The Caffe Rosto is an air roaster, and is made primarily of stainless steel and very solid, thick black plastic. It is surprisingly small (pictures tend to give a misperception of the true size), measuring at 12" tall, 7.5" back to front, and 5.5" wide. It weights about 5.5 lbs with the lid, which is made of tempered glass and features a handle and a plastic arm for covering the roaster's chaff collector area.
I was impressed by the weight and "solidness" of this roaster when I took it out of the box. I also liked the fact that they included a stainless steel measuring cup (1 cup size (8 fluid oz)) and a surprisingly good quality brush for cleaning the chaff from the machine.
The controls are very simple - a mechanical dial with two settings - a roast area and a cool cycle. Above that is the power switch. Once dial the timer, it' clicking away (that's what mechanical is), but the machine won't commence operation until you hit the power switch.
The enclosed manual is pretty good, and gives a good background and foundation in what home roasting is about. Reading this manual carefully also taught me that something I thought this roaster was capable of is false: I thought this was a 6 ounce roaster. It isn't.
It was online advertising and marketing words I heard at trade shows that made me think this is a 6 ounce roaster. But it turns out the 6 ounces refers to volume, not weight. As in volume of beans inside a measuring cup, not the weight of the beans on a scale.
| Caffe Rosto's removable chaff collector. |
| This is the primary chaff collector area - that screen at the bottom needs to be cleaned after each use. Sorry for the poor picture quality. |
I have concerns about this marketing - right up until the time I actually got this roaster and read the manual I thought it was a 6 ounce (by weight) green bean roaster. When you buy coffee, they don't hand you a sack and say "hey, here's 16 ounces by volume", it's always measured by weight. When you buy green beans, ditto - you buy it by weight, not volume. I would suggest that the importer and manufacturer of this product stick to only measured weight, and instruct their resellers to do the same. Talking about volume and weights interchangeably has the potential to confuse the consumer.
When talking about roasting weights, this roaster can usually handle 4 ounces, plus or minus a half ounce, with no real problems, according to my research online. I would be putting this to the test.
The cord is wrapped around the bottom of the roaster, which has cutouts in the bottom specifically for this purpose - you can have the cord at full length, but easily wrap it up for storage.
Looking inside the roaster, there's the big central chamber which has a shallow dome in the middle. Underneath the dome are side wall vents, which in turn are fed hot (and while cooling, not so hot) air to do the roasting. Before operating this roaster, I thought this machine would be a "whirlpool effect" type grinder, whirling around the beans at a high rate of speed. Once I used it, I would find out if this is the case or not. The entire interior surface is stainless steel.
At the front of the machine is the exhaust and chaff collection area. This is fed by a hole in the top of the roasting chamber, measuring about 2 inches by 3.4 an inch tall. There's no grating or bars in the hole between the roast chamber and chaff area, but a chaff collecting mesh "bin" sits in the chaff area and it can be removed for cleaning.
The dial up front is easy to use and figure out - it's mechanical, there's no real challenges here. The cool cycle portion of the dial is about 5 minutes, and the roasting portion covers about 13.5 minutes of mechanical timing. You can, of course, adjust this on the fly as the roaster operates - if it's approaching the cool cycle but your beans aren't dark enough yet, just dial in a few more roasting minutes. Ditto if your roast is getting too dark but not near the cool cycle yet - just manually dial it to the blue portion and you're good to go.
After the visual inspections, research, RTFM'ing and general gawking, it was time to give this roaster a whirl.
First Use of the Caffe Rosto Roaster
| The various parts that ship with the Caffe Rosto CR-120 coffee roaster. |
I debated whether or not to do my first roast as a 4 ounce (by weight) roast, or just fill the measuring scoop supplied with the roaster, and roast with that. I decided to cut the Caffe Rosto a break, and do 4 measured ounces (on a scale) as the first batch. First up was an easy bean to roast - a Colombian Excelso bean I got from a local green bean vendor. In my other roasters, this always gives me an even, very tempered yet flavourful coffee, so I wanted to see if it presented any challenges for the Caffe Rosto.
I added the beans, plugged it in, dial up to "max" and let'er rip. The beans move in the roast chamber, but it is more like a "eddies of action, with still beans elsewhere" type movement instead of an overall whirlpool. As the bean weight drops off during the roast, the action speeds up a bit more. You'll find the timing for this roast and others in a chart below.
I manually put the timer into "cool mode" once the roast achieved a full city colour. One minor concern I had was that it is hard to hear first and second cracks. The roaster is pretty loud, and the chamber the beans are in is fairly air tight from the top, sealing off a lot of interior noise. Because of this, defining the cracks audibly was a challenge. It could be the beans I used - some beans are quieter in their crack noises than others - but the noise of the roaster certainly didn't help.
The entire roast process was very even, no worries on what it delivered, and I would wait a full 24 hours at least before trying it, to let it degas some.
My next session was with a Guatemalan Antigua bean, and I roasted the prescribed 4 ounces again. It pretty much mirrored my experience with the Colombian, though it was a tad faster in the roast. Again, I could not hear the cracks very well at all, I had to almost guess at the second crack.
