- Easy to assemble
- Big knowledge base from users all over the world
- Not too noisy
- Fully automatic, but can be controlled manually
- Lightweight construction
- Glass lids allows you to watch the roasting process
- Premium price
- User manual not easy to understand
- Can turn off sometimes due to built-in heat protector
- Hinges on glass lid are not very strong
Korean made, the roaster comes almost fully assembled and is very well packaged. The roaster comes in either red or black, and is well-designed in heat-proof pyrex and plastic.
It has a glass lid over the roasting chamber, making it easy to see the roasting process at a glance and follow the various stages of roasting.
One point to note – the hinges on the glass lid seem a bit delicate for the weight of the glass, and have to be handled carefully so they are not stressed.
The motor that powers the rotating drum is quiet and the Gene Cafe has a relatively small footprint, 16 inches length by 12 inches width, so can easily sit on any counter top, and is a lightweight construction for easy storage.
The roaster is simple to set up, which is good because the user’s manual is a direct translation from the original Korean and can be a bit hard to interpret. Thanks to popularity of this device, many video-reviews available on how to set it up and use effectively.
There are just two removable parts of the machine. First, the chaff collector attaches to one end of the roaster. Secondly, the perforated rotating drum.
A stand is supplied for the drum to hold it vertically while you fill it with beans. The drum is then inserted into the body of the machine under the glass lid, and we are ready to roast.
The chaff collector is combined with an exhaust pipe. Like all home coffee rosters, the Gene café produces some smoke while roasting, and it is best to do this under a kitchen extraction hood.
Some enterprising Gene Café customers have suggested connecting an exhaust hose to the machine so the smoke can be vented outside through a window, and you can find detailed instructions for this here.
Technology and Controls
There are two control dials. A red dial controls the temperature and also acts as an on/off switch. A blue dial controls the timing. Turning the dials changes the temperature and time read-outs on the digital display next to the dials.
The Gene Café CBR-101 uses indirect hot air technology to roast the beans, and also has an off-axis drum rotation – the drum rotates at an angle, so all the beans are exposed to heat evenly.
The dials and their uses are fairly intuitive and easy to grasp, so the instructions in the manual are only as a fall back.
It is recommended that the roaster is pre-heated to at least 350 degrees F before roasting, for about five minutes.
The maximum amount you should roast in the drum at one time is 250 grams, or half a pound. The recommendation for best roasting performance and for maximising the life of the heater is that you actually use just 80% of the maximum – 200 grams, or 6.5 ounces.
Even small batches, as low as 50 grams, can be successfully roasted since the indirect heat and off-axis rotation always roast very evenly.
- First remove the drum, and turn the red dial to 350 degrees, which you will see on the digital display. Turn the blue dial to 5 minutes, which you will also see on the display under the temperature.
- Place the drum in the holder vertically, open the end of the drum and pour in the green beans – which you have of course carefully weighed out.
- When the machine is preheated, turn off the heat by pressing the silver button in the centre of the red dial.
- You can then safely lift the glass lid and insert the drum.
- Make sure the chaff holder is attached correctly and the smoke exhaust has adequate ventilation such as your kitchen extractor hood.
- Turn the red temperature dial to 450 degrees F, and the blue timer dial to 15 minutes. The roasting process will then start.
- After a couple of minutes you will see the beans start to turn yellow and give off a little steam as the moisture in the beans starts to escape. This intensifies until you hear the ‘first crack’, which is the sound of the steam breaking through the cell structure of the beans.
- If you want a light roast, you can stop the process here by pressing the silver button in the centre of the red dial and turning the timer to zero.
- If you want to go further in roast profile, you can let the process continue until the beans become darker and a little bit oily. For a medium or ‘City’ roast you can stop the process there.
- For a darker roast, often known as an espresso or French roast, continue the process until the beans become a darker brown, and you start to hear the ‘second crack’. The roasting process will stop here, and this is usually at the the default time of 15 minutes.
- The machine then goes automatically into a cooling cycle which ends when the temperature of the beans inside the drum is down to 140 degrees F (60 C).
- The roaster then makes an audible signal to let you know you can safely remove the drum and empty out the beans.
Cleaning and Maintenance
The two removable parts should be thoroughly cleaned, once the machine has completely cooled down and is safe to handle.
Oils and debris can build up in the roasting drum, and this may affect future roasts, so it must be cleaned out every time. You can clean out the drum with a normal dishwashing brush or a sponge, just using regular dish washing liquid.
Be careful to rinse thoroughly so no detergent residue is left in the drum. Dry it carefully inside and out before storing it away.
All the flaky chaff, the white skin that comes off the beans during roasting, ends up in the chaff collector chamber which has to be emptied and cleaned after every use.
Keeping the chaff collector clean helps the Gene Cafe to operate more efficiently and reduces the amount of smoke produced during the roasting process.
There is also a wire mesh plate in the chaff collector which stops the chaff from coming out of the exhaust outlet, and this must also be removed and cleaned so it does not get blocked.
Price and Value
The Gene Café CBR-101 is towards the top end of home roasters and is definitely a premium machine, suitable not just for home use but also in a small café situation.
The materials and workmanship are of a high quality, and spare parts are easy to access through the distributors.
It is certainly good value for the price, with a well-thought out design and easy to use operation.
Tips and Tricks
- Experienced roasters will turn the timing dial to the maximum setting, and just watch the process carefully, stopping when they think the roast has reached the stage they want.
- Actually, according to many users you should stop the roast just before it reaches that stage, since even during the start of the cooling cycle the heat in the drum will continue to roast the beans for another minute or two.
- Never leave the roaster unattended, for safety reasons. A machine operating at over 450 degrees on you bench will always be a safety hazard if not watched constantly.
- When the cooling cycle has finished, dump the beans into a steel colander and shake them around to bring them down to room temperature before storing. Also, remember that coffee is at its best 3 to 5 days after roasting, but starts to deteriorate after 7 days, so never roast more than you will use in a week.