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Seeking some general advice on roasting levels and strategies.
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BarryR
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Joined: 21 Nov 2010
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Location: Wilbraham
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Posted Thu Jan 23, 2014, 7:09pm
Subject: Seeking some general advice on roasting levels and strategies.
 

I roasted in the Behmor for almost 3 years and now have a Hottop. While I almost never produced bad coffee, and it's mostly pretty good, it's not that often that I'm really wowed. I often roasted to FC in the Behmor, in part because that way if I went a little under (City +) or over (FC+) I should still have something pretty decent.
While I have certainly appreciated the differences between say a Sumatran, a very berry Ethiopian, and a Guat, I often couldn't find too many of the subtleties that I'd read about.

Recently, I figured that might be because I was going too much into FC territory and am starting to attempt more with City+, especially since I can get more control with the Hottop.

I've only had the roaster two weeks, so I'm still learning how to use it and forming impressions, but a few of my City+s have been good, but too mild and lacking any bitterness.
By the way, I do brewed coffee and espresso but my comments have more to do with brewed.

I tend to like things pretty bitter (my "light" chocolate is 70% and my dark is about 85%). That said, I don't like anything beyond FC or FC+ so I'm not just looking for over-roasted coffee.
I do tend to like bold flavors for what that's worth.

Any suggestions on how to maintain some of the varietal subtleties while still getting a somewhat "bold" taste (other than a mélange)? I think I want something with a little bite.
Do I just need to keep experimenting?

For you viewing pleasure, I included my roasting graph.
This is a Kenya Kikai, I roasted it last night, so far, I've only had one cup and that was made in a Keurig, so can't say too much about the taste.
It looks like City+ and only lost 13% of it's weight in roasting, which would make sense.
Smells good, but nothing too impressive.
My goal on my next Kenyan (Chania, I'm out of the Kikai) is to stretch the drying a little more and slow down 1C a little less.

I'll update this after I taste it a bit more but figured I'd start with this.

By the way, the temps are as read by the built in Hottop 2K probe and for this roast, I charged at 250 and dropped at 399.

BarryR: photo2.JPG
(Click for larger image)
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TimEggers
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Posted Fri Jan 24, 2014, 11:35am
Subject: Re: Seeking some general advice on roasting levels and strategies.
 

BarryR Said:

Any suggestions on how to maintain some of the varietal subtleties while still getting a somewhat "bold" taste (other than a mélange)? I think I want something with a little bite.
Do I just need to keep experimenting?

Posted January 23, 2014 link

Put the roaster away and buy some pro roasted stuff and see if, when you brew them, you can accunate the origin notes and flavors the roaster describes.  Perhaps your issues aren't roast related, but brew related?

My recommendation is a simple pour over set-up, you have full control and really showcase each coffee you brew.

 
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BarryR
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Joined: 21 Nov 2010
Posts: 262
Location: Wilbraham
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Clever...
Roaster: Hottop KN-8828B2-K
Posted Fri Jan 24, 2014, 4:23pm
Subject: Re: Seeking some general advice on roasting levels and strategies.
 

TimEggers Said:

Put the roaster away and buy some pro roasted stuff and see if, when you brew them, you can accunate the origin notes and flavors the roaster describes.  Perhaps your issues aren't roast related, but brew related?

My recommendation is a simple pour over set-up, you have full control and really showcase each coffee you brew.

Posted January 24, 2014 link

Pretty good advice and something I'd thought about though I can't fully embrace it as I have a beautiful new roaster and lots of beans and an urge to roast. Though I did think maybe I'll get myself some expertly roasted beans as well.

By the way: I mostly brew in a Bunn phase brew and have been using 48 gms of beans with 30 oz of water. I use a standard gold filter which is small for the basket but seems fine for 30 oz as it doesn't overflow.
I occasionally use a Handy Brewer.
It did occur to me that although 8gms coffee / 5 oz water is pretty standard, I might prefer a stronger cup so I used 9gms / 5 oz and did like the result.

For espresso have a CC1.

I did think perhaps I should get some green and roasted beans (such as from Coffee Klatch) so I have a target and know what success might taste like.
Any other good options for Green and Roasted beans?
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boar_d_laze
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Posted Fri Jan 24, 2014, 6:28pm
Subject: Re: Seeking some general advice on roasting levels and strategies.
 

It's hard to figure out what you're trying to do, since you don't have EOD (end of drying), 1stCs (1st crack start), and 1stCe (1st Crack end) on your chart.  And reading what you said about finish levels, that might be illustrative of a larger problem.  That is, you're letting the roaster drag you along instead of developing and executing a plan (aka "profile") for controlling the roast.    

The place to start with every new (to you) bean is to roast two or three samples (as small as your roaster can handle) with even heat to different finishes levels to find the best one -- by "cupping" -- for the particular coffee and particular purpose.  For instance, you MIGHT prefer C+ for brew, and FC for espresso.  (At least that's conventional wisdom.  I find the best finish cupping is the best finish for every purpose).

