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Gene Cafe Roaster - Eddie Dove's Review
Posted: May 4, 2007, 10:49pm
review rating: 9.7
feedback: (35) comments | read | write
Gene Cafe Roaster
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Arrow The Gene Cafe Roaster has 26 Reviews
Arrow The Gene Cafe Roaster has been rated 8.08 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since April 4, 2006.
Arrow Gene Cafe Roaster reviews have been viewed 186,134 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Eddie Dove 9.66
Tom Lewis 8.77
Bill Miano 8.55
Scott Arledge 8.44
Robert Combs 8.21

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 8.0
Manufacturer: Genesis Korea Quality: 8
Average Price: $500.00 Usability: 8
Price Paid: $495.00 Cost vs. Value 8
Where Bought: Sweet Maria's Aesthetics 8
Owned for: 6 months Overall 8
Writer's Expertise: I live coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: Zach & Dani's, RK Drum
Bottom Line: In about thirty minutes, a novice can produce about a half pound of the best coffee they have ever had.
Positive Product Points

A coffee roaster for anyone that does 1/2 pound batches and slightly larger
Ability to profile the roast
Continuous roasting option
Options with cooling

Negative Product Points

Some parts are fragile
Like anything else, could use more power for both heating and cooling
Rubber bumper on chaff wipe

Detailed Commentary
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Disclaimer:  You are responsible for your own actions and I shall be held harmless for any and all of your actions resulting in any damage to person or property or anything else, forever.

Summary:
Using this appliance can be delightfully simple; in about thirty minutes, and without extra paraphernalia, a novice can produce about a half pound of the best coffee they have ever had.  The veteran roaster can tweak the profile to his or her delight and produce about a half pound of coffee to enjoy, critique and muse the profile modifications for the next roasting session.

Product Reviewed:      Gene Cafe Coffee Bean Roaster
Model:                       CBR-101 (Analog)
Manufacturer:            Genesis, Co., Ltd. ( http://www.genecafe.com )
Average Price:            $495.00
Price Paid:                  $495.00 (included 8 pounds of green coffee beans)
Where Bought:           Sweet Maria's (http://www.sweetmarias.com)
Owned for:                 7 months

Detailed Commentary

Specifications:
Company: Genesis Co., LTD. ( http://www.genecafe.com )
Dimensions:
 Height = 9 1/4 inches
 Width = 10 inches
 Length = 19 1/4 inches with chaff collector attached, 15 1/4 inches without the chaff collector
 Weight = ~12 lbs
Capacity = 300grams, 10.5 ounces
Electrical = A/C 120 volts, 60Hz, 1.3KW
Cord = two prong polarized, 48” long, 16 AWG/2
Power consumption = 1,200 – 1,400 watts
Fuse = 15A / 125V
Temperature Control = electrostatic thermostat
Noise rating = 65dB
Items included = drum stand and a 100g / 3.5 oz measuring scoop
Date of Manufacture = May 24, 2006
Voltage where used = 122.2 volts
Warranty = 1 year U.S.
Made in the Republic of Korea

Arrival, Setup & First Impression:
The roaster arrived safe and sound, double boxed and accompanied by 8 pounds of green coffee beans (one pound bags of eight different coffees).  The roaster was ensconced in a plastic bag (including a silica-gel desiccant packet), was suspended by the ends with molded Styrofoam and there were Styrofoam shims placed in various locations.  Packaging graphics on the plain, brown box are nice, but modest; no “marketing slicks” on the exterior.

The instructions are contained within a 20-page owner's manual.  The illustrations are great; the instructions, which have been translated from Korean into English, are abysmal, but humorous to read.  For example, according to the owner's manual, the “Features” of a “Medium Roast Level” are “Acid and sweat flavors ”.  Reading the manual is beneficial and encouraged.

It takes only a minute to set it up; insert chaff collector, insert roasting chamber and your are done.  It gives good OOBE!

Although most of the roaster is made of plastics, it is aesthetically pleasing; predominately black, clear cover / lid and a bit of chrome.  Fit and finish is quite good.  There are some warning labels affixed to the exterior and they are also somewhat humorous to read, but do pay attention to the intent.

Type of Roaster:
This roaster is a hybrid incorporating the features of two roasting methodologies.  It uses forced hot air for heat, but not for bean agitation; therefore, it does not qualify as a fluid-bed roaster.  The glass (Pyrex) and metal parts of the drum also heat the beans via contact with hot surfaces, similar in nature to a drum roaster.  

