Roasting Coffee Light in the Behmor Coffee Roaster

A short guide to roasting coffee light in the Behmor coffee roaster to help you get the most out of our “light and bright” coffees

Somehow coffees that involve the least amount of time in the roaster are often the trickiest to roast. I’m talking about those with a roast recommendation in the City-City+ range, where the more delicate flavor compounds and bright cup characteristics are found. This includes coffee from Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania to name a few, as well as any Gesha or Parainema variety we sell.

Thankfully, it’s not all that hard to achieve a nice light roast in any Behmor model (1600 through 2000 AB) with a little preparation, and of course, the proper roast setting. The basics we cover in this light roast guide will help keep you from roasting out the delicate flavor traits, heightening cup characteristics like acidity and florals with ease.

(jump to our light roast instructions and video)

Behmor 2000AB Plus -Sweet-Maria's
The latest Behmor coffee roaster model, the 2000AB Plus

Before we get to the roasting, we’ll first answer some basic questions you might have about light roasted coffee.

What do we mean by “light roast”?

When we talk about “light roasts”, we’re generally referring to roasts that are pulled either during, or just beyond the 1st crack stage. These roasts should see a weight loss roughly 11-13% of the green coffee’s moisture content. So if you’re roasting 100 grams of coffee, you should shoot for a roast yield of around 87-89 grams. How you reach those benchmarks will depend on the roaster you’re using.

What coffees are best when roasted light?

The coffee origins most likely to see a light roast recommendation are in East Africa; Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania are some of the more common ones you’ll find on our offer list. But we also recommend light roasts for other coffees where lighter development helps to highlight the volatile aromatic compounds that affect the coffee’s flavor. These include specific coffee varieties often found in Latin America like Gesha, Parainema, Maracaturra, and Pacamara.

Is the first audible snap I hear the beginning of 1st Crack?

That really depends on the coffee. Some coffees will let off a couple ‘pops’ before and after the body of the 1st Crack roast stage. We tend to see this the most in coffees where density or bean size vary, such as one of our blends, or natural process coffees. I usually wait to tag the beginning of 1st Crack until I hear a few successive snaps. Similarly, there are always a few latent snaps at the finish, so I mark the end when the rolling snaps have mostly died down.

Our Roasted Coffee Color Card, a handy reference tool for measuring roast levels with images and temperatures
Our Roasted Coffee Color Card, a handy reference tool for measuring roast levels with images and temperatures.

What does a light roast look like?

Roasting to our lightest City recommendation will almost certainly ensure a slightly mottled surface texture. The color can also be a little uneven when roasted light, which is why checking weight loss is helpful in judging roast degree. Check out the Roasted Coffee Color Card we created. It’s an inexpensive visual tool for matching up and identifying roast level.

What happens if I roast these coffees too dark?

While this post is specifically about bringing out high tones and top notes, a lot of our coffees show well at a pretty wide roast range. You might not fully capture cup characteristics like acidity, and florals. Be sure to check our roast recommendations in each review.


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 most important factors to consider. Two coffees roasted to 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 the acidity level.

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. That is why we recommend using the hottest setting when roasting light, and trimming your batch size to a half pound or less (I usually keep my roasts to 150-250 grams).

Yes, you can physically roast more coffee. But not without sacrificing precious minutes, and potentially, cup complexity.

Our basic guide to roasting coffee light in the Behmor:

  • Stick with a roast batch size between 150-250 grams in order to reach 1st Crack in a relatively short amount of time.
  • Select the 1 LB setting to capitalize on the longer roast time and hit <Start>.
  • Enter manual mode by selecting <P5> after starting your roast and remain on <P5>, the hottest power setting (100%).
  • On the Behmor 1600 Plus, I have to watch my roaster temp sensor <B> in order to avoid triggering the high temp error and inevitable shutdown. This occurs at 325F on my Behmor, but the range seems to be 325F to 335F 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 or 1600 with the upgraded panel. Neither of mine reach the high temp threshold, even after pre-heating the roaster (but it is possible depending on your machine, so stay alert once you pass 300F).
  • To achieve a City roast level, take the roast a full minute into 1st Crack and then hit the cool button.
  • After one full minute, I open the door to cool my batch more quickly. Chaff will fly around the room, so this is entirely up to you! – you can also use an auxiliary cooling method like this one if you feel adventurous.

