Well I’m behind on following up on this subject. My Hottop KN-8828B-2K arrived three days ago on Wednesday. It was delivered by FedEx in the morning. My plan was to have beans measured out, the RoastMaster app prepared to record the roast and everything ready when the roaster arrived. But due to my slow, meticulous nature I didn’t actually roast until late afternoon. In spite of all my preparation, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing! I was pretty convinced that I would probably blow the roast so I decided that I would practice my first roast on some beans we had brought back from Thailand with us. They had been vacuum sealed and unbeknownst to us, they were quite moist. Even after a couple of roasts, I failed to comprehend this and they ended up getting moldy. I washed them and dried them and have had them in a jar since last Spring, hanging on to them while knowing it probably won’t be safe to consume them. In other words, this was a perfect use for them.
The Hottop or HT as it is usually abbreviated, comes with a very extensive manual which even includes a short history of home roasting as well as the very detailed description of a sample roast. They recommend that you start with a 250 gram roast and consider that the optimum amount to roast. My brother Aaron further explained to me that the size of the roast can substantially affect the length of the roast. The roaster has a preprogrammed preheat period which heats the roaster to 167° f. At that point it beeps quite loudly for about 10 seconds.
There are two Hottop models which are the same except for the control panel. The model I bought, the KN-8828B-2K is considered the manual model while the KN-8828P-2K is considered the programmable model. You would think that the B-2K would be more advanced than the P-2K but actually the reverse is true. It’s true that you can automate the P model more but the B model is more adjustable by the user and for serious roasters that is far more important than automation. Automation would be great if roasting coffee was that consistent and predictable, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. To explain this, think of cooking a chicken. Most people would probably do something like, pre-heat the oven to 400°, put the chicken in the oven (preferably at room temperature). Reduce the heat to 350°. You could have used the weight of the chicken to calculate the amount of time that it should roast, but chances are, you’ll check before the time is up to see how it is coming. Sometime during the roasting, you will have basted the bird, perhaps covered it with foil because it was getting browned on the breast to quickly. And perhaps you turned it down 5 degrees as well, or turned it up or made other adjustments. And when it comes to when to take it out, even if you inserted a thermometer into the thigh, it’s still easy to take it out too soon or too late!
Roasting coffee is like this only it is many times more complex and small variations in factors like the temperature you drop the beans into (charge) the roaster, how quickly you get to 300° f, how quickly you get from there to first crack (I’ll explain first crack later), how quickly you get to second crack (or maybe you should stop the roast before you get to second crack), how you adjust the fan speed, how you adjust the temperature; these and other things can radically alter the flavor of the roasted coffee.
I was just looking at my previous post and see that I had talked about how many steps the Hottop would likely save me with my preparation. I enumerated the following steps that I had to follow with my homemade roaster, the TurboCrazy:
- One large colander for cooling
- A large bowl, also for cooling
- A large fan for cooling
- two pot holders for handling and dumping beans (very awkwardly) from the StirCrazy into the large bowl for cooling once the roast has completed
- A digital thermometer with thermocouple for recording the bean temperature
- A jar containing the pre-weighed beans for each batch I plan to roast during that session (usually two)
- An extension cord and power strip
- The StirCrazy with aluminum flange
- The Turbo Oven
- A bolster to sit on
- A table to set the roaster parts on
- An iPad with two apps running:
- Interval Timer
In fact, here are the things that I ended up using for the HT:
- A large bowl that I used to carry out the jar of beans I intended to roast. The bowl was not really necessary and I’ll probably just bring out the jars of beans alone
- I brought two pot holders but found I didn’t really need them. They still might be good to have in case of an emergency. The Hottop does get quite hot. Hence the removable grills.
- An extension cord but the power strip wasn’t necessary.
- A bolster to sit on
- A very sturdy chair to set the HT on. The table I used for the TurboCrazy proved to be to rickety for the HT.
- An iPad running just one app, RoastMaster, an excellent economical roast logging utility that runs on iOS.
It’s time for bed but I just want to mention some of the things I’ll be talking about in the next post. I’ll post a screen shot of my roast profiles for the three roasts I’ve done on the Hottop so far. I’ll explain the timing and the graph of the Hottop’s built-in temperature probe. I’ll explain what I know about the roasting strategy, how I did and what I think I need to correct.