Operator Inputs and Outputs:
Operator control of the appliance is achieved by two multifunction dials (red & blue) on the front of the roaster and the operator receives feedback via the LED display in the form of  temperature (red) and time (green).

Red Dial Functions:
Clockwise rotation = increase temperature up to 482º F anytime before or during the roast
Counterclockwise rotation = decrease temperature anytime before or during the roast
Press and release:
 1. start roasting
 2. stop roasting and start cooling cycle to 140º F regardless of time remaining
 3. if pressed and released during the cooling cycle, it will halt the cooling cycle at 212º F.  The temperature will continue to be displayed and “StP” (StP = Stop) will be displayed in the time area.

Press and hold for at least two (2) seconds = the immediate stop mode will be initiated resulting in an “E” being displayed in the temperature area and “StP” being displayed in the time area.  The drum will finish the revolution (or perhaps one more) and stop in position for removal from the appliance.

Blue Dial Functions:
Clockwise rotation = increase time in six (6) second increments anytime before or during the roast up to 30 minutes (display will jump from “0” to “15” for your convenience).
Counterclockwise rotation = decrease of time in six (6) second decrements anytime before or during the roast
Press and release = turns the roaster on or off.  When turned on, the roaster will generally execute one (1) revolution (presumably to check function) and the previous session's roast parameters will return to the display if the unit has not been unplugged.  Do try to avoid pressing this button during the roast.  Having done so on several occasions, I have found the best solution to restarting the roast quickly to be:
 1. unplug the roaster for a couple seconds
 2. plug it back in
 3. set the temperature
 4. rotate time dial clockwise
 5. press the start button

The LED Display:
Various forms of information are displayed with the LEDs: time, temperature, information and errors.

Once roasting has begun, the red LED display alternates between the current temperature setting and the current internal temperature reading.  The temperature setting displays as a normal number “482” and the current internal temperature reading is displayed with “dots” for differentiation, “4.8.2.”

There are two temperature sensors in the Gene Cafe; one sensor is located on the right side (before the air enters the drum) and the other is located on the left side where the air exits the drum and heads down to the chaff collector.  The LED displays the temperature reading from the sensor on the right; the air going into the drum.  The sensor on the left side is a safety sensor; if it gets too hot on the exhaust side (chaff fire, etc) its job is to shut the Gene Cafe down.

Timing of the roast via the countdown timer and the time remaining is posted in minutes and tenths of a minute via the green LED display (e.g., 17.3).  The maximum time that can be displayed is thirty (30) minutes.  I don't believe one would have the occasion to roast for longer than thirty (30) minutes, but more time can be added continuously.

About the Drum
The Pyrex cylinder of the drum is encapsulated by a rigid plastic exoskeleton molded in such a manner that when inserted into the roaster it provides for off-axis rotation.  It is this same shape (think parallelogram) that requires a “stand” for the drum.  Do not put the drum down without using the stand and always put it back into the roaster for safe keeping.

Unique construction and off-axis rotation of the drum accomplishes or aids in accomplishing several objectives:
 1. ability to see the beans throughout the roasting cycle (positive and negative)
 2. produces an even roast
 3. chaff removal

Being able to see the beans during the roast is certainly valuable, especially for those learning the different roast levels so long as one does not become dependent on roast color.  Different beans can have very different appearances for the same degree of roast.  

Inside the drum is a perforated metal plate that divides the drum in half lengthwise.  This plate has notches cut out in two opposing corners.  As the drum rotates, the beans are collected by the metal plate putting them in contact with both the hot surface of the metal plate and the glass of the drum.  Continuing the rotation, the beans are raised into the stream of forced hot air, begin to cascade over themselves and drop through the notch in the opposing corner into the bottom to be collected by the metal plate again.  

This constant motion contributes to a very even roast and loosening / removal of chaff.  The chaff is released into the stream of air and carried to the opposite end of the drum where is exits the drum and is collected in the chaff collector.  Attached loosely to the metal plate via a pair of split rings is a heavy metal plate known as the chaff wipe.  During drum revolutions, it “flops” from one side to the other and wipes the grill where the chaff exits to keep it from getting clogged.  As the chaff wipe sweeps from side to side, it lands against the drum.  To keep it from breaking the glass, it has a dumbbell-shaped rubber piece inserted into its outermost corner.  

