RK Drums Frequently Asked Questions

Equipment

While it is possible to roast with a standard rotisserie motor, you will not produce very good results with it. A standard rotisserie motor rotates at 2-6 RPM, which is too slow to evenly roast the contents of the RK Drum.

If you have a 4LB or smaller RK Drum, then it is possible to roast with a 6 RPM motor, but the results may be mixed. Modern meat rotisserie motors spinning at 1-2 RPM have been shown to universally produce uneven results.
We recommend a method that targets finishing the roast in a set amount of time. Therefore, you will need a timer to track the progress of the roast, so that it finishes in the appropriate amount of time. See our Roast Profiles to find out how long you should roast for your drum size and bean volume.

You will also need thermal gloves to protect your hands when you handle the RK Drums after a roast.

You will also need a method to cool the beans. We sell a number of coolers, and there are DIY options as well.

Last, you will also need somewhere to store your finished roast.
We recommend a 20-60 RPM motor because it will produce a good even roast. The lower speed motors do not stir the beans enough, so some beans are roasted faster than others, resulting in an uneven roast.
The thermometers that come with grills are horribly inaccurate. Maybe fine for burgers, but not fine for roasting, as we need good temperature control. Grill thermometers are not only inaccurate, but they will not tell you the same lie consistently. For example, if the actual temperature inside the grill is exactly 500 degrees in 2 separate roasts, the thermometer may tell you 400 during the first roast and 550 in the second roast. Temperature is an important gauge that you will need in order to product consistent results. That is why we recommend purchasing a quality thermometer.
No. Do not feel the need to buy an expensive grill for your RK Drum. Any grill that meets the size and BTU requirements will produce amazing coffee. If you want an expensive grill for aesthetic or other reasons, on the other hand, go right ahead.
A new grill is preferred, but a meat grill may be used with your RK Drum, as long as it meets the BTU and size requirements. However, coffee purists may detect meat flavors that taint the coffee. If you wish to use a used grill, we recommend you clean it well and run it hot at max temp for 30 minutes to burn out the odors.
Yes, a charcoal or wood fired grill may be used. Approximately 5-10% of the people we talk to are interested in this type of coffee because it provides a more artisan, more niche method for producing coffee. The benefit of producing coffee this way is that you will be able to impart a charcoal/natural wood/smoked flavor to your coffee. The downside is heat control is more difficult, and you will need good air flow to increase or decrease the heat. Keeping your roast timed correctly is important, so some experimentation may be necessary, and you may not have as much control. Never-the-less, the benefits in coffee flavor may be worth the learning curve in perfecting the roasting process. If you roast this way, we’d love to hear about your experience. Let us know how it goes.
We don’t recommend specific grills because it is a major task to keep track of them. Manufacturers have the freedom to change their designs at any point, and we do not have a way to stay informed about their design changes. If we recommended a specific grill, it is possible that the manufacturer changes could make it incompatible with the RK Drum at any time. Most grills will work with the RK Drum, and you can verify your grill selection by carrying along a small tape measure with you when you go to get yours.
You will need some method to cool your coffee. A cheap solution is to use a common box fan, some screen and some wood. The 15-minute setup can be put together for about $30. For a professional solution, see our coolers lineup.

Roaster Assembly

You can find the assembly guides here.
  • Allen Wrench
  • Center Punch (or alternatively, a Hammer & Nail)
  • Drill & Drill Bits
  • Needle Nose Pliers (optional)
  • Pencil
  • Ratchet
  • Tape Measure
  • Wire Cutters (optional)
  • Wire Strippers (or alternatively, Scissors or a Knife)
  • Wrench
You can find the instructions for the sheet metal mods here.

Roast Process

We have many resources to help you learn to roast. Check out our roasting guides and roasting videos. If you purchase a drum, we will teach you to roast via phone, explaining and walking you through the entire process.
Yes. For best results, we recommend preheating the RK Drum before roasting.
First crack is the first signal that coffee beans are approaching the end of the roasting process. When coffee beans reach 1st crack, there is an audible physical crack that sounds like popcorn popping.
Second crack is the final signal that coffee beans are at the end of the roasting process. When coffee beans reach 2nd crack, there is an audible physical fracture, though somewhat softer than 1st crack. At this point, the oils begin to migrate to the outside of the bean.
When the roast is finished, the RK Drum and contents will be very hot and you will want to quickly transfer the contents to a container to be cooled. Therefore, we recommend practicing the process of unloading the drum beforehand.

