Home coffee roasters are nothing new, often ranging from high-end devices like the Aillio Bullet R1 V2 – which you’d find in plenty of the best coffee shops in the world – to more affordable kit like the Gene Cafe CBR-101 Coffee Roaster. The options out there aren’t as numerous or diverse as the best coffee machines on the market, but there’s enough to help a wider range of coffee drinkers become their own specialty coffee home roaster. None are particularly attractive or interesting though, which is where the prospective Sandbox Smart R2 Coffee Roaster comes into play, looking like a cubic air fryer for coffee beans with its minimalist black cube body and smart features.
Whether or not you actually need one is right down to just how fussy you are about your homemade coffee. Most coffee machines from big-ticket brands like Breville and De’Longhi have come very far in their various technologies, calibrated to give you better control over your coffee. But they won’t roast your coffee for you – that is, they won’t do much with unroasted green coffee beans. They rely on you to feed them roasted quality roasted coffee beans, assuming it isn’t a pod coffee machine.
In almost all cases, buying raw coffee beans and roasting them yourself is going to save you some hefty cash over the long term. Not that only, but the entire process gives you a wider range to experiment with different combinations of green beans which leads to a whole heap of options when it comes to finding the type of coffee that best suits your personal tastes. That’s why home-roasting has become so popular over the years, and that’s why the Sandbox Smart R2 Coffee Roaster is a compelling option to coffee enthusiasts who may not want to resort to something as crass – albeit effective – as re-purposing a popcorn popper or roasting in their oven.
Sandbox Smart’s R2 is powered by a 900-watt quartz tube positioned at the centre of the machine’s rotating drum, responsible for providing heat which the drum distributes evenly over the beans to avoid scorching. The tube produces a direct fire which can be adjusted with a number of customisation options via a smartphone app, letting you dial in the rotating time, temperature, fan power, and drum speed. It’s these various parameters that help you determine whether the end result will be a light, medium, or dark roast.
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The bottom half of the drum is visible through a window to add a little bit of theatre to the whole process, but most of the visual interest will happen on whatever device you’ve got connected to the machine. Graphics generated by the proprietary software from Sandbox Smart will track heat, fan and drum data, as well as the rate of rise during roasting, and notifications of both the first and second crack.
One of the most attractive things about the Sandbox Smart R2 Coffee Roaster is the design. Unlike that bulky coffee machine you’ve got throwing its weight around on your kitchen counter, this is a petite device just 13-inches in height and 10.7-inches in width. That’s still sizable, but not overly intrusive like you’d expect an appliance of this kind of power to be. It damn sure isn’t as much of a space invader as your air fryer.
Sandbox Smart, which is a Taiwan-based company, also promises the R2 will be just 65 dB loud, which is about the level of your bog-standard conversation.
The advanced coffee roaster seems to be easy enough to clean. A chaff collector – chaff is the layer that comes off the bean during roasting – lets you brush the screen right into the garbage, and a pull-out tray down the bottom presents the beans neatly so you can collect them in a hurry. You might have an issue with smoke though unless you get the separately-sold smoke extractor to help keep that strong smell of freshly roasted beans out of the kitchen. Or at least try to.
With a 550-gram roasting capacity, the Sandbox Smart R2 Coffee Roaster will retail at US$2,700 (AU$3,730). Although it’ll also come with tiered cloud services where you can download profiles from other home roasters and store them on the machine for automated roasts.
The stylish home coffee roaster is currently being funded on Kickstarter, where Sandbox Smart has surpassed its goal of $13,852. As of this publishing date, the campaign has raised $190,402. Shipping is slated to begin in April.