Roaster Insights

You might be a renowned large coffee company evaluating alternatives for your outdated roasting technology or an emerging coffee shop looking to start roasting on your own. One thing can be hard for both – choosing the perfect roaster. In this article, we consult some of the front-runners of the roaster-manufacturing world, so that you can get an idea about what each of these manufacturers has to offer your business.

For the Heavyweights

Scolari Manufacturing System

It is no secret in the industry that if you are a really big company that cares about high quality and consistency, you have to go for a Scolari roasting system. This is not just a single roaster, but also a complex system that includes everything to take care of your coffee, from the time it arrives to a factory to its individual packaging. I had a chat with Howard Weiss, the company’s representative in North America, to ask him some questions about his roasters.
V. How big are the roasters you are selling?
W. We mostly sell four-bag and six-bag roasting systems. We sell the entire factory, and it is very important, especially today because most companies want our systems to control every movement of their coffee. Each movement gets databased, so we know where the coffee is throughout the factory. We know where the coffee came from and we know where it is going. And to do that, all pieces of the equipment have to talk to each other; everything is networked together.
V. What is the key feature of your roasting system?
W. Everything is controlled by a highly sophisticated software program. We are the first company to introduce profile roasting driven by a computer, and we have a lot of experience in that area, since this is our main focus now.
V. Is servicing machines easy?
W. It is very rare that one of our technicians has to go on a service call. We can see the entire factory remotely from US or from Europe. If something happens, we control the program remotely and walk people through. There are usually no mechanical issues because the roaster is very robust and strong. It is built to last for more than 20 years.

For the Mid-Sized

Loring (Models: 33 and 77lbs)

There has been lots of buzz in the industry about the energy-efficient Loring Smart Roasters and their Flavor-Lock Roast Process. I have interviewed Loring’s owner Ron Kleist about his products.
V. What is the Flavor-Lock Roast process?
K. It is our patented process and what it refers to is where the burner is in the system. Our burner is in the cyclone, and that’s the key to why our roasters are so consistent. In our case with the Flavor-Lock Roast Process, because it is slightly pressurized, low on oxygen and has high humidity, the tendency is to roast the same time after time. For most of our customers, if you walk in on any day and you watch what they are doing, there is nobody standing at the roaster controlling it. They have learned to trust our profile roasting modes enough, so that they let the machine run on its own.
V. What is the most important benefit of Internet connectivity in your roasters?
K. The biggest benefit of it is that you can download and upload roast profiles. In the end of a roasting process, our roaster sends an email message that contains all of the information about the roast, so that you could use all of the information needed.
V. What are the environmental benefits of your roaster?
K. The advantage with our system is that it is inherently smokeless. No smoke escapes the cyclone, so you don’t have to upgrade your system with the afterburner or filtration in order to adhere to government regulations. So we are clean and green with the lowest carbon emission of any roaster that we are aware of globally, including those without an afterburner.

Probat (Models: 1.5 to 1300lbs)

Germany originated Probat roasters have been around since forever. Your great-great-great grandfather might have roasted on Probat back in the days. More than a century of experience has made Probat one of the best existing roasting equipment manufacturers. We have had a chat with Probat’s representative Tim Larsen to answer our questions.
V. Why do you think Probat is so successful at meeting the demands of such a broad range of clients from small to large?
L. Probat as a company has been around since mid 19th century. We have produced many roasters of all different sizes from shop tabletop roasters to very large industrial roasters. Our extensive experience allows us to produce roasters that meet the varying demands of our customers. Not only we have equipment that is suitable for the range of customers that you describe, but we also have the engineering and the technical know-how to deliver the right solutions to coffee roasters.
V. Do you help your customers with adhering to environmental and operating regulations in their area?
L. Regarding our capabilities to support the emissions permitting process, yes, we can walk through what the requirements are and deal with the particular agencies directly to make sure that our clients have the appropriate installation and operation permits. We are also very adept at finding the suitable emissions controls and measures that are necessary to satisfy the requirements of the area that the roasters are being installed. We know the various roasting emission control technologies (whether it be Thermal Afterburners, Catalytic Oxidizers or Regenerative Thermal Oxidizers) and we know what they are capable of, and what they are not capable of, and we can specify the right options for the particular environment that our customers are in.
V. What is the benefit of the Probat Burns perforated drum roaster?
L. Probat Burns also offers the Burns type roasters with a perforated drum, which leads to much more efficient heat transfer than the solid drum roaster. This roaster was developed in the 1930s, and it is a roaster that has been extensively utilized in the U.S.

