Daily Archive for April 20th, 2012

iCoffee Roaster

We tested out the iCoffee Roaster a couple weeks ago. It’s a new home roaster made in Korea that can roast 50-150 g batches (1.76-5.3 oz). It has a hot plate heating element with a removable bowl-shaped roast chamber that rests on top and has rotating arms to agitate the beans in the center. Basically, it’s like an electric Whirley Pop with a smoke abatement system. It comes with a detachable handle that you use to remove the roast bowl and the chaff collector.

Aesthetically, it’s very cute. I like the size, shape, wood panels and glass dome. It looks like a little steampunk robot or an old-timey radio.

The overall roast time is great. I appreciate being able to get to 1st crack reliably in 7-11 minutes (depending on batch size). Unfortunately, the cooling cycle is super ineffective. Having roasted the 150g maximum on the lightest advised setting (#3), we ended up with a batch that was at a French + level, with lots of oils and bean shrapnel. The problem is that there’s so much heat built up and retained that the cooling fan isn’t powerful enough to stop the roast process, even though cooling started pretty much right after 1st crack was finished. If a more powerful fan and a perforated roast pot were added, this might aid in cooling more effectively.

We were able to get our desired medium roast (about Full City) by stopping the machine entirely about 2 minutes after 1st crack and dumping the beans into a colander to cool. This resulted in big clouds of smoke and comedic attempts to get the handle on the roast bowl in time to prevent the beans from scorching. Leaving the handle on the roast bowl through the third batch helped, but we still had to stop the machine early and dump into the colander for cooling.

The 50g batch worked out best, but I’m not really sure why anyone would roast such a small quantity of coffee. Nano-roasting anyone?

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Bunn Trifecta MB

Bunn recently introduced a home version of their single cup commercial Trifecta brewer, the Trifecta MB. It’s smaller in size, has a handled chamber instead of a portafilter and water cylinder and features blue LEDs to make it seem even more futuristic. Just to get it off the table, the Trifecta MB is pretty expensive, at the introductory price of $499. It has adjustable brew times that vary from 40 seconds to 3 minutes, and 5 different turbulence settings to really customize your brew profile.

It comes with 2 brewing chambers (plastic canisters with handles and stainless steel filters at the bottom), a glass pitcher with graduated markings, a small gram scale and a brewing guide to help you navigate all the variables.

The brew water temperature is surprisingly low at 185, but it doesn’t seem to detract from the overall cup quality, probably due to the agitation aiding extraction. The resulting brew comes out at about 170 in a non-insulated, open container. I think 170 is a great drinking temperature, but some people might find it a little too cool.

The filter at the bottom of the brewing chamber is finely perforated stainless steel, which allows quite a bit of sediment to come through. Its internal hot water tank keeps water hot and ready to brew at any time, as long as the machine is plugged in.

To brew, you fill up the detachable water reservoir to your desired cup size–up to 12 oz.  Use coffee ground to a cone filter grind size for the best results. You can select the brew time and turbulence by turning 2 separate dials. The brewer introduces turbulence during the brew cycle by blowing puffs of air into the bottom of the chamber. You can really bring out different aspects of a coffee, like acidity and earthiness, by messing around with the turbulence. When it’s done brewing, air pushes down from the top, forcing the brewed coffee out through a valve in the bottom of the chamber.

Aside from the price, I think the only drawback is that the brew chambers are pretty difficult to clean. You can knock out most of the grounds like a French Press, but it’s hard to thoroughly rinse out the chamber and filter. You can remove the filter by sticking a butter knife or a flat head screwdriver into the chamber and twisting it out, but you have to be careful to not get any stray grounds into the valve at the bottom, which we found out by accident. If you do get grounds in the valve, you can clear it by depressing the center of the valve with a toothpick while rinsing with water.

Overall, it seems like a great machine and produces a really nice cup, once you get your brewing parameters down. We brewed a natural-processed Ethiopian that was pretty decent but unremarkable in a Technivorm, but super fruity and sweet in the Trifecta.

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