Alex has had his eye on a Bella (actually, the EVO1) for a few years now, even before we got our Giesen W6A, and now that we finally bought a Bella (Mini 500 that is), we thought we'd share a little more about this little roaster, our thoughts and the buying decision which may help any one who is looking at getting one of these.
We had been looking around for a couple of years for a gas powered sample roaster, and after having used the W6A and tinkering with airflow and drum speed parameters, we knew we could only settle on a roaster that had these functions. Unfortunately, there aren't many roaster companies who make, or design small roasters with these features. Our other option, would have been the W1A, which would most likely have been great as well, if not for the stunning price tag. Giesen makes an amazing W6A, but more on that in another (perhaps dedicated W6A) post.
I must admit that I wasn't very keen on the Bella initially, especially after our trip to Bella's office a couple of years back. Bella's roasters looked extremely intimidating, and it was a lot to take in - manual readers, a wheel for airflow, and a lot of manual buttons ( and in Mandarin), every thing was very manual. Having been roasting on PLC controllers and laptop based controllers for awhile, this was a stress inducer and I was skeptical. But a larger stress inducer was roasting the premium coffees on the W6A. The W6A is a 6KG load roaster - which needed a minimum green load of 1.25KG to get a proper probe read - and this was extremely nerve wrecking, and costly, when trying to profile high-end coffees like your 90+, Geshas, COEs and the likes. We needed a sample roaster bad.
So the really great thing is that Kenneth at Compound Coffee has a Mini 500, and after hours and weeks of trying out both his Mini 500 and 1kg, I was surprised at just how stable the Mini 500 is. The coffees roasted consistently once I had figured out what to do - airflow, drum speed and ROR reacted almost precisely each time with the same coffee, and the coffees just tasted great. As a commercial roaster, this consistency is a dream. We decided we needed this roaster for ourselves.
The Bella arrived in a half exposed wooden crate (pictures below), which took Alex and I (Alex mostly), almost an hour to uncrate, with 1 screwdriver and 2 hammers. The uncrating was the toughest part. Once uncrate-ed, the machine was easily accessible by cutting off the straps used to secure the machine to the crate. The machine came in 3 parts: 1 the main roaster, 2 the cooling pan and hopper, 3 the flexible aluminium duct.
After connecting the parts together and plugging in the power socket and gas tube - the roaster was good to go.
We wanted to hook Artisan to this, so we requested for the USB logger. This took a little longer to set up - basically you would install a driver, and set the parameters and instructions for Artisan that Bella would supply you with, keeping in mind to change the default Fahrenheit to Celcius for the temp probes to actually read. If you still couldn't get it right, Bella has a phone number you can call, or install the LINE app to chat with Bella's technical support (in English).