Cupping is a thing in and of itself.  But just like you can't dial-in your espresso machine and grinder until you've developed a palate for bitters, sours, harshness, and balance, you can't make good roasting decisions with some cupping skills.  

Next brew samples as small as possible for consistent temp measurement of each roast milestones.  You want to be able to anticipate them when you do full size loads, so you can act proactively (especially with an HT) in time to make a difference if your roast isn't going exactly according to profile.  

Then, experiment to find the best times for each interval.  

Once you've got a profile, start roasting full size loads.  But be ready to keep tweaking.    

Experience will help you develop a few basic profiles for each bean (and blend) type.  For instance, when I roast an shb Central, I figure about 5:30 Drying (Charge to EOD; 3:30 Ramp (EOD to 1stCs; and 3:30 Development (1stCs to Drop) for a C+ or FC finish.  When I roast a softer bean or a honey, I know I want a slower start so as not to damage the outside of the bean.  When I roast a bean which has a 2dCs that comes on top of 1stCe, I not only anticipate and slow the roaster down before 1stCs, but slow the ramp down as well.  

If that sounds very technical and confusing... ask.  

Before going from small-charge, "educational" roasts, I draw an ideal plot on graph paper and calculate the RoR (rate of rise) for each leg.  By keeping track of RoR throughout the entire roast (I used to calculate it every minute, but now just look at Artisan's real time information on my laptop display), I know whether or not I'm on schedule at any given time.  

Compared to the Behmor, the HT is a roaster's dream.  However, in the greater scheme of things it's not particularly responsive and requires the roastmaster (that's you) to anticipate and act proactively.  But every roaster has its quirks.  It's up to you to play to its strengths and work around its weaknesses.  

Don't roast a smaller charge than will tell you what you need to know.  Don't roast a charge so large that the roaster loses its ability to respond.  My HT could roast down to around 85g, and up to around 240g.

Perhaps the best thing you can do from a hardware standpoint is to mod your roaster to report real time BT.  The minimum load for accurate BTs (accurate meaning consistent, anyway) will be substantially larger than the minimum load to establish finishes.  What you need for BTs will depend on where you place the probe.  

But the roaster is a lot less important than the roastmaster.   The point is to profile.  Develop a plan, execute, cup, tweak, rinse, repeat.

Also:
  • Check out Randy Glass's (frcn's) site, EspressoMyEsprsso.  He is as good as it gets when it comes to HT roasting;
  • Join H-B and start participating in the Roasting Forum there.  It's a hotbed of knowledgeable home roasters in general, and HT roasters in particular;
  • There are other home roasting sites as well, look around;
  • Read the articles archived at Roast Magazine (a lot of them by Boot);
  • Read Tom Owens articles at Sweet Maria's
  • Read everything!
  • Consider investing in the Boot online course; and
  • So very, very much more.

BDL
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BarryR
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2010
Posts: 262
Location: Wilbraham
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Clever...
Roaster: Hottop KN-8828B2-K
Posted Fri Jan 24, 2014, 9:27pm
Subject: Re: Seeking some general advice on roasting levels and strategies.
 

boar_d_laze Said:

It's hard to figure out what you're trying to do, since you don't have EOD (end of drying), 1stCs (1st crack start), and 1stCe (1st Crack end) on your chart.  And reading what you said about finish levels, that might be illustrative of a larger problem.  That is, you're letting the roaster drag you along instead of developing and executing a plan (aka "profile") for controlling the roast.    

The place to start with every new (to you) bean is to roast two or three samples (as small as your roaster can handle) with even heat to different finishes levels to find the best one -- by "cupping" -- for the particular coffee and particular purpose.  For instance, you MIGHT prefer C+ for brew, and FC for espresso.  (At least that's conventional wisdom.  I find the best finish cupping is the best finish for every purpose).

Cupping is a thing in and of itself.  But just like you can't dial-in your espresso machine and grinder until you've developed a palate for bitters, sours, harshness, and balance, you can't make good roasting decisions with some cupping skills.  

Next brew samples as small as possible for consistent temp measurement of each roast milestones.  You want to be able to anticipate them when you do full size loads, so you can act proactively (especially with an HT) in time to make a difference if your roast isn't going exactly according to profile.  

Then, experiment to find the best times for each interval.  

Once you've got a profile, start roasting full size loads.  But be ready to keep tweaking.    

Experience will help you develop a few basic profiles for each bean (and blend) type.  For instance, when I roast an shb Central, I figure about 5:30 Drying (Charge to EOD; 3:30 Ramp (EOD to 1stCs; and 3:30 Development (1stCs to Drop) for a C+ or FC finish.  When I roast a softer bean or a honey, I know I want a slower start so as not to damage the outside of the bean.  When I roast a bean which has a 2dCs that comes on top of 1stCe, I not only anticipate and slow the roaster down before 1stCs, but slow the ramp down as well.  

