Roasting Dark in the Behmor Coffee Roaster

Achieving delicious dark roasts in the Behmor coffee roaster is easy with the right approach.

(Jump directly to our preferred dark roasting instructions)

If you’ve read your Behmor instruction manual (which you absolutely should!), you’ve likely seen the deterrents to roasting dark. Why? Mostly for safety reasons, as the darker you develop your roast, the more likely you are to start a fire in your roaster.

But with preparation and a little caution, roasting to 2nd crack doesn’t have to be dangerous and the Behmor is actually quite capable of getting there in a reasonable amount of time.

Challenges of roasting dark in the Behmor:

Every coffee roaster comes with its own set of challenges, and the Behmor is no exception. Whether you have the first generation 1600 or the new 2020AB Plus, you’re reliant on time and heat to reach your desired roast target. Add to that the fact that your heat source is right next to the coffee and you have a few variables to consider in order to roast dark in a reliant and safe way.

Of those first two variables, time is perhaps the one you need to consider most. The Behmor coffee roaster’s preset time lengths are based on built-in profiles and weight settings. On their own, they won’t generally allow enough time for coffee to reach 2nd crack, even using P1, the highest heat setting (there is a way to do this that I’ll outline a little later, but it’s not ideal).

A red hot burner at the back of the behmor coffee roaster’s roast chamber can be hazardous with excessive chaff.
A red hot burner at the back of the behmor coffee roaster’s roast chamber can be hazardous with excessive chaff.

Having an electric burner inside the roast chamber presents its own set of dangers, not the least of which is starting a fire. It’s an unlikely result if you follow our tips and the guidelines in the manual, but a danger you must be aware of and something to keep your eye on throughout any roast light or dark on the Behmor coffee roaster.

Before we get into the basics of roasting dark in the Behmor specifically, let’s first answer some of the more basic questions we get from customers about differences between medium and dark roasts.

What do we mean by “dark roast”?

We consider 2nd crack, or Full City+ roast level (“FC+”), to be the dividing line that separates dark from medium roasts. Roasting beyond the beginnings of 2nd crack/FC+ are further developed gradients of dark roasting and include French and Vienna roast levels.

What does 2nd crack do to the coffee?

As you pass over into 2nd crack, oils from inside the coffee beans are pushed outward to the surface. You won’t see them right away if you stop your roast at the beginnings of this stage, but their shine will be seen after a couple days of rest.

How does 2nd crack affect flavor?

The flavor profile will change quite a bit beyond 2nd crack. Sweetness takes a back seat to bittering roast tones and acidity is gone altogether. It’s good to keep in mind the inverse relationship between sweetness and bitterness and will help to inform just how dark you decide to roast a coffee.

How do I know I’ve reached 2nd crack?

2nd crack sounds distinctly different that 1st crack and is higher pitched and faster. Think of 1st crack as having the bass of popcorn popping, while 2nd crack has the rapid cadence and high pitched ‘snaps’ of rice crispies. Most coffees also have a period of silence between the 1st crack and 2nd crack stages that lasts around 30 seconds to a minute (sometimes more).

The Behmor coffee roaster, a race against time:

No matter what your target roast level is, the length of your roast time is one of the more important factors to consider. Two coffees roasted to Full City roast level over vastly different lengths of time are going to taste quite different despite their similar appearance. Roast too long and you bake out sweetness and flatten acidity, too quickly and you risk scorching the exterior or a raw center of the bean.

The Behmor coffee roaster control panel presents many options, but all you need is manual mode and the 1LB roast batch setting for roasting dark.
The Behmor coffee roaster control panel presents many options, but all you need is manual mode and the 1LB roast batch setting for roasting dark.

In general, you don’t have to worry about roasting too fast on the Behmor coffee roaster and are much more likely to find yourself working to speed things up. Being on the slower side makes roasting dark on the Behmor particularly challenging, but far from impossible.

After running several different roast tests, it became apparent that you absolutely must roast in manual mode to get the shortest roast times. Even when I tested the hottest preset of <P1>, I had to add the maximum amount of time allowed by way of the <+> button, AND employ the <C>/”rosetta stone” reset 3 times in order to hit 2nd crack. My final roast time was just over 25 minutes, which is way too long! (*The P1 preset still oscillates the burner on and off, whereas manual mode is 100% until you decide to change course.)

You may think that since it’s a dark roast, the long roast time is less significant. This is not the case and you should still hope to finish your dark roast in well under 20 minutes (mine were in the 16-17 minute range) in order to capture sweet, smokey cup flavors rather than a profile of bittering, ash.

Cleaning the roast chamber of the Behmor coffee roaster with simple green and a sponge.
Cleaning the roast chamber of the Behmor coffee roaster with simple green and a sponge.

