Gene Café CBR 1200

I love freshly roasted coffee and decided to give home roasting a try. To save money I went the popcorn popper route. My results were not especially good (as in really bad). But the clincher was when the coffee caught fire in the popper. So, I decided to get a real home coffee roaster with a decent capacity. I ended up looking at the new Gene Café CBR 1200. Here is what I found out.

What You Should Consider before Buying the Gene Café CBR 1200

When you first roast coffee at home it can be fun, even if the Arabica coffee directly from Colombia does not turn out that well. But, the newness of coffee roasting will wear off. And then you will want to have a roaster that is easy to operate, simple to maintain, and one that does a great job roasting coffee.

Home coffee roasters are for home use. Sounds a little simple but the point is that you are probably not a coffee house employee. You do not have experience roasting coffee every work day for years. You need a home coffee roaster that you as a novice can use to make good roasted coffee!

Home coffee roasters use a fair amount of electricity and, like the Gene Café CBR 1200, many require a 220 volt electric outlet. So, you may need to call the electrician before you can plug in your new coffee roaster!

You can roast a batch of coffee with the new Gene Café roaster in half an hour. Then add time for the beans to cool. This roaster is easy to operate but you do have to periodically clean and maintain it or there will be problems like smoke and fire! You may end up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for a home coffee roaster. Make sure that your love of freshly roasted coffee is such that you are willing to take the time to do the roasting.

The Gene Cafe CBR 1200 small batch coffee roaster provides an even and reliable roast with automatic roasting.

Gene Cafe CBR 1200

Gene Café CBR 1200

The Gene Cafe CBR 1200/1 kg is a great small batch coffee roaster for either home or commercial use. Gene Cafe has been making a smaller model for several years. The increase in roast size up to a kilogram makes this coffee roaster a better choice for small volume commercial use than its older brother.

The CBR 1200 uses an innovative off-axis rotation method combined with hot forced air heating. It will very evenly roast up to two pounds of green coffee beans in half an hour. A hopper is used for adding green coffee beans to the preheated roasting chamber. And roasted coffee beans are automatically released into a cooling chamber beneath the roaster. This model also has a manual override feature.

I really like the clear Pyrex roasting chamber which lets me see the coffee as it roasts. And I like its quiet operation. This makes it easier to hear the first crack and when I want a darker roast, the second crack. It has an easy to empty and easy to clean chaff collector as well.

Pros

  • Off axis rotation of roasting chamber for very even roasting
  • Pyrex roasting chamber for easy viewing of coffee while it roasts
  • Automatic roasting once time and temperature are set
  • Automatic release of roasted coffee to cooling chamber

Cons

  • Chaff collector needs to be routinely emptied or starts to emit smoke
  • English instructions poorly written by Korean manufacturer
  • Must be placed close to an outside wall in order to vent excess heat

Features & Benefits

I think that this coffee roaster is nicely designed for use both by a pro and by a beginner. Like with any new appliance, you should read the directions. And you should consider the first couple of roasting sessions to be practice runs. Here are my thoughts on the various features of the CBR 1200.

Feeding Beans from the Hopper to the Roasting Chamber

This roaster has a hopper for feeding green coffee beans into the pre-heated roasting chamber. To me it seemed a little complicated at first but it is a nice feature.

  • After pre-heating the roasting chamber, open the safety cover and rotate the hopper down over opening.
  • Then you need to press the red control knob until you see the word “insert.”
  • Set the time and roasting temperature.
  • Then press the red knob like you would a button until you see the word “insert.”
  • Now is when you rotate the little switch to the right in order to insert the beans.
The Gene Cafe CBR 1200 has a hopper for feeding beans into the roasting chamber. Turn the lever to the right to feed the beans.

Gene Cafe CBR 1200 Hopper and Hopper Lever

Finally, lift up the hopper and rotate in back in place over the roaster housing. Close the safety cover. With the time and temperature set, press the red button again until you hear a beep and roasting starts.

Once you have done this a time or two it will be easy even though at first there seem to be a lot of steps!

Pyrex Heating Chamber

The heat resistant Pyrex glass for the heating chamber is a useful feature. You get to see the beans roasting, which is always fun. But, more to the point, seeing the process helps you get the exact roast that you want. I like it.

