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Rank amateur + new iRoast2 == Panic!

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  • Rank amateur + new iRoast2 == Panic!

    So I finally tried out my new iRoast2 that I won totally unexpectedly at Celebrate the Bean ;D

    1st -- some fessing up: up til Jan this year I was happily running supermarket beans through a little Russel Hobbs mill and then a drip filter. And all was well (mostly ) Then a friend of a friend brought a leaky little Krups machine to a holiday house we were all sharing, and the bug started to nibble...

    But I was going to be good -- I was going to start with one of the cheaper sunbeams or similar and see how I went. But then a 2nd-hand Silvia popped up on that auction site, and I couldnt help myself :-[ ..

    So now Ive got a Silvia I dont know how to use and a crappy grinder. Oh dear. Oh, and stale beans.

    So along to CTB I go in the hope of enlightenment, info, and if possible a line on some fresh beans. And theres the CS stand with *piles* of fresh beans for sale -- Yay!!! And you can watch them being roasted -- double yay! And all you need is a heat gun and a steel bowl! Right. Grab some green beans to play with, some fresh roasted to tide me over, things are looking up.

    And then I go and *win* a roaster as well -- definitely a good day

    So -- coffee experience minimal (I dont even buy coffee when Im out cause it usually tastes horrible - even me & Silvia & Russel Hobbs can do better!), roasting experience nil.

    So I thought Id write a little review about what happens when a complete amateur meets the iRoast2.

    Some general comments -- the device goes together in a reasonably obvious fashion, the roasting pot locks onto the base, though its pretty stiff, maybe itll free up with use, then the chaff collector locks on top, and so long as all the arrows line up youre good to go (once youve put some beans in that is -- duh)

    So I put my 150g of Kenya A into the pot, lock the chaff collector back on, put the whole ensemble on a breadboard on the stove so its under the rangehood., and plug it in. So far so easy!

    But now I have to choose (or devise) a roasting profile. I prefer lighter roasts, so obviously Ill go for preset 1, cause thats how it describes itself. Right? But I also look on the web to see what other people have done, and thats where the trouble starts, because the excellent iRoast how-to on SweetMarias says that preset 1 is just 450F for 10 mins. Not the 3-stage light roast described in the instructions (385F for 3 mins, 425F for 4 mins, then 455F for 2 mins. Not sure why the instructions give all the temps in Farenheit :-/ btw)

    So what is my machines preset 1? Is it a 3-stage light roast as desired, or a flat-out popper roast? How do I find out? I know, Ill just start the roast and see what it says :-/

    Aarrggh -- all it says on the LCD display in the time! Wheres the temperature??? Beans are going round and round, getting browner and browner -- seems very fast. Cant hear a thing over the roaster and the range hood -- wheres 1st crack?? SO with multimeter and temparature probe reports 230C at 3 mins -- rush into study to look up temperatures --230C =~ 445F -- that cant be right can it??? Beans looking quite brown at 6 mins -- totally lose nerve, push "cool" button to stiop roast -- what have I done!??

    Calm down, tip beans into mesh basket, hunt up the CS roasting info sheet with the picture of the 9 stages of the roast (this is a great pic btw -- is it online anywhere?)

    Well, I probably have #7: nearly drinkable , but hey -- be an optimist -- it could be nearly #8: spot-on : Photos to follow...

    Just for fun (and to see what happened) we put ~50g of these already (mostly?) roasted beans in the big steel mixing bowl, rustled up the heat gun, and toasted them some more. What I *think* was 2nd crack happened after about 2 mins (they were quite cool (ie, warm but not hot) when we started this), and they got darker (obviously) and a bit oily looking. They dont smell nearly so nice as the barely roasted ones though

    Back to the iRoast2: I still dont know what my roast temperature/program was, too bad I didnt find the bit in the back of the instructions that tells you how to check the roasting temperature while its roasting! The instruction booklet is the usual standard for these things -- ie, awful. What I really needed for my 1st attempt was something like:

    1. put 150g (or less) beans into roasting pot and screw everything together til the arrows line up.

