Not as easy to use as an air roaster, but more capacity and better quality of finished product
Positive Product Points
Roast size is large enough for several days' worth, operates quietly enough to hear first and second crack, cool to the touch when running, simple operation, easy to remove beans when roast is finished.
Negative Product Points
No control of roast temperatures, power cord is fairly short, too much smoke to roast inside even with a pretty good vented range hood on high power, not easy to clean out when roast is done, extra equipment needed to properly cool down beans after roast is done (like a metal collander).
I have had the Alpenroast for about 9 months now and really like it when it's warm enough to roast outside, but when inside it is a little too smoky. This is because of the way it works in terms of sealing off the roast chamber during the heat period and then opening up a vent as soon as the cool down starts. This produces a large amount of smoke at one time, usually much too much for my range hood to vent quickly. I also have and use a Home Innovations Precision air roaster and it works much better indoors due to the smaller roast size and the constant, unrestricted venting. But the Precision takes about 4 to 6 batches to do a week to a week and a half of coffee. Since I don't have the time to roast every day, I need to do that much each time. In the Alp, 2 batches lasts at least a week & 1/2 for me. One thing I would like to have on the Alp is a metal cooling tray for the beans to be dumped into at the end of the roast, to aid cooling down. As it is, I transfer them to a metal vegetable steaming pan I have and swirl them around in that for a couple of minutes to get the temp down a bit. The beans are usually still quite warm when the cycle finishes. Another thing, I find that to get the beans out quickly, I need to "help" the dump by lifting the roaster up a couple of inches on the other side. If I don't do this, it can take a full minute or more to get them all into the discharge basket. Cleaning the machine can also be a chore, there are several parts that need to be removed and cleaned, and the inside of the cover needs to be well cleaned to keep it shiny. It needs to be as polished as possible to reflect heat back down and keep the temperature up during roasting. I use one of the blue non-scratch sponges to clean it with some Orange Clean, and that does a good job, but isn't quick and easy. The cover can be unscrewed from the top of the machine and cleaned in the sink if it really gets bad, but it's a pain to do and hard to get it back on properly. It would probably help if the vent door unit and the heating element could be removed to aid in cleaning, too; as is one has to use a small brush to get loose chaff out of those areas, and cleaning under the heating element with a sponge or paper towel is not really possible. One thing to note in using the Alp vs. an air roaster, the finished beans seem more full bodied to me out of the Alp. The air roasters seem to give the beans more of a "toasted" quality to them, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the espresso I make from the Alp roasted beans just seems fuller somehow. Also, when using an air roaster, there tends to be more chaff in the finished product than with the Alp. I think this is because the motion of the roast chamber takes the chaff off the roasting beans better than the motion of tossing the beans around in the hot air chamber does. The roast out of the Alp is also overall more even in color than that from an air roaster. It looks more like it came from a coffee shop, to me. Overall, this is really a pretty good roaster, though a few things could be improved. The Sweet Marias site lists an "updated" version coming in soon, though there aren't any details yet on what that means.
I bought from Sweet Marias and it came with 8 lbs. of beans for the price I paid, which I viewed as an excellent deal Though I've bought many things from them, I've never really had any problems, so I haven't really had to deal with customer service in any meaningful way. I'm quite happy with them over-all.