If that sounds very technical and confusing... ask.  

Before going from small-charge, "educational" roasts, I draw an ideal plot on graph paper and calculate the RoR (rate of rise) for each leg.  By keeping track of RoR throughout the entire roast (I used to calculate it every minute, but now just look at Artisan's real time information on my laptop display), I know whether or not I'm on schedule at any given time.  

Compared to the Behmor, the HT is a roaster's dream.  However, in the greater scheme of things it's not particularly responsive and requires the roastmaster (that's you) to anticipate and act proactively.  But every roaster has its quirks.  It's up to you to play to its strengths and work around its weaknesses.  

Don't roast a smaller charge than will tell you what you need to know.  Don't roast a charge so large that the roaster loses its ability to respond.  My HT could roast down to around 85g, and up to around 240g.

Perhaps the best thing you can do from a hardware standpoint is to mod your roaster to report real time BT.  The minimum load for accurate BTs (accurate meaning consistent, anyway) will be substantially larger than the minimum load to establish finishes.  What you need for BTs will depend on where you place the probe.  

But the roaster is a lot less important than the roastmaster.   The point is to profile.  Develop a plan, execute, cup, tweak, rinse, repeat.

Also:
Check out Randy Glass's (frcn's) site, EspressoMyEsprsso.  He is as good as it gets when it comes to HT roasting;
Join H-B and start participating in the Roasting Forum there.  It's a hotbed of knowledgeable home roasters in general, and HT roasters in particular;
There are other home roasting sites as well, look around;
Read the articles archived at Roast Magazine (a lot of them by Boot);
Read Tom Owens articles at Sweet Maria's
Read everything!
Consider investing in the Boot online course; and
So very, very much more.

BDL

Posted January 24, 2014 link

Thanks for your excellent and thorough response. At some point, I probably will mod my roaster for real time logging with additional probes and probably make it controllable (with Artisan or RoastLogger) as well. I am roasting smaller batches but thought that less than 200 gm or so might be too low (based on your input though I can go much lower). I know when I first got my Behmor I did a bunch of 4 oz roasts to figure out what I was doing and learn the roaster.

I do very much like FC for espresso and am actually pleased with many of my espresso roasts.
I probably like the overall taste of FC even for drip for many beans, but from what I've read, it's probably harder to keep the varietal subtleties when roasting to FC. One simple question would be: is getting the subtle varietals in an FC roast difficult? I think City+ tends to taste too light and not bitter enough for me.

Though I don't cup (but thought it might be time to start), on weekends I sometimes brew 7 oz portions in my Handy Brewer and taste several in a morning that way.
By the way, my graph does have 1stCst and end (though end may not be accurate all the time as I'm doing many things at once and might miss some of the end of 1C making it appear shorter than it really is). How do I figure out drying start, and is finish when the beans get tan?

I've actually done much of what you suggest and pretty much read everything I could find. I haven't done an on-line course -- seems it might be too much aimed at more than a Hottop / home roaster and I'm not willing to spend $500 for it (I think that's what it would cost).
I have been posting some Hottop questions on homeroasters forum but decided to post this question here.
I am actually making a plan and then executing it (like "I'll roast this bean again but try to go a little slow during drying and right before 1C starts and then eject sooner at 399 display them instead of 405 to get City+ instead of FC). Then I follow the profile from last time on the screen and try to make the changes I'd planned. Where I'm a little stuck is figuring out which tweaks will more likely get me what I want.

I realize I should figure out some basic profiles for a few different major categories of beans and that I can use ROR as useful data but actually figuring out what the ROR should be at various segments on a Hottop is difficult for me, sort of starting from scratch.
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hankua
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Posted Fri Jan 24, 2014, 11:12pm
Subject: Re: Seeking some general advice on roasting levels and strategies.
 

How about using a stopwatch and timing 1c? Mine usually runs @ 2:00 min and on my gas roaster I would drop the roast right at the end of 1C (for a city roast). Then add 15sec or 30sec on subsequent roasts. You can even drop before 1c ends and see how it turns out. The RD development time between the start of 1c and end of roast is a good place to experiment in addition to the beginning 1c temp vs end of roast temp.
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BarryR
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Location: Wilbraham
Expertise: I love coffee

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Posted Sat Jan 25, 2014, 4:50am
Subject: Re: Seeking some general advice on roasting levels and strategies.
 

hankua Said:

How about using a stopwatch and timing 1c? Mine usually runs @ 2:00 min and on my gas roaster I would drop the roast right at the end of 1C (for a city roast). Then add 15sec or 30sec on subsequent roasts. You can even drop before 1c ends and see how it turns out. The RD development time between the start of 1c and end of roast is a good place to experiment in addition to the beginning 1c temp vs end of roast temp.