I do strongly recommend that you obtain a spare rubber bumper for the chaff wipe; perhaps even more.  Over time, and given the protracted amount of time that they endure intense heat, and then cool again, they can become brittle.  One day while cleaning the drum that little dumbbell shaped piece of rubber will break in two, fall down the drain or both.  Regardless, your roaster will be rendered useless.  I happened to have a spare on hand one day when mine broke in two.  It lasted about 375 roasts, but I don't remember exactly.  If you use the roaster without the rubber piece, it is highly likely that you will break the drum and cost yourself a lot more money.

Loading and Installing the Drum
Grasp the drum by the handle and use your thumb to pull back on the spring loaded latch that locks the drum into the roaster.  The drum should slip effortlessly from the roaster.  Place the drum into the drum stand.  Open the drum by “flipping” it open; it is a lid supported by a single metal hinge that is painted black and blends in with the plastic.  Treat this gently as it appears to be an area of high stress and could become fragile over time.  

With the lid closed, align the drum with the receiving slots in the roaster and slip it into the roaster.  It should slide effortlessly into the roaster and land at the bottom with the latch engaged.  Make sure the latch is engaged by lifting on the drum.  If it is not latched, the drum will slip out, jam the roaster and potentially cause severe damage to the roaster.

IMPORTANT NOTES:
The hinge becomes very hot during roasting and can cause a severe burn.  It could catch you by surprise and cause you to drop and break the drum.  Wear protective gloves.

After pouring your green coffee beans into the drum, if you attempt to close the lid and it offers  resistance, STOP!  There is a bean in the hinge.  I happen to have a pair of needle-nose pliers in the vicinity and they work very well for removing the bean.  

The drum should always slip right into place!  Do not force the drum into place!  If the drum is offering resistance, check to make sure the lid is completely closed and that the drum is lined up properly.

This roaster as with any other roaster is affected by ambient temperature.  If for some reason you are concerned if your roaster is heating properly, then you can check its heating ability using the procedure described below in the section “Checking the Heating Ability of the Roaster.”

Roasting:
Roasting a good batch of coffee can be as simple as adding the beans, setting the temperature to 456º F, setting the time to 30 minutes, pressing start to initiate the roast and pressing stop to terminate the roast and initiate the cooling cycle when the beans have reach the desired level of roast.  If using the roaster's cooling process, one will become accustomed to initiating the cooling a bit before the desired roast level because the roast has a tendency to coast before the cooling cycle halts the roasting altogether.

This roaster does generate a modicum of noise, but one can become attuned to first and second cracks, which are essential indicators of roast progress. (It could be explained as this: first crack is the physical expansion of the coffee seed as water and carbon dioxide split and CO-2 outgassing occurs. Second Crack is the physical fracturing of the cellular matrix of the coffee. This matrix is wood, also called cellulose, and consists of organized cellulose that reacts readily to heat, and not-so-organized cellulose that does not. - see Footnote #1).   I am partially deaf and can still hear the cracks.  If I am really being attentive, then I listen near the exhaust port of the chaff collector.  I position my head so that the sticker on the roaster, just above the chaff collector, is right in my face, which means that the exhaust / sound is blowing by my left ear ( be careful not to burn your ear ) and I can see the time, temp and the beans.  Again, this must be done with caution as the exhaust is very hot and can cause a severe burn.

The exhaust port makes for a great tool with which the operator can monitor all of the important aspects of roasting: aroma, smoke, time, temperature, sound and bean color (which can be deceiving).  While sampling the aroma one can also look for smoke and within peripheral vision keep an eye on time and temperature while also glancing at the beans through the clear glass drum and listening for 1st or 2nd crack.

Another benefit is that the exhaust port is directional by design although not adjustable.  I have been able to roast inside the house atop the range and beneath the range hood that is externally vented.  The roast smoke is vented to the outside of the home and the roasting aromas remain within.  Now available  is a replacement chaff collector that allows for the attachment of dryer hose vent tubing (metal).  ( Click Here (www.burmancoffee.com) )

Roasting with Profiles:
With this roasting appliance, one has control over both the temperature and time throughout the roast with very few limitations.  Using input from other veteran roasters I developed a “root” profile and all of my profiles are some variation of this original.  This root profile is:

Stage 1:  300º F for 5.0 minutes of drying / warming; total elapsed time is 5 minutes
Stage 2:  446º F for 4.0 minutes of initial heat ramp; total elapsed time is 9 minutes
Stage 3:  465º F for 1.5 minutes of continued heat ramp; total elapsed time is 10.5 minutes
Stage 4:  482º F for 3.0 minutes of final heat ramp: total elapsed time is 13.5 minutes
Stage 5:  456º F for the remainder of the roast

Stage 1 is to prepare the beans for roasting.  This phase removes moisture and at the same time gets the beans warmed up and ready to roast.  I find that it makes the beans more receptive to heat.  You want to get the heat into the bean without cauterizing the outside of the bean which actually insulate the bean.

