Coffee-Tech Solar vs MCR-2D?

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I received an email this morning asking about how the Coffee-Tech Solar compares to the MCR-2D

“I have narrowed down our first 2G roaster choices to your Mill City Roasters 2kg with digital control and the Coffee-Tech Engineering Solar Eco. I’m hoping you can help me with the decision. The Coffee-Tech is fully automated, which I like, since we’ll likely be multitasking….”

If you are wondering the same thing, this is my response:

I worked with Coffee-Tech in the US for a couple of years and know them well. I like the Coffee-Tech crew and I believe the Solar is a good answer for some people.

The Solar is billed as automated, but the automation provides no roast control whatsoever. It’s merely a canned ramp soak function based on the preheat temperature and a target end of roast cycle. The end of roast cycle is not the finish temp. It is only the point that the heating elements cut out, coasting your coffee though a development period period to cooling.

Describing this as automation is like referring to a toaster as “automated.”

The kind of hyperbolic sciencey gobbledygook on the Coffee-Tech website is endemic to much of the coffee industry. It’s exactly the reason I launched Mill City Roasters. I believe that too many companies see inexperienced customers as lawful prey. I believe that specialty coffee entrepreneurs deserve and value expertise and performance more than flimflam and gimmickry.

I’m also admittedly jealous of people that have time to search out ever more florid adjectives to sell roasters, when all I have time for is engineering better roasters.

As an antidote, my advice is to register for our roasting class. In three days, we can clue you in enough about coffee, roasting, and production to get you to “good” and “salable” coffee by the end of the day on Saturday. If you go home and practice what you’ve learned, you’ll make it to “better” after roasting about 10 hours a week for maybe 6 months to a year. Keep pressing forward with your understanding of coffee, roast profile planning, machine control, and sensory analysis and you’ll be producing industry acknowledged “great” coffee within a 18 to 24 months.

This might be described colloquially as “paying your dues.” Our part in this is to simply accelerate your understanding enough to help you convert as much of your OJT experience to equity as possible.

We’re still testing and refining RoastPATH automation, but it’s not a shortcut to quality. Automating a poorly planned or executed roast merely automates the production of mediocre coffee. You have to learn the coffee and you have to learn the machine before automation becomes worthwhile.

The Solar is a good choice for the “hands free” production of fresh dark roasted commodity grade coffee. If your purpose is to provide a fresh roasted alternative to most of what you’ll find at the supermarket, it’s your huckleberry.

And to be clear, “fresh dark roasted commodity grade coffee” is not a slight. Coffee is an enormous industry. There’s room for all the coffees and flavor profiles people want to consume. If that’s your niche and the Solar is your roaster, G-d Bless.

I exist to help people establish local, sustainable, scalable, independent coffee brands. Coffee quality is the gospel we preach to differentiate them in their local markets and the moat of protection we help them build around their businesses.

There are no shortcuts to that quality. Quality is a process of continuous improvement, not a destination. It requires interest and education and experience and it costs effort. That effort includes a lot of standing next to a roaster.

I very sincerely wish you the best of success in all of your endeavors.

Steve

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