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Archive for the category “Roasting machine”

Roasting at RAVE Coffee.

Rob Hodge of RAVE Coffee is blending two types of beans to make the House blend. Overall time for the Roast is about 16 mins which we have condensed for the video.


RAVE Coffee. Unit 7, Stirling Works, Love Lane, Cirencester, GL7 1YG

 Coffee Roasting was not something Rob Hodge ever envisaged in his future. After his marriage to Vikki in 2002, Rob and new wife spent their honeymoon in Australia and developed a love for the country during their stay there. When they returned to the U.K. and went back to their industry Jobs, Rob in Telecoms and Vikki in I.T. they never forgot the country of their dreams.

Working hard and saving money, they finally managed to obtain the elusive visa and moved to Sydney in the late 2000’s. Vikki enrolled as a student in catering and worked her way through the rigorous and tough Australian college system which culminated in her becoming a professional Chef.

Rob and Vikki, always being interested in coffee as a drink, were amazed to find a really outstanding and mature coffee “scene” in Australia, with some of the most knowledgable people on the doorstep.  After discussing between themselves, Rob made the decision to study the subject of coffee making in depth, and looked around for a suitable school/teacher.

 It wasn’t long before the name of Tony Vitello popped up. Now Tony has been around coffee for all of his life and has an unsurpassed reputation as a teacher. Tony is a founder of the Australian Coffee Gang and his successful students are sought after for job placements.

Rob sought out Tony and was accepted on his course. By applying himself diligently, Rob soaked up all the information he could from the Coffee Gang teacher and practiced, practiced and practiced.

 Finishing his professional course, Rob sought more learning and worked with Rob and Dean from the Mona Vale based ROC Café.

At the same time, Rob began a detailed background investigation into roasting proper and worked with some established artisan Roasters. It was here that Rob began to develop a love for the process of taking coffee from its raw state, and roasting it so as to extract its full potential in the cup.

 In the meantime, Rob and Vikki purchased and fitted out a coffee van and serviced the North beaches of Sydney.

Rob was invited to be the only Barista of choice at the Hyde Park event of Australia Day in 2010. Rob served over 7 kilos of coffee between 7am till 2pm on that day.

Robs professional skills continued to be noted, and in February, one month later, he was invited to be barista at TAFF College and powerhouse museum, serving the entire campus.

Moving on with life, a young family, external circumstances dictated that a return to the U.K. was required. Heartbreaking as it was in leaving their beloved Sydney, Rob and Vikki sold the profitable coffee van business. Rob threw himself into intensive final training and knowledge gathering regarding roasting and all things production.

Upon their return to the U.K. The Hodge family ordered a professional Coffee Roasting machine and set up RAVE coffee immediately.  Buying best green coffee from reputable sources only, they worked night and day to produce the Roast profiles for each varietal that Rob had worked so hard on. Working to a strict business plan, and roasting ONLY to orders for best freshness… and working with the worlds leading online purchase company, RAVE coffee has become one, if not THE most noted artisan coffee roasters the UK today.

When you buy a bag of coffee from RAVE, you have the collective knowledge and experience from coffee masters all over the world. No piece of information has ever been discarded by Rob, and only integrated into his practice when he has tested it for himself. Buy RAVE. Taste the difference.

Rave Coffee, Unit 7, Stirling Works, Love Lane, Cirencester, GL7 1YG

For all enquiries:


Office: 01453 832616

Mobile: 07833 532942

For the Home Roaster

Mobile Coffee Roasting With A Breadmaker

I hereby reveal my latest development in the home roasting of coffee beans – a breadmaker and heat gun roaster mounted on a trolley for easy setup and storage.

Previously, I roasted coffee beans with just a bowl, a wooden spoon, and a heat gun mounted on a tripod (I wrote about it here). A heat gun is like an industrial strength hairdryer, blowing out there at 600°C, and it worked very well. It all dismantled and fit into a crate for easy storage indoors, the only disadvantage being the time required to set it up and pack it away.

Mobile coffee roaster in storage mode
1. In storage mode

Recently I progressed to using a bread maker to house and stir the beans – much easier, with greater temperature control and more evenly roasted beans.  The only problem was that it didn’t all fit into a crate, and taking all the bits outside and setting up, then later dismantling and storing, took longer than the roasting itself.  Because of the smoke and chaff produced when roasting coffee it needs to be done outside, but I don’t have anywhere outside suitable for storing the gear, so the obvious solution was to build some sort of mobile arrangement. These photos show what I came up with (click on any of them to see larger versions).