Stages 2-4 are for controlling the rate of increase of bean temperature as the roast progresses toward first crack.  Both duration and temperature are adjusted based on the beans being roasted and the desired development of flavors.  In general, a faster increase in temperature produces a brighter roast.

Stage 5 is usually set during first crack and is for controlling the rate at which the roast progresses toward second crack, which also is important for the development of flavor and body.

I have profiles saved for many coffees and will gladly share them.  Just send me a PM or Email.

Chaff Collection:
This roaster is the best I have seen and read about with respect to chaff control, collection and disposal.  
Forced hot air exits the drum via the a slotted port that is kept clean by a metal chaff wipe; the chaff wipe has a rubber bumper to keep it from hitting / breaking the glass of the drum.  That same heated air leaves behind the chaff as it exits the roaster via an upward angled port atop the chaff collector.  Ample room for chaff collection is provided.  I have completed eight consecutive Dry Process roasts without emptying the chaff collector; it was stuffed full of chaff, but it emptied into the flowerbed without problem and never impacted the roast.  I do not recommend ignoring chaff collection to this extent; I can be forgetful and in this instance, I forgot to empty the chaff collector.  Do pay attention to this detail and keep the chaff collector emptied thereby keeping the exhaust port cleared; carelessness in this regard can present a fire hazard.

Cleaning the Roaster:
It is my understanding that “Simple Green” was originally invented for cutting through and cleaning coffee oils; it has worked well for cleaning the roaster, but use it in a well ventilated area as the fumes are potent (always follow safety labels).  Do not scrub the glass with anything abrasive.

The manual states not to, but I remove the metal insert from the drum for cleaning.  Without doing so, I end up cutting my hands.  I use a screwdriver and pry up on one of the “tabs” on either side and it comes out rather easily once loosened.  You must be careful not to break anything or ruin the rubber gasket.  Do this at your own risk.

Once the metal insert is removed, I scrub it with a steel brush.  If the residue is really tough, I smear the whole thing with orange pumice hand cleaner and let it sit.  After a while, the residue comes off easily.  Be careful not to break or otherwise ruin the rubber bumper on the chaff collector.  As stated previously, the rubber does become brittle over time.  Once the drum is clean, reinstall the metal insert being sure to align the small tab at the bottom with the small slot in the base of the drum.

Make sure to rinse thoroughly.  Choose a safe location, place the drum stand on something absorbent and stable, and place the drum in the stand to dry.  I usually let the drum dry over night then run it in the roaster empty to make sure it is dry and burn off any left over cleaning smells.  I have on occasion run a “throw away” batch through the roaster to “season” it again.

IMPORTANT NOTE:
You must remember to regularly clean the air intake screen. This is located on the underside of the roaster.  Use a thick, soft towel or two so you don't crack the lid or scratch the finish.  Grab both ends and rotate it onto its back.  In the upper right corner of the underside, there are slots and beneath these slots is a fine mesh screen that acts as an air filter.  If this does not get cleaned, then the airflow is restricted and could present a fire hazard.

Checking the Heating Ability of the Roaster
If your roaster doesn't seem to be heating properly, or you just want to check it, there is a simple test you can perform.  With the Gene Cafe completely cold ( at about room temperature ) and the drum empty, but installed in the roaster, set the temp at 482º F and the time at 15 minutes or more.  Start the roaster and track ( with a timer or stopwatch ) the temperature reading on intervals of no more than a minute and record how long it takes for the roaster to reach 482º F; note this time when you hear the switch “click” and shut off the heat.

My roaster reaches 482º F at the 5 minute mark, but others take a little longer; consensus seems to be that average is between 5 and 7 minutes .  If your roaster takes substantially longer or never reaches 482º F then I recommend you contact Tim Skaling (see “Spare / Replacement Parts and Repairs” below) and ask about service; he is very responsive.  It is also a good idea to perform this test and record the results as a baseline for future reference.