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

This video was made using the 1600 Plus model, where there is a real danger in hitting the overtemp shutdown. You shouldn’t have that issue on a 2000 model, or a roaster with an upgraded panel, but you should still watch the roast chamber temperature just in case.

Answers to frequently asked questions we get about following this tutorial:

Can I get a nice light roast coffee using the Behmor’s preset functions?

You can! P1 is the best preset option for roasting light in all of the Behmor models. Our tests have shown that the P1 preset slightly lags behind P5 in manual mode, but still does the trick. But you also can’t drop your heat input when using the pre-set, which is something to consider.

What if I don’t start the cooling stage in my Behmor until the end of 1st Crack?

That’s fine, but you’ll be looking at more of a City+ roast level. This is still technically “light” by most roasting standards, but something to consider when trying to match up with cupping notes based that are based on a particular roast level.

Should I really start the cooling cycle before 1st crack has finished?

In the Behmor, yes! When you hit the “Cool” button, the Behmor’s cooling cycle engages, but the roast continues to develop while the hot chamber slowly cools (we call this “roast coast”). Because of this, I preemptively stop the roast about 1 full minute into the 1st Crack stage if I’m shooting for City roast level.

City roast of Tanzania Tarime Town shows mottled surface texture, and some of the chaff still intact.
A City roast of Tanzania Tarime Town shows a mottled surface texture, and some of the chaff still intact.

Will roasting more than 250 grams of coffee really make that much of a difference?

You can certainly roast more coffee if that’s suits your needs. But the bigger the batch size, the longer your roast time will be. We found a 2+ minute difference in overall roast time when roasting 150 and 250 gram batches of the same coffee!

How long should it take me to reach first crack following these settings?

Roast development time will vary depending on variables like batch size, the coffee’s moisture content, and density. But generally, you should expect to reach first crack in 10 minutes or less with 1/2 lb. of coffee. My 150-200g batches of washed Ethiopia’s usually hit 1st Crack at around the 8-9 minute mark.

Will upgrading the Behmor control panel help improve my roasts?

Upgrading the Behmor control panel won’t make your roaster run hotter, but it will allow you to manually adjust the power at the heating coils during the roast cycle. The benefit of manual heat adjustments when roasting light is that you can pull back on the heat as you enter 1st Crack, which can help keep the roast from getting away from you. This approach can be particularly useful for lower density coffees, or coffee with a lower moisture content. And if you’re upgrading the panel on the older 1600/1600 Plus models, you shouldn’t have to worry so much about hitting the over-temp shutdown feature!

What if I prefer dark roasted coffee?!

That’s your prerogative! But in that case, you should really check out this blog post instead.

View out our current selection of Light and Bright coffees:

See the latest Behmor 2000 AB Plus

Peruse our Behmor Resource Page where we have lots of other content!

21 Responses

  1. I appreciate your info on preheating the Behmor. I use P-1 until I get temp up to 150 then place drum and chaff try into roaster.But now that I read this article I will bump the temp up to 200 before I stop roaster to load drum.I noticed that roast times are cut down when you employ preheating.Glad I took time to read this article.Thanks for info.

    1. That’s exactly right, pre-heating = shorter roast time. Not by much, but it does make a difference. I think the biggest question is if it makes a large enough difference that you want to add the extra few minutes to your roasting regimen, and that’s a question for each individual.

      200 is safe, and even a little hotter. I haven’t toyed around with the top end of the “250” max number, but have safely brought mine up to 240 without the safety set point kicking in. I wouldn’t go too far above this though since the burners will continue to radiate heat after you stop the pre-heat cycle and load your roast batch.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Dan

  2. I have used this method and discovered that it tended to create a peculiar “whang” in the dry process coffees I roasted. I have no idea how to describe the smell or taste but it was off-putting. However, the strange smell and taste tended to dissipate over about 5 days, leaving the coffee much more pleasant. I tried this method hoping to regain the wonderful flavors I used to be able to get from Sulawesi coffee using my old Nesco roaster before it died. Since using my Behmor 1600 plus I haven’t been able to achieve that same wonderful flavor profile in Sulawesi coffee. I prefer lighter roasts and will keep experimenting.

