A very basic video about making and testing Popper, the air coffee roaster.
Here’s a video to show a few early versions of the machine, and some aspects I had to deal with in getting this project completed.
I don’t think this is a video of general interest so please don’t expect much, and the quality isn’t great. I was trying to move the camera phone around to show details and didn’t always do a great job. Ugh.
Also I need to make it clear that you shouldn’t do what I do here, because opening up the machine voids the warranty against manufacturer defect. I made the video to provide some background details only, and show how I test temperatures.
Some things I go over here are
A look at an early prototype
Location of the thermal cutout switch that protects Popper from overheating
When I have a unit that turns off before reaching dark roasts, how i move the thermal cutout switch upward to solve the issue.
How I use a thermometer to probe the bean mass
Show a bare version with probe locations for input air and bean temperatures
Deconstruct (partially) a Popper to show how it’s put together
Talk about the unit that easily roasted 140 grams, and why I couldn’t get it built that way 😢
PS – this is in my workshop space where I store the pallets of Popper, hence the motorbikes and cars and such.
popper*, the coffee roaster was right on the verge of going into production.
… but one thing just wasn’t right. The factory had sent sample after sample, but the fan speed (and therefore the air flow) was not consistent. This impacted the potential batch size.
A late night video chat with the engineers in China made it clear to me though. They were testing under the principle that the roaster should not use the entire pre-programmed roast cycle of 7 minutes. They thought of 0 to 7 as a range so they were presupposing what I wanted was a 4 minute roast!
Well, a 4 minute roast is easy in a popper, but it’s rarely an ideal roast time. In fact, the whole idea of *popper is that the user can fluidly adjust roast time up or down on the fly. It’s a manual, low tech machine, unless you want to get in there with an arduino interface etc.
It’s a machine that rewards people who want to play around with the variables, so it’s simple to do a 7 minute roast just to first crack and add 2 or 3 minutes for development. You just have to be there and tend to your roast, make intuitive decisions and turn a knob. Simple.
(For me I actually feel the 7 minute pre-set roast time can work very well. For City roast I target 5:30 to hear the start of first crack, and the remaining 1:30 for further development. Remember, roast time is relative to the device and the type of thermal transfer. Higher air flow and more movement of the mass means more rapid levels of heat transfer via convection.)
So we had some clever names, and over time none of them seemed right. We ended up with a name which is okay, likely not the best. It’s not clever or funny, unless it’s funny in a bad way, like ha ha that’s dumb. But in the case I think it’s okay to be dumb.
I have product fatigue. I am tired of new versions of the same old thing. I am tired of being a consumer and tired of feeling duped. That likely will never end, I am a sucker and I supposed most people are, just at varying intensity levels. (?)
Anyway, you have to give something a name it can be called. You have to “market” it at least to the degree it is being “brought to the market” as a thing to sell, and it needs some name to distinguish it from all other things. We could just point and say “that thing” but it might be confusing.
So there’s this mental exhaustion I have brought on by nearly all shopping except just repetitive grocery type trips. And even those too …for example, walking down the beer aisle at your basic fancy store, and just being tired of all the labels trying to have “personality.” *
I know, ironic since we have a site (ie sweetmarias / coffeeshrub) with a bunch of choices and long reviews and exhaustive descriptors.
So yeah, Popper* and an explanation “popper is a coffee roaster.” I guess for me, 20+ years in home roasting business, there has been some dry (very very dry) humor in pointing at a popper and calling it a roaster. So I started to write popper-roaster, or air-popper-roaster, or air roaster, but appreciated that someone who had no context to understand what it refers to finds any title confusing.
So I guess Popper as a name just ropes in that confusion and claims it.
The other funny thing is the name is too common to be a trademark. Not that we are just saying “yeah, copy us, open source.” I feel like we own this project and put a lot of time and money into it. It’s not cheap for tooling and such in manufacturing.
At the same time, it’s a popper! We didn’t invent that. We weren’t the first people to roast coffee in an air-popper-roaster. We made a lot of small decisions that resulted in this thing, but it’s not that big a deal.
And as it sits it is not the ultimate coffee roaster. It just works well, costs less, is basic and easy to use, and (nudge nudge) it could be made more interesting as well by some clever people in the internet world.
We did our part. Here it is. Well, soon, like probably Oct-Nov 2020.
I can’t believe you read all this! – Thompson
* Things relate as subjects, people relate as objects. This is the basic notion of Commodity Fetishism. It’s the way, for example, cars have “Stance” or “Character” in advertising. And in the world, on the road, express the Taste, Character or Class of the owner. But the person themselves is mute, as an object.