged up with chaff, making the roast run hot. I rotated the gasket per the suggestion on SweetMarias and the chaff buildup is noticeably reduced. The roast profiles are much more consistent now.

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