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For the home coffee roaster

This is my home roaster. Im about to build it into a moveable trolley, so its the bare bones in this picture.

  • A breadmaker. I stripped it out of its case and control panel. I rewired it so the motor runs continuously when plugged into the mains. When I fit everything into the trolley, I will put a fused switch for it.
  • A heatgun. Nothing fancy with 2 heat settings. They will burn out eventually so do not spend a lot. This is my second gun in 3 years.
  • A digital thermometer. Can also be plugged into a computer for graphing the coffee roast.
  • A digital timer for monitoring the heat rise and setting the hold between first and second crack.
  • Ash can. My new invention. insert the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner into it and use the other hose for sucking out the beans from the bread pan. I then leave the vacuum running for 4 minutes and it extracts all the heat from the beans. Remove the lid, check the beans and bag directly from the container.

Total costs:

Breadmaker (mine was “borrowed” but anywhere from free to whatever you want to pay)

Heat gun: £8-£20. Mine are Ebay specials and £8 a time.

Digital thermometer: Between £10 and £35

Digital timer: £4

Ash Can: Under £19 delivered from Coopers.

I use the house vacuum but will probably buy a used small one for the job.

I use coffee beans from Rave Coffee


My favourite coffee, and its a blend!

I realise that in writing this article, it may come across as an advert for a British coffee company. The truth is, I think it has to. No one else has managed to capture the taste experience as well as Rave Coffee based in Cirencester. For the purposes of disclosure, I was involved with Rave Coffee from its inception in the capacity of promotion, but moved aside to look after other business interests as they grew and the company expanded in house.

Master Roaster Rob Hodge, and his wife Vikki, have brought the much needed taste of properly roasted coffee to Britain. That is not to say that other roasters are shabby, far from it, yet Robs international Australian experience of a mature coffee culture, gave new life to the jaded palate of British coffee drinkers.

My introduction to Robs masterful touch with coffee, was in tasting his version of Mocha Java. A blend of Sumatra Mandheling and Ethiopian Sidamo roasted to just bordering on second crack.

I use a Glass vacuum filter coffee maker, and I cannot describe adequately the excitement I felt when I saw the rich one inch thick bloom appear on the coffee as it steeped in the vessel for 50 seconds. When I removed the heat and watched it run through the filter and return to the glass pouring container, I saw the shimmering darkness, yet with a opacity in the colour, and smelled this wonderful coffee aroma perfumed with chocolate and the essence of a spice I could not name, I knew if the taste was anything like the smell I was in for a treat.

It is my habit to leave the coffee for five minutes in the mug to cool a little, and allow the taste to develop through the decreasing temperature range.

The taste. A rich full coffeeness, with an aftertaste of deep chocolate and again the undefine perfume of a delicate spice in the background. There is no bitterness or sharp attack of tannin, it was all a mug of balanced perfection. One of the few coffees that hold, if not improve in the taste to the last drop.

Of all the coffees I have drank, this one, this particulat blend, this matching of two berries by Rave coffee, is the single most outstanding coffee of my choice in many a year. I love it.

Gisuma Red Bourbon

Rising from the aftermath of the terrible wars in Rwanda in the 1990s, The coffee planted has made its mark in the world from being very good to world class. I am always shocked how little is known about the quality, especially the Gisuma Red Bourbon. Gisuma Washing Station is in the Rusizzi district of the western province. This cooperative has 155 members who grow their coffee at an altitude of 1,600 to 1,850 metres above sea level. The Red Bourbon is washed and dried on raised African beds.
Filling your cup with a beautiful bright almost fruit like sweet cleanness with a backdrop of flowers, The coffee has never failed to please even the most critical of tasters.
For me, the balance of this berry is almost perfect.
Roasted just the way I like it at:


Playing with Torrefacto

As a coffee lover and and a lover of things Spanish, I travel frequently to Spain and Mallorca and indulge my passion for Torrefacto coffee.

As I write this, a flight has already been booked for my next trip to Palma in a couple of weeks.

I made some torrefacto with Colombian beans about 6 months ago, and stored a kilo away for testing purposes. As the object of sugar roasting the beans is to preserve, I wanted to see how long the coffee would last.  (Reasons for sugar glazing)

This roast was made just into second crack at a temperature of @ 216C. It is a moderately light roast compared to the Robusta that I roast which is roasted darker to @230 and held for a while. The Robusta is added to a selection of dark roast berries and blended for espresso. Sometimes as many as 6 different varietals are used to achieve the right balance of bitter/acidity/sweetness which is controlled and changed through the espresso machine. I find Torrefacto works AMAZINGLY well in milk drinks. The development of the sugar coating and the addition of the steamed milk is mindblowingly good.

