With previous problems fixed, this is a clean, reliable, easy to use machine for low-volume or beginner.
Positive Product Points
Easy to use.
Roasting process is visible.
Fan is not so loud as to prevent hearing the subtle 2nd crack.
The chaff collector is effective, does not mess up the kitchen.
This is a HOT machine; however, cold air drawn in from the top cools the outside casing, a safety feature.
Negative Product Points
It is recommended that I wait 20 minutes between batches; I wish the cooldown cycle was faster.
When deciding on a home roaster, my first criterion was that I live in a condominium without a balcony and it needed to be relatively clean. The FreshRoast Plus 8 lived up to that expectation.
The next issue was around ‘right-sizing’. I use a pound of coffee a month and I wanted to roast in small quantities. The FreshRoast did 3 oz at a time, which fitted my usage well.
Finally, as a ‘first’ machine I wanted the entire process to be visible and audible.
Let me describe, briefly, how I use it: I put it on top of the stove. I weigh in 70 grams of beans. I set the chaff-collector in place, set the timer for 6 minutes and turn on the vent fan over the stove. At around 3 minutes the first crack begins, clearly audible over the noise from the FreshRoast and stove fans. At about 4 minutes the first crack is over. I turn off the vent fan over the stove. At about 5 minutes the subtle crackling of the 2nd crack begins. I wait about 15 seconds to be sure (it sounds like Rice-Crispies and milk) and then turn the FreshRoast knob into the cooling cycle and turn on the stove vent-fan. Several minutes later the FreshRoast fan turns off. I remove the chaff collector and tip the roasted coffee into a stainless-steel colander and mix it around with a plastic spoon to help cool it. The beans are dark brown with no oil and there is no visible smoke during the roast.
To arrive at that workflow it was necessary to observe the beans carefully. They are easy to see in a glass container and as the roast progresses they become more fluidized (expanded, floating on the hot air current). Visibility is important. Once or twice I allowed the roast to progress an additional 30 seconds and found the beans to be too dark, covered with oil and stripped of most of the flavor and aroma.
Other reviewers have had trouble roasting dark. I believe the manufacturer fixed that problem; I have never needed the 8 minutes available on the timer even for the batches I ruined by over-roasting.
Other reviewers have complained about smoke setting off smoke-detectors. I have never had a serious odor problem, even for batches ruined by over-roasting. However, sometimes my wife makes me spray with air freshener …!!
After 40 roasts, nothing has broken or otherwise malfunctioned. It seems to be well designed, well made and when used as instructed, does a good job.
Each roast, including cleanup, takes about 10 minutes. Cleanup consists of placing the chaff-collector on a piece of paper towel and removing the chaff with an old tooth-brush. Little, if any, of the chaff escapes the collector during use.
I purchased the unit from The Green Beanery in Toronto, Canada. They communicated well, shipped quickly with reasonable shipping costs and did as much as any good vendor would do. I was happy with the transaction.
Three Month Followup
I have now completed my 89th roast ...!! There have been no changes in operation or unsatisfactory indications. It did develop a minor crack in the housing adjacent to the glass chamber but that did not increase in size or spread and presents no problems. The roasting process (time to completion) remains the same although slightly changed by changes in line voltage.
I did add an 'aftermarket upgrade' by installing a type K thermocouple probe. I drilled a hole, dead center, in the top, through the chaff screen and put in a 10 cm stainless-steel probe into the bean mass. I find that bean temperature is a more reproducible indicator than roast time. Once I find the 'sweet spot' in the variety I can roast to the same temperature time after time, without listening for the cracks, and get the same results.