Freshroast SR 300 and SR 500 Details Page
The SR 300 and SR 500 are the newest models from Fresh Beans Inc. Both are an improvement over the older Fresh Roast +8. There are a few things I wish were different about these roasters, but in the end they're a good, economical choice, so long as you're willing to pay attention to a few details. I posted a pictorial guide to using the roaster below, and some videos, as well.
I like the upward facing controls; on the SR500, I don't like the heat switch; I think it would be better as a knob switch with 4 positions but maybe that will change with future iterations. Temperature settings for the three settings:
* High temp. = 490 degrees
The manufacturer lists the batch size at 120 grams - but I tested it with 100 grams and I felt that was a bit too much. Ninety (90) grams is more likely the best batch size. That is about 1/3 a cup. To have a nice slow heat warmup I liked HIGHEST possible air flow early in the roast, no matter the heat setting (I used both medium and low heat settings throughout the roast on the SR500.)
The cooling cycle blows some pretty hot air, but it is good enough; ideally it would be best to cool outside the roast chamber - in a tray or collander. The motor is nice and quiet so hearing the cracks is no problem.
Some folks are surprised that we are recommending stirring the roast, shaking the roast chamber or tricking the machine to slow down by switching to cool. The machine DOES work as is; it turns green coffee brown. But out of the box, the roast it produces is uneven, and we can taste the difference between an even and an uneven roast. The machine does not do exactly what it says it will; in a fully automatic mode we find the roast uneven. But we find that with a simple intervention, you can get great results. This is basically the story of home roasting, adapting equipment and techniques to get the results you want. And in the 12 years we have been doing this, we have developed very high standards!
A quick word of caution: be very careful about carrying the roaster while it's assembled. The glass roasting chamber isn't held firmly by the base, so it can easily fall out. (I know - I broke one chamber that way.) The housing for the chaff collector is made of a brittle heat-resistant plastic and may break if you drop it (I broke one of these, as well).
Visual Guide to Roasting in the SR 300
Start off with 1/2 cup of coffee. Over a few uses, I found that using 1/3 cup gave me a more even roast so I prefer that batch size. Because the SR300 and SR500 use the mass of beans to block the hot air and promote roasting, it is important to measure the batch by volume, not just weight. Heavier beans will agitate less well, so you may need to adjust for that.
Add the coffee to the roaster before turning it on.
Turn the roaster on by flipping the switch from "off" to "heat." The SR300 has a preset roast time of 5.9 minutes rwhich you can change by pressing the "up" and "down" buttons.
Please Note: On the model I tested, the motor slowed down at every touch of these buttons. It's a bit odd, but it's not indicative of a defective machine.
The coffee will progress from green to yellow to brown. Check out our Pictorial Guide to the Roast Process for detailed pictures and descriptions of the stages of roast.
The roast will end when the timer has counted down or when you press the "cool" button. The cooling cycle lasts about three minutes, and works by turning off the heating element and running the fan. The air will be quite hot at first, so your roast may "coast" a bit after you start the cooling cycle; you may want to start cooling just shy of how dark you actually want the roast to be. Some folks like to pour the coffee out into a homemade cooling tray (usually a seive placed over a fan) --- the choice is yours, but be careful if you go this route: the parts are hot!
|The most frustrating thing about roasting in the SR 300 and SR500 is that the roaster doesn't do a great job of moving the beans around at the beginning stages of the roast. Once they've lost a little mass, things are ok, but for the first two minutes or so the beans move poorly and are likely to scorch. This is an image of beans halfway through a roast. Note that some beans look well-roasted, a few are scorched black, and others are green.|
The solution? There are three approaches:
METHOD #1: This is the safest modified way to use the machine and the one that Tim from Fresh Beans (who makes the roaster) advises: Run the machine for 1 minute with beans, then hit the COOL button for 30 seconds. Then turn the machine back on to finish the roast. With very dense beans, use the COOL cycle twice during the roast sequence. You'll know that the beans are more dense by the way they are moving (or not moving). You will have to reprogram the time again after hitting cool.
METHOD # 2: I stir the beans for the first two minutes of the roast. Remove the chaff collector (careful: it can get hot) Take a long-handled spoon (the spoon in the image is a little shorter than I'd like), and stir occasionally, making sure to get all the way to the bottom of the chamber and to get around the sides. There shouldn't be any chaff at this stage of the roast, so you don't have to worry about making a mess. Maybe you lose a bit of heat this way, but it is better than a wildly uneven roast.
BE SURE TO REPLACE THE CAP ONCE THE BEANS START TO MOVE ON THEIR OWN.
We have heard reports that using this technique, chaff gets sucked back into the base of the roaster. This is an issue because it effects the performance of the machine and is a fire hazard.
You can stop stirring when the beans are yellow (as shown at left), about two minutes into the roast. The beans are lighter at this stage and the fan is sufficient to move them without any external help (i.e. you and the spoon.) Remember to put the chaff collecting lid on! From this point on the chaff will loosen up and will start to blow off.
METHOD # 3: Another technique is to remove the roast chamber, and shake it two or three times during the roast, especially early on when the beans are heavier. Tom made a YouTube video of this technique too. The handle of the roast chamber remains cool enough to touch throughout the roast. The chaff collector gets hot, but so use a hot mitt to remove and reposition the chaff collector.
