So wow. I'm still working on my notes for this, but here goes.
Had a very interesting and informative visit with the Behmor booth. Two things I noticed right away. First, in the booth along with Joe Behm (inventor of the product) was the CEO of Ronco! You know, the vegematic / pocket fisherman / mr. mike / instant hair / ronco rotisserie folks? And it wasn't Ron Popeil either; apparently, he sold the company last year.
This speaks volumes about several things regarding this roaster: it means awesome customer service if you buy it; it means big funds for product development and maturation down the line; it means ease of availability and use; it means a better price point (more sales = better MAP); and it means potentially, a lot of people are going to come into the home roasting fold.
Second, I noticed right away that the Behmor roaster won one of the prestigious SCAA Trade Show awards: Best New Product: Coffee or Tea Preparation or Serving Equipment (Consumer). Huge congrats on that.
Okay, let's get down to the skinny now. Joe was in full on informercial mode for the visit (I was there with several alties and CoffeeGeek fans, including Marshall Fuss), giving us the full marketing walkthrough on the product. While I do appreciate the explosion of information, I could tell our questions peppered throughout the presentation would throw Joe off a bit, but he'd get back on track soon enough. And I think at times, some of the questions were a bit of the "take the mikey out of ya" kinda questions, which wasn't very nice of us.
Also, I think our questions threw Joe off even more because when he demo'ed a roast, he picked a bad profile - the slowest one the machine has, and for over 20 mins, we were witness to a pretty bad roasting session - one I'm sure is not indicative of the machine's capabilities. I promised to drop by tomorrow for another demo to see the normal and fast roast profiles (ed.note - my bad, I never made it back to the booth).
So many intriguing things about this roaster. The panel and controls seem cool, but I'm betting they could stand some UI tweaking (I bet Ronco will be on that). You could tell this is a serious project from a serious home inventor, and one of the problems with these scenarios we see in the coffee world often is that the inventors become so familiar with a product, what seems insanely easy to them can be confusing for others. But this is a minor thing.
Joe showed us the drum and how it is very intricately designed to maximize agitation and roasting postion - the majority of the coffee will "sit" up against the area where the heat coils are during a roast. He talked through the choice and design of the drum, then moved on to discussing the chaff collection system which is also pretty cool. Shaped a bit like a stylistic "L" when looking at it from the side, it sits entirely in front of the interior of the roaster when in place, but also wraps around the bottom of the drum. You can still see through it fine when the unit is roasting.
Joe also at one point whipped out part of his smoke eating system. I wasn't allowed to take pictures (totally fair enough), and I have to admit being zoned out a bit during this part, but I'm pretty sure what I saw was a miniaturized afterburner design. Looked a bit like a ceramic plate with radiator channels through it and heating coils. I could be entirely wrong.
Then it was time to roast. Again, I think I threw Joe off, because when he started the roast and an interior light went on to let you check the stage of the beans, my photography background took off, and I questioned why he didn't use a daylight balanced light inside (he's using a standard kitchen oven light, which burns very yellow in colour). Again, super minor point and easily remedied - there's gotta be 5000-6000 kelvin colour oven lights out there, no?
The roaster was very quiet during operation. So much so that, even with all the ambient trade show noise, I could easily hear the cracks sitting about 7-10 feet away. And while the roast profile chosen was a bad one, I never smelled smoke from the machine during the entire operation.
On the size - it's pretty small. I'd say it's about the size of a medium-large home toaster oven / convection oven combo. Smaller than Ronco's own rotisserie, for sure. But the size is also deceptive... when you look at it from a three quarter birds eye view, it looks fairly shallow to the back, but when you look closer, it gets fatter (back to front) the lower you go on the machine. This is where I would surmise a lot of the smoke eating and fans and such are.
On cooldown. Okay - we saw it in action, with the front open. I didn't time it personally. Joe said he stopped it after 5 mins, and we all touched the beans, and they were barely above ambient temperatures. Good stuff! But that said, the beans were a very light roast.
Overall, a good demonstration on what will undeniably be a huge thing in the home roasting world. And the best part of it all? The price was set: $299. Holy crap! Can't wait for the informercial!
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| Blue Ribbon Winner |
Awesome - congrats Joe!
| Joe Talks |
Tried to get artsy with this photo - and it ends up, this is the only photo of Joe I have!
| The Drum |
Quite intricate in design, everything paid attention to. Nice work!
| Sigh... |
Sigh is for my crappy photo skills. This is the unit with the chaff collector in place. Sorry for the blur.
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| Drum in Place |
The drum in the unit. It's pretty small! I think I'd be happy doing 300-350g roasts in this machine - everything sounds well thought out.
| Heating coils |
The heating system inside. When the drum rotates, most of the coffee is up against those coils (in the drum).
| As it roasts |
The roaster in action. If you look close, you can see the chaff collector, but it's easy to see through.
| As it roasts |
The colour of the light may throw me off, but you can't argue that the beans ain't visible during the roast!