The first photo shows my coffee roaster in storage mode, as it is when kept indoors. Built onto a box-moving trolley is a wooden platform holding the bread maker, a heat gun mounted on the centre column of a tripod, and the fold-down cooling platform (the toilet seat). Stored with this are the other necessary bits – cooling tray, power board, extension cable, multi-meter with temperature probe, stopwatch, oven glove, wooden spoon, fold up stool, and a sweat band (it can get hot when roasting).  The only thing not housed on the trolley is the fan: that’s because it gets used elsewhere for other things.

Roasting in progress
2. Roasting in progress

The second photo is roasting mode, seen here inside my garage. Hot air from the heat gun blows onto the beans being agitated inside the bread maker, with the bean temperature being measured by a probe inserted into the side. Temperature is adjusted by moving the heat gun up and down. The fan reduces the stress on the heat gun element while also blowing away some of the chaff.

The third photo shows cooling mode. Once the beans are done, the fan is laid down on its back, a mesh cooling tray is placed on top of the fan, and the hot beans are poured onto the cooling tray. It only takes a minute for the air blowing upwards through the beans to cool them down completely. After the removal of the beans and a quick bit of unplugging and folding up, the contraption is ready to be wheeled back indoors until next time.

Beans being cooled
3. Beans being cooled

Why the toilet seat, you may ask? I needed some method of supporting the fan in its laying down position – something to keep it up off the ground to allow good airflow, with plenty of open space in the middle where the fan draws up the air.  A toilet seat performs this function perfectly, without modification. It even came with its own built-in hinge so it could be folded up for storage … and being a guy, leaving the seat up comes naturally to me.

Apart from the bread maker (which I picked up second-hand from a pawn shop), I didn’t need to spend anything on this mobile coffee roaster. I already had the trolley, the bits of wood and other parts, and the toilet seat was been sitting around for at least 10 years waiting for another chance at life. It all supports my belief that nothing potentially useful should be thrown away in case it might be useful one day.

For over twenty years, I’ve longed to get my hands on a Whitmee coffee roaster


For over twenty years, I’ve longed to get my hands on a Whitmee coffee roaster. Due to their extreme scarcity and cost – whenever one did come onto the market in the UK, it carried a price beyond my means – the dream eluded me. I contented myself instead by diligently researching and collecting heavy-duty ‘Monitor’ roasters built here in the U.S. and amazing open-drum and open-flame ‘Uno’ roasters manufactured in England.

Why Whitmee? I fell in love with their design – especially their gothic “Bishop’s Hat” profile, and their über-cool cast iron combination charge/discharge chute that projects out and downward from their face plate like a ski-jump – many years ago after seeing my first photograph of a Whitmee coffee roaster. Taken somewhere in Britain, and first published in 1922 in William H. Ukers’s seminal book “All About Coffee”, the photo shows one of the larger Whitmee Simplex roasters (their 168 lb batch machine) in action.

love the roaster chap standing proudly next to his belt-driven Whitmee machine, with his working-class ‘scally’ cap perched squarely on his head and his white shirt and tie protected by a long shop coat – sleeves rolled up and ready for action. (You have to respect a man wearing a hat and tie whilst roasting coffee – very proper and professional, and very British.) What I wouldn’t give to be able to chat with him for a few hours about roasting coffee with his Whitmee – ideally over a pint or two of ale at his favorite pub!

I discovered my Whitmee last winter, while searching on-line in the UK for interesting roasters. The fellow that was selling it had a couple of roasters for sale; an older, mid-sized Probat that wound up being acquired by a roaster in Canada, and the smaller Whitmee shop roaster that I eventually acquired. I contacted the owner, and grew quite excited when I saw the pictures he e-mailed me. I learned the roaster wasn’t currently operational because of a fire, but otherwise he claimed it was in pretty good shape, relatively speaking (aside from someone painting it a vibrant – and completely inauthentic – shade of blue at some point in its past). He believed the roaster to be from the 1960s, but I suspected upon seeing the photos that it was much older, as its splay-legged style and Gothic-arched design resembled the post-WWI Simplex-class Whitmee roasters I had seen in old photos, not the Romanesque-arched Whitmee roasters I’d seen from the post-WWII era through the 1960s, after which the business appears to have folded.