Sweet Maria's Tip Sheet for Using the SR300 and SR500. Also available as a pdf file.
Home coffee roasting is as easy as you want to make it, or as exacting and technical as you care to be. Pay attention to the
process, especially toward the end of the roast where the coffee rapidly reaches the palatable roast stages: City (medium),
Full City, Vienna, French (dark). The FreshRoast reaches these stages fast!
- Coffee roasting produces a wonderful fragrance, unobtrusive with lighter roasts but smokier if you roast dark.
Operating any type of stove hood fan helps if the smoke is too intense for you. You can roast on a porch or near a
partially open window but be aware that cold ambient temperatures can dramatically effect the roast, and could
make the roast stall completely.
- Roasting produces chaff. Chaff is a fine skin that detaches from the bean as your roast is agitated. Your roaster takes
care of chaff, but if you are careless, you may have to do some sweeping. Empty the chaff collector between every
roast and brush it out to get perfectly consistent results.
- Never leave the room while you are roasting coffee, even though the roaster is automated. The difference between a
dark roast and a fire is not as much as you think!
- Built-up coffee oils in the roaster are of no real consequence until they impede visibility or become a fire hazard. Do
remove all the chaff from the top between every roast and soak the top to remove excessive oils when visible.
- Batch size is critical in any roast process: if the amount of coffee you put into the roaster varies, the roast will vary
too. In the Fresh Roast, smaller batches take longer to roast, larger batches can roast faster (opposite of what you
might think) because a larger volume of beans blocks more hot air. We have found that the less you use, the more
even the roast – about 1/3 cup in a standard cup measure. Fresh Roast suggests using four (4) of the provided
scoops, but our results were better using less.
- The FreshRoast instructions are adequate. Read them. This “tip sheet” is not meant to replace their instructions.
- On the SR300, you have no control over heat or fan setting, only time. The timer is preset to 5.9 minutes. On the
SR500, for a nice slow warm up we use the fan on HIGH and heat on low. (The manual suggests a MEDIUM fan
speed and high heat – but we get better results with our method.) In our tests usning 1/3 cup of green coffee, we get
first crack about 3 minutes into the roast, a City + roast about 5 minutes into the roast, and second crack (Full
City/Full City +) about 7 minutes in. The timer counts down so you will have to figure roast times backwards.The
time is less important than watching and listening for cracks – so don’t worry over much about the time. Dry-process
coffee, which has more chaff, raises the heat of the roaster and takes as much as 1 minute less to roast!. Roast times
are dependent on your line voltage, so you will need to experiment to establish the exact roast settings that work for
you. Changing to a different plug on a different circuit can effect roast times too. Also, consecutive roasts without
letting the roaster cool to room temperature will speed up and/or make roasts turn out a bit darker. Roasting in a cool
ambient temperature or using an extension cord also affects the roast. IF THIS IS TOO DARK - the first thing to do
is to stop the roast earlier and on the SR500 increase the fan speed. IF THIS IS NOT DARK ENOUGH - first try
roasting longer, and then try using more coffee.
- For the most even roast, on either the SR300 or SR500, there are three techniques to try: You can switch the roaster to cool one minute into the roast and wait for 30 seconds before turning it back on. You can also take the top off the roaster and stir the coffee and then replace the chaff collector. Another trick is to shake the roast chamber a couple of times during the roast. The handle of the roast chamber stays remarkably cool, but use caution (and a hot mitt) when handling the chaff collector. You don’t absolutely need to do these tricks, but you will get a more even roast that means the beans taste as they should.
- No home roaster is designed to roast continuously! Wait for the machine to cool before doing another batch
- I prefer to dump the coffee into a stainless mesh colander after the cooling cycle completes, to get the coffee away
from the warm metal/glass surfaces. When the coffee is room temp. I transfer it to canning jars. Coffee is at its
flavor peak at 12-72 hours. When you open the jar, you will know what I mean!
- Fresh Beans has a manufacturer's warranty and Registration Form is available at www.freshbeansinc.com. Call them
directly at 805-601-7731 if you ever have a mechanical problem with the roaster
In a nutshell, here is the roasting process you will be observing:
- For the first minute the bean remains greenish, then turn lighter and emit a grassy smell. The beans start to steam as
their internal water content dissipates.
- The steam becomes fragrant. Soon you will hear the "first crack," an audible cracking sound as the real roasting
starts to occur: sugars begin to caramelize, bound-up water escapes, the structure of the bean breaks down and oils
migrate from their little pockets outward.
- After the first crack, the roast can be considered complete any time according to your taste. The cracking is an
audible cue, and, along with sight and smell, tells you what stage the roast is at. Caramelization continues, oils
migrate, and the bean expands in size as the roast becomes dark.
- At this point a "second crack" can be heard, like snapping. As the roast becomes very dark, the smoke is more
pungent (oils burn against the hot surfaces of the roast chamber) as sugars burn completely, and the bean structure
breaks down more and more. Eventually, the sugars burn, and the roast will result in thin-bodied cup of "charcoal