The Hearthware Gourment does a great job of roasting coffee beans and at the $50 special offer, it is an excellent deal!
Positive Product Points
The Hearthware Gourmet allows me to roast my coffee beans to a wide range of roasting degrees - from City Roast to Vienna. It is simple to operate and offers a great deal of control. The special offer for $50 is also a great deal.
Negative Product Points
The Hearthware Gourmet does have several downsides. The roaster is quite noisy, and depending upon how dark you are roasting it does produce a fair amount of smoke (if you are roasting outdoors, or in the garage, this is not that big of a factor). In addition, I fear that it could quit working prematurely - this has happened to a number of posters on alt.coffee. The amount one can roast at one time could also be larger.
The Hearthware Gourment coffee roaster is the older version of Hearthware's two current offerings. As a result, Hearthware has been selling it at a special rate of $50 for some time, which makes it a pretty good deal.
The Hearthware Gourmet is a fluid bed roaster, so it operates in a similar style to that of a popcorn popper. Outside of the problem I experienced with the first roaster I received from Hearthware that was nonfunctional (see below in "Buying Experience"), my second unit has worked extremely well, and made my introduction to home coffee roasting quite pleasureable.
The Hearthware Gourmet operates with the turn of a dial, which is a timer of sorts. Despite the timing device, one must watch the roast and stop it once it reaches the degree that you want to achieve. It is not a set-to-roast-and-return-when-it-is-done type of thing. The unit has a glass roasting chamber which allows one to monitor the roast very easily. It roasts approximately 1/2 cup at a time and provides a rather consistent roast when a particular bean is roasted for the same length of time.
At this point, I have used my roaster for about 75 roasts and I hope that I am able to get several times that before the unit dies.
My online purhase from Hearthware was very smooth. I received my Hearthware Gourment in July 2001. Upon my first roasting attempt, very little roasting of the beans actually occurred. I called Hearthware and they had me examine the unit. It turned out that the base plate where the heating occurs had been too jostled in shipping, and the unit was basically nonfunctional. As a result, Hearthware immediately sent me out a new unit, which has worked very well since then.
Three Month Followup
It has been a little more than 3 months since I originally posted this rewview. My Hearthware Gourmet did 'peter out' last week, with the noise level of the roaster getting louder and louder, and the roast times longer and longer (to the point that it would not get beyond 2nd crack). The roaster lasted approximately 10 months. It is still under warrenty, so I am planning on contacting Hearthware to see what they might be able to do (perhaps new parts, a new roaster, or maybe they would give me a credit towards their new roaster supposedly due sometime late 2002??).
I have replaced the Hearthware Gourmet with a Fresh Roast Plus purchased through Sweet Maria's. A review will be forthcoming sometime this summer.
I have amended some of my original ratings. The Hearthware Gourmet was a good roaster, serving it purpose, but the parts need to be more durable. I am also enjoying the much lower noise level of the Fresh Roast Plus.