Closest thing to fresh, premium commercial roast flavor you can get at home. Large, optimal 1/2 pound capacity. This is a finicky drum roaster that will challenge you to be a better roaster and that you will learn to appreciate if you are serious about it.
Negative Product Points
Hard to clean. Sensitive to both ambient temperature and amount roasted. Simple timer settings. You must learn to listen to the roast for best results in varied conditions and with different beans. Occasonal un-roasted, green beans in the hopper which I religiously pick out for fear for jamming my grinder.
This is the machine that keeps my HW Precision on the shelf. The simple reason? Deeper bodied dark roasts; rich, chocolaty espresso; and smoother light roasts.
This is the new Alp model with updated electronics that is supposed to handle a wider range of ambient temperature. Compared to the Hearthware Precision it is still very sensitive, though. I have run maybe 15 lbs of coffee through the Alp now and am getting a feel for this finicky machine.
Unlike the HW Precision with its fixed up-draft exhaust, the Alp has a directional exhaust vent. Since I have a down-draft range vent, it is a simple thing to set the Alp on the stovetop, point the vent into the mouth of the range exhaust, and flip it on after about 5-7 minutes into the roast. This is a good thing, too, because roasting in the house keeps ambient temperature constant from roast to roast, so that I can now judge roast times effectively and use the settings on the roaster as they were intended. For me, settings of 4 through about 11 gives me the full range of roast that I use--from City to a full French.
The chaff collector is effective, the reversing bean dump at the end of the cycle always works (even if the receiving tray is barely large enough), and the machine is solidly built. It's much more mechanically complex than a fluid bed due to the gearing of the drum, and openable vent doors. Despite the complexity, I think it will outlast my Precision by a large margin, making the Alp's higher initial cost more tolerable. My only complaint with engineering is that the machine is hard to clean. This is probably an unavoidable part of being a drum roaster as opposed to just having to clean a chamber that gets got air blown through it as happens in a fluid bed roaster like the Hearthware. I'll put up with it gladly, given the superior flavor and body of drum roasted coffee This reflects a personal preference, maybe, but everyone who has regularly sampled my home roasted coffee for the past year agrees.
The Alp is perfect for you if:
1) You prefer deep body dark roasts; smooth, rich light roasts; or drink expresso.
2) You have a down-draft stovetop vent. (If not, read other reviews about jury-rigging a vent tube extension to a window).
3) You don't want to roast every day as I did with my Precision.
4) You are willing to do more than push a button and are willing to listen to what is going on in the roast chamber.
My wife used to kid me about my search for coffeee perfection. Since I got the Alp (and learned how to use it), now when she goes to Starbucks with the ladies golf club, she tells them "No thanks' (she's) spoiled by the coffee I make at home".
Routine good service from Sweet Marias.
Three Month Followup
See 1 year followup.
One Year Followup
I had two of these now, discontinued machines. Both suffered from premature fading of the heating element which eventually prevented the completion of the roast even with lower and lower quantities. The first machine lasted a year, the second (which was provided free of charge by Swissmar, to their credit) failed in the same way in less than 4 months.