Each roaster has his or her own opinion about the fuel that gives the best result, and throughout the world the choice lies between anthracite coal, coke, and gas; though hard wood is frequently used in countries where other fuels are not available or not economical. Electric heat has been tried for commercial roasting in Germany (1906), in England (1909), and in the United States (1918); but the experimenters have always found the cost of electric fuel to be prohibitive in competition with coal and gas. An electric roaster was demonstrated at the Food Conservation Show in New York, in 1918, at a time when the federal government was urging the necessity of conserving coal as a war economy measure. The inventor claimed that his machine would reduce roasting cost, improve the flavor and the aroma, and maintain a constant and easily controlled heat. He declared also that when roasted in his devices, less coffee was required for brewing.
An expert coffee-roasting-machinery man who has been working on the development of a practical electric roaster says that if it were possible to bake the coffee in an oven, just as the baker does his bread, the fuel cost would then compare favorably with that of gas or coal. It is because the heat chamber must have an exhaust to release the chaff and smoke that the use of electricity to replace the heat loss proves prohibitive when compared with coal or gas.
In all types of coal and coke burning roasters, the cylinders are heated by a fire underneath; while in gas roasters, the flame may be underneath or within the cylinder itself. Roasters in which the heat is within the cylinder are known as direct-flame or inner-heated machines. All three systems are used in the United States and Europe.