Remember that this chamber gets very hot. Always have oven mitts available when you touch or handle the roasting chamber.

Three Dimensional Off Axis Mixing

There is nothing you have to do about this innovative feature. It is just how the roaster chamber rotates and tilts to constantly mix the beans to guarantee an even roast every time.

Automatic and Manual for both Roasting and Cooling

For a person who is new to the world of home roasting, the automatic features of the Gene Café CBR 1200 are a good idea. The roaster can be completely automatic or you can override either roasting or cooling or both. What I think works the best is to learn the settings you need for the roast that you want. Then only override when you think there is a problem. But, if you are totally new to the world of home roasting, automatic will give you a decent roast as your learn the ropes.

When you find exactly the right time and temperature for the roast you want, you simply repeat the process. The CBR 1200 remembers the time and temperature of the last roast. A better idea is to write down the times and temperatures you have used for various roasts.

Chaff Collector

The roaster removes chaff as it roasts but the chaff can accumulate in the collector and start to smoke or even catch fire. Empty and clean the chaff collector every five batches. This is not a big deal but could become a problem if you neglect it! There is a reason that the safety instructions that come with the roaster state that you should have a fire extinguisher available next to the roaster!

Cyclone Duct

Coffee roasters generate a lot of heat and this one is no different. If you are set up in a small space you will need to exhaust the hot air using the cyclone duct. Unfortunately the cyclone duct is rather short. You should not add an extension because chaff will build up in a long duct. So, you need to put this roaster right next to an outside wall to vent the heat.

The Cyclone Duct carries heat and smoke away from the Gene Cafe CBR 1200 Coffee Roaster

Gene Cafe CBR 1200 Cyclone Duct

For me this is a real downside for a home coffee roaster. Making holes in the walls of your home to exhaust the heat seems a little excessive.

The other issue in this regard is the power supply.

Korean power outlets are 220 volts and that is what the CBR 1200 needs. Having to call the electrician to rewire your kitchen is another strike against this roaster.

What Others Are Saying about the CBR 1200

The thing we see repeated in the coffee forums is that people are shocked at the price of the Gene Café CBR 1200 and give it big “thumbs down.”

From Dave in Great Britain:

There is something that just doesn’t add up. A 1kg machine costs 4,000 pounds?
The same machine but a smaller version that roasts 250-300 grams or 1/4 kg, cost 329 pounds. So buying four of these machines for 1300 pounds will give you a 1kg yield and you’re still ahead of about 2700 quid.
Does the Gene Cafe company take people for idiots?

Bean & Gone says:

I’ve been looking for a bigger roaster and liked the look of this as I already have a gene café, but the prices that I have been given as an estimate are just short of £4000. Not sure how accurate that is but it’s the same or similar to the toper cafemino 1Kg roaster.

So, What Are Some Alternatives to the Gene Café CBR 1200

This is a decent coffee roaster. It may be a bit much for home use but certainly would function well in a small coffee shop. But, this coffee roaster costs nearly $6,000 plus tax!
What other roasters can you get for that price? And, more to the point, what similar roasters are out there for a better price?

BEHMOR 1600 Plus: $369

This is a standard drum roaster as opposed to the off axis setup with the CBR 1200. It can roast up to a pound per batch which is half the CBR 1200 capacity. It is similar to the CBR 1200 in that it features pre-programmed roast profiles or can be totally manual. It has technology to suppress smoke without the need to vent to the outside. Unlike the CBR 1200 this is strictly a home coffee roaster without much use in a commercial setting.

But, the biggest difference is that the Behmor 1600 Plus is substantially easier on the pocketbook at $369 versus $6,000.

  • Roasting Capacity: CRB 1200-2 pounds, Behmor 1600 Plus-1 pound
  • Programmable or Manual Operation: Both roasters can go either way
  • Dealing with Smoke: CBR 1200 needs to vent through an outside wall, Behmor 1600 Plus has internal smoke suppression technology
  • Home Versus Commercial Use: CBR 1200-both home and commercial, Behmor 1600 Plus-strictly a home coffee roaster
  • Price: Huge difference with CRB 1200=$6,000 and Behmor 1600 Plus=$369

Take a look here if you are interested in checking out the Behmor 1600 Plus.

