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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