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There are a couple of improvements from the original Fresh Roast Machine – the biggest two improvements are larger quantities roasted, and better roasting controls. The machine can handle 3.5-4.5oz of coffee, depending on the bean. (The quantity is just about perfect for a strong 12 cup French Press) In addition, there are heating, cooling, and time added/subtracted buttons. The roaster is still as fast as ever, taking about 6 minutes to roast a batch, with about 3 minutes of cooling tacked onto that. It’s also one of the quietest machines around – appropriate for inside use! The cracks are extremely easy to hear, making the machine ideal for those starting out roasting.
All of this said – it’s not an absolutely perfect machine. (Then again, no roaster is – from $35 to $20,000). Towards the start of the roast, when the beans are at their heaviest, the fan isn’t quite powerful enough to sufficiently rotate the beans. This can lead to slightly uneven roasts at the end of the cycle.
Per Tim, the gentleman who makes the roaster, the best way to combat this is to run the roaster for 1 minute. At that point, engage the cooling cycle for 30 seconds. After that, restart the heating cycle. This method is the simplest way to achieve appropriate bean agitation – it works pretty well too. Using slightly smaller quantities of beans can help as well – though this will depend on the type of bean.
One other method exists as well – basically you stir the beans for the first two minutes of the roast. During this period, the beans should become light enough for the fan to easily push around. Be careful with this method – use a long handled spoon and an oven mitt if you need one.
Despite its issues, the SR-300 is a great roaster, at a great price. It’s perfect for the occasional or daily roaster, and doesn’t have to be used outside. Make the weekend breakfast a little better and try out roasting your own coffee!