Best bet for beginners & people who dont want a fussy roaster, just great home roast!
Positive Product Points
Inexpensive if you look around online, great way to get into roasting on a budget! Will pay for itself fast. Easy to see the beans change color, and if you're careful you can lean into the exhaust just barely enough to get a whiff of the steam and follow the changes as it begins to turn to smoke to add to your ability to judge the degree of roast, as the scent changes. (Keep your chin at least a foot above the top of the roaster! This should be a tentative sniff! %D) Very quiet, easy to hear even soft cracks. Small batch size, but quick and not a lot of smoke. I can kinda get the whole roast range now, it took a little practice, but it was all fun. Still a lot to learn, but this roaster should take you a long way! At this new lower price, you can use the snot out of it and get a new one each year. :)
Negative Product Points
Not really much for the price and ease of use! There are no temp controls, just a small slider for "light" to "dark". The timer is not really reliable; use a stopwatch or a wristwatch with a sweep second hand until you can get a handle on some idea of how long = approximate roast. Timer seems to "stick" at high end; turn back a bit to lower time to keep it moving, and check it; you can always add a minute or move it right into the cooling cycle. Watch that it doesn't creep INTO the cooling cycle mid-roast: you can hear it if you pay attention, but watch the timer too. Has a lot of plastic, and the top gets pretty hot by the second batch, use the small handle, take care when removing the chaff.
Sweet Maria's suggests starting at the 2 1/2 setting on "light"; all that did was bake my beans. I under roasted several batches until I got brave and cranked it over to "dark" and hit about 5-6 minutes to get about a Full City. My power comes in at 119 to 121 (I checked it with an RV portable unit for shoreline plug-ins), theirs must be different, though Tom seems to prefer lighter roasts. (Shorter extension seemed to make a dif). However, I started with Char$ years ago, and do still like a darker roast, and this baby can readily give you charcoal if you don't watch it like a hawk after beginning of second crack. (I haven't made any yet, though!) The plastic top gets hot with back to back batches, (DO knock the chaff out each time, and a good brush helps clean the screens) and after the first batch the next will be faster as everything is pre-heated, so watch more closely. Don't throw the next batch in until you clean out the chaff and have the top back together, then in go the beans, on goes the top and spin that dial! Better to go all the way, then turn back to your choice of setting, as mine seemed to just stick at full throttle. Easy to add a bit of time or move right to the cooling cycle. As the unit gets warmed up, you can try adjusting the slider over toward light, or: don't hold me to anything, I'm still experimenting with that. I want to try to compromise between the sweeter, lower acid full body I love without going too dark and losing all the more delicate notes, and as the beans build up their internal heat, I don't want them over roasting from the inside out. My unit was $69.00 at Sweet Marias with 8 different 1/2 pounds of "their choice" green, 4 pounds total. Some good stuff too, esp. for practice and exploring different coffees. Add some Sumatra while you're there! ;D