    1. Hey Stacy, thanks for sharing your experience trying to replicate the Sulawesi cup flavors. One thing that came to mind reading this is that so much of the flavor depends on the particular coffee. Even coffee from the same farm or washing station can taste wildly different from one year to the next. I know you probably realize that, but just worth saying out loud as I have also experienced that disappointment when a specific coffee doesn’t quite meet my expectations. But if it is roast related, it would be good to try and track down what’s different between the two (outside of the obvious that one is air roasted, the other one drum). I, too, prefer lighter roasts, mainly because I’m trying to highlight acidity. Washed Sulawesi’s can have really nice acidity, and I think a faster roast in the Behmor would achieve this.

      Even though a dry process Ethiopia is a very different coffee in terms of processing and flavor, I would also try to shorten roast time by trimming the batch size to around 200-250 grams, pre-heating the roaster, and using the hottest heat setting in manual mode. A long roast, even when stopped at City level, is going to bake out some of the sweetness and fruited complexity.

      Apologies if you already know all of this! I’m just trying to think of what could be restraining that cup profile. I’m glad to hear the cup settles in with rest at least.

      Best

      -Dan

  3. First of all, thank you for this informative article. I look forward to trying your suggestions.

    I have a question about one of your responses having to do with roasting dry processed coffees. I feel like I have heard so many conflicting ideas, so I am trying to understand. One credible roaster described how they roast a Panama dry processed coffee by using high heat until the coffee completes the drying phase, but once it yellows, to significantly drop the heat so that it brings out the sweetness. Then, once first crack begins, drop heat even more with a very low rate of rise to extend first crack and further develop sweetness.

    I am wondering if there is any common agreement in the coffee roasting world about getting the best out of dry processed coffees. When they roast well, they are my favorite, but I have to admit, my results have been inconsistent in the Behmor. How much of it depends on where they are from? Is there one method that will give me what I want most often?

    Thanks!

    1. Hey there Aaron,

      Thanks for submitting your question about roasting dry process coffee. My quick answer is, I don’t think there’s a “one size fits all” approach to roasting DP, unless we’re talking about it in terms of safety. But for highlighting flavors, you can take a few different paths.

      I agree with the general idea that a slower roast profile will highlight sweetness, though too long will bake it out altogether. There’s a bit of a balancing act here, and finding that outer threshold of what is “too long” will depend on the person to a large degree. For me, I try to complete my roasts in 13 min or less. I like the cup complexity and acidity that come with a faster roast, and so my go-to roast profile is manual mode, maximum heat all the way up until 1st Crack. I try to slow things down a bit right around or at 1st C in order to keep the coffee from taking off once it becomes exothermic. The degree to which I slow it down will depend on if it’s a high grown, dense coffee or not. That speaks to your correct assumption that coffee origin (maybe more specifically, altitude) plays some role in roast treatment.

      I would suggest trying a fairly simple roast profile and adjust as needed to try and get the cup you’re after. If you try the longer approach that you mentioned and the coffee lacks dimension, go at it with higher heat all the way up until 1st C, then drop to P3 or P4 for the finish and see if that gets you closer. If you’re roasts are still taking 15+ minutes to finish, maybe scale back batch size to speed things up even more.

      I hope this helps get you closer to a sort of “base profile” that you can start with. I have to admit, as versatile as the Behmor is, my changes from one coffee to the next are pretty minimal, and most get the same treatment.

      Shoot over any other questions you might have Aaron.

      -Dan

  4. Dan, thanks for the advice, and for Aaron’s question and your response. I think your method of dropping to P3 or P4 at about first crack is a great idea for me to try. First, I do have to say that I was ordering the Sulawesi from a different provider from Sweet Maria’s so that may actually be the simple reason. I always roast half pound batches as I discovered early on that the behmor produces very inconsistent colors with a full pound in the drum. If I can catch Sulawesi in stock with Sweet Maria’s I will definitely grab some and give it another go. I’ve always been confused as to why the Behmor has these different pre-programmed roast profiles if they aren’t really needed. Is there a circumstance that P3 should be used?

    1. Hey Stacy,

      Dropping the temp will help keep your roast from taking off when you hit 1st Crack. It’s not totally necessary, but the high heat of P5 can lead to going darker than you intend once the beans start to fracture and release heat. And your roast will continue to develop at the beginning of the cooling cycle (if you cool in the chamber), lowering the heat input will help mitigate that to some degree.

      The preset profiles are useless for my needs as well, but I think there are a lot of people who would prefer the automation than having to fuss with manual controls. They’re also an artifact of the original model, and I think it’s nice to have that consistent across the different iterations. But I too only roast in manual mode.