Some interest has been expressed in australian home roasting circles for making Torrefacto, and I have given my methodology for making  it. here

I dont claim its the best way, it works and its consistent and its as mess free as possible, which in my way of thinking is a good thing when working with sugar and syrups.

Back to the Torrefacto. I added 40% of the Colombian glazed beans to Colombian 5 day old roasted berries, and ground for usage in a Siphon coffee pot. (The Torrefacto does NOT ruin your grinder or cause any problems at all).  As I poured into the cup the aroma was fresh and bright. I usually add sugar to my coffee, and this time did not need to. There was not the heaviness of sweetness that sugar imparts, yet there was enough to carry the coffee ‘as is’ to suit my taste. The Torrefacto in the roast, reduces acidity in the coffee berry and makes for a mellowness without losing the fullness of the taste.

Did the age of the glazed beans cause a problem with tasting stale? No! the sugar preserved well.

I will be making a video of the process in due course.

Old Brown Java

One of the most surprising finds for Filter and milk based coffee is Old Brown Java. I have ignored it for a number of years based on a false assumption that all weathered or matured coffee is like Monsooned Malabar, of which, I have no personal affinity for.

What a HUGE surprise in drinking this coffee. Rob Hodges of RAVE Coffee sent me some green beans to roast, and the instruction were simple, “make it a little dark”.

I have a lot of respect for the roast direction of Rob. He has a natural touch and instinct with coffee that only a fool would ignore, so trying to not be that fool, I took the beans into second crack for a minute and up to 225C. A quick look at the photo will show the oil on the surface, and the darkness of the bean. The colour of the bean is more even that the flash would suggest. (Click on pictures to enlarge)

The origins of Old Brown Java are interesting. The beans were used for ballast on sailing ships, and consequently the ‘weathering’, ie salt water and length of time produced the distinctive flavour of the brew. Nowadays, the beans are aged in a wetting and storing process for up to 3 years in order to emulate the same conditions as when loaded on ships.

The process itself removes a lot of acidity, whilst retaining the full depth of taste. I made 3 pots of Old Java, from 20 grams per 3/4 pint to 35 grams per 3/4 pint and was amazed at how the acidity did not increase with the added grinds. Old Java is a very mellow taste, with a wonderful ‘coffee’ aroma. In the drinking, there is a delightful sweetness to the cup, and an after taste of, slight herbacious woodiness.

I am going to try and blend it with some other beans and see what happens. Rob Hodge gave me a blend for milk based drink, and I think that I perhaps tried it a little too fresh, it didnt work for me. The Coffee is now 7 days old so will try again.

The Coffee plantations on the Island that produce Old Java are mainly on the East side. Im going to look for some video that I have somewhere of a plantation and upload it later.

I am not sure of which plantation Rob supplied me the beans from, but wherever the come from, roasted or green, Id be giving him a call on 01285 651884 and placing an order.

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.

Britains Hidden Hobby.

The secret is out. I didnt realise it. Only a few were privvy. It was only by accident I discovered it. Im still reeling from the knowledge. Who would have thought.

More so than America, More so than Europe combined, More so than Australia. The U.K. has a furtive little hobby that no one admits to, certainly does not discuss, and is not mentioned in public. BritishCoffeeScene is going to lift the lid right now.

Home Coffee Roasting. Its a spreading hobby throughout the British Isles. Its true. In talking with Artisan Coffee houses, and doing the sums, I can state that between 35% and 45% of bean sales are the raw green beans!

That means approximately half of all sales from specialist coffee Houses are going to individuals who, in one form or another, roast their own. Yet… there is no mention of it, no discussion, no contact through on line forums, no interchange with the supplier about roasting. The beans are sold, the beans arrive at the solitary destination and then… silence. A little while later, the coffee house gets another innocuous order for some more green beans. Noting that the customer has previously bought green beans, the supplier will include a little information pack with references to online forums that discuss coffee roasting, or offer for the customer to take advantage of advice the coffee house gives freely, and…… nothing.

Britain, what gives? Coffee roasting is a proud and noble art. It contains elements of innovation in equipment making, it requires a modicum of skill to bring all the elements together, and it has the capacity to be turned into a full scale home roasting production utilising computers, logs, thermometers, roast times and bean preferences. Around the world, there a clubs and chat boards and people who have never seen each who exchange information and equipment and test results. In Britain? there is a just a request to purchase green beans on the Coffee House Paypal site or Amazon ordering. It stops there.

Although I have use of a professional Toper roaster, what do I use for small batch testing? I have small home made hot air units. I have air guns. I have Stainless steel bowls and wooden spoons. I have adapted breadmakers. I have popcorn poppers. I have Halogen cookers. I have heavy pans. Ive used a lot of the commercially available home roasters too.

