How to: Fresh Roast SR540 User Guide

November 24, 2021

How to: Fresh Roast SR540 User Guide

Handling the Roaster: Some Tips

Although the Fresh roast SR540 has some new and improved features intended to prevent tipping and breaking, the limited warranty does not cover accidents. It's worth warning you about common mistakes people make.

  • If you are moving the roaster, please disassemble it and move the pieces separately. There is a significant risk of tipping if you carry the roaster fully assembled. You may also want to store the pieces individually if the roaster is not staying on display.
  • Hold onto both pieces of the lid when taking it off: the thin piece which the mesh that prevents the chaff from flying out and the larger chaff collector/basket. They are not locked into each other. 
  • When taking the lid off, lift it straight up and off, do not slide it forward or back as this may tip the roasting chamber and cause it to fall and break. The lid of the roaster has two pegs that should be positioned on either side of the handle of the roasting chamber when the roaster is fully assembled. These are meant to stop the lid from falling off if it is hit or nudged, but they can also send the roasting chamber flying if you're not careful.
  • Do not tip the roasting chamber; it is not locked in place. You will notice that the roasting chamber has grooves and tabs around the base, which hold it in place more securely. It is important to realize that they do not lock it in. A sufficiently hard bump will dislodge it.
  • When emptying the chaff, do not hit the basket and the lid pieces together as this is likely to chip the plastic. You can use a brush (an old toothbrush or a paintbrush with stiff bristles) and a damp cloth to remove the residues in the basket and on the mesh if it is bothering you. The larger pieces of chaff come out easily once the basket is inverted.

A Quick Primer on Roasting

Once you hit 'run' on the roaster, your coffee will go through 5 distinct stages:

  • Drying stage: the beginning stage that dries out the bean in preparation for roasting, getting rid of any excess moisture. The beans will start green and then slowly turn a yellow colour. They will change from smelling grassy and floral to smelling like hay or dried grass.
  • Browning stage: Browning is the actual start of the coffee roast. This stage is where the beans go from smelling hay-like to bready and baked. The beans also start to change colour from pale yellow to light brown. 
  • First Crack: The first crack occurs when the beans expand and swell from gas build-up to the point that the outer part of the seed cracks and releases the pressure (mainly caused by water vapour). It's similar to what happens to popcorn, and it sounds a little bit like it, too, just a little sharper. This typically occurs between 385-405 degrees. It depends on the bean and your roaster.
  • Development Stage: Starts after the first crack. Variable in length depending on personal preference and partially determined by the coffee itself. The roaster can choose to extend the development stage by lowering the temperature or, with fluid-bed roasters, by adjusting the fan speed. The aim of this phase is to caramelize the sugars, roast off some of the acids present in the green beans, and develop the volatile flavour compounds that give coffee those unique and refined notes that we always look for under the familiar roasted and caramelized coffee flavour we all know.
  • Second Crack: The second crack happens sometime after the first crack, depending on the length of the development time. The development time can technically overlap a little bit with the beginning of the second crack. Still, once the beans start popping rapidly, that's no longer considered 'development.' The Second crack, like the first crack, also occurs because of the build-up of gas inside the bean and typically starts as the beans approach 435-440 degrees. It sounds similar to green cedar leaves crackling on a fire.

During the roast, the coffee beans will dry, and the moisture content of the beans is reduced from 8-12% to less than 0.1%. The drying turns the seeds brittle and allows them to be ground. The reduction in moisture also means the beans lose mass. Roasting coffee typically results in an 18-20% loss in weight. Meaning, that if you roast 130 grams of green coffee, you will get 104-107 grams of roasted coffee. While the beans lose mass, they can almost double in volume. Each coffee bean expands as it roasts due to the creation of gasses on the inside, mainly from the evaporation of water and the generation of carbon dioxide.

Roasting caramelizes the natural sugars found in the coffee and burns off the acids present in the green beans, creating a balanced flavour. It also helps develop volatile flavour compounds and releases coffee oils from the cell structure, which greatly enhance the flavour and the mouth-feel of the eventual beverage when the coffee is ground and brewed.