Our preferred dark roast method looks something like this:

  • Always make sure your roaster is clean. This is perhaps the most important tip! The combination of smoke, chaff and an open heating source at the back of your roaster create a fire hazard. Limiting chaff and oily residue is an absolute must.
  • Keep batch sizes to no more than 12 ounces – I use 225 grams. Yes, you can physically roast larger batches. But increasing volume will also increase the amount of smoke and chaff, which are dangerous, and can lead to a roaster fire.
  • Start by preheating your roaster for 2 full minutes on P1 without the drum or chaff tray in the machine. It doesn’t matter what batch size you select at this point since you’ll be stopping the warm up to load the drum and re-starting your roast.
  • Have your drum loaded with coffee so you’re ready to insert it into the roasting chamber as quickly as possible after warm up. It’s nothing to obsess over, but the speed at which you make this transition will have some affect on how much heat you retain from the warm-up period.
  • Start the roast by pressing the full pound setting in order to capture the most time possible, hit <P1> and <start>, then hit <P5> to enter manual mode.
  • Use the fast drum speed by hitting <D> to keep the coffee high in the drum and in front of the heating element.
  • On the Behmor 1600 Plus, I have to watch my roaster temp <B> in order to avoid triggering the high temp error and inevitable shutdown. 325F is where this occurs on my Behmor coffee roaster, but the range seems to be 325F to 331F for other roasters. When the <B> temp reaches 310F, reduce power to <P3>/50%, or <P4>/75% until the temperature starts to drop, then bump back up to <P5>. I toggle between these settings in order to keep the temperature high and the roast progressing steadily. So far, we haven’t experienced this issue on the Behmor 2000AB Plus.
  • To achieve a Full City+ roast a few seconds into 2nd crack, and up to 1 full minute. I would not go beyond this point for fear of a chaff fire.
  • Roasting this dark absolutely means you need to clean out your roaster between batches by vacuuming the inside of the roast chamber of chaff, and wiping down the interior. I also recommend running a 1/4 LB dry burn between roasts, but every other roast is fine too.

The Behmor “roast coast” and how it affects roast development and flavor:

With the Behmor coffee roaster, there’s something called the “roast coast” phenomena. That is, your roast will continue to develop after you enter the cooling cycle.

This means that if you’re shooting for something like a light Vienna, you’re going to want to start the cooling process before you’ve actually reached that point of development in the roaster.

Comparing two different dark roasts straight from the roaster and after 6 days of rest, the oils are much more present after resting.
Comparing two different dark roasts straight from the roaster and after 6 days of rest, the oils are much more present after resting.

Don’t worry that your coffee isn’t oily at this point (if that’s what you’re shooting for). Give it a few days and the oils will rise to the surface, even with a roast stopped 10 seconds into 2nd crack. Oils should not be visible during roasting, and if you do see them, you’re about a crack away from a roaster fire!

Another aspect of the “roast coast”, is that coffee roasted in the Behmor generally tastes darker than the exterior roast shade might lead you to believe. The same goes for lighter Behmor roasts.

Alternative cooling methods:

One way to end roast development more quickly is to use an auxiliary cooling tray, which you can see examples of HERE. Even with this method, I wouldn’t pull the drum until at least 1 minute into the cooling cycle so that it has a chance to cool off some before touching.

This colander, cardboard box and shop vac are an easy cooling tray hack capable of cooling your roast batch in less than 3 minutes.
This colander, cardboard box and shop vac are an easy cooling tray hack capable of cooling your roast batch in less than 3 minutes.

You can also cool your batch with the door open, but should wait until the heating element is completely shut off (no longer glowing red) to do so in order to avoid chaff ignition on the burner.

Final considerations for roasting dark safely in the Behmor:

While it’s possible to roast dry process and honey process coffees to 2nd crack, we don’t recommend it. Dry process and honey process coffees expel a lot more chaff than washed and increase the risk of a roaster fire. If you decide to roast them anyways, either keep your 225 grams batch out of 2nd crack or cut your batch size in half. Either way, WATCH YOUR ROAST CLOSELY. Remember, the heating element is open at the back of your roast chamber, and it only takes a few sparks to start a fire in your roaster.

And finally, if a bean or enough chaff ignite and cause a fire in your roaster, the Behmor should automatically go into emergency shutdown mode (likely Err2 or Err3). Whether it does or not, DO NOT OPEN THE ROASTER DOOR as adding air will only fan the flames. Unplug the roaster and move it outside safely.

But you won’t have a fire since you’ve followed our tips and read the manual that came with your Behmor coffee roaster, right? These two guides will not only help you roast coffee dark in the Behmor safely, but also help to achieve a fresh dark roast that tastes really good.

If you’re more of a visual learner, check out our video on roasting dark in the Behmor coffee roaster.

If you prefer light roasts from your Behmor coffee roaster, check out this blog post instead.