There was one other clue about the age of the roaster in the photos that the English fellow sent me, which I’m not sure many other people would have discerned. His photos showed that his Whitmee’s drum was not driven by a V-belt connecting a pulley on the drum to a smaller pulley on the shaft of an electric motor, as I would have expected in a machine from the 1960s. Instead, it was powered by a complex off-set chain-drive system, with a huge circular sprocket on the back of the drum that struck me by its resemblance to the chain-drive systems once common on pre-WWII motorcycles, such as the American-built Indian or the British-built BSA and Norton bikes. But what was this chain-drive – common on early motorcycles – doing on this coffee roaster?

The answer I arrived at actually gave additional support of my supposition regarding the early post-WWI vintage of this roaster. In my research into Whitmee (or, more properly, ‘The Whitmee Engineering Co., Ltd.’, located at the ‘Alecto Works, Grove Road, Balham, London’), I learned something very interesting. I’d discovered that the Whitmee company in the 1920s and 1930s – in addition to manufacturing coffee roasters and tea equipment – also manufactured a line of touring and sporting motorcycles that were sold under the brand-name ‘Alecto’! How crazy was that?! ‘Today, lads, we’re assembling coffee roasters, but tomorrow come ready to build motorcycles!’ But with some further investigation, it turned out that it wasn’t such an unusual idea after all. I uncovered the fact that in that era there were literally dozens of brands of motorcycles produced by many different manufacturing companies in Britain – all rivals for a strong domestic market for ‘cycles, plus a lucrative export market that existed at that time throughout the British Empire for inexpensive transportation. So perhaps designing and building coffee roasters and motorcycles with the same team of engineers and fabricators under the same roof wasn’t as crazy as it sounds, being instead simply a prudent diversification of manufacturing resources in uncertain times – while incidentally creating another puzzle for a steampunk roaster enthusiast to try and solve someday.

British Roasting Machines


I’m the first to admit that I’m passionate about coffee – and in particular, coffee roasters. That probably explains why I decided years ago to collect coffee roasters, and now find myself owning seven of them (not counting my three sample roasters, of course…they’re so petite!) in sizes ranging from a husky half-bagger all the way down to a diminutive three-pound countertop beauty.

Some guys collect cars. I round-up roasters. Same disease, different symptoms.

My current project is an extremely rare, British-built “Whitmee” shop roaster from the late 1910s or early 1920s. Discovered languishing in a junk-filled farmer’s shed outside of a small village east of London the roaster was thought by its UK owner to have a seven pound per batch capacity. However, after getting it to the States, taking it apart and examining it, I have discovered it is actually a much rarer – and more desirable – 14 pound per batch machine! In fact, it’s only the second 14 pounder I have ever seen anywhere in the world, and without a doubt the only Whitmee of any size in the United States.

The old Whitmee roaster – part of their Simplex-class of roasters, which ranged in batch size from 7 pounds to 224 pounds – is a beautiful piece of early 20th century industrial engineering and design. With a style that is almost steampunk in character, the roaster is built of cast iron and hand-shaped steel. Nothing digital or plastic here, thank you very much. I suspect roasting on it will be like driving a fully restored old-school stick-shift pickup truck. The kind of truck that turns heads, and makes you jealous of the guy behind the wheel. Minimal controls, maximum appeal.

My Whitmee roaster is a legacy of the era when Great Britain had few rivals anywhere in the world in building machinery that excelled in both form and function. The roaster features a perforated drum with the gas burner mounted inside – a style of roaster radically different than those built today. “Direct flame” roasters were nearly universal in Europe and the United States in the years between WWI and WWII, but went out of style because of their low fuel efficiency and the extensive training needed to operate them properly – not because their coffees didn’t taste good!

Led by the Jabez Burns Company and their “Thermalo” class of roasters, “direct flame” roasters such as the Whitmee were eventually replaced with “indirect flame” machines featuring solid drums instead of perforated, with the gas burners moved from inside the drum to underneath it. Less cost to roast because of greater fuel efficiency, and less chance of burning the coffee. However, as one of the few people in the country to have an intimate familiarity with both “direct flame” and “indirect flame” roasted coffees, I mourn the passage of these great machines. When operated by someone that really knows what they’re doing, the flavor of “direct flame” roasted coffees can be incredible, with flavors and aromas seldom found in conventionally roasted coffees.


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