Roaster innovation….or lack of?


With roast production creeping closer to maximum capacity the thought of investing a huge wad of cash on a new roaster always plays at the back of our minds. As it stands our current Coffee-Tech roaster does its job and to this day is still marketed as one of the most advanced micro roasters available (Long & Short USP alert). Whether or not this is still true is another story, but compared to the vast amount of roasters in use I get the sense that we’re living in archaic times with industrial era mechanized warriors of machinery being the global standard.

Don’t get me wrong they can be things of beauty that stand tall as mammoth machines built to last as shown below, but compared to other industries such as the automobile or food production they are way of the mark in terms of modernization.

Old Coffee Roaster

We picked the Coffee-Tech FZ94 specifically for this reason, being an all electric digital lab roaster it’s given us a much wider range of control than your average…especially when coupled with fancy software to see it work on computer. Coffee-Tech seems to understand this but even now we can see improvements that can easily benefit the roaster process, such as pumping more power into the whole machine to improve heat transfer when roasting larger batches, or having better thermometers to track the heat of beans more accurately.

I’m sure roaster capacity is a common issue amongst pro roasters that straight of the bat is marketed falsely on the part of many manufacturers who annoyingly exaggerate tech specifications. i.e. a 20kg capacity roaster drum does not mean you can roast 20kg of green beans well! In reality when roasting over half of this the roast control seems to worsen drastically in our experience.

Consistency is probably one of the biggest issues faced by roasters and although some of this may partly be due to every green bean being different I can still see room for improvement. We have a scientific approach to roasting at Long & Short with actions logged and bean roasts electronically profiled in a trial and error process that we repeat based on the best results, but even following this we don’t always get the exact same results. There is still a need to tinker during the roast to keep the beans aligned with the roast profile, whether by adjusting the fan, heat and so on and so forth. That being said why can’t we record these profiles and relay them back into the machine to automate the whole process as a base?

Now this isn’t to say there aren’t roasters that have all of these functions. Probat is a roaster company that has designed roasters that don’t all follow the common drum roaster design with names that sound like parts of the Starship Enterprise including the Tangential, Torrefacto or Centrefugal roaster. However, for small to medium sized roasteries these machines are just not viable options based on price and them being high end commercial beasts.

Furthermore, when we compare to the tools on the front line aka coffee shops, even they are getting better levels of treatment with advanced Espresso machines, grinders and even machines that tamp electronically being released, which dare I say may someday rival the classic Barista. So why on Earth is the standard of roaster machines not getting the same treatment at the more affordable end….riddle me that manufacturers?!?


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