The next session after this was an attempt to roast like a roasting newbie who doesn't read the manuals but is sold by marketing hype: I filled the included measuring "cup" to the rim with Guatemalan Antigua old stock. (measured by weight, this was a whopping 5.75 ounces green, or 164 grams). I put it in the roaster (after letting the roaster cool down some from the previous roasting session), and once again, letter rip.
This time there was no whirlpool effect in the roasting chamber, and almost no discernable movement for the first 6 or 7 minutes of the roast. I had serious concerns about tipping or scorching of the beans that were touching metal surfaces. The roast was developing quite uneven, but I let the roast continue. Thanks to the recirculating hot air inside the sealed roasting chamber, the beans eventually evened out some and started turning brown.
Roasting a full scoop of beans really extends the roasting time, which is to be expected. I had the dial maxed out, and I had to extend it a bit by manually adjusting the dial into the red for a few extra minutes. The beans also were pretty hot after the 5 minute cool cycle (temp not measured accurately - just by hand), where my 4 ounce (green by weight) roast gave me beans that were only warm to the touch at the end of the roast.
Cleaning the roaster isn't a big challenge, though handling the still-hot device might be. The roasting chamber doesn't remove, so you have to tip the entire roaster to dump the roasted coffee out. I was careful to remove the chaff collector first, and dump the chaff out. It gets wedged fairly compact and tight in there, so you have to brush it out, or knock it against the side wall of your garbage can (or wherever you dispose of the chaff).
The supplied brush is great for cleaning out remaining chaff from the collector area of the machine, and I don't recommend cleaning the stainless steel roasting chamber - it's seasoned now, and you want that. But the glass lid looked like it could stand a cleaning every 5 or 10 roasts.
|Initial Coffee Roasting Tests by Weight|
114 grams (4.0oz)
114 grams (4.0oz)
164 grams (5.75oz)
|Second Crack||not heard||11:38 (maybe)||not heard|
|Total Roast Time||17:04||17:31||22:29|
|Roast Level||Full City +||Full City +||Full City|
|Roasted Weight||97 grams (3.5oz)||99 grams (3.5oz)||143 grams (5.0oz)|
|"Cooled" Temp||30C (85.4F)||30C (85.6F)||41.5C (105.4F)|
|Roating Notes||Beans moved adequately, not a whirlpool, more like eddies here and there. Roast looked even, not a lot of chaff remaining.||Beans moved a lot, same as Colombian. Some chaff remains, roast looked even.||Lots of chaff remaining on the beans, some evidence of scorching and tipping. Smell is less than perfect. Beans barely moved in roaster.|
First Few Days with the Caffe Rosto
By the end of my first week, I had put the roaster through several "challenges", including the back to back to back to back to back to back roast (6 consecutive roasts with very little cooling time in between), the "don't clean anything" roasts, and tossed on some very diverse pre-blends (beans that roast at different speeds, as it were, all tossed in the same 115 gram sample to roast at once).
The back to back challenge was very promising. Because the roaster does a good job overall of reducing the bean temperature during the cool cycle (not all roasters have this good fortune!) the roaster itself is also fairly cool once the machine is done a batch. I half expected to hear the strain and screeching noises I've heard from a Hearthware after multiple uses), but there was no evidence the machine was suffering. I'll test this more for the Detailed Review
The roasting without cleaning the machine showed something: you must clean the machine's chaff areas between each use. Why? If you leave chaff at the bottom of the chaff collector area (either in the removable basket or below that basket in the machine itself), you'll screw up your next roast. This roaster works on recirculating its hot air, and you prevent that by letting this vented area stay plugged up. This extends the roasting time, and results in very uneven and scorched roasts.
For the diverse pre-blend test, the jury is still out on this one for me. One preblend I have that roasts uneven in all air roasters I've tried (Espresso Vivace's preblend green) did roast a bit uneven in the Caffe Rosto. But a custom preblend of Monsooned Malabar (long to roast), Costa Rica Tarrazu (medium speed roast), and Nicaraguan beans (very fast to roast) gave me a more even finished roast than the Vivace exhibited. I'll test this more in the near future.
I'm impressed early on with the Caffe Rosto roaster. It does deliver the typical "air roaster" profile, which means it enhances brights and acids in coffees, and sometimes doesn't develop the full body some beans can offer. In other beans, very delicate tastes seem to never get a chance to come out. But I'm curious if it does a better job of "evening out" a roast when compared to a Hearthware Precision, a Fresh Roast, or even a popcorn popper. I'll test for this in the Detailed Review, but my first week has me leaning towards yes, it is a more balanced roast because of the longer roast times, and the way it recirculates the hot air.
I'd also like to see Caffe Rosto and Brightway completely ditch the references to "by volume measuring", at least until they get a measuring scoop in the box that equals 4 ounces (by weight, not volume) for an average sampling of beans.
And as always, this is just a First Look, NOT a Detailed Review. Anything and everything I write is subject to change. My numbers could be completely off. I could be certifiably insane, and you don't know it (yet). This could turn into a drum roaster by the time I finish... ya just never know.
Once again, CoffeeGeek would like to thank 1st Line Equipment, LLC, who supplied us with the $139 Caffe Rosto. As of this writing, 1st Line is the only retailer that currently has stock in this roaster (though that may change by the time you read this). 1st Line also sells the roaster with 4 pounds of starter green coffee for only $10 more, or $149. Details can be found here.