by Bryan Albuquerque
For anyone who wants to get into roasting their own coffee beans, I would say that the FrenchRoast SR500 is the perfect place to start, as it isn't extremely pricey, and yet it has a few features which makes it worth the money, in my opinion.
I'd always been under the impression that roasting your own coffee beans was a process reserved for commercial establishments, because I'd seen a few roasting machines in my travels and they were always very large and expensive-looking. Check out that Diedrich coffee roaster on the left there. That's kind of what I thought they all were like - huge and maybe about $10 000?
So, I just assumed that grinding my own beans was as far as I was going to get in the coffee-making process in terms of controlling as many parts of the home-brewing process as I could. I knew, for instance, that I probably wasn't going to harvest my own beans (or grow my own coffee tree, like this guy ), so I figured also that roasting was something to be left to some huge machine in a factory.
That is, until one day I ran into a friend of mine who was using a popcorn popper to roast their beans at home, and I was almost insulted. However, that got me thinking that if she could use a popcorn popper (she seems to think its a good idea), there must be other roasting methods out there that were maybe a step up from that.
Sure enough, a few months ago I came across the FrenchRoast SR500 online, and I checked out a review or two online, and it didn't look too intimidating. Actually, it reminded me of a popcorn popper and it looked…well, fun! Here's one of those review videos I watched about this particular coffee roaster.
Here's what I like about this coffee roaster, after finally getting the hang of it. First of all, its easy to use. I'm not saying its easy to master the art of roasting, but just in terms of usability, the FrenchRoast SR500 is pretty darn simple. You just take your unroasted coffee beans, and add them to the roaster so they don't pass that silver ring. I will admit, the first time it got used my son (who didn't watch the video) added a lot more beans than that, not really accounting for the expansion of the beans, and it didn't go well. Anyway, if you add the right amount of beans, you will have ample roasted beans for many cups of coffee, so its not as though you'll be roasting every day, or even every other day.
I will say that once the beans are roasted, you'll want to wait a day or so for them to "off-gas", as they call it (C02 is leaving the bean), where the newly roasted beans will increase in flavor and aroma. The way I do it, I actually use a little fan to cool them off for a short time (60 minutes after the roasting is complete), then I use a bowl of some sort (not plastic - usually wood or metal) to store them in, with a light cloth over it. After a day or so (off-gassing depending on the type of bean), I then use my trusty Breville Smart Grinder to grind my beans, which I then brew immediately. The extra grinds I store in my Friis coffee vault . It might sound like a lot of steps, but once I got into the routine of doing all this, I found it yielded the best results for me. Here is a link to more tips on off-gassing if you're wondering about that.
The best part of the French Roast SR500, I must say, is its how adjustable it is. It has controls for the fan speed, the timer, and the temperature. You can adjust them all while the beans are roasting too, which puts this home roaster over the top in my books for being a great buy.
Now, some people may not like the fact that this home roaster requires your attention while roasting. This isn't exactly a set-and-forget machine. You need to have about 10 minutes or thereabouts to devote to keeping an eye on your beans. I feel strongly about this, personally. I don't think roasting coffee beans should be like microwaving a pizza, and so I don't mind having to keep an eye on things. This way, I can roast those beans to my preference.
On top of that, every bean is going to be somewhat different in terms of how your roast them. I personally like a darker roast myself. Furthermore, everyone has their own different tastes anyway, so I think its actually in our collective best interest that this roaster is flexible in that way, don't you? That said, I'm sure there's other roasters out there which don't require your full attention, but I'd say this one does, so take it or leave it. (Sorry, haven't had my coffee today!)
Hm, what else can I say about the FrenchRoast SR500? I've heard a lot of talk where people seem to have some fairly strict rules about how to roast coffee beans. I've heard there are two types of pro roasters: technical roasters, and craft roasters. Technical roasters follow a lot of rules when it comes to their bean-roasting routine. Craft roasters gain a lot of knowledge over time through personal experience and try to feel the process out. Although I'm just a humble home brewer, I consider myself a "craft roaster" because I like to play around with things a little bit.
This is what I suggest to you, if you've never roasted before. Don't be afraid to get creative with your roaster! The FrenchRoast SR500 I think is the perfect roaster to do that with, because its very flexible and you can change your variables each time you roast, and nothing too drastic is going to happen. You can change little things until you find the perfect way of roasting - that's what I did. I've read all sorts of crazy stuff that people do to experiment with their roast, and I don't think its a bad thing. Personally, I decided to pick up a book (pictured above) to learn a thing or two about the whole process, and yes, I did learn a few things. Now I actually feel like I've got a grasp of the process, which I can expand on in the years to come.
Another thing I did when I was getting started was buy some relatively inexpensive un-roasted coffee beans, to give myself time to experiment before I started buying more expensive stuff. I used the Costa Rica Dota Estate for that, and I allowed myself to try out some different things, without spending a whole lot of money. These beans are only about $10 on Amazon and they're not a bad place to start.
All in all, although I've only been using the FrenchRoast SR500 Automatic Coffee Bean roaster for a few months, it has been a worthwhile purchase for me thus far, and I've had no issues with it. From what I've read, as long as I keep it clean, it should serve me well for a long time. Happy roasting!
About Bryan Albuquerque
Bryan Albuquerque is a coffee lover and vaping advocate who writes reviews and information about coffee accessories and KYG. A former coffee addict, Bryan traded his morning fix for an electronic cigarette in an effort to quit smoking, and has never looked back. He's dedicated to helping others make the switch to vaping, and believes that it's one of the best decisions anyone can make for their health.