When the roast is finished, turn off the rotisserie motor or stop the rotation of the RK Drum. With your unprotected hand, grab the rotisserie handle and turn the RK Drum so that the door latch is rotated towards the sky. With your protected hand, (with a high temp oven mitt), grab the rotisserie rod and use your thumb to unlatch the door. While still holding the door closed, (but unlatched), slide the entire RK Drums and rotisserie rod assembly away from the motor so that it pulls out of the coupler. Carry the RK Drums and rotisserie rod assembly and to where you plan to dump your finished coffee to cool. DO NOT USE YOUR BODY TO HELP SUSTAIN THE WEIGHT OF THE RK DRUM – IT WILL BE VERY HOT! Using your protected hand, open the door completely and dump the contents of the drum out.
We teach you how to monitor the signs and smells as your roast progresses, using the measured temperature inside the grill as a guide to use heat as a throttle to finish the coffee in a specific amount of time. It sounds complicated, but it’s not really.
If the beans are not cooled, the heat contained in the beans will continue to further cook the beans. Cooling the beans by forcing air through the beans with a fan stops the roast.

Roasting Business

Yes! Roasting coffee is very profitable either as a side or full-time business. You can quickly pay off the investment in roasting equipment, even if you decide to roast only once a week. In fact, the majority of our customers purchase our drums, not for personal use, but as a business investment.

For more information, you may find these articles helpful and interesting.
Yes! RK Drums will teach you to roast, and give you tips and pointers from a business perspective. Just call and ask! We love to chat!

General Questions

You will need thermal gloves that can withstand temperatures of more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 30+ seconds.
In most cases, no. The RK Drums Roasters are designed to be installed and operated inside a grill, and grills are designed to be used outside. However, some people build their own solutions, and use the RK Drum inside pizza ovens or other indoor methods of providing the heat to roast.
During the roasting process, water evaporates and escapes from the bean. This causes the bean to lose water weight. If you are roasting for business, this is important to keep in mind, as the darker you roast, the less your coffee will weigh when it’s finished. Therefore, dark roasts are more expensive to produce than light or medium roasts.
Yes! At RK Drums, we focus on constructing coffee-roasting drums of the highest quality. Our drums are made entirely out of food-grade, stainless steel and welded using TIG and Plasma processes. These drums are very sturdy. Many competitors use thin brass, thin aluminum or riveted construction and do not stand up to the constant use and heating cycles these drums will receive. In addition, we do not use any aluminum in our drums, because aluminum has been shown to contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease.
There are many options for buying green coffee. Some of these are Royal New York, Coffee Maria, Sweet Maria’s, U-Roast-Em, High Country Coffee, Genuine Origin and Copan Trade.

We also sell small bags for getting you started. Our bags are pre-measured to match our roast profiles.
There are many products you can roast in the RK Drum. Some of these are: coffee, cacao, corn, barley, peanuts, mixed nuts, seeds, and chili peppers. The list goes on! Depending on the size of your product, you may want to opt for a solid drum without holes, or the smaller 1/16″ perforated drum.
Costs are extemely economical depending upon what you already have. In comparison to a commercial roaster costing $5,000-$30,000 you will get the largest batch volumes available in small batch roasting for a mere fraction of the cost, even if you purchase the full kits.

You can do an entire 2LB roaster for as little as about $250 if you already have a grill and rotisserie and some creativity.

The easiest way is to use one of our kits. We have three approaches to your project.
  1. A-la-carte – Assemble something with your own ingenuity and if you need parts, see here.
  2. DIY Kits – This is all the hard to make, or hard to find parts. This is what most people consider the bare minimum. Anything else you may need are common hardware store items and you can save a few bucks depending on your own build design, but you will likely spend the Everything Kit amounts on extra components elsewhere. $370-$865 (6LB-45LB/hr)
  3. Everything Kits – This is everything you need except for the grill, right on your doorstep. The one-stop-shop. Everything provided will match the Assembly guide step-by-step. $607-$1069 (6LB-45LB/hr)
  4. Cooling – You will need some method to cool you coffee. A cheap solution is to use a department store box fan, some screen and some wood. This 15 minute setup can be put together for $30. For a professional solution, see our coolers lineup. ($46-$762.25)