Super Roasting Coffee With 600 Mirrors and a Giant Ball of Fire in the Sky

A not atypical coffee roaster, like an old-school Probat favored by Stumptown, looks like this (or this). Not a small machine. Unless you compare it to Dave Hartkop's Helios 4, a solar-powered coffee roaster.

Composed of more than 600 mirrors, it's around 11,000 pounds and takes up over 1000 square feet. Sounds crazy complicated, but the mechanics are simple enough: The mirror array focuses sunbeams into a receiver box where the air inside's heated up to 900 degrees Farehenheit—solar-powered fans blow that air into the roasting chamber. While all that's happening, the roaster makes sure the array's lined up properly by watching a camera feed of the sun, adjusting the array along a pair of concentric circular tracks.

An epic way to roaster coffee? Yes. An excellent way to roast coffee? Reserving judgment there. [PopSci, Solar Roast, Image: Lindsay Hartkop]