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Theta Ridge Coffee

Roasting Mishaps...
By Karl Seidel

Recently, my little roaster drum stopped rotating. Iíd heard some squeaks and groans over the previous two or three roasting sessions and I wasnít sure if I needed to replace the motor or the drum shaft. In any case, Iím not a roaster repair technician [RRT for short in this article], so I would just be guessing anyway.

I called my trusted RRT and he said to bring it in. I know that sounds funny typically you donít apply the direction of Ďbring it iní to a roaster because theyíre big things that require someone to come check it out. But in my case, with this little roaster, it was a possibility.

Since I roast on this little Toper 2-3 times each week, I needed to get the work done and rather than debate the merits, I enlisted the help of a friend and a neighbor. We loaded my 350 lb. roaster into my truck to drive to work shop, just over three hours away. The RRT didnít have time to inspect it on the spot, so he told me heíd give me a call when he could take a look. I asked what his time estimate was and he replied that it would take a couple of days.

Over the next few days, I checked in a couple of times and got the news; the motor needed to be replaced with a bigger one that would do the job better and hopefully last longer than the current one. I asked about the shaft and it indeed needed replacement but I was told I could wait on that aspect of the repairs. I asked how much all this would cost me and I was told it was going to be expensive! When I reiterated my question, he told me that I needed to speak to the person who does the invoicing because she would know.

As the week progressed, more of these conversations ensued; I needed a new stirflex motor, as the motor would have to operate in the opposite direction, so he would need to reverse the arms of the stirflex. Of course, I asked why since the arms agitated the beans when I dropped it off; they were working fine and expelling the beans Ů so he replied that he couldnít figure out the wiring. HmmmÖ Maybe he could use a wire-checker thing I thought. But at this point the machine is in his shop, so I concede he must know what heís talking about!

Another couple of days passes by and the job still isnít done. Iím worried about my roasting schedule and the mounting costs still no report from his bookkeeper. At long last, Iím faxed the bill - $2,311.00 to replace the drum motor, stirflex motor and reverse the armís orientation. This is over my budget but I agree to pay and since I never got a price quote, I feel like I should share the blame for not clarifying my budget in advance.

At this point, I made a date to pick up the machine and as it turned out, the technician had to leave town to do another job, so I had to make arrangements to get assistance to get the machine back into my truck. Unfortunately, I couldnít test the new drum because the electricity was jerry-rigged for my roaster and I couldnít test the roasting ability either because they didnít have a gas hookup.

When I got home, the roaster was noticeably noisier and a stirflex arm broke off within the first few roasting sessions. I called for help again, but after this last experience I decided not enlist my friends help or to travel three hours down the road. Now, I canít roast without moving the beans out of the cooling tray by hand and brush.

At this point Iím really limping along. I have other unresolved roaster issues so Iím just hoping I can keep roasting until I find some good help. Now, I am a trusting guy. I guess that makes me a mark for someone to take advantage of in this business but Iím wising up and starting to re-evaluate my criteria for choosing proís. Do they come by referral? What is their skill set? Have they worked on a roaster like this in the past? What is their hourly rate? When will it be done? Do they guarantee their work? Will they call if something unforeseen occurs that might raise the agreed upon estimate? In other words, can they make commitments and will they stand by them?

Given that weíre in a quickly growing industry, thereís bound to be a lot of charlatans and incompetents and the good RRTís will be expensive and probably too busy to help you. My advice? Find one of these guys and bribe him!

Tea & Coffee - August, 2007

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