For the Crafstman in You

San Franciscan Roaster 
(Models: 1 to 300lbs)

Everyone is looking for the “new thing,” but the San Franciscan Roasters are old school and their customer base is more traditional. For them, coffee is very broad and everyone’s brain works differently: some want the technology bells and whistles and some focus on the art and craft of roasting. Coffee/Per Inc.’s owner Bill Kennedy answered some of our questions about his product.
V. Why do you take a more traditional approach when it comes to roasting?
K. Coffee roasting has been a craft for centuries. It’s only been recently that process controllers have been added to modern-day coffee roasters. Though these controllers add a benefit to production roasting in larger volumes, we find that there is a strong human desire to develop and master the craft of artisan roasting. We cater to the artists or craftsmen/women that desire to maintain that human interface with the craft.
V. With less automation comes more responsibility from the master roaster, how do you help to educate your customers?
K. Our customers are invited to come to our factory to take on basic roasting techniques as well as how to maintain the roaster they purchased. It is more like learning to solo in an airplane after taking a few hours of lessons. We teach the customer how to “solo,” but beyond that it takes practice and experimentation. The practice and experimentation is what scares a lot of people into wanting the controllers, hoping that a computerized approach will prevent them from roasting coffee in a bad manner. Years ago the U. S. Navy, with the advent of steam power, decided to stop training the midshipmen how to sail in small boats. However, over time it was found that accidents and mishaps occurred at higher levels, and it was determined that the sailors had not “learned” the sea. Sailing was re-introduced into the course of study and the midshipmen left the academy knowing the ocean and its nuances. Knowing how to roast as an artisan will give the future roastmaster a much higher degree of awareness during the roast process. Of course, there is a place for controllers in the coffee business, but it isn’t for everyone. Monet painted many paintings, and they are all different, but easily recognized as Monet. Our customers enjoy the creativity afforded them by their own senses.

Something for Everyone

Diedrich (Models: 1 to 772lbs)

Diedrich roasters are some of the most popular on the market. They feature infrared burners, automation controls and a broad range of products guaranteed to suit to the needs of large and small businesses. I have consulted the Diedrich representative about their roasters.
V. What are the benefits of infrared burners in your roasters?
R. They are more fuel-efficient because they take less time to heat up, but in addition to that they are cleaner because the emissions that come from the infrared burners that we use at Diedrich are significantly less than conventional burners. When you have an open flame burner, you have exhaust fumes that may affect the flavor of the coffee. On the other hand, with the infrared you are roasting with cleaner air that is not going to affect the flavor of your cup.
V. What is Diedrich’s stand on Automated vs. Manual approach to roasting?
R. What we are really about is coffee and providing the tool for the roast masters to get the quality in the cup that they are after. So, with that comes the need to do it the same all the time. You need consistency. And the Diedrich roaster is very consistent. That is really what we are most well known for. If you get it right, you can repeat that over and over again. What our Zenyth Automated Roast control system offers is control to the roast master, so he doesn’t have to be present at every roast. You can train somebody to input the right amount of coffee and temperature, and the Zenyth Automated Roast Control program will follow the profile that you saved and deliver the same cup that you would have made if you were in command. It really is a business tool.
V. Why does Diedrich offers such a broad range of roaster sizes?
R. We do really provide a wide range, and we do it because people who are just starting in coffee roasting business don’t necessarily realize how quickly their business will grow; we want them to be able to learn how to roast using our technology and then evolve further. Our target market isn’t limited to a particular sized client; our product is for someone who is interested in producing the best cup of coffee. Steve Diedrich is about the coffee and how to roast the best out of whatever coffee you have chosen.

