Here are some very basic operating tips for the SR800 (and, by extrapolation, other FreshRoast home roasting units). We believe these tips will help you get better performance out-of-the-gates and help frame an understanding of how the unit functions. As you become more familiar with your FreshRoast, you'll be able to fine tune the approaches that work best for you.
In general, we find that maximizing the heat application on the green beans is crucial to getting a well roasted coffee. Another way of saying that is, these systems don't necessarily blast large amounts of heat that need to be restrained; it really helps to get as much heat as you can from the unit for ideal roasts. These steps below should help.
- Keep Airflow to Minimum. Throughout the roast cycle, we find that maintaining just enough airflow to keep the beans agitated and mixing (fluid) helps keep more heat inside the roast chamber--heating the coffee, rather than just blowing past it.
- Batch Size. We find that a 6oz batch often seems to roast better than a full 8oz batch, in terms of maximizing heat contact with the coffee.
- Be Aware of Ambient Temperature. In cooler climates, the unit can struggle to heat the air fast and well enough to roast the coffee in an ideal time frame (10 minutes or so). If it's too cold outside, it may take too long to roast and you could end up baking your coffee. Roasting indoors on the stovetop, under the range hood and some ventilation is preferred in those circumstances.
- Temper (preheat) the Coffee. Run the green beans for 2 minutes with the heat setting on 4 or 5, and fan speed sufficient to keep the beans flowing as noted above. The larger the batch you are roasting, the more fan power you'll need.
- Max Heat. After preheating the beans, turn power to 9 and keep it there through first crack. If you're roasting darker (into second crack), you can start dialing back the heat a tad as you modulate development time to your preference. But, again, keeping the airflow just adequate for bean mixing and no more so you don't terminate roasting.
- Manage Fan Speed. This is your master control. As the beans roast, they become lighter throughout the cycle as water evaporates. Accordingly, continue dialing back the fan speed to maintain just enough airflow to keep the beans mixing. If you stall the mixing, just turn it back up for a second, then reduce again. Hopefully, you're sensing a theme here: if there is too much airflow and bean agitation, the heat is simply blowing past the coffee and your roast times will drag out and you'll run the risk of baking the coffee.