Roasting on the Behmor 1600 Plus
The home roasting community is familiar with – and enamored of – the Behmor roaster. Look around on home roasting forums and the blogs of hobbyist roasters and you’re liable to find a Behmor machine or two. For some, this machine is the start of an obsession. For others, it’s simply a consistent source of freshly roasted coffee in what might otherwise be a coffee desert.
Regardless, the Behmor is certainly one of the most popular pieces of home roasting equipment. So after nearly a year of analysis on the Probatino, teaching courses on Loring and Diedrich roasters, and sticking to small-scale professional roasters, we are ready to give a shout-out to the home roasting community by including the stats from some Behmor roasts of Crown Jewel selections!
While Behmor now has a new 1600AB Plus model with double pane glass and a faster multi-speed motor, we’ve been using the 1600 Plus consistently for over two years with no problems whatsoever. In this article, we’ll explore setup and familiarization with the Behmor 1600 Plus. Look forward to seeing some Behmor stats on the roast analysis section of our Crown Jewel profiles in the very near future!
Stepping up to the Behmor 1600 Plus, you’re confronted with a panel of buttons that can control various roast parameters including temperature, drum speed, and varied heat application throughout the roast cycle. Fear not, but read the manual thoroughly before starting.
Most of the roasts we performed were done with the manual method, which seems to be the tried and true way to get faster roast times not achievable through the preset profiles. Though the profiles on the Behmor 1600 Plus are a great start, we had difficulty achieving the first crack with the presets. Don’t let this discourage you from using them for your first few roasts, however. Follow the guidelines in the manual and find which roast profile is best suited to your chosen coffee.
The relatively low charge temperatures make for a steep curve – a steep learning curve, that is. As many people have noted, a short (less than 1:30) preheating of the chamber on the Behmor tends to speed up roasts a bit, but not much. After many trials, I honestly do not see a benefit in performing this practice, but to each their own. To preheat the chamber, start one of the preset profiles, stop it after about a minute, and then carefully insert the drum and chaff collector (we recommend using silicon gloves if you choose to do this).
For my more successful roasts, I chose to use the 1lb preset for roasting 1/2 lb of coffee, manually entered full power by using the P5 button and chose the maximum drum speed using the D button. The first crack was achieved at 12:15, and I allowed the coffee to develop for 45 seconds after the first crack for a final roast time of roughly 13 minutes. I stopped the roast, removed the drum and chaff collector using silicon gloves, and re-engaged the cooling cycle on the roaster immediately afterward.
The coffee can be cooled more quickly outside of the roaster since the metal inside the roaster retains heat. Our goal is to cool the coffee to room temperature in 4 minutes or less, and the best way to do this is to apply air cooling. You can achieve this by opening the door to the roaster while it completes the cooling cycle, but if you feel the need to, you can get fancier. We used a colander and a small fan, but moving the coffee between two containers achieves the same result. Passing the coffee between two containers has the added benefit of winnowing off the chaff from the freshly roasted coffee.
My Behmor Setup
Wait – 13 Minute Roasts?!:
The long roast times in the Behmor might lead some professionals to question the quality one can achieve with the roaster. The fact is after a few trials of roasts our entire panel was fooled about which roast was from the Behmor and which was from the Probatino.
For this initial experiment, we used CJ1109: the Guatemala Carlos Roberto Serrano Roa Fully Washed Crown Jewel. At the cupping table, we noted more perceived acidity in the Behmor roast, which may have been indicative of my shorter development time. There were no baked notes to the roast, and we found the coffee to be nuanced and enjoyable.
In the two years since this inaugural roast, we have roasted dozens upon dozens of coffees on the Behmor 1600 Plus. You can find some of our profiled Crown Jewel coffees on our blog – chances are, you can find a green coffee similar to yours in the annals of our roasting on the Behmor.
We had a perfectly pleasant time tasting this coffee. Don’t be turned off by the long roast times, the coffee turns out tasty!
There are a few quirks to this roaster. With patience and practice, you can work around these skillfully.
One thing that I noted immediately after roasting is that smaller-sized beans tend to get stuck in the perforations of the drum. Look out for chipped/cut beans, too. These smaller beans may fall into the gaps and get stuck there after expanding during the roast cycle. Remember to check for hangers-on in between roasts, and gently remove the stuck beans before engaging your next roast. Otherwise, you’ll end up with burnt and burning beans mixed in with your next roast.
I roast inside since the readout on the Behmor is a bit difficult to see in bright daylight situations. Take this into effect when positioning your roaster. I used my hand to shade around the readout to see how much time was left on my roast when I roasted out in the sun, but finding a nice shaded area to roast your coffee is a good move.
This leads me to the automatic stop function. You must keep an eye on your roast time readout, and confirm that you are at the roaster! The readout will begin flashing, giving you one minute remaining before the roast stops automatically. You must respond to this by pressing Start, or any other button. If you forget to do this, the roaster will automatically enter cooling mode, and your roast will stall.
