Cooler Deluxe Review-4/20/2010
RK Cooler Deluxe: After what seems like forever, it is hard to believe the Deluxe cooler is finally ready. Larry and I have been going back and forth for well over a year on different design ideas and motor types and have finally arrived at what we hope is a good balance on price vs. value.
In the initial stages we had originally planned on the deluxe model having a dump door (which you can see in some of the below pictures of the test unit) and a number of brackets and possibly counterweights to allow the tilting of the top to around a 50 degree angle to allow for automatic unloading.
The end result was that the top hopper with 8LB of coffee became top heavy resulting in a unit that would topple. Thus we looked at counter-weighting the base, or supporting it with long legs.
Finally, the dump door, while cool, was perhaps a bit unnecessary since you could just go ahead and tip it over and dump into a bucket like in the basic cooler version.
In the end, all this, was just a bunch of extra work, material and cost, that, really didn't bring that much purpose and value. So we settled on leaving this out for the final versions. As much as my heart was set on these features, I'm now agreeing with Larry that it would be better to save a hundred dollars or two on something that really isn't that necessary. So while I have much time and energy in this unit, I still want to attempt to give a transparent and unbiased review of this unit, what I like about it and what I don't.
For starters, this is just about everything that Ron and I had wanted from the start, so from Ron's perspective, I could consider this "mission accomplished". So, in his legacy, I'm quite pleased that it has come to be a reality. You can see from the pictures below that it is quite a unit in terms of size and has really a great deal of metal and materials/components in it. When you see all the material, and custom metal work, you will come to understand it's pricing. It's also rather heavy, clocking in at 40.5 pounds. Compared to the grill, you can see just how big it is!
The purpose for this is not only to allow you to work with it at a comfortable height, but to also accommodate 8LB of coffee and the massive fan.
The fan is continuous duty rated, at high temperatures exceeding 150 degrees 24/7. For this reason, it is ideal for our hot coffee cooling needs during short intervals.
There are a few last minor changes that I wanted to make for the customer units, that are not represented in these pictures. The dump door in this test unit, will not be present in future models (subject to future considerations) and you can also see the power cord in the side of this unit. That will also be hidden inside for shipped models.
If I'm honest the cost of this unit came in higher than what I had wanted. When you see the amount of stainless steel material in this cooler, and all the custom cuts and bends, motors, wiring, time and labor, it nearly isn't worth making, but it is definitely a fine piece of equipment for sure. One thing is for sure, you can't beat the quality or the price for what you get and what it does. That much I'm convinced of. So how does it work?
Quite simply, the unit performs better than I had anticipated and better than the prototype. This unit cooled 4.75 pounds from 625 to ambient in under 1 Minute. That sure is impressive. As a matter of fact, in the below video, you can see just how fast I stick my hand into the coffee. Within 15 seconds or so after my initial touch, it was completely cool to the touch. I'm guessing it was 30-50 seconds. You can also see the amount of chaff it collects below in the tray. I recommend this be vacuumed out every roast or so, because the chaff can impede airflow if it accumulates too much.
While it may seem odd that the blades don't actually touch the grate, it is that way by design. We know that fluids take the path of least resistance. If the blades are placed flush with the grate, not only does it facilitate jamming, but, it also clears a path in which the air chooses to flow through. By not having an open section, the air is forced to pull through the bean mass removing heat and chaff. These results were confirmed by extensive smoke airflow testing.
6 and 8 pound tests as well, were proportionally effective. The bottom line, is it just really works and is a nice attractive piece to add to your setup, particularly if you are going for a more professional image.
So let me get to the things I would like to improve in the interest of complete transparency. I would like to put on a wide-bodied hinge. The fact that it is installed on a circular surface means the width of the hinge cannot be very large. It is stainless steel, and really remarkably strong, so barring twisting the unit in half while split with some good deal of force, the hinge is fine and the unit really should last a lifetime. When split, there can be seen a slight amount of torsion if you push the top hopper one way or the other. Wish that could be economically improved. We'll keep looking at it.
I would like to see metallic wheels as opposed to plastic, but all of these things raise the cost, and in an attempt to find a balance between quality and price, this is a pretty good compromise. These could be modified by the user however if so desired.
The grate at the top, while facilitating the removal of chaff and improving cooling, may let one or two of the smallest beans through to the chaff collection tray, which in the end isn't really a big deal as they can be retrieved before cleaning the chaff tray if so desired. I think in my tests, I had one or two small beans fall through on today's tests on both roasts.
So those really are the only points that I can mention, otherwise, I am exceptionally pleased with this machine.
Using it is an absolute pleasure, it beats the box fan hands down on appearance, and functionality. Gone are the days of the box fan blowing heat and chaff into the face. Chaff flying all over the place, getting in your hair and blowing into the yard, or wherever... the standing over hot coffee while stirring. All a distant and welcomed memory. Watching the blades spin through that beautiful coffee, watching little waterfalls of coffee spilling over the top, is nothing short of mesmerizing.
Most certainly a unit to be proud of and cherished. No longer do the neighbors drive by cocking their eyebrows up at my redneck box cooler and Wal-Mart box fan. Gone are the days, where I'm embarrassed to show friends and family how I roast my coffee. As for me, I'm moving forward and never looking back.
Sure, ok, it's potentially a luxury item. You can do it with the box fax for probably $30 grand total. But after 6 years of that? I'm ready for the upgrade. I love it as a regular roaster, I know you will too. Shot some video of it in action, take a look.
(By the way, it's actually rather quiet, all the noise is both my 4LB and 6LB roasters running nearby).
I'll of course, welcome your thoughts, reviews and commentary as well.
Read a Cooler Review by Lee Fike