An excellent upgrade from hot-air popping. Well made, well supported, well documented.
Positive Product Points
+ Roasts a full pound at a shot - a nice change from doing 65g in my hot air popper. + Quiet in operation - makes less noise than the range hood it sits under. + Smoke suppression works well - with the range hood going, it hasn't yet set off the smoke alarm, which is very sensitive. + Great quality/price ratio - far less expensive than other roasters with similar capacities, as long as you can accept certain limitations.
Negative Product Points
- Slightly confusing controls. - Cannot stop a roast on a dime, this takes some care and attention.
Before the Behmor, I was roasting using a Toastess hot-air popper, doing 65 grams of green coffee at a time. This was fun and above all cheap! Unfortunately it was also highly weather dependant and time consuming.
When it came time to upgrade from the hot-air popper, there was only one serious contender: The Behmor. Chances are if you're looking to upgrade, you're looking at the Behmor for the same reasons I did: Larger capacity than others in the price class, drum-roasting quality that produces coffee with more body, and smoke reduction.
It performs very well for all 3 of the above points. I have no issues roasting a full pound of green coffee, easily getting into second crack. The manufacturer and other reviewers warn that this roaster is not for very dark roasts such as Vienna or French roast or similar. Other reviewers claim they struggle to hit second crack, I have the opposite experience - I usually have to reduce my roast times so they don't overroast. I don't use an extension cord, and roast plugged into the outlet on the stove, under the range hood... perhaps it's got as consistent voltage as you can get? I don't know, I've never tested it with a Kill-A-Volt.
The user interface is slightly disconcerting... 1/4, 1/2 and 1 pound are self-evident, P1 through P5 are profiles that generally go from "hottest" to "coolest", and the letters are pretty well time values, A being the shortest and extending the times for the other letters. These are explained quite well in manual and more important, suggested settings for different coffees are given. I have followed these from the beginning, and have had no problems whatsoever. Most of my roasts are 1 pound, done at P3, time factor "C" and I usually shave 1 minute off the roast even before starting up. Jim Behm points out that 2nd crack is usually 3 minutes 10 seconds behind the start of first crack for 1 pound, and I've found this to be pretty close to my own experience. The countdown timer lets me adjust quite nicely where I want the roast to end, once I start hearing that first crack... reduce it to 2 minutes to wind down just before first crack, 2:30 or 2:40 to start 2nd crack, 3:10 to let it roll for a few seconds.
Cleanup is straightforward, just keep a vacuum cleaner around. I have been performing the self-cleaning burn as recommended and after about 20 or 30 pounds of coffee have not seen a significant buildup of coffee oils inside the roaster. The inside of my hot-air popper looked like it had been tarred after a year's use. The smoke-suppression technology works reasonably well, but can't do miracles... after a roasting session the smell of the coffee can be strong in the house, but not unpleasantly so.
Of course, all of the above wouldn't matter if the coffee in my cup wasn't worth it, which it most certainly is. Clearly richer body, thicker crema and deeper flavours than with the hot-air popper. I roast 1 pound at a time, conserve about 1/2 of it in a 500ml Mason jar, sealed and placed immediately in the deep freeze. I'm roasting a lot more now, as this has become a great "Thank you" gift for anybody that likes coffee but hasn't ever had fresh coffee... generally speaking, they're amazed at how it tastes. I'm even roasting for friends who tell me that they can't go back to store-bought any more, I've spoiled them for it. If you're like me, then, you may find yourself roasting more than you thought you would!
I purchased this online from GreenBeanery.ca, just before the Canadian price dropped recently... oh well. Service was excellent - I placed the order early one morning and it arrived at my doorstep in just over 24 hours!
Three Month Followup
Actually, this is a 1+ year follow up.
Everything I wrote in my original review still stands. Positives are still very positive: Still doing full 1 pound roasts, the smoke reduction is still working great.
I've roasted far beyond the intentions of this roaster... something like 150+ pounds in the past year, I figure. Diligent cleaning with Simple Green and the prescribed 1/2 pound dry burns have kept the inside looking respectably clean.
After a year of roasting like this, I am finding that my roasts are not getting to 2nd crack like they used to. Since nothing else changed, I figured that the thermosensor was getting too beaten up. The good folks at Behmor agreed with this assessment, and mailed me a replacement sensor, free of charge. Well after a full year of use. Without even charging me for shipping! I had expected to pay for the sensor and shipping, that's just business. So basically, all the glowing praise you hear about Behmor customer service? I'm just adding another echo to it... fantastic.
Would I recommend it to somebody so long as they intended to roast within it's limitations? Unqualified yes, and to go further, I intend to purchase another for myself.