QUEST M3: $1,400

This coffee roaster is a miniature of a standard coffee shop roaster. It is meant for sample roasting with a maximum roast capacity of 200 grams (0.44 pound) as opposed to two pounds for the Gene Café CBR 1200. Unlike the CBR 1200, it is a completely manual machine with no advanced electronics and no programmed settings. And, unlike the CBR 1200, if you are going to roast several batches you leave it turned on as repeatedly heating up and cooling off is hard on the roaster. The Quest M3 is more suited for a professional than for someone who wants to start roasting at home. But, it costs about $4,600 less than the CBR 1200.

  • Roasting Capacity: CRB 1200-2 pounds, Quest M3-0.4 pound
  • Programmable or Manual Operation: CBR 1200 is both while Quest M3 is manual only
  • Chaff Collector: Both roasters have one and both need to routinely cleaned to prevent a fire
  • Home Versus Commercial Use: CBR 1200-both home and commercial, Quest M3-roast size is suitable for home use or for sample roasts in a commercial setting
  • Price: Big price difference with CRB 1200=$6,000 and Quest M3=$1,400

If you want to check out the Quest M3, take a look at it on the Coffee Shrub website.

HOTTOP KN-8828B DIGITAL DRUM ROASTER: $1,100

This roaster is similar to the Gene Café CBR 1200 in that it is computer controlled so you can set up and repeat favorite roasting profiles. Its capacity is smaller than the CBR 1200 as it will roast at most 2/3 pound at a time. It also has a built-in smoke suppression system unlike the CBR 1200 which needs to vent to the outside or be located in a very open space.  And, like the CBR 1200, the HOTTOP has a window so you can watch your coffee as it roasts. If price is the main issue, this roaster sells for $4,900 less than the CBR 1200.

  • Roasting Capacity: CRB 1200-2 pounds, HOTTOP KN-8828B DIGITAL-2/3 pound
  • Programmable or Manual Operation: Both roasters function both ways
  • Smoke Suppression: The HOTTOP KN-8828B DIGITAL has an internal smoke suppression system and the CBR 1200 does not
  • Home Versus Commercial Use: CBR 1200-both home and commercial, HOTTOP KN-8828B DIGITAL is a home roaster
  • Price: Substantial difference with CRB 1200=$6,000 and HOTTOP KN-8828B DIGITAL =$1,100

Take a look at the HOTTOP KN-8828B DIGITAL on Roastmasters.com.

For Small Commercial Roasting

If you are considering the Gene Café CRB 1200 for commercial use, consider also the Artisan 3-e. This commercial coffee roaster has a 3 pound maximum roast size compared to 2 pounds for the CBR. It is a fluid bed coffee roaster unlike the off axis drum roaster in a CBR 1200. Like the Gene Café CBR 1200 it has an attachment for exhausting heat and smoke. But, you need to buy your exhaust blower separately for the Artisan 3-e. And, the Artisan 3-e is much less expensive than the CBR 1200 at $3,300 versus $6,000.

  • Roasting Capacity: CRB 1200-2 pounds, Artisan 3-e=3 pounds
  • Roasting technology: CBR 1200-off axis rotating Pyrex chamber, Artisan 3-e fluid bed roaster
  • Exhausting heat and smoke: Both roasters require that you exhaust to an outside wall but with the Artisan 3-e you need to buy your blower separately
  • Home Versus Commercial Use: CBR 1200-both home and commercial, Artisan 3-e is a high capacity commercial roaster capable of roasting 18 pounds an hour
  • Price: Big difference with CRB 1200=$6,000 and Artisan 3-e =$3,350

If you would like to know more about this roaster, take a look at it on the Coffee Crafters website.

Conclusion

If you want to roast coffee at home and would like an automated system, the Gene Café CBR 1200 can do the job. It is relatively easy to set up, use and maintain. And, with the automatic settings you can set up profiles to reliably get the roast you like every time. This roaster needs to go in a large open area or be vented to the outside. And, it requires a 220 volt outlet.

The big drawback to this coffee roaster is the price. You can get a roaster with comparable features for thousands of dollars less.

Nevertheless, if you would like to learn more, visit the Gene Café website for more  for more information.

Gene Cafe CBR 1200 – Slideshare Version

Gene Café CBR 1200 – PDF




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