Gene Cafe, part 1

Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster

In the evolution of home coffee roasters there was always one machine, or two, that did the job the best depending on consumers' need. There was a time when even the Cafe Rosto was the best roaster available and the only alternative to the well proven Fresh Roast roaster. But each roaster is eclipsed by the next better thing. The Gene Roaster just took center stage. It may seem expensive but dollar for dollar it's really not. The happiness factor scores an all-time high on this one. It delivers on its promise.

  • The Gene Roaster is easy to use.
    It's as easy to use as a Fresh Roast Roaster. It's intuitive. WAY the heck more obvious and satisfying than a Hot Top.
  • It roasts the most coffee of any home machine.
    Eleven ounces at a time. That's 4 more than an Alpenrost.
  • It's worth every cent.
    Figure it at about $1.30 per day for year #1. Over five years it's about .25 cents/day, or 3-4 cents per cup. The Gene Roaster costs less than but roasts more than a Hot Top. And, the Gene Roaster is easier to use.
  • Automatic cool down cycle.
    Doesn't just cool for a certain amount of time it cools until the bean temp is down to 140.
  • Adjustable timer with read out.
  • Adjustable temperature.
    (Readout alternates between approx temp and target temp.)
  • Easy viewing. Big glass chamber

  • The manufacturers even promote the idea to use it in a business setting.

  • Awesome chaff collection

  • Quiet, quiet, quiet.

The Machine.

The machine is surprisingly smaller in person than it appears in photos. Somehow the Alpenrost feels bigger even though this one consumes more square inches in its footprint. It's overall volume and even shape is similar to a double wheeled shop grinder or shoe buffer if you've ever seen those. The design of this machine is that of a real appliance.

The buttons have a very nice feel to them. They have a great tactile quality that doesn't happen by accident. The designers took the time to build it in on purpose. Pressing the red or blue button gives a little resistance, then a 'pup-pup' feeling so you know something was done. Rotating them has a nice feel too. It feels like a step motor so as you rotate you can feel how many clicks left or right you go. A big digital read out that confirms the setting.

You could master this machine in complete darkness. If you knew it always reset to 482 degrees and zero minutes each time you plugged it in, and you knew that two complete rotations plus three clicks put you at exactly 18 minutes. Using this machine is easy. 

(This machine does have a LOT of manufactured parts in it. Not much appears to be off the shelf. But it looks like they put a lot of thought into it. It's not like many parts have a chance of breaking, but the original assembly of the machine must take some time.)

And away we go...

One of the acid tests around The Coffee Project specifically in roasting machinery is, "Does it do what it promises to do?" In the case of the Gene Roaster the answer is, "Yes." It's quiet, it does the job, it is thoroughly intuitive. Fill with beans, Push the red button, select a setting, push the blue button select a setting. Easy.

Customer comment: "It's a pleasure to encounter a well-designed piece of equipment like this. Been a long wait. The unit is very quiet and works just as well as I hoped. Materials, fit and finish are fab. In spite of web rumors to the contrary, I had no problem hearing the first crack. Consistency is on a par with professional roasters. Chaff handling is excellent. At roast completion, all chaff has been sent to the chaff collector." Lyn

How does it work?

It has an interesting off-axis drum shown below. 100% visibility of the beans as they roast, and 100% control. What could be better?

You will absolutely want to have a good vent in your environment. Roasting coffee produces smoke and it has to be handled. The very good thing is that the smoke produced by the Gene Roaster is of the beans only, not from burning chaff like the Alpenrost. And the smokes wafts lazily little by little, unlike the Alpenrost which shoots it out all at once at cool down. So, smoke control is a must, but a good vent will do it. The lighter you roast the less smoke to handle. The machine is very quiet so not only do you get to SEE the beans, you can hear them too.

The instructions

DO READ THE INSTRUCTION FIRST! Seriously. Not only are they critical to the finer points of using the machine. They are mostly well written and have accompanying illustrations with a cartoon like roaster expressing its many moods. It's pretty cute.

The editorial design of the instruction booklet is professional quality. This is very nice to see. It's a cue that they really did spend time on every aspect of a good design, right down to the printed material as reference. The illustrations are good, the editorial design leads the reader through the instructions with sidebars and icons... the information is delivered in a very thoughtful and easy to understand way. (As opposed to a big block of engineer text as other manuals can be.) They did a good job.

In the manual, they even promote the idea of using this machine in a commercial setting! How refreshing is that? Because this machine will absolutely wind up in small shops and hobby businesses everywhere anyway. So entrepreneurs, dig in.

Anyone who had troubles with the Alpenrost will have no troubles with this machine. You will need to have a basic sensitivity to the beans themselves, but if things go wrong, you won't be able to blame the machine. AS WITH ANY MACHINE, HOWEVER!!! as the beans are approaching done, please hit the cool button! Don't just stand there and watch them become charcoal.

And, don't ever leave ANY roaster unattended.

Did we mention how nicely put together the manual was? what a nice detail not to let slip. It's really worth the read.

The manual even includes a basic time/temp chart to get you started. Perfect. The absolutely only thing they could have used is a proofreader or spell checker. Otherwise, it's a winner. There's a description of how to get sweat flavors. That might be a typo.

Final thoughts

  • Yes, it smokes. If you like dark roasted coffee you will want to use it near a very good vent or take it outside. 1/2+ lbs. of coffee is a lot no matter what.
  • You will need to anticipate how much more the beans will roast during cool down. That's a lot of mass to cool and it's not instantaneous. Plan on reaching your cool down before they hit the point where you like the beans.
  • At up to 11 ounces at a time you won't be roasting anywhere near as often as you would in other roasters.
  • Once cooling stops, go ahead and get the beans out of the chamber which will still be kind of warm.
  • You'll need to relearn working with your favorite beans a little. A longer roast time means you gain a little body at the cost of a little brightness. Why not keep a Fresh Roast roaster around the house too for small batches of highlighters when you do a blend.
  • As the manual says, in it's interesting English- "For safety purpose, make sure to understand the operations described and keep the followings." Yes, good advice...

The Gene Roaster is:

  • Quiet,
  • Cost effective.
  • It has full control, and
  • Full visibility of the beans. has an awkwardly written but extremely well-produced manual. 

The Gene Roaster is a winner.

See the Coffee Geek video at Youtube

and visit the coffee geek website, it's an awesome source of info on all thing’s coffee.

New to home roasting? Read Roasting 101 for an idea of what to expect.

Click here for more information about using the Gene Cafe Roaster...>>