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The Alpenrost Rotary Drum Home Coffee Roaster by Swissmar

The Alpenrost Rotary Drum Home Coffee Roaster by Swissmar

Our detailed review:

Here are some of the key benefits of the Alpenrost (the first few points are reiterated from the previous page):

  • The Alpenrost has a 1/2 lb. (225 gram) capacity, almost 3x the capacity of other home roasters. You want to be consistent with the batch size. The low-cost digital gram scale we sell would be a nice accessory to have with the Alpenrost. Roasting less requires adjusting the roast time to a lower number to compensate. That could get tricky to control. For example: on my roaster a 1/2 lb batch at "10" roast setting produces a nice Full City roast, but a 1/4 lb batch at "10" is a French Roast. So I would urge you to use a full 8 oz. every time --that's the whole reason for buying this roaster anyway!
  • The Alpenrost is a rotary drum coffee roaster, all others on the market currently are air roasters (or fluid-bed type roasters). The Alpenrost is the only conduction/convective air roaster. (The Unimax was a conduction roaster too, but it is not being sold currently).
  • Conduction/convective roasting requires more time to transfer the heat from to the coffee by convective air flow and by conduction via the hot metal surfaces.
  • In this way, the Alpenrost IS an electric, automated, modern design of the traditional coffee roaster's sample roaster. (Which, incidentally, still cost over $3000!)
This is an end-view of the Alpenrost drum --you can see the tines that drive the coffee just like they do in a full size drum coffee roaster. If they were not there, the coffee would settle at the bottom of the drum and not truly agitate. They are alos flared on the ends so when the Alpenrost is finished cooling, the motor reverses and drives the roasted coffee out into the bean collecting hopper and the end of the machine
And this is what the drum sits upon --a view of the roast chamber with the lid open. You can see the squiggley heating coil (very substantial) and at the bottom the chaff tray. The blue arrows point to the sprocket that drives the drum. You will notice rollers in each corner. When you put the drum into the roaster, be sure you have it aligned on the sprocket. The white arrows indicate the two vanes that open up when the cooling cycle begins, venting the hot air rapidly from the roast chamber. They are in the open position in this image.
This view shows the drum mounted in the roaster with the lid open. The chaff tray is pulled out several inches (white arrow) and the bean collector hopper is not in place (it would be where the chaff tray is). You notice that the drum material is a rather large screen openings, which does cause some trouble for very small bean coffees...
And here is the opposite end from the image above. The fan is of very high quality ... the exahust directional piece is in the forground, and it mounts in front of the fan in the image. You can direct it down if you have a Jennair type stovetop exahust vent, or upward into an overhead exahust vent. You need an outdoor exhaust to fan of some kind to use this roaster --or to roast outdoors in fair weather. It is very smokey due to the large capacity! Roasting in cold outdoor environments poses problems too. Cold intake air temperatures stall the roast. There are ways to create a warm air baffle around the roaster by redirecting its hot exhaust air back through it (a large box works!) but be aware of this limitation. Another solution for smoke control is that a 6" Aluminum Laundry Vent Hose ($6 at any hardware store) can slip on the end of the black exhaust directional piece in the image to send the smoke where you want it to go!

 

  • The controls are simple and sure-footed --uh, fingered. There is a digital touch pad for roast settings 1 to 15 with 8 being medium roast. These are roast settings, not minutes! Their is a start button, and a cool button so you can manually override roast cycle and start the cooling.

  • There is no other control of roast cycle -no heat or air flow controls.

  • Very Dark Roasts: I don't think this is that machine for you. I would say it comfortably gets to a Light French Roast, certainly good for espresso. And I imagine you could cut back on the amount of coffee ...or preheat it a bit, or find some way to get a slightly darker roast.

  • There may be a few coffees that have very small seeds or peaberries that will catch and burn in the perforated metal drum of the Alpenrost. I will mention a few from our current list: Brazil Bourbon Santos 14/16 screen, Maui Moka 15 screen, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Costa Rican Papagayo. These are just few with small peaberries or elongated beans. Yes, they will roast (I put Maui Moka in and it does not fall through the screen) but a few beans might get stuck in the screen and char. It wont destroy the roast, but it might impart a little smoky flavor....

  • Even roasts? Visually, your Alpenrost will not produce coffee as even in color as the Hearthware Precision. That's going to be true for all Fluid Bed vs. Conduction Roasters I believe. Evenness of color is not an indicator of the quality of roast though, and some coffees just DO NOT roast to an even color...

  • No, you can not watch the coffee roast. You would loose all the heat in the roast chamber by lifting the lid.

  • It might be possible to add a thermometer to probe the inside of the roast chamber (but not the beans) during the roast cycle --to give you a better idea of where the roast cycle is at and what the final temperatures are.

