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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
* Medium temp. = 455 degrees
* Low temp. = 390 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!


Uneven Roasts

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!

UPDATED
Some new thoughts on using the SR 300 and SR 500

Using the SR 300, First Look

Using the SR 300, First Look Continued

Using the SR 300, First Look - Part 3

Using the SR 500