Toper (Models: 2.2 – 530lbs)

Robust Roasters, based in Toronto, ON are the exclusive distributors of Toper roasters in North America. Company owner Peter Trifonidis answered our questions about the Toper products they distribute.
V. What makes Toper roasters special?
T. First of all, they are manufactured very heavy duty. Secondly, they are all ETL approved. A lot of the roasters that are sold on the market now have ETL approved components, but they are not approved equipment. We have the appropriate approval for all of our roasters. Third, this company is a 3rd generation family business, so we have a history. We are probably one of the top-three roaster manufacturers in the world.
V. What is your primary target market?
T. We have two primary markets. For our shop owners we focus on the new roasters that are entering the market. We don’t just sell them the equipment, but we also provide the support. We have a roasting school a couple times a year, where we have people learning how to roast coffee, and get comfortable with the equipment. Another division of our company is the industrial side, where we provide turnkey solutions to the industrial customer. We can design, build, commission, and maintain any capacity roasting plant.

Roaster Authority (models: 2 to 310lbs)

Make sure to take a look at this manufacturer located in Florida. They offer heavy-duty insulated construction roasters in a broad range of sizes. Let’s see what the company’s owner Don Vining has to say.
V. What separates you from competitors?
V. All of our roasters have insulation, external cyclones, and modulating gas trains, which allow for a precise control of the actual heat to the coffee itself during the roast process. Another key difference from our competitors is that they are all full-batch roasters. What this means is that when we advertise our kilo size for that roaster, you are actually able to put in the full-batch weight of 2 kilos, 10 kilos, 15 kilos, etc. and not sacrifice any control or influence over that coffee while you are roasting it.
V. What kind of automation controls do you offer for your roasters?
V. The control system that we sell is a stand-alone system with a 15” touch screen monitor inside of it. It has a pigtail that is connected to the roaster. You are able to adapt this control system to other manufacturers and the only components you have to put in the roaster are 2 temperature probes and the modulating valve that comes standard in all of our roasters. Once installed, our system will monitor the roast as you do it, it will save the profile, and then you can repeat the process later on by bringing up this saved information.

US Roaster Corp. (Models: 2 to 662lbs)

US Roaster Corp. is famous for its environmentally friendly roasters. Its owner Dan Jolliff has answered our questions about his products.
V. What is the technology behind your environmentally friendly roaster?
J. We are the only roaster on the market to recirculate using the catalyst. The catalyst allows us to operate the internal temperatures very much lower than the other roasters. We have two different paths of heating, so you could get the flavor of the drum roaster, while operating it with lower airflow temperatures of the air roaster.
V. Are all of your roasters environmentally friendly?
J. We produce two differently designed roasters. It is either an old school – big heavy, steel legs and open flame from the bottom, or a new school – very environmentally friendly. Both are very reasonably priced due to the fact that we are an integrated manufacturer, and both can be anything from 10 to 660 pounds in batch size.

The Starter Kit

Sonofresco (2 models: 1 & 2lbs)

What if you are looking for the smallest alternative available for your coffee shop/cafe business? One of your best choices could be a Sonofresco tabletop roaster. We asked the Sonofresco owner Jerry Whitfield about his miniature products.
V. What is unique about your roasters?
W. It is the only roaster that is designed specifically as a cafe style roaster. By that I mean that you can actually see the roasting going on inside the glass jar, and it is designed small enough so that it could sit on the front counter in a cafe, coffee shop, or other retail establishment. Customers can actually see and hear the coffee roasting in front of them while they are waiting for their beverages. All other regular roasters, even the small drum roasters, are too big to have on a countertop. So, it has visibility and compactness; it can sit on the countertop in front of the customers.
V. Is your company the only one out there producing table top coffee roasters?
W. Yes, we still are the only ones doing this. There are smaller versions, which are designed primarily for home use, but those are a lot smaller. They don’t do anything about the quality and control over the roast. We are equivalent to the larger drum roasters in the way that we control the temperature, the time, and the profile.
V. Are you planning on increasing the capacity of your roasters?
W. We are not going to increase the size of our roasters because we would then defeat the purpose of it being the cafe style roaster. It is uniquely suited to the needs of large coffee shops. A big coffee shop does about 25 pounds coffee a day and they can do it on the day-to-day basis with one of these roasters.
So there you have it. Whether you plan to go big, small, old school, ultra modern, or environmentally friendly, the roaster industry is constantly growing and updating to your everyday needs for your coffee business. Taking on roasting will surely allow you to make a better connection with the product that you offer and will bring up your business to the next level.

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