    2. Push the desired preset button (well get into programming the thing later thanks)

    3. Push the Roast/Temp button to start the roast. Push this button again at any time to check the temperature. The flashing dot above the I, II, or III tells you which stage youre at. Push the Cool/Time button to manually stop the roast (only if you want to stop it early).

    Thats it! (until you want your own profile, that is )

    Dont get me wrong -- all this info is there, but theyve put seemingly every detail in, including the programming instructions in the middle. What I want is a dummies step 1,2,3 precis -- real short! But on the other hand, for all I know manufacturers dont dare put simplified instructions in for legal reasons -- I can already see someone saying "but I followed the 3 easy steps and they never said anything about <insert idiot action X here>"

    <to be continued...>

  • #2
    Re: Rank amateur + new iRoast2 == Panic!

    Hmm, looks like Ive been getting a bit verbose here...

    But just to wrap up --

    On the matter of actual operation, so far I think this device is pretty cool. You switch it on, roasting happens (a bit quick this time, but well come back to that). Its fairly noisy, but I expected that. The chaff all ends up in the chaff catcher -- no mess -- and it cools the beans down for you.

    As for whether my 1st attempt is even drinkable, well well see in a couple of days

    I still want to know what that 1st preset really was, though.


    • #3
      Re: Rank amateur + new iRoast2 == Panic!

      Hey there Simone

      Im sure it will get easier for you in the coming roasts - dont you just love the claytons instruction manuals that most items come with!

      You seem to be on a steep learning curve all around considering the equipment you have at the moment and where you were just a couple of months ago!!!! It will be a cool trip if you stick with it.

      Good luck


      • #4
        Re: Rank amateur + new iRoast2 == Panic!

        Hi Shannon,

        well I sure hope so

        Actually, as instruction booklets go this ones pretty good -- except from the point of view of the totally clueless, where you tend to get bogged in the detail :-? It doesnt look nearly so confusing now Ive actually gone thru it!

        Anyway, heres some pics: starting with my green Kenya A:


        • #5
          Re: Rank amateur + new iRoast2 == Panic!

          Then after 6-7 mins in the roaster and the panic attack:


          • #6
            Re: Rank amateur + new iRoast2 == Panic!

            They look OK, and smell great

            But how do I tell whether 1st crack has even happened?? I assume it has, but what am I looking for? I couldnt hear a thing over the various fans.

            Also, isnt 6 mins way too fast?

            Im also wondering, is it normal for beans to get *bigger* when theyre roasted?

            By way of comparison, we roasted a handful of these for 2 mins more with a heat gun -- they look (and smell) rather "dark" to me.


            • #7
              Re: Rank amateur + new iRoast2 == Panic!

              Hi Simone,

              You want to take the Kenyans darker than what you have on your first photo. The look far too light and will be extremely bright and probably sour as an espresso. Will be great as filter/drip/perc/french press coffee.


              • #8
                Re: Rank amateur + new iRoast2 == Panic!

                I agree with David about the Kenyan -- fast, light roast as espresso
                will be a bit of a mouth-puckering experience

                Yes the iR2 at first encounter can be a bit daunting. I found it just too noisy
                inside with range hood to hear the cracks (although I think it is possible).
                Outside in a more open area where the sound doesnt bounce around as
                much makes it easier to hear the cracks. I found that if I put my ear just
                above so that you can feel the rush of air but not get a burnt eardrum
                was the best place to hear the cracks; with a little practice, could pick
                up the first snaps of second without too much trouble.

                I have a stickie in the book with the presets "translated":

                 p1                p2
                195/3          235/6
                220/4          205/4
                235/2          225/1:30

                p1 is much more likely to be useful than p2.


                • #9
                  Re: Rank amateur + new iRoast2 == Panic!

                  Hi David & hazbean,

                  oh well, I needed some fresh coffee for the drip filter; I guess this can be it

                  A sticky for the preset table is an excellent idea -- shouldve thought of it at the time! I might try P1 again, but this time let it get a bit closer to finished :-[


                  • #10
                    Re: Rank amateur + new iRoast2 == Panic!