Posted January 24, 2014 link

I do have 1C times right on the graph. The tall wide greenish bar is 1C. At the bottom are numbers including 1C start, duration of 1c and time from 1C start to end of roast (i think).

I can hit City, City+, FC or FC+ fairly reliably (I think) but am trying to figure out when to stretch, when to speed up and how to get more flavor nuances to be maintained.
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boar_d_laze
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Posted Sat Jan 25, 2014, 9:38am
Subject: Re: Seeking some general advice on roasting levels and strategies.
 

The "long, sweet finish" theory for high grown beans is to try to get between 3 and four minutes of "Development" from 1stCs to Drop for C+ and FC.  

i think you'll find that's not easy to do with C+ without stalling.  I think you might also find that you lose some of the acid notes to "baking" if you go that long to C+.  

That's not an entirely bad thing, because the best way to get in the sweet spot is to go too far and then back off a little.  

For high beans finishing at FC, a 3:00 - 4:00 Development is going to be pretty close.  

You asked about drying time -- it's not a well defined term in the sense that 1st Crack is.  Nor does "end of drying" signal the actual end of drying.  It's more about when the interior of the bean has lost enough water, built up enought pressure, and got hot enough that more complicated reactions begin to predominate.  

People mark it by the change in aroma from hay to bread; from raw bread to bread with "toasty notes"; to finished bread; etc., and by yellowing; yellow; or yellow with wrinkles.  So... as you see, there's no great agreement.

No matter how you define it, it's important that you do define it for a given roast and that you hit your target very close to your chosen time.  The Owens/Boot theory is that going relatively slowly through the Drying interval (from Turn to EOD) enhances sweetness AND varietal notes; but just like Development, if you go through Drying too quickly you'll flatten the nuances.  

You don't have to do the whole BT / Artisan thing.  You can roast pretty darn well using your senses and the reading from the HT.  I'm not going to say that Ginny (from HRO) is right, but she's definitely tapped into one of the many right approaches.  However, if you want to develop fairly precise profiles and roast on purpose, real time BTs make the goal significantly more practical.

OTOH, FWIW, I'm not a "by the numbers" guy.  I'd die and go to hell before installing PLC or computer control.  Artisanal all the way, baby!  Or, at least I'm trying.  

Very trying.

I understand your reluctance to spend the few hundred for the Boot online course (or any other expensive course, for that matter) as long as you're ONLY using a HT.  I'm not going to try to sell you a class, and if it's any comfort I didn't take one (from Mike Perry at Klatch) until after buying expensive equipment.  However, even though the HT is small and (cough) reasonably priced it's a very versatile and sophisticated roaster.  It can do a LOT of things, including profile.

Learn to cup.  Read the cupping notes at Sweet Maria's and at the Green Coffee Buying Club -- you can learn a lot about the process besides figuring out what to buy next.  

Planning a detailed profile (which includes a plan for each interval), and WRITING it DOWN in detail, is very important to learning how to roast.  It's not about winning or losing.  It's about learning, keeping yourself honest.  Maybe you don't need this advice, but I sure as hell did.  I went through a few roasters on the road from Behmor to what I have now, but planning has been the biggest evolution on my journey.

It's an expected thing that you won't have much control for awhile.  Heck.  Even very experienced, talented, artisanal roasters don't hit always hit their landmarks with great precision -- but at least they know what those landmarks are, how much they were off, and how the roast was changed.  

CG has some good roasting people (Tim and Hank both, for example), HRO (homeroasters.org) does as well, and I encourage you to keep participating in both forums.  BUT you should be spending more time on H-B. There are some knowledgeable HT guys on all three forums, but you're going to get more attention from them, as well as observe more interaction between them at H-B.

The Roasting and Learning project at HB is a good thing.  

BDL
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BarryR
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Joined: 21 Nov 2010
Posts: 262
Location: Wilbraham
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Clever...
Roaster: Hottop KN-8828B2-K
Posted Sat Jan 25, 2014, 9:47am
Subject: Re: Seeking some general advice on roasting levels and strategies.
 

Thanks again for sage advice. I know I'm (mostly) approaching this correctly but am looking to flatten the learning curve a bit.

Just tasted my Kenya Kikai (City +) from a few days ago, and I definitely do taste a bit of the acidity (winey) and veggie/floral nuances (at least a little). It wasn't complex though and a bit thin. I'm out of the Kikai, but have some Chania Estate that I'll work on based on the Kikai results, etc. I did a many small batch roasts (~200 gm) of sev'l different beans today and I'll see what goes.

I absolutely love the control the Hottop offers compared to the Behmor but now there's so much more to do and think about!

I'll head over to Homeroasters soon for more advice.
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