[Homeroast] Quick review my new Freshroast SR500

Matthew Rapaport quine at sonic.net
Sun Feb 20 17:03:43 CST 2011

Just received this nice little roaster after having used nothing but a
freshroast 8 for about 2.5 years -- yes it took that long to give up the
ghost :-).

The SR500 is a perfect next-step up from the FR-8. A simple fluid-bed
(glorified hot-air gun, glass chamber, top-fitting -- and very
effective -- chaff catcher) roaster with a few more controls that permit a
crude sort of roast-profiling!

The unit itself appears well built for it's price (about $60 more than the
FR-8 which seems to be selling around $90 these days). The roasting
chamber is of slightly thinner glass than the FR-8 but the rest of the
unit is considerably heavier and built of what feels like a cross between
metal and plastic! The chaff catcher in particular is considerably heavier
than that on the FR-8. When running, the SR500 allows a little fine chaf
to escape into the air, something the FR-8 never did. But on the whole, it
has to catch twice as much chaff -- see below -- so I won't hold a few
tiny flakes against it.

The chamber holds twice as many beans as the FR-8 -- 4.5oz vs 2.25oz! This
is a nice step up for my girlfriend and I. We used to go through 6 FR-8
roasts a week. Now it's only 3. There are 3 controls. Fan speed, time, and
heater temperature expressed as "low, medium, high" on a four position
switch that happens also to be the unit's "off" switch.

You begin by setting the continuously-variable fan speed to near "high".
The timer defaults to 5.9 minutes. You control time by pushing an "up" or
"down" button which adds/subtracts .1 minutes (6 seconds) from the time.
To go from the default to 7 minutes then, you would push the up button 11
times. You can vary the time up or down during the run too. Finally you
push the on/low/med/high switch to "high" and the unit turns on. While it
is running, you can set the time higher or lower, also dial back the fan
speed which can be a good thing to do as the beans get dry and begin to
knock around more. Dialing the fan back makes the shaking less violent and
also has the added effect of allowing the temperature to rise a little at
what ever heat setting is selected. I found that if I leave these settings
until just as first crack begins, I can dial back the heat to medium, turn
the fan down to about half, and the effect spreads out first crack and
delays second crack for about 3 minutes as compared to only 1 minute
between the two on the FR-8.

Finally, in a nice touch, right next to the time up/down buttons is the
"cool" button. The unit turns itself to cool and runs there for a little
over a minute if you just let the timer run out. I don't think that is
enough time, but of course if you flip the coffee out on a sheet pan or
something it cools pretty fast there. But I found that if you press the
cool button yourself, cutting short what ever is left on the clock, the
cool stays on indefinately. I found 3 minutes on cool brings the beans
almost to room temp!

I'm sure with more attention I could manage all sorts of crude profiles.
I'm not sure how much it will be worth the effort though. There's nothing
automatic about this unit except the timer count-down-to-cool which is all
the FR-8 had. The additional flexibility of the SR500 plus the extra
capacity make it a welcome step up for us. As an added bonus, it seems
reasonably well built. Perhaps it will outlast the FR-8 and I'll step up
again :-)

Matthew quine at sonic.net Rapaport

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