Make sure to clean out your roaster of all chaff after every use, and to run an empty cycle every 5 roasts. Along with an occasional thorough cleaning of the inside of the machine, this will keep the machine in tip-top condition.
Follow the manual closely for specific cleaning instructions! Never use abrasives or harsh cleaners on the Behmor 1600 Plus. Our chosen cleaning solution is denatured alcohol, which takes all the coffee oils and dust off the machine easily.
A bean stuck in the roasting drum perforation
The Behmor is a perfectly cromulent roaster that will get you into roasting your own coffee and comparing traits. There are entire online communities devoted to its use, and there is plenty of excellent documentation that can provide you with ideas and experiments. Even if you tire of your Behmor and want to upgrade to a professional machine, they have decent resale value when kept in good condition. If you’re just getting into roasting and want to get a bit more serious, this is just the roaster for you. If you already have a Behmor, you can find innumerable profiles throughout the Crown Analyses on our blog!
At The Crown, we offer consultation services from introductions to roasting and cupping, to advanced skill sets like QC program development, and more. Take a look at our standard packages or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to customize your training to your needs.
So you roasted for 45 seconds after the beginning of First Crack? I was under the impression that it was better to wait until the end of First Crack before ending the roast. And, then, generally giving it another 30 to 45 seconds. Don’t you have to wait until First Crack is over for the beans to have been roasted properly?
Indeed! Crack was fairly strong, and had finished after about 45 seconds. For this roast I hoping to replicate one of Jen’s lighter roasts, and I didn’t want to take the roast too much further. As I have experimented with the Behmor over the last week, I agree that more development time is needed in order to pull out sweetness from very dense coffees. As you’ll see in next week’s Crown Jewel analyses, a post-crack development time of about 1:30 brought out quite a bit more sweetness.
Thank you for your response. By “post crack development time” are you referring to 1:30 after the beginning of first crack, or after the end of first crack?
Hello again – here, I am referring to 1:30 after the beginning of first crack. Happy roasting!
I’ve used this roaster for 15+ years and heartily agree the coffee’s sweeter with added time after the crack. FYI – On my model, Profile P2 has a feature that cuts heat by 35% after 2/3 of the total roast time. I use this often with washed Centrals and Africans to ‘McGyver’ sweeter roasts
with a bit lighter color.
Great write-up. I have found the Behmor to be an excellent little roaster and a great place to start learning. I just hope they update the control panel and include some type of audio warning when approaching the last 1:30. Too many good beans have been lost due to my lack of attention… 🙂
My biggest two “beefs” (or is that “beeves”?) about the Behmor are the “mandated interaction” bug, er, “feature” they built in to the later ones, and the more than obnoxiously fiddly profiling.
As to the “hey wake up and tell us you’re still here” nanny feature… this is a REAL bother. I am often working on multiple things in the same area, and can easily let that half minute window walk on by when I’m three feet from the roaster, paying attention to something else with my EYES, but “all ears” and listening for the first few pops of crack…. which, by long habit, I do NOT miss. To be FORCED to acknowledge my presence by physically interacting with the infernal Nanny Feature, and missing, at times by mere seconds, that tiny window has cost me a few batches of coffee. Once it stalls, there is no effecive way to rescue, rewind, relaunch. I think there should be a means of disabling that bug.
One of my customers is wheelchair bound, and, while he is quite agile in that contraption, he is often inches away, his eyes on something else, but listening and smelling, and well aware of when he needs to DO something. But he is keyed into what is happening inside the roaster, by sound and smell, and not so much by either time or the machines whimsical demands.
The other issue… the long slow climb to crack, is obviously a function of how many BTU can a 15 amp machine pour into a mass of beans. One pound is ahopeless case, it is really a half pound roaster. But even at that loading the machine to work hard to come to crack in anything “normal” (and I tend to try and hit crack somewhere in the 7.5 to 9.5 minute mark)
Notwithstanding the above remarks, the machines can, and do, turn out some very drinkable coffees, IF one manages to get a handle on its peculiarities. I have had some fine cups made from what these can do. They are VERY consistent batch to batch, too, given one programmes consistently.
I’m waiting for a 220 volt 60 Hz 30 amp version…….. but I rather think that will be a long wait, as it would bring a total redesign. And Joe is busy working on “other stuff” he’s got up his sleeve!!!
This is the best countertop home roaster since the venerable old i-Roast, now long gone. I am thankful for the good work put into them to make them what they are.
I learned through this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfxebAf6Dd0) that the “I am still here” feature of the machine was required as some type of legal requirement to get the machine onto the domestic market. I don’t think they would put this in just to annoy users with spoilt batches of beans. He also has a workflow that incorporates a stopwatch so you can sync it with the machine to get an audible warning when you have to press the button. Maybe use a timer app on a smartphone?
Anyone use this roaster with 250g samples?