      Back to Sulawesi, the last coffee we had was a wet hulled process, which will be completely different than any of the wet process/washed Sulawesi’s we’ve carried. The latter will be the ‘light and bright’ type, whereas wet hulled is going to have more of an earthy flavor profile like your typical Sumatra. We happen to have a container from Indonesia landing any day now and hope to have our first Sulawesi listed at the end of the month, or beginning of March. It’s tough to estimate the turnaround from the port with all the freight congestion and labor shortages at the moment.

      If you’re interested in specifics, you can check out the list of incoming coffees here.

      Thanks again for your comments Stacy! Happy to try and help you dial in a Behmor profile that works for you.

      Best,
      Dan

  5. Thanks for this post! It was super helpful. I tried to follow the process but a few minutes into it when the exhaust fan kicked on, it dropped the temperature all the way down to 260 degrees and it struggled to get back up to temperature. I gave it a few minutes but it wouldn’t budge past 285 and it was producing a ton of smoke and set off my smoke alarms (in the garage with the door open). Is there something I’m doing wrong/need to change with my technique? I’m not sure why the temperature dropped so drastically and I’m wondering if that’s normal.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Erika!

      I’ll start by saying that I wrote this post using an unmodified 1600 Plus, and the temperature readings do seem to differ with the faster refresh that the upgrade panel/processor offers. Even so, now that I’m using an upgraded machine that is consistent with the new 2000 AB Plus, my times/benchmarks are in line with what’s in the post, even if my temperature readings are not.

      The Behmor exhaust fan should kick in at 7 minutes 30 seconds into the roast, if I’m not mistaken. The temperature does drop quite a bit at this point as the exhaust is pulling hot air from the roasting chamber. That said, I don’t think the chamber probe readings are accurate once it kicks in and can’t exactly be trusted for accuracy (they’re already inaccurate due to proximity to the burners, but I still think serve as a useful tool for tracking progress….until the fan kicks in!).

      Before upgrading my Behmor, I had to monitor the chamber temp so that I didn’t tip the 320-330 safety feature that will shut down the roast cycle. I don’t to have that problem with the upgraded roaster since my readings never seem to break 315F. After talking with Joe Behmor about this, I’m convinced my roaster still roasts just as hot, but that the readings are lower with the upgraded panel and processor. Hope that makes sense.

      Are you able to hit first crack in the same time frame listed in my blog post using the same batch size?

      Thanks again for your comment. It’s a reminder that it needs updating!

  6. Your preferred method for light roasts does not mention preheating the roaster. Is that right – no preheating for light roasts?

    1. Personally, I haven’t found it necessary, since I seem to hit the City roast with a good range of times from 10:00 to 12:00 depending on the batch size and coffee. If I was doing a 1 Lb batch I would preheat but normally I am doing 1/2 Lb. If you find the roast too slow to first crack, then definitely do some preheating. Mostly we have used preheating as a way to get advance the roast and hit darker roast levels in the end…

  7. Thanks Dan! Your excellent and informative video educated me on the things an experienced roaster looks for to achieve the roast desired. Many thanks. I get excellent roasts on my Behmor but would like to work on my consistency and ability to extract wonderful cup characteristics. This gives me several fun things to try. : D I used to roast 1/2 lb batches usually on p3, c and stop when the cracking gets going well. I’ve started roasting 1 lb batches since I give a good bit to friends who like it (maybe they just like free coffee! Ha ha!) but I have noticed the 1/2 lb roasts were more exciting and flavorful. Occasionally I would hit the lottery on a half pounder and get a great chocolatey or intensely flavored roast that was wonderful though the larger batches are good but not usually excellent. I do dislike over roasted coffee that tastes burnt, flat and ‘rustic’ which I used to get at some ‘famous’ coffee bars or in commercial store brands which is why I roast my own. Can’t wait to try manual on lighter batches!

    1. Hi Frank,

      Glad to hear you found this post info useful! I love roasting in the Behmor, partly because you have the choice of making the process as simple, or as complex as you want it to be. Personally, I’m all about ease, and find that in manual mode once you get the hang of it. A note on batch size, I know roasting a full pound serves the need of having that extra coffee for friends, but the trade off is longer roast times, which will flatten out the cup. I’m not saying don’t roast a full pound, but maybe it’s better suited for more basic, bittersweet coffees, rather than your bright and fruited Ethiopia or Kenya. Also, I’d steer clear of roasting a full pound of dry process, or even honey process for that matter, as the volume of chaff produced can be a fire hazard.