Roaster Failure
On Sunday, April 8, 2007 (Easter Sunday) I had a lot of roasting to do.  Fired up the first batch of Guatemalan in the Gene Cafe and proceeded through the profile ramp; last stage, then I notice the temperature taking a nose dive and watching a 1/2 lb of Sweet Maria's Coffee going to that famed place of heat in a rocket sled.  I tried several things then aborted, disassembled and reassembled the roaster and tried again to no avail.  Pushed the roaster aside and used an alternate method of roasting.  It is important to note that this failure occurred after roasting 423 batches of coffee totaling 221.5 pounds.

On Monday, April 9, 2007 I talked to Tim Skaling for a few minutes, first thing in the morning, about the symptoms and let him know that tools were not unfamiliar to me.  Tim sent the part (heater box) that he believed was the problem and I agreed to ship back the old one for him to review with the Gene Cafe manufacturer representatives for their quality control process.  Tim told me that he regularly meets with the folks from Korea to go over failed parts and stated that they actually have a good quality control and review method.  I also agreed that if this did not fix the problem, then I would have to ship the roaster back to him for repair.  

On Wednesday, April 11, 2007 the heater box (replacement part) for my Gene Cafe roaster arrived.  It took me maybe 15 minutes to replace the part; once disassembled,  four screws and two wires.  Put the whole thing back together and fired it up to check using the procedure described above in the “Checking the Heating Ability of the Roaster” section.  The roaster reached maximum temperature (482º F) in 4 minutes 48 seconds from a cold start.  As a point of reference, that is really, really good for a Gene Cafe.

I thank Sweet Maria's for referring me to Tim Skaling.  He is a great guy!  I talked to him for just a few minutes and he sent me a new part that arrived in two days and my Gene Cafe is fixed.  The next day, the old part was shipped back to Tim Skaling via priority mail for quality control review.

Cost / Value:
I paid $495.00 for this roaster.  At present, since this roaster has completed 424 roasts, that equates to about $1.17 per roast.  Given its ability to roast by profile, which allows an individual to grow with the roaster, and its ability to roast for brightness or base notes, I believe it is a good value.

What I found priceless about this roaster is that it was a great tool for learning to roast and learning about roasting.

Other Considerations:
The path of the airflow through the roaster is sealed; even the different components along the path are glued at the seams with a silicone-like sealer.  This serves at least two purposes: conservation of the heat energy and keeping the heat away from the electronics.  

If you are fairly new to roasting, I highly recommend studying and having available during roasting, a copy of "An Updated Pictorial Guide to the Roast Process."  You can find it on the Sweet Maria's website here:  http://www.sweetmarias.com/roasting-VisualGuideV2.html

Spare / Replacement Parts and Repairs
At writing of this document, parts can be obtained from the following:

Fresh Beans, Inc. ( http://www.freshbeansinc.com ) - U.S Warranty Repairs
Tim Skaling
Phone: 435-940-1616
Fax: 435-940-1964
Email: skales@tfb.com
alternate #s: 435-940-1616, (888) 757-2326
Fresh Beans Inc.
6436 Business Park Loop Unit G
Park City, Utah 84098

Ship to address:

Fresh Beans Inc.
PO Box 982410
Park City, Utah 84098

Invalsa Coffee Connection ( http://sales.invalsa.com/index.php?cPath=21_35_50_56 )
Address:
420 Main Street
West Newbury, MA 01985-1117
Voice: 1-978-363-8100
Fax: 1-978-363-1225
Sales: sales@invalsa.com
Management: president@invalsa.com

If you  decide that you really like this roaster, you may want to consider the purchase of a spare drum.  

Parting Note
I hope this is helpful.  If I left anything out or you wish to ask me questions, feel free to contact me.

Footnotes
Footnote #1:  It could be explained as this: first crack is the physical expansion of the coffee seed as water and carbon dioxide split and CO-2 outgassing occurs. Second Crack is the physical fracturing of the cellular matrix of the coffee. This matrix is wood, also called cellulose, and consists of organized cellulose that reacts readily to heat, and not-so-organized cellulose that does not.  - source of this information is An Updated Pictorial Guide to the Roast Process which is the property of Sweet Maria's to whom all copyrights belong.

Buying Experience

I bought the Gene Cafe from Sweet Maria's ( http://www.sweetmarias.com ).  As always, it was a flawless transaction.

Three Month Followup

This review still stands as written.  Although I don't use the Gene Cafe very much anymore, it is as excellent tool with which to learn to roast.  Service and support from Tim Skaling is impeccable.

One Year Followup

This review still stands as written.  Although I don't use the Gene Cafe very much anymore, it is as excellent tool with which to learn to roast.  Service and support from Tim Skaling is impeccable.

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