Banished Home-Roaster? Meet the Behmor.

Banished Home-Roaster? Meet the Behmor.

In Vermont, it’s said, there’s nine months of winter and three months’ rough sledding. While that’s fine for skiing and snowmobiling and such, it can put a real damper on the aspirations of the dedicated home coffee roaster, banished to the garage or the wide open spaces beyond after that incident with the dark-roast batch that triggered the smoke alarms at midnight.

It’s little surprise, then, that home roasters everywhere — in wintry places, especially — find themselves drawn like so many moths to the flame of a coffee roaster due to hit retailers soon… the Behmor 1600. Its spec sheet is promising: batches of up to one pound, a number of programmed roast profiles and the ability to tweak them on-the-fly at roast-time, quiet operation so you can hear the audible cues of roast progression, Behmor 1600 Coffee Roasterand built-in smoke abatement technology.

This latest entry into the home coffee roaster market was unveiled at the recent SCAA show in Long Beach, and was promptly awarded “Best in Show” among new consumer products. That’s an auspicious beginning, and one that’s especially gratifying to Joe Behm, the eponymic roaster’s inventor. But where — and how — did a field application engineer for a semiconductor company become a man on a mission to build and sell home coffee roasters? I decided to find out.

To hear him tell it, Joe first discovered the flavors of specialty coffee on a Costa Rican holiday some ten years ago. Traveling through the cloud forests and coffee farms of the Monteverde region of Costa Rica, Joe found coffee as he’d never known it before. “Honestly, this stuff was nectar of the gods,” says Joe. “It was amazing. I brought 15 pounds of coffee back with me. When it was gone I looked around locally and I just couldn’t find anything like it.” It didn’t take long for Joe to factor the equation of coffee freshness and flavor and decide that, if he wanted coffee like he’d experienced in Costa Rica, he was going to have to roast his own.

This stuff was nectar of the gods. And when it was gone I looked around locally and I just couldn’t find anything like it. — Joe Behm

It didn’t take Joe long to realize that none of the home coffee roasters on the market offered everything he was looking for. Air roasters are smokey, and loud. The small-scale drum roasters on the market hid beans from view while roasting — and were expensive, besides. Neither gave him the features he really wanted, and so he started tinkering.

Joe’s first efforts involved fitting a roasting chamber into a Ronco “Showtime” Rotisserie oven. And in fact, he designed and patented a device to adapt a roast cylinder into the “As Seen on TV” oven. But there was still a lot of room for improvement… so much so that he started with a blank slate.

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  1. I wonder how it compares smoke-wise with the Zach & Dani. I don’t have a hood and am stuck to the basement when it is cold (with window fan on exhaust). And the Z&D was only about $100. Of course, though, it doesn’t roast anything near 1lb.

  2. Can’t say for certain ’cause I haven’t been hands-on with the Behmor myself. But to take James’ comments at face value, any batch size less than a pound is going to be virtually smoke-free. Z&D does a quarter pound, right? So you could double your batch size… and probably enjoy better coffee what with a profiled roast and all.

  3. Yeah, though we’ll have to see about that price tag before I can broach the subject with the spouse :)

  4. Which reminds me… I’m told the list price is slated to be $399. I’d anticipate retailers to start pricing at $350 or thereabouts, and eventually migrating to a price point more like $300 as initial demand and on-hand inventory levels out.

    That’s a pretty good price, and surely not what I would have expected to see on any one-pound capacity roaster unless (until) the home-roasting market expands quite a lot. Which, I think, is something that Ronco intends to do… open up the market, and take home-roasting to places it’s never been before.

    A ‘set it and forget it’ kind of roaster that plays nice in the kitchen is just the ticket.

  5. One thing I thought of this morning is that the Z&D doesn’t produce visible smoke, but you can smell it and can still set off the smoke alarms. So I hope when they say it is smokeless, they’re including the “invisible” smoke.

    And the set it and forget it is so perfect for me, which is why I wouldn’t have gotten into home roasting if it weren’t for the Z&D. I can’t use my nose to control the roast as my nose REALLY doesn’t like the coffee roasting smell (even with the Z&D).

    And the 1/4 lb lasts me about a week, but roasting every week can become a chore, so the idea of doing a 1/2 lb and vacuum sealing what I don’t need sounds really good.

    OK, I’m getting excited about it. Guess what I’m getting myself as a present? :)

    Or should I wait and let them work out the kinks? (I know first gen Z&D wasn’t as good, as is with most new products….decisions decisions).

  6. I know Joe is very careful to say its not smokeless but smoke reduced there is some smoke still. And the aroma is still there too, but I think thats a good thing, as I cant roast without my nose :)

    Looks very imrpessive, the more I see read and hear makes me more exited about this roaster.

  7. Hey, Stephen!

    You visisted Joe’s setup at SCAA in Long Beach, right? Any thoughts about the machine you’d care to add… notes on build quality, for example?

  8. I did drop by, and had a bite to eat with Joe afterwards, he’s a really nice guy, and this roaster has been his dream for eight years, so getting it to the show he was really psyched.

    Its not the best looking roaster, but its well built well thought out. The one bonus to all the other home roasters is I think it can sit on top on a kitchen counter without the wife wanting a divorce.

    One thing to note is I saw prototypes and they looked very close to the finished article. With Ronco its an interesting partnership and I think there will be good back up and the final piece will be well built.

    For me the best part is its price point. The hottop and the café gene are good but very expensive. The Iroast well priced but not so good. So this should really shake up the roaster world.

  9. Thanks Stephen!

    Though I’m the wife and have trouble with the husband wanting it off the counter :) Luckily the Z&D is black and blends well so he doesn’t mind, but this one is real good too (mmmm, stainless steel finish).

  10. And let that be a lesson to us all… women roast coffee, too. ;)

  11. You know as I wrote that I knew it would come back to bite me and still I fell for it. It was more of a personal observation and my wife not likeing roasters on the counter, not a swipe at women roasters at all :)

    Please dont hit me :)

  12. OK, I’ll spare you….THIS time :)

    I’ve seen that complaint more than once on the coffeegeek boards when I was researching machines. So it is a pretty safe thing to say!


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