21 Responses

  1. I have reached well into second crack or full city + with a little time to spare! Has anyone tried the warmup with beans in the roaster! And I almost always use auto?

    1. Hi Jim, thanks for your questions!

      You can definitely reach 2nd crack in the Behmor in either auto or manual mode. But in my experience, it takes around 25 minutes to get there using the presets – even the hottest setting of P1 – and that’s just too long for my taste. The coffee has more of a bittering/ashy flavor, less sweetness than if you were to shorten the roast length. Manual mode cuts the overall time by nearly 10 minutes because you minimize the oscillation of the heating element, keeping the temperature as high as possible in the roast chamber.

      The purpose of the warmup is to heat up the machine before dropping your roast batch so that you start your roast in a hot roaster, helping to shorten the overall roast time. So while you could warm up your Behmor with the beans in the roaster, it would defeat the purpose of the roaster.

  2. I have had a Behmor 1600 for a long time a9on my second one so I can’t really remember when I didn’t roast coffee) and have always gone to 5-15 sec after the second crack with 1 pound of (usually) Ethiopian, Kenyan, Yemeni or Sumatran coffee. Never had a fire. This is what I do:
    1. Preheat 2 min. with the coffee in the cage; turn it off and start on P1.
    2. After 12 minutes add time.
    3. Usually the time between the first crack of the 1st crack and the 2nd crack will be almost always 3 min. but I always listen carefully.
    4. After the beginning of the 2nd crack, I am watching the time and the smoke is usually starting to come out. Turn to Cool after 15 sec. Always a great batch!!
    5. Every 3 months or so I really take it apart to clean the chaff/dust off the rotors that spin (or whatever they’re called) That improves quality greatly. And I do a cleaning run every 5 batches.

    1. Hey Mary, I share your love for the Behmor! It was my first “real” home roaster and personally have found it a lot of fun to try and find all the different ways to “trick” the roaster into roasting hotter, adding extra roast time, etc. Sounds like you have too!

      We don’t recommend roasting a full pound that dark because of the higher potential of a roaster fire. But as you’ve found out, the Behmor is capable of managing that much coffee!

      Manual mode has been a game changer as it gives you the ability to keep the roaster at full power for the majority of the roast, greatly reducing the overall roast time and allowing you to roast larger batches. I tend to roast most coffee to the lighter end of the roast spectrum, so that faster roast time helps to highlight cup characteristics like acidity for example, rather than flatten them with longer development.

      Even with dark roasting, I find that a 20+ minute 2nd crack using the Behmor presets lacks some of the sweetness and dimension that I get when I hit 2nd snaps in 15 – 17 minutes. But this is my own personal preference. If you’re happy with your roasts, there’s really no reason to change a thing!

      Thanks for sharing your Behmor experience Mary and happy roasting!

  3. I’ve been using my 1600 for 8 years now. I roast 320 g for about 20-21 minutes. I’ll have to try manual mode and see what the taste difference is, although I really enjoy my present roasts.

    But if I read this before buying the 1600, I never would have gotten it. You kind of make it sound like these units are bursting into flames on a regular basis!

    1. Yikes, not my intention! But we do want to stress the importance of playing it safe. Fires are real possibilities in any roaster, from a popcorn popper to multi kg production roaster and should definitely be discussed.

      Glad to hear you’re enjoying your roasts. That is definitely the most important thing.

      Thanks for your comment John!

  4. I roast on manual, getting the unit to ~300 degrees as quickly as possible. 1lb setting, P5 until I get to that 300 degree temp, then alternating between P4 and P5. I monitor my roast visually, and when I see the beans get a slight sheen, then I start the cooling cycle. Exactly how much sheen determines whether I leave the door open (cool a little faster) or closed (beans roast/coast a little longer). I do roast a full pound at a time. What I notice is a slight variation in the color of the beans; some are a little darker than others, even though I always get single-origin coffees. Possibly due to differing bean sizes?

    1. Thanks for sharing your approach Daryl, it’s insightful to see how other folks are using their Behmor roasters. Like you point out, the Behmor makes good on their “full pound” claim. My main reason for tapering batch size is to shorten my roast time, but I realize smaller roast batches can mean multiple roast batches depending on how much coffee your household consumes! I still think a full lb too large to roast into 2nd crack for the reasons mentioned in the blog post. Can you do it? Sure. Should you? Open for debate, I guess!

      The roast shade variance you mention could be linked to process type, dry process coffees often look uneven. Pre-roast blends (like what we sell) can show some variance too, as the beans can be different densities, some with silver skin others not, and sometimes different process types.

      1. should’ve mentioned that the large batch size could lead to roast inconsistency too. You might try roasting a full lb and then 1/2 lb of the same coffee to roughly the same roast level as an experiment to see if both look the same.

