There is a lot of buzz about the Behmor 1600 Gourmet Coffee Roaster.
For me, a large part of that is that it is also the Behmor 1600 Gourmet Coffee AND COCOA Roaster. It is the first and currently only commercial roaster on the market that does a good job at roasting cocoa with no (major) modifications. I want to clarify that point very quickly before anyone thinks "oh no, I have to hack something else". NO. Not what I mean. All I mean is that the Behmor 1600 is designed for one pound of coffee. We know just how far 1 lb of cocoa goes (not very). The only thing you have to do to make to Behmor behave for Cocoa Roasting is roast more cocoa. If you load instead of 1 lb, 2 - 2 1/2 lbs, it behaves perfectly for cocoa (since cocoa roasts so much cooler compared to coffee).
The Behmor 1600 is a 4 oz - 1 lb, multi program drum style coffee roaster. It is also a great cocoa roaster. Since cocoa roasts so much cooler than coffee (250 - 300 F vs 400-450 F) you can roast quite a bit more cocoa than coffee. From my trials I have found that 2.5 to 3 lbs work optimum, with all of the standard temperature profiles (more on this later).
There are 5 pre-programmed profiles (P1 - P5) in the Behmor, generally running from hottest to coolest.
P1 is a just straight heat. It does get up to 350 (ambient) F, a little warm for some beans, but fine for more robust beans.P2 I like the best so far. That high initial heat (good for bacteria kill) followed by a nice low heat to delicately roast the beans.
P3 - P5 work just fine in general. Since they are all lower temperature setting, they benefit from extending the roast time a few minutes, but that is as simple as hitting the + key to add 15 seconds, up to each Profile's maximum. And with all the profiles, you can of course stop and cool the roast at any point. You don’t have to wait for the end of the profile. On a similar note, all the profiles have a maximum time limit (20-23 minutes I believe) which is more than adequate for any bean I have tested without the danger of burning or massively over roasting them. Read further down for more details on how to adjust the Profiles. The Behmor comes with a wire roasting drum that at 3/4 full, hold approximately 2 1/2 to 3 lbs of cocoa beans. You don't want to fill it completely as the beans need some room to move around. Once you have loaded your beans and secured the clasp (which I have word has now changed from what is show to something that is more secure) you load the drum into the roaster. At first I found it a little awkward but finally hit upon how to do it. On the left hand side of the roaster interior is a bracket that the drum both rotates on and acts as a "stop" during loading. Hold the drum horizontal and insert it into the roaster. The notched rod on the drum with hit the extension on the bracket. At that point you know you are aligned on one side. Then you just slip the other end of the drum rod into the drive bracket/hole on the right side. When you do that, you will feel and hear the notch in the rod on the left side slip into place on the alignment bracket. That's it. Let go and the drum is loaded. This takes WAY more time to explain that to actually do.
Once your cocoa beans are loaded and the door is closed, the programming of the Behmor is relatively straight forward, and actually easier for cocoa than for coffee (thought by no means is it difficult for coffee). There is a virtually inturitive panel where you can specify your roast weight, time, profile, turn it off and on, add or subtract roasting time, a light switch and cooling button.
You start by choose the weight of coffee you are roasting. Wait you say, I am roasting cocoa. Easy enough. The weight option is actually nothing more than a time adjustment on the profiles. Cocoa seems to do best with the longest time or the 1 lb choice (usually 18 minutes) After that you choose the profile you want (p1 - p5) and hit Start. .
Once the roast is going, you have the option of turning on an interior light. Although we mostly don't use appearance to determine when a cocoa bean is done roasting, it is a little helpful, and regardless the light does a fine job of illuminating the interior for coffee roasters. You will note there is a slightly yellow tint. That is highly exaggerated in the photo. It just isn't that bad and I have again heard a new light has actually been specified.
As I mentioned, the default roast time is 18 minutes. This is usually where I start, getting there by choosing 1 lb, P1. From the control panel above, you will also notice there are "Programs" (A-D) in addition to the Profile. I found these to be mostly unnecessary. In the same fashion that the weight buttons bring you up to 18 minutes, the Programs are quick button basically to add more time to the Profile and stretch out the roast. Program B for instance adds 2 minutes to the profile to a default of 20. I found it easier to just strike the + button a few times (each strike adds 15 seconds). More to the point with this, I found the general sweet spot for the majority of the cocoas I tried to be at around 16 minutes, so less time than the Programs will give you.
Now, a final note on times and profiles. On the surface it does not seem like you have much control over the roast. You have 5 Profiles, and can add or subtract time. But there is actually a sweet bit of programing inside that radically affects the Profiles depending WHEN you add or subtract time. Take P2 for instance (my favorite profile BTW - initial high heat to drive off moisture - low heat to finish the roast so they don't burn). Note the "times" are in percentages. The "Profile" is the shape of the temperature curve. It always stays the same. Say you choose P2 and increase the time to 20 minutes BEFORE you start the roast. The internal software will calculate the times based on the total time you choose. The lower power portion of the Profile will start at 60% of the time, i.e. 12 minutes. Now, instead, if you select P2 and lower the time to 10 minutes, the lower power portion will start at 6 minutes (and last only 1/2 as long), but you can then add 10 minutes bringing the whole roast time to 20 minutes again. The time is added to the last segment only. This is what that looks like visually.
A pretty radical adjustment in how heat is applied. Now mind you, I am not necessarily recommending these profiles, they are just to clearly demonstrate how adding time (before or after the start of the roast) affects the Profile.
As I said, in general, I have found using the stock 1lb 18 minute Profiles, minus 2 minutes BEFORE the roast starts seems to be the best. But this is a BROAD generalization. 18 minutes tends to bring most beans to popping right at the end. This is usually ok for a Forastero or selected Trinatarios (like the Madagascar we have a little of), some of the more delicate beans like the Conacado or Ocumare I like to end the roast before they start to pop. What this means is generally it is going to take some experimentation and I will do my best to give Behmor Profile suggestions as I can. More importantly, it means we as a cocoa roasting community will have some consistancy and ability to help our fellow Novices, Apprentices and Alchemists.
Also, if at the end of the 16 minutes (18 minute stock minus 2 minutes) you don't think the beans are done (is the surface smoothing out, does it smell right - kind of chocolate like?) then you can always add more time "on the fly". Regardless, at the end of the roast, the system will go into a pre-programed 12 minute cooling cycle where an extra fan will come on and the drum speed will increase. Just let it go and pull your beans out at the end. Since we are roasting so much more, the beans will not be fully cool to the touch. This is fine. You are going to still want to let them cool further (another hour or so) before cracking and winnowing them. They will still be soft and pliable in the center.
A few other side notes in general. The Behmor 1600 also comes with a "chaff" tray. This is for catching the light skin that is dropped off on coffee. Totally not needed in cocoa roasting. Just leave the tray out.
Finally, again not useful for its intended purpose, the Behmor has a VERY nice smoke suppression system and venting system. If you look inside the roasting chamber, on the roof you will see the intake for the smoke system. This get hot so be aware. A small draw fan pulls any smoke out, burns it, and exhausts it out the back. Whereas we as cocoa roasters don't need this, the ventilation is REALLY great for us as you can smell very well when the beans are done without the need to open the door.
That is about it. I will leave Comments turned on for this page. Please, as you test out the Behmor, check in and share with others what you find works and doesn't work.