Roasting is just like cooking; you're aiming for the sweet spot between under-done and over-done. When roasting, you can under-develop your coffee and end up with sour, grainy and vegetal notes, a weak body, and a short-lived, unsatisfying flavour. If you over-develop, the coffee will taste flat and unbalanced because over-exposure to high temperatures has caused the decomposition of the volatile flavour compounds. Development time is critical, but it's hard to give recommendations about how long the coffee should stay in this phase because it depends on the coffee you're working with and what you want to do. Like with a V60 brewer or an espresso machine, you will need to experiment and dial in a roast over time. Keep a timer handy!

How to roast using the Fresh Roast SR540

Before you start roasting

  • It is strongly advised that you roast under your range hood/exhaust fan on your oven. You can put the roaster in between the elements. This is particularly important if you are looking for a medium-dark, dark or French roast.
  • All of the components of this roaster will get hot during the roast. Handle with care. Use oven mitts or gloves as necessary.
  • The air coming out of the roasting chamber is hot. Do not put your hands, and especially do not put your face over the mouth of the roasting chamber.

Setting up your machine

First, plug the roaster in. If you are using an extension cord, please ensure that it's not too long (preferably under 4 feet). Otherwise, your roaster may be impacted and may not be able to generate enough heat. Make sure the display is showing 4 dashes; this means that the unit has power. Click the on/off switch under the display. You will see 2 numbers and a decimal pop-up.

The first number is your fan speed; the second is your power (heat output). The decimal is a timer. Factory settings are 5 for fan speed, 9 for power and 6.0 minutes for the timer.

Push the dial that is to the right of the display. It will make a clicking noise, and the 5 should start flashing. Turn the dial clockwise to increase and counterclockwise to decrease the fan speed. We recommend setting the fan speed to 9 for the start of the roast. The beans will be heaviest during this stage, so you will need as much airflow as you can get to make sure they are moving when the heat turns on. The fan speed will need to be turned down as the roast progresses.

Once the fan speed is set to 9, push the dial again to toggle over to the power setting. We recommend leaving the power at 9 for the beginning of the roast. Remember, clockwise to increase and counterclockwise to decrease.

Push the dial again to toggle over to the timer. Set the timer to 15 minutes or more (maximum is 20 minutes). This timer will automatically shut off the roaster once it runs out, and you don't want that happening at 6 minutes; that is way too soon. The timer should be thought of as a fail-safe rather than a way to program a roast. It will stop the heat output and cool the beans if you leave your roaster and forget to pay attention to the beans.