  5. I bought my 1600 from you in 2011 and have never had a problem roasting 250gms to the second crack in 15-16 minutes in P1. A friend of mine bought a 1600plus and was never able to get it to that point without the overtemp error (he probably didn’t read your posts) and ended up putting it in the closet. Still, why is it that my original model seems to work so much better than the new ones for those of us who like FC+?

    1. Wow, 9 years and still running strong?! What a success story. Glad to hear it.

      I don’t think the new models are inferior, at least not in my experience. The new suite of operations and manual controls are really attractive. The AB Plus should be just as hot as you 1600 as far as I know (though I’d have to run that by Joe to be certain).

      I’d be curious to see how the two models operate side by side using the P1 setting like you do. If your friend’s roaster was overheating, they were most definitely in manual mode and not using the presets (the presets should not put the Behmor into shutdown error unless it encounters a sharp heat spike, like that of a fire for example).

      Whatever the case, glad to hear you’ve gotten nearly a decade out of your Behmor. Wise investment if I ever saw one!

  6. I have used the manual method as described here, but one additional thing to consider is the voltage at the time of roast. I live in a house at the end of a cul-de-sac and find that the voltage at the outlet can vary significantly depending on the time of day and time of the year. I do all my roasting early in the morning when electricity usage by my neighbors is usually at it lowest. I have a digital voltmeter plugged in to the outlet and always check it before roasting. I prefer to roast with a starting voltage 116V and above. 112-116 is possible but results in a slower roast, with it barely getting above 290° before the 7 minute 30 second fan kick in. 112V and below I don’t bother: the Behmor can time out before you can finish your roast. This may explain the differences some of you are seeing in performance between your otherwise identical setups.

    1. Charlie, such a great point and one I think a lot of us don’t consider. I mention checking voltage in another one of the blog posts, but figured the voltage was fairly static. I’ll check at different times of the day next week to find out how true that is for my home.

      Thanks for the comment.

  7. Thank you for the very clear instructions! I have been really frustrated with my inability to get a dark roast out of my Behmor 1600. I got an upgrade kit from you and just roasted my first batch in manual mode. It got to 2nd crack in about 8 minutes! I can’t wait to try the taste test in my morning cup tomorrow.

    1. Wow, 8 minutes?! That’s surprisingly fast! Would you mind sharing your batch size? You must be roasting using P5/100%, but are you needing to toggle between a lower heat setting to keep from hitting an overtemp error, or plowing ahead at full steam without issue? Thanks John!

  8. Very interesting video and detailed instructions. I have been utilizing the “underweighting” approach to get my roasts into the 2nd crack on my 1600+ using the pre-programmed roast cycles. I generally use about 7.5 ounces with the roaster on the 1/2 lb. setting, adding time to get to the first crack before I hit the C button, then adding more time (usually to the max) to just get into the 2nd crack. With this approach I am able to roast espresso blends on the P3 setting (which Behmor recommends) and still get to the 2nd crack. What are the pros and cons of what I am doing compared to the approach taken in the video?

    1. Hey Jerry, sounds like you’re happy with the results you’re getting with that method, which is the most important thing. Using the manual mode and pre-heat will shorten the overall roast time significantly, which may help to minimize some of the carbonization and flattening of the cup profile that can occur with long roasts. With blends though, extending the roast a little can help the different beans with varying densities find equilibrium in the drum rather than develop them at different rates. I’d be curious to hear what your overall roast time is on an average roast batch. -Dan

  9. Dan – In reply to your question, with that 6% or so underweighting, I generally just get into the 2nd crack when I add time to reach the max time setting. Depends of course on blend vs. single origin, etc. and maybe how long the beans have been stored. Do you find that older coffee (e.g. close to a year from when shipped) roasts faster or slower?

    1. Hi Jerry, older coffee will likely roast faster than when it was fresh because coffee loses moisture over time. That’s unavoidable, even with ideal storage methods. The degree to which the coffee will dry out will really depend on how the coffee was stored, but in general, the drier the coffee, the faster the roast (also more violent fracturing in 1st Crack). Good to keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you can’t get a delicious roast from a 1 year old coffee. I roast old coffee from my library of samples all the time and am continually amazed by how well they hold up when stored in a sealed bag and in a cool location (never in direct sunlight).

    1. Hi Aileen,

      I actually haven’t pulled the grate before, and just vacuum as best I can, relying on the dry burn to take care of any oils. There is no recommendation to perform a direct cleaning of this part of the roaster in the manual.

      The grate is held in place by bending the grate ends that go through the inside walls. It *should* be easy to remove by straightening those wire ends, however, the right side (when facing the roaster) is tucked behind the DC fan housing, and tough to get to. The left side is very easy to get to by removing the side panel.

      I’m going to reach out to Behmor and see if there’s some trick to an easier removal and will report back.

      -Dan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.