November 3, 2016

Smoking Hot: Why Is The Korean Home Roasting Scene Taking Off?


Between 2007 and 2013, the Korean coffee market grew by nearly 300%, and the number of coffee shops grew by 680% (according to World Coffee Leaders Forum).

With such astounding rates of growth, it’s no wonder the coffee community is looking towards this East Asian country. Next week, it will host Cafe Show and the World Coffee Leaders Forum 2016; next year, it will hold the World Barista Championship.

Yet with all this focus on coffee consumption, the growth in home roasting has gone largely unnoticed. And that, too, is booming.

We spoke to Beom Kyu Heo, CEO of Waveon Coffee, 2015-2016 Espresso Italiano Championship, Korea Official Sensory Judge, CQI Q-grader, and Trainer at the International Institute of Coffee Tasters. He told us about the growth of this sector, what the rest of the world can learn from it, and his tips for home roasters.

SEE ALSO: The S-Curve Roast Profile: Exploring Roasting Basics

korean cafe

A Korean café. Credit: Seoul Café Show

Hi Beom, can you tell us about Korea’s home roasting community?

We live in an IT nation nowadays, and there are many active Korean internet communities. This is an important part of our home roasting scene.

The community “Coffee Naru” on the website Naver has been growing since 2010. Today, it has 13,000 members. The members meet up in person, they talk about roasting profiles, and they share information about green beans. They upload pictures of their roasted coffee and express their love of it.

Another aspect is competitions. In June 2016, the first Dr. Mahn Handy Roaster Championship was hosted in Seoul. Competitors had to roast with their Dr. Mahn Handy Roaster [a stainless steel ‘pan’ designed specifically for coffee roasting, with users supplying their own heat source]. Approximately 600 people took part. This showed us how much home roasting has grown in Korea.

The Dr. Mahn Handy Roaster

The Dr. Mahn Handy Roaster. Credit: jeong275

How accessible is home roasting in Korea?

The trend of roaster-cafés really took off in Korea, and ever since then people have been interested in roasting. At that time, many companies developed small batch roasters to suit the size of a roastery-cafe in Korea. And these roasters naturally work for home roasting too.

Easyster Coffee Roaster is one well-known roaster that is also made in Korea. This company started with a 300g and 500g roaster, but now they also offer a 1.8kg roaster.

Behmor are releasing a Korea-specific roaster which will be more affordable than many others. It has smoke suppression and automatic controls, which will be convenient for beginners and hobbyists, and is approximately the size of a toaster oven.

Besides that, Kaldi Coffee Roaster is one of the earliest coffee roasters in Korea. It’s a compact machine that comes with either a manual or a motor-powered roaster. You also have the electric-powered Genecafe and the Dr Mahn Handy Roaster I mentioned before. The J3 two-way coffee roaster can be operated with only one button, making it convenient.

These small machines make it very easy for home roasters to experiment with roasting and new profiles. For example, with the Behmor there are set roast profiles on the Behmor app, and with the Dr Mahn you can see the coffee as it roasts.

The online community is also useful for providing feedback and advice.

The Behmor coffee roaster in action.

The Behmor coffee roaster in action. Credit: Plague Coffee Roasters

How does home roasting fit into Korea’s increasingly large specialty coffee industry?

The growing home roasting scene has naturally led to an increased interest in green beans, and how the quality of both the green beans and the roaster affects the coffee. Home roasters are sharing more information on green beans and on importers. Also, more and more people are buying their green beans from specialist importers. All of this leads to greater interest in the origin of the beans, the processing methods, and more.

A Brazilian and a Colombian single origin

A Brazilian and a Colombian single origin purchased by a Korea roaster. Credit: _bycomet

What’s the future of home roasting in Korea?

The future of Korean home roasting is bright. We are thriving and will continue to do so. However, we need to overcome one issue.

Many Koreans live in multiplex housing, such as apartment blocks. This means that home roasting can cause problems, especially for those with upstairs neighbours, because roasting normally comes with chaff, dark smoke, and a strong smell. It’s the home roasters who can overcome this limitation that will lead the industry in Korea. “Closed” roasters, like the Behmor, can produce less smoke than some of the other options, but it’s still a concern.

Korean barista

This Korean barista roasts on his balcony. Credit: barista_us

What are some practical tips for Korean home roasters?

A home roaster will normally be compact, and so it can be affected by the external temperature. This can lead to reduced temperatures. Make the to put your home roaster in an area with as consistent a temperature as possible to regulate this.

Second, use your heat source effectively. This is not a problem for contained roasters, such as the Behmor roaster, but it is a problem for stovetop roasters. The slightest gap or hole can allow heat source to escape. Since home roasters are so small, this can have a major impact.

Third, be careful of the smoke. Every roaster will blow up some smoke, but too much can be dangerous.

Can the rest of the world learn from Korea’s home roasting scene?

The first Dr. Mahn Handy Roaster Championship showed how the home roasting scene can progress. It enhanced the public’s interest in coffee, as well as potential new home roaster’s. It would be great to see more of this kind of competition throughout the world.

Is there anything at Cafe Show that you would recommend home roasters to look out for?

Many home roasting companies will be exhibiting at Café Show. Behmor will also have a booth – and some of their products will be on display at AnaCafé. Cofero Orbe is another home roaster worth checking out.

Thanks for talking, Beom!

Perfect Daily Grind

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