                    WARNING - LONG POST
                    Apologies to anyone reading this in 20 most recent posts!!

                    Hi Simone!
                    Youve just taken the first step on a huge journey. In a years time, youll be posting to some nube here about how to set their roasting profiles, and fondly remembering your first panic roast...

                    So, first, DONT PANIC (cant see a style button for large, friendly letters, but you get the idea).

                    Secondly, forget the pre-sets, theyre way too dark. I know the instructions seem unnecessarily detailed, but you will soon get the hang of it, and it will become very intuitive. The great thing about the iRoast2 is that you can save up to 10 different profiles, so there is ample scope for experimentation.

                    But, to answer a couple of questions first:

                    Originally posted by simone link=1205044399/0#5 date=1205061146
                    But how do I tell whether 1st crack has even happened?? I assume it has, but what am I looking for? I couldnt hear a thing over the various fans.
                    You know that 1st crack has happened, or is about to, because the beans have swelled up and gone brown. First crack (FC) happens as the moisture in the beans physically cracks the cell structure of the beans as they swell. When I first did a roast in the presence of a great roaster, Hazel De Los Reyes, she was yelling out from across the room theres first crack! while I was struggling to hear anything at all above the sound of the fan, with my ear right on top of it. But it became easy after a few roasts - so obvious, in fact, that I thought I must have been deaf not to hear it. It is easiest, though, if you are not too close to the fan - say, about half a metre or more away. Second crack (SC) is a completely different sound, and usually, though not always, happens a reasonable time after FC finishes. FC can take up to a minute or even two from the first snaps to the last, depending on the bean and the profile. FC is generally louder than SC, but if you ever hear a lot of beans in a rolling SC in a commercial roaster, it is quite a sound.

                    Also, isnt 6 mins way too fast?
                    Not too fast at all in a small air roaster. In fact, I often get FC in 5:30 to 6:00. These air roasters are faster than drum roasters (about twice as fast). Really big commercial Sivetz-based high yield air roasters can roast 150kg or more in 90 - 100 secs.

                    Im also wondering, is it normal for beans to get *bigger* when theyre roasted?
                    Yes. If they dont, then there might be a problem with your roaster not heating properly, but you would notice that because they wouldnt get brown, either. That said, you will come across beans that dont seem to swell much, but this is not the norm. Lots from Yemen, for example, or Uganda, or other places where sorting is not a high priority, often contain many small, deformed or possibly insect-damaged beans which may not swell up. These can be discarded as so-called quakers (more specifically, immature, underdeveloped beans) which can have a negative flavour impact. But I usually keep em, because I like the wild, funky flavours of these very special coffees.

                    Still reading?

                    O.K., a couple of sample profiles to try when you figure out the buttons:

                    Profile 1.

                    I. 176 C (celsius on the Oz model), 3mins 30
                    II. 190 C, 3:30
                    III. 210 C, 6:00

                    NOTE: a) You have 5 stages to play with, but 3 are adequate. b) Your temps may be different, as different iRoasts seem to show different working temps - I have no idea why. c) You will probably find that the temp readings are not what you programme anyway. It is important to realise that the roaster controls the temperature by using a fan to cool as necessary. I find it often anticipates the temp of the next stage. d) Different amounts of chaff will affect the end temp of each stage - the more chaff, the higher the temp, as the air flow is restricted. e) the last time setting is only to give you room to move - YOU MUST NOT LEAVE THE ROASTER AFTER FC. YOU DECIDE WHEN TO DUMP THE ROAST. Probably, you will end up hitting the cooling button anywhere from 7:00 to 11:00 mins, depending on the bean.

                    Profile 2.

                    I. 176 C, 3:30
                    II. 190 C, 1:00
                    III. 170 C, 7:30

                    Again, the last time is really just to make it add up to 12:00 mins. This is so you can use a count-up timer rather than the count-down timer built into the machine, which I find easier. But this way you can match it to the roasters timer.

