Boutique coffee roasting at its best on our vintage Probat.


We dropped in to watch Darren work his craft on the “darling” of our roasting machines at Buckley St, Marrickville. This baby is older than me, weighs more than a small steamroller and has about 59 pulleys, cogs, belts and chains that whir and spin and captivate the besotted onlooker.

Feeding time for the monster?

Green beans are carefully measured into pails and then “fed” into the open-mouthed hopper atop the roaster. At just the right time and temperature a deft hand movement opens the gate valve and the little green beans are gulped down into the belly of the beast. The rhythmic chant of the machinery is immediately joined by the clatter of the of beans which continually lift and fall in the drum as they gain temperature and lose moisture (a wet hay aroma wafts off the sampler).

The large eye-ball of a sight glass on this Probat provides a clear view of the tumbling beans and the subtle, but steady colour change from mossy green to caramel brown.

Darren loads another helping of green beans…

Darren is calmly intent, his eyes moving from the graph line etching across the laptop screen to the temperature numbers, blipping higher on the read-outs and the sample spoon on the roaster. He reminds me of a ship captain, quiet and in control, guiding his vessel to a well known destination.

Now his fingers minutely adjust the knurled burner dial… now his hands pull on the air flow wheel, it’s become a well-choreographed dance on the ship’s deck.

The burners hiss forth beautiful flowers of flame…

The burners hiss forth the most beautiful flower of flame directly onto to heavy drum (to see this, one must bend really low and peer up into the guts of the machine). The heat is radiating on my face from the hot cast iron. 

A raisin toast odour has filled the room.

Now I can hear the clear clicking sounds of a thousand beans bursting at the seams… first crack is underway. The UG15 seems to amplify this delightful sound. It’s got me spellbound.

Suddenly, Darren is moving swiftly. I note the beans rubbing against sight glass are now quite chocolate in colour. Successive quick checks and sniffs of the beans in the long handled sampler. Now the cooling tray arms judder into noisy movement. Nimble hand movements on the controls. Things are happening fast. His hand goes to a handle, a focused and intent moment of hesitation, and then he pulls it upward opening the cavernous mouth of the roaster and spewing mountains of smoking, brown, clicking nuggets into the cooling tray. 

Beautiful brown bean swirl in the cooling tray

Darren straightens up, smiles and visibly relaxes.

He’s happy. Another perfect specialty roast completed.

Warning: Specialty roasting can be contagious