So, you wanna start home roasting. But, which roaster is the best one to get? There’s a ton of written material on this subject, so here’s my contribution.
The Short Version
For those of you with short attention spans, get a FreshRoast SR500. It produces excellent results, allows you to experiment some typical roaster variables (fan and heat) and won’t break the bank. Why not the SR700? Well, as much as I have fun with it, the computer control is really not great for a beginner. A manual roaster will let you actually experience the roast better and you’ll learn more.
The long version
What follows is my opinion after having tried most of these things over the last 5 years. Most people will recommend starting out with a Westbend Poppery popcorn maker from eBay. Yes, this will work, and can produce good results. But, to truly get the most out of it, you will need to modify it. And, there’s an impressive set of mods you can make if you are so inclined. But, and the end, you will basically have built an SR500. But, hey, if you like building things, and you have the skills, go for it.
You could even start off with a cast iron skillet, or a wok, or even your current toaster oven. If you have a toaster oven with a convection setting, you can easily roast 1/2lb loads and do a pretty decent job. But, you will likely outgrow these more primitive tools and methods VERY quickly. Having a roaster that can still be of service after you upgrade is going to be a nice thing.
What about a Behmor? The Behmor 1600+ is a great roaster – for the price it really is. But, there’s significant quirks and short-comings that make it really aggravating for beginners (just Google for Err 7 and read about all the dumped roasts due to this “feature” – it’s an insurance this for the company.) Also, while it will in fact roast a full pound, I find the sweet spot is 1/2lb, and with the cooling cycle, you can actually roast a full pound in 4 batches in the SR500 in almost the same amount of time.
There are of course other options. But, for ease of use, ability to actually learn about roast mechanics, and quality of the result, if I had to do it over again, I would start with the FreshRoast SR500. And, the bonus is that it is such a capable roaster, when/if you upgrade to something larger, you can still use the SR500 as your sample roaster (there are some commercial roasters that actually do this).