                    This profile exploits the fact that the temp is controlled by the fan, so lowering the temp in the profile forces the fan to pulse. The readout will show a higher temp, but lower than you would otherwise get. Sometimes this will extend the time between FC and SC, which can be a good thing.

                    Both profiles give a slow start for beans that are not too high grown, and therefore not too hard. For harder beans, e.g. Central Americans, you could start with a higher temp in Stage I.

                    One more thing; get into the habit of taking notes about the times when things happen - smells, colours, sounds. That way, you know what to expect for different beans. Also note ambient temp, humidity, and perhaps weight loss to see how much moisture the beans lose when roasting. Roasting beans can smell pretty bad approaching SC, but should smell sweet and biscuity after they cool. If they reach SC, you might notice small divots, or black pits in the beans. This will depend on how quickly they heat up in the beginning.

                    Whew! Must be the longest post Ive ever made - sorry.



                    • #11
                      Re: Rank amateur + new iRoast2 == Panic!

                      Hi Matt,

                      you think that was a long post?? -- er, um, slink :-[

                      But greatly appreciated, all the same

                      So, nearly out of brown beans , prognosis for 1st attempt not too good -- time to try again!

                      Originally posted by Dolcimelo link=1205044399/0#9 date=1205071000
                      Still reading?
                      You betcha!

                      Decided to try your suggested profile 1 -- programmed this into the iR2 -- easy! Watch beans like hawk -- ack, forgot pen and notepad. *Think* I heard 1st crack around 4 mins (just into the 2nd stage), 2nd crack not so (even less?) sure, but mightve been around 8 mins, switched to cool at 9 mins. They look pretty dark, maybe a bit far beyond 2nd crack?

                      b) Your temps may be different, as different iRoasts seem to show different working temps - I have no idea why. c) You will probably find that the temp readings are not what you programme anyway.
                      Very different! Checked the operating temparature at each stage, and got:
                      stage 1: programmed 176C, iR2 reports 209C
                      stage 2: programmed 190C, iR2 reports 213C
                      stage 3: programmed 210C, iR2 reports 225C

                      What (if anything) should I do about this? ie, am I aiming to get *actual* temperatures of 176C, 190C etc?


                      • #12
                        Re: Rank amateur + new iRoast2 == Panic!

                        Hi Simone,
                        Sorry to take so long to reply.

                        It certainly does seem that your temps are different from mine. Thats not really a problem, though, if we can decide on the results youre getting. FC at 4:00 does seems a bit early to me, but depends on a number of factors, especially moisture content - what coffee are you roasting again? In any case, you might like to try a slower start to see the effect. Try programming the lowest possible temp on your machine (around 160c from memory), and try keeping this for 4:00mins. The subsequent stages could all be dropped by 20c or so. It is important to realise that the temp that you see on the display may not be the actual air temp inside the machine (and the bean temp will be different again). Without getting a probe in there, you are guessing. But, it is the end result were interested in, so think of these first roasts as calibration roasts.

                        Next time, you should definitely note the colour and odour changes and the times that these happen. In fact, I like to make an observation every 0:30, as things can easily change in that time once the roast gets going. You will notice a very pleasant grassy smell at first, a bit like hay, which will progress to a kind of grainy, cereal smell, also very pleasant. The beans will change colour from green to yellow to a kind of brassy/bronzy colour, light tan, and then ever darkening shades of brown. Keep an eye on them to watch them puff up - thats when you should be listening out for FC. If there is a significant time between FC and SC (and there usually should be), then you should hear SC as a different sound, often accompanied by a rather acrid and unpleasant smell, and smoke (possibly lots of smoke).

                        You can actually stop the roast any time after FC and have something drinkable, but youll get very different results depending on how long you leave it. Once you hear the cracks, they are unmistakable. Also, make a note of any time your hear the fan pulsing, as this will indicate if the roaster is trying to keep the temp down in accordance with your profile. And also remember that the more chaff there is, the hotter it will get, so high-chaff coffees need different profiles.

                        Im keen to hear your results. And dont worry - it will all come good!