How to Roast

  1. Remove the lid and the chaff collector by lifting straight up and off. Be careful not to tip the glass roasting chamber over by hitting the handle with the two prongs on the lid. 
  2. Measure out about 130 grams of green beans and pour them into the roasting chamber. If you don't want to weigh out the coffee, you can use the scoop provided. 4 scoops is about 130 grams. If the roasting chamber is not entirely in place, rotate it slightly clockwise to secure it to the base. Replace the lid and chaff collector, ensuring that the lid's prongs are positioned on either side of the handle.
  3. Click the 'run/cool' button that is located to the left of the display. This will start the roast. You will hear the fan come on. 
  4. Turn on your range hood or exhaust fan.
  5. Make sure that the beans start moving a little bit. If the coffee is not moving, you may have put too much in, and you will need to take some out. The beans must rotate in the chamber because they will burn if they get stuck near the bottom. To turn the roaster off, click the 'on/off button under the display. Once the beans start moving, you don't need to do anything until they're done drying. You will see your beans change colour from green/grey to pale yellow to tan and then to light brown.
  6. At about 2 minutes, the drying phase should be done. At this point, the beans will rotate rapidly and erratically in the chamber because they have lost a lot of their moisture and, therefore, have become lighter. You can take this opportunity to lower the fan speed. We recommend lowering it to about 7. Make sure the beans are still moving when you turn the fan speed down! Increase the fan speed if you have to, but the coffee beans should not rise more than 2-3 centimetres from their resting position throughout the roast duration.
  7. At about 6-8 minutes, you will hear cracking and popping coming from the beans. This is the first crack. The sound is created by the cracking of the seed's outer layer caused by pressure from the build-up of gasses (mainly water vapour) inside the beans. Typically this happens when they reach between 385-415 degrees Fahrenheit. It depends on your roaster and on the kind of beans you are roasting. Check that the fan speed is not too high. If your beans are jumping around erratically in the roasting chamber, turn the fan down until they start rotating more evenly.
  8. After the first crack has ended, it may be necessary to lower the power setting. This is because you want to lengthen the development time before you reach the second crack or stop the roast (if you're aiming for a light or medium-light roast). It's just like cooking; you need some time to let all of the flavours come together! This is where roasting becomes more of an art than a science. Experiment, see what tastes good to you.
  9. How do you know when you're done? It depends on what roast degree you're going for. You can use a coffee that you like to compare your roast to or download or purchase a colour chart. Light roasts should be pulled off well before the second crack. The beans will be a light cinnamon colour and should look dry, and may have some wrinkles on the surface. Medium roasts should be pulled off as the beans approach the second crack or just at the start of the second crack. The beans will be a rich chocolate colour and should look satiny, reflecting the tiniest bit of light because of the coffee oils that start to coat the bean's surface. Dark roasts should be pulled off well into the second crack. The beans will be a dark brown colour (not black), and the bean's surface should be slick with oil.
  10. When the coffee gets to be the right colour, stop the roast by clicking the 'run/cool' button that is located to the left of the display. This will shut off the heat. We recommend that you also turn the fan all the way up as this will help cool the coffee faster and stop it from roasting itself from the inside out. The display should read 'C.3' where the timer used to be. Note: the 'power' readout will still show the last setting. This does not mean that the roaster is heating the air; it just doesn't change when you turn on the cooling cycle for some reason.
  11. Once the cooling cycle has finished, and the fan has turned off, put on an oven mitt or a glove, carefully remove the whole lid, and set it on the counter. Remove the roasting chamber and empty the beans into a bowl or a storage container. We recommend letting your beans off-gas (release the carbon dioxide that has built up during roasting) for a couple of hours before brewing to let the flavour stabilize. Still, there is technically no reason why you should not be able to brew with them right away. Using beans straight off the roast will give you a cup that is perhaps too bright/acidic and unbalanced, but it's up to you. Over the next few days, the carbon dioxide will escape
  12. Brew and enjoy!

Insights and Extra Features

The Fresh Roast SR540 has a temperature readout. During a roast, you can quickly flick the dial clockwise, and the display will show you the inlet temperature (the temperature of the air flowing into the chamber). If the roaster is not running, it will not show the temperature readout. You have to click the 'run/cool' button and start the fan before this feature activates. If you want to get back to the settings screen, click on the dial, and it will take you back to the fan/power/timer screen.

This temperature readout is your environment temperature. It is not an indication of the temperature of your coffee beans. If you want to install a bean probe, you will have to drill through the lid and feed the probe through there, but if you do this before the 1-year warranty runs out, it will void the policy. 

The fan speed is the best way to adjust to the roasting temperature in a fluid-bed roaster significantly. Think about it; if there is a lot of air being pushed through the beans (high fan speed setting), it can cool the beans a little because the air itself cools as it gets further from the element. Turning the fan down will increase the temperature in the roasting chamber. It's kind of similar to holding a hair dryer at arm's length away from your head vs. holding it right up against your scalp. You don't want your beans to stop moving, so don't turn the fan all the way down. You also don't want them to cool too much, so you should find a setting that will promote even circulation while maintaining a sufficient temperature for roasting. As a general guideline, when circulating during the roast, the coffee beans should not be popping up more than 2-3 centimetres from their resting position (when the fan is off) throughout the entirety of the roast. When cooling, turn the fan up to the maximum setting to help the beans cool off faster.

Changing the power setting is a much more delicate way to control the heat output of the roaster. We recommend turning down the power rather than increasing the fan speed during the development phase precisely because of this. 

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