My favourite home roaster is a Russell Hobbs “Breadman” breadmaker. I use it weekly making a kilo of coffee in 18 minutes including pre heat time. This is my own machine with a test lid of 2 nonstick roasting pans cut down to size, with the viewing tempered glass sandwiched between them and pop riveted to hold. I drilled the hole tight for the air gun and later will add another hole for a chaff removal system Ive thought of. I will be making a more professional lid for this once my testing is complete with this prototype. I have a the unit linked to my computer via a thermometer.

So why dont I just spend a couple of thousand pounds or more on a “mini” professional system? First, I dont want to. Second, for less than 60 smackers, with this setup, I have the ability to produce equal if not better roasted coffee than most large scale coffee houses.

If you have a computer, and purchase an inexpensive Victor 86c thermometer..and couple it to an amazing FREE software for Roast logging and charting (No, Im not going to tell you where it is unless you come out of hiding and ask for it!)

Perhaps when you home roasters realise its Ok to come out of the closet, and that what you do is fine and wonderful and that there are some of us out here who want to share and learn from each other, you might join in some discussions and forum groups to further information.









When you finish your Roasting. Your coffee should look like this and taste amazing. You will never settle for less.



British Coffee.

In penning this brief missive, there is a sense of going against the tide of the 3rd wave of coffee enthusiasts. However, writing what is real will stand the test of time.

The majority of British people like filtered coffee. Seconded by a coffee in milk. Way down the list is espresso. Whilst it may be surmised that the British are European, it would be a huge mistake to assume that the average British person has adapted to European tastes or culture.

A cup of coffee to a Brit, has been for many years, a cup of instant, either made with water, or milk. That is never, in the main going to be replaced by a small, expensive 1 ounce shot of black coffee.

With this in mind, and dont get me wrong, I love the good coffee shops, the atmosphere, the choices, the chance to taste different blends and single origins, it is never going to be that an espresso machine will be a standard feature in every home.

So for the average coffee shop visitor, the sales pitch, the smells, the ability to have a coffee in a different form to what is available at home, along with the American hype of the chains, has shaped a unique market for itself. Billions of dollars, Euro’s and Pounds.

To emulate the taste, its going to cost several hundred pounds in equipment that in the main will be sat on your counter and used occasionally. Drinking out is expensive though. 2 latte’s a day is about 20 to 25 pounds a week. 2 cups of filter a day is going to cost @ 15 smackers.

Britain has tasted better coffee than it ever has in the past. However, the chains work to the minimum standard acceptable, and maximise the profits from that on the basis that, its still better coffee than we are used to. As some of the smaller artisan roasters start to take a foothold in the new British Coffee scene, it is hoped that if Britain ever becomes a coffee loving population, they will not go for the bean based solely on cost.

With this mild digression, I return to the subject of this epistle, and state that the future of Coffee in the U.K., unadvertised, to be drunk at home, will be filtered coffee. Let the market leaders do what they will, and say what ever they want in order to direct profits into their corporate accounts and trendy coffee shops, but in the end, the vast majority of U.K. people will reach for a better class of coffee to be made quickly and easily. This will involve getting used to a simple filter machine, placing the appropriate amount of coffee into the receptacle, filling the water jug to the line and switching on. Its only a tad more involved than putting instant coffee into a jar, but the increase in taste and freshness is 100%.

As a coffee lover, it is good to enjoy the taste. For some, like me who have spent the last 28 years with more than a passing interest in the bean and process, it meant at some stage I would have to actually roast my own. Ive roasted in the oven, in a toaster oven, in a pan on the stove, on an open fire in Australia, Africa and America, Ive used a number of commercial Roasters, and lately am using hot air and an adapted BreadMaker. This latter method makes 600-1000 grams at a time and some of the finest tasting coffee ever. You wont know this unless you have a friend who roasts, or know a good artisan roaster. NOTHING beats the excitement of tasting a new coffee from day 5 to 15 and finding where the optimum level in the freshness is.

Wholesale coffee prices are a little lower this year than last year. The only place you will see a lowering or stabilising of prices are from the smaller roasteries. Sadly you will the chains increasing their prices to satisfy their investors and increase the dividends. Quality will not go up.

So, buy a good inexpensive filter coffee machine. A 227 gram bag of FRESH roasted coffee is going to cost about the 4 pound mark. It will make 18 cups of coffee. Thats 22 pence a cup.

We are a frugal lot us Brits. However, we dont mind paying for quality, and coffee is SURPRISINGLY cheap when looked at in these terms.

Time to look at the independent Roasters. It IS cheaper than you think, and then the choice is down to taste. Where the choice should always be.

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 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.

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