My Fresh Roast SR500 arrived yesterday afternoon. My very first coffee roaster was a Fresh Roast, but that was many years ago and all I remember about it was that I was bored with it rather quickly. I have both read the reviews and watched the videos put out by SM on this machine. They were depressing enough to make one feel buyer's remorse before their credit card had even cleared!
At this point I only have a few introductory remarks, as I have only been able to run 3 batches through the machine and have as of yet to sample any of the results. Here is what I have observed so far:
On my first batch, I took the reviewers advice and used about 90 grams coffee, the fan on high and the heat on low. I also used the "hit the cool button" method twice during the first 2 minutes. I bumped the heat up to medium and eventually high, while leaving the fan on high for the entire roast. If it is possible to bake a 10 minute roast in a Fresh Roast, then I baked it! It was very slow (for this machine) and while the coffee did turn color, I never heard a single pop of first crack. I used all the time available. I threw that roast out. Several factors here: the machine was cold as it had been on the delivery truck all day, the batch size was smaller than recommended and I should have turned down the fan as the coffee grew lighter. However, this was an experiment to establish a baseline for the machine.
Roast two turned out much better. I compensated for the first roast by setting the heat on medium from the beginning of the roast. I started with the fan on high. Instead of the cool button method, I used the stir method this time for the first two minutes. By the end of two minutes, the coffee was turning yellow and chaff was beginning to fly in my face. At the two minute mark, I left the heat on medium, but reduced the fan speed by 1/4 turn. After another minute, I reduced the fan another 1/4 turn, making it at about half power. During the final minute or so, I reduced this slightly more. I stopped the roast at the first pop of second crack, all in all a roast of less than 8 minutes. I let the machine cool the first batch and found it still pretty hot at the end of the cycle. On the second batch I dumped it into a colander after about a minute and cooled it myself. The roast looked very nice. I will sample it later today.
The third batch was managed essentially the same as the second batch with the only variation being that I played with the heat a little more this time, both bumping it up to high and dropping to low.
The only other observation I can share at this time relates to the stirring. It is not a big deal to do this and is probably a good idea as I actually had one bean in my third roast that was just barely out of the green stage when dumped.
Finally, the roaster is much quieter than some of the other air machines, and it produces very little smoke. I could easily use it in my roasting shop, as I kick out more smoke than the Fresh Roast does when I drop 15 lbs of dark roast. I will play some more, sample some and offer a little more feedback and a few photos later.