  • The Alpenrost has a much slower roast time than air roasters (it takes 20 minutes as opposed to an air roaster's 6-8 minute roast) which results in more body in the cup, a loss of brightness, but perhaps a better roast for espresso

  • So ...this is a good roaster for people who like full body, and low acidity. It results in smooth, mellow coffee. If you like Indonesian (Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi), balanced coffees (Premium Colombians, Nicaraguans, Island Coffees) you may be the right customer for the Alpenrost. It is not as good for those who like the higher-toned, brighter coffees. It is not as good for Kenya Estate Coffees, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, high-grown Centrals like Guatemalan and Costa Rican. Yes, it still works fine but you will get a cup that is milder and has more body, with less of the bright fruit notes and acidity.

  • This is a long roast cycle! 16 minutes to first crack with a very very slow warmup period. Then a fast finish with 2nd crack starting around 19 minutes. But we judge the cup, not the numbers. In terms of convenience, its not like you have to stand over it for 20 minutes --just hit the roast button and stay in the vicinity.

  • I had an early concern that chaff would fall through the perforated drum (as it is supposed to) and burn creating a smoky roast a la Unimax. I cannot detect much smokiness in the cup, even though some chaff does end up on the burner. Most falls through to the chaff collection tray under the burner as it is supposed to!

  • Smoke: yes, it produces smoke. When you roast more coffee you get more smoke! And there's a real puff of it that comes out when the flow-through vent opens. But the Alpenrost directs the smoke and if you are lucky enough to have a downdraft JennAir on your stovetop, you are all set! If not you will want an overhead vent or a way to channel the smoke outside. One easy modification: it is going to be a no-brainer to slip a piece of flexible laundry dryer venting hose on the end of the roaster and direct ALL the smoke wherever you want to: up into an overhead vent or out a window. My strong opinion: you must have good venting to the outdoors or actually roast outdoors or in a garage, etc. to use this machine.

  • You will want to have a little vacuum to suck out errant chaff from the roast chamber after every few roasts.

  • It is quieter than air roasters: they sound like hair dryers This sounds like a KitchenAid mixer set on a low speed. The flow-through ventilation separates chaff during the roast cycle and keeps the exterior of the machine cool to the touch during roasting.

  • It is fully automated, one touch roasting with effective chaff collection and removes the coffee from the drum at the end of the roast into a cup at the end of the unit. The coffee that dumps in to roasted coffee bin when its all through is very clean of chaff --much better than the Unimax system.

  • Devil's Advocate: the above point about simple one-touch automation, ease of use, etc, may lead you to think the Alpenrost is for the busy person who wants to hit a button and get great coffee. Actually, I think the Alpenrost is a roaster for someone who wants to fiddle with the process more, because you may find yourself adding a aluminum laundry vent for smoke, maybe wanting a thermometer since you can't watch the coffee roasting, and maybe fiddling with the air flow through the roaster (by blocking some of the input vents in the roasted bean bin to raise the roast chamber temp. and roast darker). As with any roaster you must never leave it unattended while it is operating!!!

  • On the topic of playing Devil's Advocate: One issue that come up for most people is CLEANING. Because the roaster uses radiant heat the inside surfaces of the roaster need to be kept clean and shiny. If the inside is coated with oils, then the roaster will not get as hotter and not roast as dark. Darker roasts produce more oils - so again, if you like dark roasts, this is probably not the machine for you. In terms of cleaning, the machine is not that simple to clean, but elbow grease and soap does the job. You can use any grease cutting solution, like Simple Green or a citrus cleaner. Someone told me that they undo the screws on the inside of the top lid and take this part and run it through thedishwasher, which really helps with cleaning.

  • If I were you, I would buy an extra 1 lb. of a relatively inexpensive large bean coffee to use for your first 2 batches to get acquainted to the machine. I would suggest (and one of these will hopefully still be on our list when you read this): Myanmar Arabica, Brazil Oberon, Nicaragua La Illusion, Mexican Loxicha --I am choosing these because they are larger bean coffees...

  • Well-built ...yes it is. I don't think many people could open this box and think the money wasn't well-spent. There is very little that could go wrong with this machine. The burner is right there in front of you, chaff is totally isolated from the rest on the unit Yes, they took forever to design this thing but obviously it was well spent. Swissmar is a Swiss-Canadian Importer to the housewares market, but they have the machine built in China (no current home roaster is made in the US). Swissmar is a member of the SCAA and has been around a while --I don't think they will be pulling a "Unimax" on any of us!

  • I am very happy with the quality of manufacture. There are a few details that make this machine fine for some folks, not so fine for others. I hope my comments help you decide if the Alpenrost is right for you!

 

Follow this link for My Comparison Chart of Home Roasters