A recent query on the availability of 240v roasters from a person in Hong Kong put an Imex Roaster on my test bench for a couple of days. I reviewed this roaster vs. a popcorn popper last year (website), and wasnít that impressed, but it was O.K.
This time around I thought Iíd have a close look at what it could do, in terms of maximum and minimum batch size, roast times, reproducibility, noise and anything else that came to mind.
The manual gives a number of recommendations for line voltage vs. bean mass and roast times, with the maximum weight 120g (a heaped cup) of green beans. I ignored these and started with 80g of green coffee, this being the amount I commonly use in the popper.
BIG mistake! The beans whizzed round in the roasting chamber at high velocity, making a heck of a racket, to the point where there was no chance of hearing first or second cracks. As the roast continued they seemed to speed up, but I let things run for a full 13 minute roast time and 5 minute cooling cycle. Then when I looked insideÖSHOCK! HORROR! Half the beans had disappeared!
They hadnít really gone anywhere but the chaff basket, of course, but they certainly werenít roasted evenly, or much past first crack. It seems you need a minimum amount of coffee in the Imex to prevent the force of the fan blowing the beans into the chaff basket. Next roast I tried 110g of green, and after the full cycle the roast hadnít reached second crack, but was almost there.
Ultimately I found that 140g gave the best results, 8 minutes to first crack, another 2 minutes to second, a lovely even roast and no beans in the chaff. You can do 150g, but some beans tend to overflow into the chaff basket during first crack. More importantly, the roast is reproducible; I did 5 batches of 140g in a row with no hassles.
Itís noisy, though, you really have to listen for second crack and it can be difficult to pick until itís fully underway. Reliability wise I know of a dozen of these things running on a daily basis for over a year, and Iíve only heard of a single failed unit, so compared to a Hearthware or Alpenrost the Imex seems more reliable. This is probably due as much to the absence of fancy electronics as anything else.
So what have we got? A reliable Home Coffee Roaster that does 140g (US 6 oz) at a time and which should sell for around US$125.00, based on the local (Australian) wholesale price. I note that the actual US price is closer to $150.00, so a bit of shopping around might be in order. Overall, I reckon the Imex isnít bad, and deserves wider sales than it currently gets.