Making sustainable roasting more accessible

Series 2

The refined Bellwether Coffee Series 2 emission-free roaster represents the next step in the manufacturer’s journey to making coffee roasting more inclusive and sustainable.

Since launching in 2018, Bellwether Coffee has installed hundreds of their all electric, zero emissions coffee roasters across the US and Canada, won SCA’s Best New Product Award, created new, industry leading standards for farmer pay equity and saved over 3 million pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere.

Their intuitive, automated roasting system and Digital Roast Profiles (made by the company’s collective of master roasters) allow any business to source and roast coffee at the touch of a button. Now, the roaster manufacturer says it’s ready to release the newest version of their roaster. The Series 2, set to launch in February, has all the accessible features and artisan touches of the original with 50% more roasting capacity per hour, more intuitive software, drastically enhanced efficiency for even greater sustainability, and a more durable, low maintenance design.

“The Series 2 is a simply superior piece of hardware” says Arno Holschuh, Chief Coffee Officer for Bellwether, who says that even from the beginning, Bellwether set out to break the mould.

Holschuh believes that the advancements made by the Series 2, built on the legacy of the company’s earlier models, showcase important innovations in roasting technology that don’t just remake but completely redefine how a roaster can work.

“When we made the Bellwether, it was a blank-slate design process, focused on quality. We had the freedom to explore ways of achieving quality that you just do not have when you are trying to adapt existing technology,” he says. “We started by trying to design a roaster that would work well in cafes and very quickly realised that meant we had to reuse the exhaust instead of venting it. Exhaust system installation, permitting, and maintenance are really the hardest parts about standing up a roaster in a retail location.”

What they came up with is an Adaptive Closed Loop Roasting System which cleans and recycles air throughout the roast instead of drawing outside air.

A closed loop system is much more efficient and means we can do the work of a commercial roaster with the energy input of an espresso machine,” Holschuh explains.

Bellwether’s Series 2 improves on this innovation by enhancing the thermal management of the closed loop, speeding up the turnaround time between roasts, and improving overall roast control, which Holschuh says opens up new creative freedoms for people designing their own roast curves.

“We roasted thousands of batches fine-tuning three nested PID loops to maximise stability while still retaining the ability to hit very aggressive curves.” says Holschuh. The result is a level of control and consistency that even seasoned professional roasters struggle to achieve.

To make their roaster accessible to anyone, not just trained roasters, Bellwether designed a sophisticated roast algorithm which can recreate perfect roasting conditions, taking airflow, air temperature, and stored heat in the roaster’s metal into account, and repeat those results consistently over and over. The machine’s Automated Roast Control allows users to select a coffee, choose a custom Bellwether roast profile or make their own. Once the coffee is loaded into the hopper, users press a button to start the roast and then can go about the rest of their work, returning about 15 minutes later to a bucket of cooled coffee at the bottom of the roaster.

To enhance the ease of use for Series 2, Bellwether developed a cleaner, more intuitive UI. “We went back and interviewed our customers about what they needed from the roaster and came away with a design that is more compatible with using the roaster while also engaging in other tasks like preparing the next batch, bagging coffee or even helping guests and making drinks,” Holschuh says.

In advance of Series 2 the team at Bellwether have also completely redesigned their Green Coffee Marketplace. Here, users buy curated lots of green coffee selected by Bellwether’s coffee buyers for quality, taste, farmer pay, and transparency. Coffees purchased through the store come in either full bags or smaller 24lb boxes. Every coffee comes with a pack of 4 roast profiles custom made by Bellwether’s master roasters so users can roast out of the box with confidence, or make their own profiles using the software provided.

Bellwether’s revamped Marketplace also includes an industry-first shipping tool which automatically calculates and books freight shipping for pallets of coffee. “Freight shipping of full bags saves customers as much as a dollar a pound compared to shipping small boxes via a common carrier like UPS,” Holschuh said. “Previously, shipping whole bags required considerable effort and knowledge, as the freight system is not really user-friendly. You have to get and approve a quote, understand what an accessorial is, and figure out how to track that pallet.We wanted to change that, and now, we have” Holschuh says. The result is a click and ship online ordering experience for bags and pallets which Bellwether says has already revolutionized coffee buying for its high-volume customers. “There’s really nothing like it in the industry, we’re very excited about the flexibility and convenience it brings to coffee buying.”

In addition to improved efficiency, Bellwether’s Series 2 roaster also boasts radically improved maintenance intervals. “Beyond emptying the chaff can and moisture trap, you’re looking at hundreds of batches between any maintenance.” The machine has also been made much more serviceable, Holschuh explains. “Our first-gen machines achieved their performance by packing a lot into a very little space. Now, we have a design that opens up more access to commonly serviced parts.” As an example, Holschuh says it used to take ten minutes to remove the side panels from a first-gen machine, while on the Series 2, panels can be removed in just seconds.

“The refinements we made to the Series 2 were not coincidental. Even with our first roaster, we like to say it was designed in conjunction with our customers, because we did a lot of work with people in our customer base and target demographic to figure out what business problems they needed to have solved, and we’ve done that here once again.”

“It’s more reliable, easier and more intuitive to use, feels better, and quieter as well. In almost every aspect, it is a more mature and refined product and we’re very proud of what we’ve done,” Holschuh says.

“Our mission was to demonstrate that you can decarbonise an industry without sacrificing quality. To do that, we created the most controllable and consistent roaster in the world, which anyone can operate. Our new roaster is a massive step to transforming the coffee industry, making it more sustainable for the planet and accessible to all communities.”

For more information, visit www.bellwethercoffee.com

This article was first published in the January/February 2022 edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.

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