About 1982 Melitta released the first fluid bed coffee roaster designed for widespread use in the U.S. market. Soonafter, it was pulled from shelves and the entire production stock sold off. Presumably Melitta did not do their patent research before releasing the machine, but this cannot be confirmed.
Since this time the roaster has appeared periodically in cut-out bins and discount stores for prices ranging from $30 down to $10! The units appear regularly on Ebay for $30 - $40 or whatever someone is willing to pay.
We don't offer the Aromaroast or know where you can get one, but since there are so many out there, and I have quite a few myself, it seems like good "home roaster citizenship" to discuss the positives and negatives of the roaster.
What it has:
What it lacks:
This roaster sometimes functions our of the box, but more often than not is bakes the coffee in an incredibly long roast cycle. Fluid bed roasts should conclude within 8-10 minutes at most. Ideally it would be 4 minutes to first crack, 7 minutes to second. Faster can be okay too... it depends. The unaltered Melitta roasts coffee for 15 - 40 minutes. Truly, this roaster requires some fiddling to get it to do an adequate job, and you may be better off roasting with a hot air popcorn popper like the West Bend Poppery II.
So the trick here is to get the coffee to roast faster. How can this be done:
More juice! A fellow used the roaster in Papua New Guinea where current is 220 v running it off a converter. Because he had a converter that had variable voltage control, he could run it at about 140 v (had to also replace an internal fuse to handle this) and had roast times in the 5 minute range
Hotter input air temperature: If you live in Arizona this may come naturally. But you can also place the roaster in a bucket or box that baffles the hot air leaving the roaster, and recirculates it into the air intakes at the bottom of the roaster. Roasting in colder weather will be very difficult due to this.
Roast more coffee: more coffee helps trap heat in the roast chamber. Problem: then coffee wont agitate right, and will scorch. Some people shake the roaster the coffee inside with a wood spoon. Problem: then you have the chaff collector off and are losing heat.
Slow down the air flow with the on-off switch. This helps a little.
The fact is, some Aromaroasts run hotter than others. This is the case with John Wanninger, Aromaroast expert and owner of 2 roasters ...one hotter, one colder. Here's some of his notes about roasting in cooler weather:
Trial #1 (42 degF) in square plastic rubbermaid 2 gallon pail Used 1/2 c of Kenya Gaturiri for each roast Colder roaster: 18min (baked beans, no life in these babies ) Warmer Roaster: 9 min to full city (ok, somewhat uneven roast, acidity sacrificed, good body and complexity)
Trial #2 (40deg F) Roaster sits atop a roll of duct tape laid flat in 5gal pail. During the trial I occasionally placed a round perforated pizza pan partly over the top to help retain heat. Used 1/3 c of Mexican Chiapas Colder Roaster: Preheated by running empty for 2-1/2 minutes. First crack at 4-1/2 min. Just started 2nd crack at 7 min.;Terminated roast. Results : Very good results*.
I couldn't compare results directly to my Poppery I (West Bend Popcorn Popper) roasts, but this roast produces slightly muted acidity, possibly more complexity and mouthfeel, possibly a slight loss in some flavor details, if that makes sense . (* I also get very good results with the Poppery I with this and most other coffees.)
A few recommendations:
1) 1/3 c is about the max you can roast. Any more requires a lot of stirring and makes for an uneven roast. Even with 1/3 c, stirring is usually required in the first 1 or 2 minutes.
2) Air Control: I run with full airflow until the beans can mix by air alone. Sometimes tilting the unit very slightly helps mixing. After that point I keep choking down the airflow as much as I can without losing the mixing action.
3) Supplemental Heat: The use of recirculated warm air is greatly recommended to keep temperatures high enough for proper roasting. Care must be exercised when using supplemental heat, as to not overheat the roaster. There is a thermal fuse that may open when/if this happens.
4) Using the Poppery I is much easier and lets you roast twice as much coffee at a time.
5) The Melitta chaff collector works great on top of a chimney tube on a Poppery I or II. The chimney tube allows use of an adjustable butterfly throttle plate for really cold weather roasting even without air recirculation.
I hope this helps. Please email me if you have tips to add. But I can't answer any questions about this machine since I don't really use them ...I have roasters that work without all the fussin'! -Tom