I’ve been roasting coffee with the Hearthware Gourmet for just a skosh over two weeks, and have from time to time found myself frustrated with the experience. I have — on occasion — roasted some really great coffee, mostly darker roasts [Sumatra, Celebes, New Guinea]. Attaining second crack with the Gourmet is smooth and effortless, as is roasting deep into the far side of second [look, kids, it’s Seattle!]. Compared to the Freshbeans Freshroast, a machine that often feels underpowered, the Gourmet rules the roast — but only on the far side of second. Why, I wondered, was I getting such inconsistent results? Why did City roasts taste so dull and lifeless with the Gourmet?

My roast logs tell me that I’ve pretty much covered the map in terms of roast profiles… I’ve been from coffee that still tastes green to somewhere in second, and still my City roasts cup no better than I could find in a can. So it’s back to basics. And this time the lesson is quenching, or cooling the roasted coffee beans. It works this way…

When you’ve roasted coffee beans up to temperature [somewhere between 415� F and 435� F for a City roast] they continue to roast from their own internal heat, and that of the combined mass of beans. With the Freshroast’s smaller bean capacity, and the fairly lightweight design of the roast chamber itself, the built-in cooling cycle was more than adequate to cool the roast in a minute or two. Not so the Gourmet, which has both a third larger bean capacity, and far more metal and glass comprising the roast chamber. The Gourmet’s cooling cycle *did* cool the roaster and the beans, but too slowly to fully arrest the roast… my coffee beans were getting baked.

Halting the roast and dumping the beans to a metal colander is a pretty typical method of cooling… and so is tossing those beans between two colanders — the coffee roaster’s juggle. Typical or no, it’s a major pain in the tucus [and a mess… especially with dry-processed beans that throw off a lot of chaff]. I wanted a better way.

I considered quenching… using a pump or trigger spray bottle of water to mist the beans in the colander [not in the roaster] but that can cause its own problems — nobody wants soggy coffee beans — and really, I didn’t believe that the smallish amount of coffee I was roasting really warranted a water quench.

And then a compatriot in the alt.coffee newsgroup casually mentioned that, if you popped off the Gourmet’s lid [and chaff collector] when the cooling cycle begins, it cooled much more quickly. Bingo. It’s a practice that probably doesn’t come highly recommended by Hearthware, and if there are bits of chaff left in your beans it will soon be airborne and falling like so much toasted confetti… but it works.

My results today with a City roast are far more lively, and in some cases have proven nearly as bright as those with the Freshroast. I need to essentially start from scratch in terms of my cupping notes [those that haven’t yet made their way online] but hey, for good coffee that’s a small price to pay.

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