Test drive: IKAWA Pro sample roaster
I came across the IKAWA Pro when looking for something to roast bean samples. The UK-based website announced a starting price of 850 pounds and the promo video presented an enticing package. After a web enquiry and some emails, Tim Williams, of Bureaux Collective in Melbourne, sent a curvy black machine my way.
But...before we consider the burning question of, 'How good is it?', let's consider the important question of, 'What are your needs?'
How much coffee will you roast at a time? How often will you vary your roasts? How much roast data do you plan to analyse? What is your budget? How important are aesthetics and tidiness?
Personally, I wanted to roast 100 grams or so to test different profiles and pre-blends. I was looking for plenty of 'tweakability', although I may only do a handful of roasts per month. Roast data analysis is important to me, my budget was pretty tight and, at this stage, aesthetics were not a high priority.
So, how did it do?
First impression was of a very compact, well constructed and stylish piece of equipment. From there, all aspects of the experience - the travel case, app, instruction booklet, roasting process and clean-up - were straight forward and neat. In summary, the process supports a confidence that is very edifying. I even had my chef do a roast and she loved it!
The app tracks roast progress and calculates Development Time Ratio in real time. It allows for first and second crack to be marked. I was pleasantly surprised to find that roast times were 6 - 9 minutes and approaching the times of some production roasts.
It's weaknesses are only the flip-side of its strengths. Compact size and portability means a 60g limit to batch size. Build quality and seamless app integration means a $Aus 5,200 price tag for the commercial version. A single temperature measurement in the thick of the action means a somewhat precarious probe position.
I do hope that future updates of the app allow for easier creation of new roast profiles. The version I tested could only do a 'Save as' using an existing profile.
With only a few more roasts under my belt, the IKAWA could become an extremely useful tool. The screen shot above shows that we marked first crack too early. Rookie mistake! And one that's easily rectified.
The IKAWA's target market is green bean traders and it appears to be a virtually flawless piece of kit for this purpose. The ability to share roasts online is a rare and exciting capability.
It's abilities may be overkill for me at the moment but, once I can fit it in a budget, I can't see why I wouldn't purchase one. It opens up opportunities for roasting in different locations for different audiences.
If you're looking for something to roast at home for Sunday brunch this might not be the device for you as 50g of roasted coffee doesn't go very far. Having said that, in gleaming white and a fraction of the price of the commercial package, I expect the domestic version will adorn the kitchens of many coffee obsessives in years to come.
The temperature probe location is different in the two versions of the IKAWA. This makes the domestic version safer and more rugged, but less precise.