Double Walled Drums and Other Improvements

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We’ve recently made several noteworthy improvements to our roasters at the factory: Honeywell gas valves, increased burner sizes on the 3 kg – 30 kg roasters, and double walled drums on all gas roasters from 1 kg on up.

I wish I was less of an engineer and enough of a marketing guy to tell you that these changes are the single greatest improvement in roasting since Kaldi’s goats, but truthfully they are not. The Asian valves and heavy single walled drums combined with variable drum speed control have allowed users all over the world to profile speciality coffee to their heart’s content pretty much anyway they want. In that respect, nothing has changed.

What has changed is our volume.

Over the last couple of years, word has gotten out about our amazing build quality, incredible pricing, and most importantly our commitment to education and tech support as a driver of your commercial success. It’s simply never been enough for us to sell machinery. We’re working hard to make sure you succeed as a business.

In this respect, we’re an entirely different breed of cat. We’re committed to the idea that your success is our success. We may sell business equipment, but we’re also doing everything we can to fully equip you for success as a roaster of commercial scale coffee.

Weird, right? Maybe, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun.

Okay, back to the machinery.

We started testing double walled drum designs about 15 months ago. The double wall provides some marginal improvement in light roasted coffee by allowing higher initial air temperatures without conductive scorching. On our single wall machines we accomplish the same thing by increasing the drum thickness and, if necessary to profile full batch sizes, simply turning up the drum speed for the first couple of minutes of the roast. Still, the double wall drum will allow you marginally more control over the ratio of conductive and convective heating. In short, it gives you the option to get to the same result by other means and allows for some potential improvement in light roast quality.

The problem was building one double wall drum is very expensive. Tooling and setup charges meant adding this as a feature to any single machine increased the cost by $4000. At our volume last year, implementing the change across the board would have forced an increase in price of over 20%. Since we weren’t solving a problem and only adding a feature, it just wasn’t worth it.

Fast forward a year and things have changed. The machines have standardized internationally, we’ve got reps in 12 countries, and our volume has more than doubled. This has enabled us to add the double walled drum with increased burner sizes to maintain responsiveness and upgrade to better valves at a less than 5% average increase in price.

A good marketing guy would try to say something like:

Double the Volume = Double the Drum = Double the Value!

– but feel free to ignore that as hyperbole. ☺

We build enormously capable roasters, but no matter what anyone tries to tell you, for speciality coffee the three big predictors of roast quality are the quality of the greens, the quality of the operator, and the last 15 seconds of the roast. If you get better coffee, it’s usually in spite of the physical limitations of the machinery, not because of it.

Our intent is to provide you with the most capable commercial coffee roaster money can buy at a price that makes it easier for your business to succeed while still maintaining the highest level of support in the industry.

In business school, believe it or not, the technical term for this model was called a “BHAG” or a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.”

I probably got an D in that class, but that part always sounded like a good idea to me.

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