Choosing a sample roaster

There are a few different types of sample roasters, including drum roasters, digital roasters, and countertop home roasters. Each of them has unique capabilities in terms of automation, workflow, technology, and airflow.

Some roasting equipment manufacturers produce machines in multiple formats, or manufacture both production sized and sample sized roasters. For example, three of the most prominent manufacturers are Probat, ROEST, and Ikawa. All of these three brands build sample roasters, and each of them uses a different design.

Drum roasters are the classic choice. These machines roast coffee through airflow and conduction, which heats the drum and then the beans. Drum roasters are popular for both sample and production machines; for the former, they will generally have a capacity of between 30g and 300g. However, they are less precise than more modern alternatives when it comes to airflow control.

Digital sample roasters are a newer, more convenient option, mainly because they provide the user with more data points and the ability to set programmable roast profiles. This means that you can repeat the same roasting process on different sample roasters, or easily replicate the same profile with different lots of coffee.

Digital sample roasters are also generally a lot smaller, making them useful when space is at a premium. Unlike drum roasters, digital sample roasters produce heat mainly through convection. This is known as fluid bed or Sivetz roasting, and involves passing heated air through the beans to roast them.

The third category of sample roasters is home roasters, which are often designed for countertop use. These were initially designed for home coffee enthusiasts, as they are compact and affordable, but they are also suitable for sample roasting.

These are also popular with coffee producers, as well as buyers, because they generally have a very short turnaround time. At origin, this can allow producers to incorporate measures on-farm in real time.