I remember the day that my eyes were open to the benefits of roasting my own coffee. I was a touring musician, and had played a series of shows at a high-end coffee shop in the Midwest. As a part of their thank you basket, the venue had given me a bag of their best coffee, a rather rare Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. It was the best coffee I’d ever tasted, so as soon as the bag ran out, I jumped online to buy another. My eyes about fell out of my head when I saw that this exact bag of coffee (that they’d given me for free) cost $48 per 12 ounces (before shipping or tax!).
Thinking that it was a misprint, I searched some similar coffee sites, only to find that this rare coffee carried the same hefty price tag, regardless of the shop that roasted it.
There was one exception, but after all the $50 bags I’d seen, I now figured that this one was the misprint. I was 16 ounces, and it cost $7.50.
That’s right… $7.50.
After a bit more research, I found that this bag was from the same co-op in the same region of the same country. It was the exact same coffee, it just hadn’t been roasted yet. I kept researching, and I found that it’s always this way… a standard bag of coffee (from a reputable shop) that will sell for $15-$20 per 12 ounces (3/4 a pound) can be bought “green” (unroasted) for $4-6 per pound.
My friend and I bought a few pounds of the unroasted Yirgacheffe and began experimenting. We followed a traditional Ethiopian roasting method, using open fire in the backyard. I tried a few popular stove top methods, smoking out the house (and pissing off my wife) in the process. Every once in awhile, I’d make a decent batch, but most of the time, the coffee would come out inconsistent (at best) and undrinkable (at worst).
Just when I was ready to give up, I was introduced to the Behmor 1600 Plus. The first thing I noticed when the box arrived was how unassuming the machine was. It was about the size of our microwave, and didn’t look much different from the outside.
To be clear, the technology is far more advanced than a microwave, and the one pound drum rivals the quality of a much larger, more expensive drum roaster. I guess I just pictured a machine that would take up my guest room, not fit on my counter.
According to Behmor, the 1600 Plus is where craft roasting meets countertop technology, and the machine certainly is that. For those of you looking for a quick guide, here’s a Pros and Cons list for this roaster. Below you’ll find the rest of our review.
- Price: There is no other roaster even close to this quality for even close to this price
- Size: Like we said before, this machine fits easily on your countertop.
- Smoke Suppression System: This machine will cut down the amount of smoke from roasting by about 80%. While it’s not perfect, it’s never released enough smoke to set off a detector in the same room.
- Consistency of Roast: Every roast comes out consistent, meaning that all the beans in the roast are roasted at the same level.
- Uses Electricity: Unlike gas roasters, this roaster uses standard 120V electricity, meaning you can roast in your kitchen or living room.
- Babysitting: This is not a set and walk away roaster. You have to be engaged in the roast the entire process.
- Time: Larger, harder bean roasts can take up to 20 minutes.
- Really, there aren’t a ton of cons, but we had to come up with something…
Alright… let’s get to the nuts and bolts of roasting with the Behmor 1600 Plus.
Preparing the Right Roast
The panel is extremely easy to use, but it’s powerful and customizable enough to get the exact coffee you want. There are four decisions you have to make when setting up your roast profile, and then you’re ready to roast!
The first decision you have to make is pretty self-explanatory. How much coffee are you roasting? The Behmor 1600 Plus has presets for 1/4 lb., 1/2 lb., and 1 lb. As you’d expect, the more coffee that’s in the drum, the longer the roast will take. If you’re looking for a scale, we recommend the Hario V60 Scale. It will work great for a roaster of this size, and it’ll be a great addition to your coffee-making arsenal.
There are four default programs in the Behmor 1600 Plus, and they are lettered A-D. The point of these programs is to estimate the time of the roast. As a basic rule, we use A for P1, B for P2, C for P3, and D for P4 and P5. Confused? Keep reading.
In addition to the timing programs above, you can get more specific by using the + and – buttons on your roast profile. Unlike the program buttons, these buttons can be used during the roast. As you see your beans getting closer to first or second crack, you can increase or decrease roasting time.
This is the most important part of your pre-roast process. The Behmor 1600 Plus gives you five different profiles, changing both the amount of heat and how quickly the roaster will get hot. As a general rule, we say that the harder the bean, the lower the profile number you should use.
We like to use P1 and P2 for most South and Central American coffees, and P3 for most African coffees (like the rare Ethiopian Yirgacheffe I bought years ago). P4 and P5 can be used for Kona and other low altitude island grown beans.
For its price point, the Behmor 1600 Plus gives an extremely consistent roast using all roasting profiles. The artistry comes in when it comes to the roast itself. Do you want a lighter, more flavorful roast? Or a darker, denser taste?
The Behmor has a few features to assist in the precision of this decision. First, the interior light on the machine makes it extremely easy to see the darkness of your beans. Second, the machine is quiet enough that you can actually hear the beans cracking. And third, the machine’s cooling system works extremely quickly to stop the roast and begin the cooling process.
The Behmor 1600 Plus is fairly easy to clean. We use a standard Shop-Vac to discard the shells after every roast. Every five roasts, we run a cleaning cycle. And we always keep a bottle of Simple Green on hand for a deeper clean.
For the money, there’s nothing better. The price, the smoke suppression system, and the consistency of the roast all make this the best and easiest home roasting option for you.
Once your coffee is roasted, check out HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT CUP OF COFFEE AT HOME.