Tips and Tricks for Using the Melitta AromaRoast

Melitta AromaRoast is a little time capsule … a 1980’s attempt at making home roasting something for the masses. It didn’t work well, didn’t sell well, and was a liability in the end.

About 1984 Melitta released the first fluid bed coffee roaster designed for widespread use in the U.S. market. Soon after, it was pulled from shelves and the entire production stock sold off. Presumably, Melitta did not do their patent research before releasing the machine, but this cannot be confirmed.

Since this time the roaster has appeared periodically in cut-out bins and discount stores for prices ranging from $30 down to $10! The units appear regularly on eBay for $30 – $40 or whatever someone is willing to pay.

We don’t offer the Melitta Aromaroast or know where you can get one, but since there are so many out there, and I have quite a few myself, it seems like good “home roaster citizenship” to discuss the positives and negatives of the roaster.

Melitta AromaRoast Coffee Roaster from 1984
Melitta AromaRoast Coffee Roaster from 1984

What it has:

  • A fluid bed roasting system consistence of a fan producing airflow passing through a heating coil.
  • A chaff collector top, that works sorta okay.
  • An on-off switch. The undocumented feature (not mentioned in the accompanying booklet) is that the switch also regulates airflow …from fast to slow.
  • A package of 15 year old coffee
  • A very very low price tag.

What it lacks:

  • A cooling cycle
  • Enough power
  • The ability to see the roast (without removing the chaff collector, that is)

This roaster sometimes functions out of the box, but more often than not is bakes the coffee in an incredibly long roast cycle. Fluid bed roasts should conclude within 8-10 minutes at most. Ideally, it would be 4 minutes to first crack, 7 minutes to second. Faster can be okay too… it depends. The unaltered Melitta roasts coffee for 15 – 40 minutes. Truly, this roaster requires some fiddling to get it to do an adequate job, and you may be better off roasting with a hot air popcorn popper like the West Bend Poppery II.

So the trick here is to get the coffee to roast faster. How can this be done:

  • PRE-HEAT – You really must pre-heat this roaster for 3 minutes, without coffee in the chamber.
  • The On-Off Slider switch for the machine also controls air flow. Start your roast with the slider at higher air flow to move the coffee and get an even warm up of the coffee. That means having the slider all the way to the left, right near the Off setting.
  • After 4 minutes or so, slide the switch toward the right, toward the side that reads Roast. This lowers the air flow, but if your coffee has turned light brown at this point it has lost weight, and will continue to rotate for an even roast. The lower air flow allows the roast to retain more heat without blowing it out of the roaster, and will let you get to first crack, hopefully around 8 minutes.

Other tips to try:

  • More juice! A fellow used the roaster in Papua New Guinea where current is 220 v running it off a converter. Because he had a converter that had variable voltage control, he could run it at about 140 v (had to also replace an internal fuse to handle this) and had roast times in the 5 minute range
  • Hotter input air temperature: If you live in Arizona this may come naturally. But you can also place the roaster in a bucket or box that baffles the hot air leaving the roaster, and recirculates it into the air intakes at the bottom of the roaster. Roasting in colder weather will be very difficult due to this. You can also use some foil to block some of the exit air flow out of the top, raising the roast chamber temperature.
  • Roast more coffee: more coffee helps trap heat in the roast chamber. 70 Grams is ideal in my experience. Problem: then coffee won’t agitate right, and will scorch. Some people shake the roaster the coffee inside with a wood spoon. Problem: then you have the chaff collector off and are losing heat.

The fact is, some Aromaroasts run hotter than others. This is the case with John Wanninger, Aromaroast expert and owner of 2 roasters …one hotter, one colder. Here are some of his notes about roasting in cooler weather:

  • Trial #1 (42 degF) in square plastic rubbermaid 2 gallon pail Used 1/2 c of Kenya Gaturiri for each roast Colder roaster: 18min (baked beans, no life in these babies ) Warmer Roaster: 9 min to full city (ok, somewhat uneven roast, acidity sacrificed, good body and complexity)
  • Trial #2 (40deg F) Roaster sits atop a roll of duct tape laid flat in 5gal pail. During the trial I occasionally placed a round perforated pizza pan partly over the top to help retain heat. Used 1/3 c of Mexican Chiapas Colder Roaster: Preheated by running empty for 2-1/2 minutes. First crack at 4-1/2 min. Just started 2nd crack at 7 min.;Terminated roast. Results : Very good results*.

I couldn’t compare results directly to my Poppery I (West Bend Popcorn Popper) roasts, but this roast produces slightly muted acidity, possibly more complexity and mouthfeel, possibly a slight loss in some flavor details, if that makes sense . (* I also get very good results with the Poppery I with this and most other coffees.)

A few recommendations:

  • 1) 1/3 cup is about the max you can roast. 70 grams is the best roast weight for me. Any more requires a lot of stirring and makes for an uneven roast. Even with 1/3 c, stirring is usually required in the first 1 or 2 minutes.
  • 2) Air Control: I run with full airflow until the beans can mix by air alone. Sometimes tilting the unit very slightly helps mixing. After that point I keep choking down the airflow as much as I can (sliding the switch to the right) without losing the mixing action.
  • 3) Supplemental Heat: The use of recirculated warm air is greatly recommended to keep temperatures high enough for proper roasting. Care must be exercised when using supplemental heat, as to not overheat the roaster. There is a thermal fuse that may open when/if this happens.
  • 4) Using the Poppery I is much easier and lets you roast twice as much coffee at a time.
  • 5) The Melitta chaff collector works great on top of a chimney tube on a Poppery I or II. The chimney tube allows use of an adjustable butterfly throttle plate for really cold weather roasting even without air recirculation.

I hope this helps. Please email me if you have tips to add. But I can’t answer any questions about this machine since I don’t really use them …I have roasters that work without all the fussin’!

This article is from the year 2000, and updated 2016

-Tom

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