      Happy roasting!

      Dan

    1. Hi Carlos, good question.

      Engaging the faster drum speed is more a means of shortening the roast time. While the Behmor is probably my favorite home roaster in this price point, I personally find myself trying to shorten my roast time in order to highlight a more vibrant cup profile. The faster drum speed keeps the coffee higher in the drum, and closer to the heating elements, which shaves a little off the overall roast time.

      I hope this helps answer your question!

      Best,
      Dan Wood

  8. Hello everyone, loving this roaster but would love to know if there is a mod anywhere to connect to an external device to plot temperature-time? Thank you for the help.

    1. A lot of people have connected roasters to a laptop via various usb or bluetooth devices, that in turn connect to a thermal probe. The behmor is a little tricky because exactly where to put that probe for best temperature measurement is not easy to to figure out. Normally you want a probe to go right into the mass of coffee as it roasts. But how to get that into the coffee in a behmor is tricky. @Dan have any added comments ?

    2. Hi Mauro, like Tom said, it’s tricky to get a probe into the Behmor without modification. Being that the wire is quite small in diameter, you can simply run a probe through the front door, but they tend to move around. I suppose you could secure it with some heat resistant tape, but I’ve not tried that myself (I think it’s time I did!).

      I inserted rigid probes through the side panel, just behind the drum, near the burners. The location turned out to be way too close to the burners, with super high readings. It was OK for things like establishing baselines, understanding how airflow affects temp, etc. But I personally did not find the use to be all that practical. Especially given the internal sensor that you can now read on the LED.

      But I understand your desire to log roasts for comparison and learning. I would recommend starting with an inexpensive thermocouple that has a K type connector so you can use something like Phidget as an interface. We sell this rigid stainless option that shouldn’t be too hard to secure on the bottom or side of the roasting chamber with high heat tape, or even this less expensive flexible one. I’m sure there’s a few ways to go about this, but good to keep in mind that your mileage will vary based on placement and approach.

      Here’s a link to a post where I show my thermocouple-modded Behmors if you’re interested. FWIW, I just removed them both because it’s just not a great location!

      Hope this is helpful. Please reply here with any other questions. And please let us know if you get this set up!

      Happy roasting,
      Dan

      I’m going to look into situating the rigid one in my Behmnor tomorrow.

    3. FWIW, I purchased a used Behmor from a guy who bought it for roasting cacao beans. Apparently, roasting cacao is a bit trickier than coffee because you don’t have as many cues for tracking the roast (e.g., cracks), so he modified the roaster by drilling a hole through the left side of the unit at the center point of where the drum axel turns, and (separately) a hole of the same diameter into the axel of the drum. Once you mount the loaded drum, you can stick a standard inexpensive thermocouple (8″ or so) through the side of the unit and into the center of the turning drum. It’s a little clumsy because the thermocouple effectively turns into an axel as the drum is now spinning around it (the drilled holes were not *that* precise, and the axel cradle on the left side bends pretty easily, so the center of the axel can move around a little), but the modification seems to work really well. It’s been a huge help to me as I learned to roast on the Behmor, and I’ve pretty much dialed in a few different roast objectives based on these temps. My roaster is located in my unheated shop, so the ambient temp varies with the season (meaning roast times can vary a lot since I don’t like to charge or preheat). I’ve pretty much stopped looking at the internal chamber & exhaust sensors, which I find mostly useless, except when I’m roasting a very small batch and I’m worried about tripping the safety threshold. I haven’t hooked it up to a laptop yet, but I have certainly thought about it!
      I wouldn’t *recommend* you drill holes in your expensive roaster, but if you’re into tinkering and are confident with tool use, it’s pretty nice. I’m certainly glad that mine was already modified when I bought it, and if I were to buy another unmodified or new Behmor, I’d probably do it to the new one.

    4. I agree that sounds like a really effective modification … if you can pull it off. There are other drum roasters that are basically closed systems that turn on a hollow center shaft, and the thermal probe into the coffee (or cocoa mass) goes into the drum through that center axis. Its pretty much the only place you could put it! I havent tried it, or seen it in person, but it really makes sense. Thanks for adding this comment!

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