Thursday, December 13, 2012

Coffee Roasting & Heat Transfer

One of the challenges in attempting a discussion that compares roasting environments is that too many "just know that they are right" without doing any tests or measurements.

An untested concept is, more often than not, nonsense.  Transformation processes require laboratory equipment and technical training to understand.  Some technologies have been around for a long time and have been saddled with claims that just do not stand up to scrutiny.  Drum roasting has many devotees that have been critical of other drum roaster users and other roasting methods. There have been several comments of disbelief about the R. Eggers quotation  from  "Espresso Coffee"  in which he claims that "the typical gas temperature of a drum roaster is 400° - 550°C".  The people contesting this did not measure the air temperature in a drum roaster but "felt" that it was way too high.   Now, I have not measured it either but then, I don't have a drum roaster nor do I advocate for their use.  Some drum roasters use heat exchangers which can be fed with variable volumes of air which consequently alters the air temperature sent to the roasting drum.  Perhaps someone will grace us with the range in temperatures achievable and the slope at which changes can be made.   What they don't have is an efficient way of transferring the energy in the air to the beans.   Without a high pressure blower forcing the hot air through the beans it is only possible to transfer significant heat to the outside layer.  In this situation more energy goes up the chimney than into the beans.

Efficient use of energy can only be attained through recirculation of the roasting air which has to be continually scrubbed of smoke to prevent redepositing on the beans.  Untreated air sent to the chimneys is responsible for many chimney fires.

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