If you want 1/2 pound batches of repeatable roasts, don't mind the higher price (factor in the possible need for a variac if your voltage is wimpy) - this beats the Alpenrost hands down.
Positive Product Points
- 1/2 pound capacity - semi-automatic control - repeatable results - good cooling system - can easily watch the roast through the window - very quiet operation
Negative Product Points
- I needed a variac to produce sufficient voltage - minimal ability to extend roast manually - back to back roasts require complete cooldown before starting next roast
I was one of those early adopters (read: beta tester) in July 2002. Ignore the price I paid as it was significantly less than the going price now. And I wasted a lot of coffee as bugs were ironed out...
I have roasted over 175 pounds in this roaster from July 31, 2002 through February 2004. No fires, but some squirrely actions like premature eject (sorry, that just sounds wrong) with the third computer chip and baked beans from insufficient heat output. I went back to the second computer chip and added a 20 amp variac and I have been getting great roasts consistently for the last year. Using a digital voltmeter I found that anything under 115 volts would not allow the roaster to reach 400 degrees (I have a stick thermometer installed in the right side of the chaff tray as shown on Randy G's site). With the variac, I now push the voltage to 130 (I am not recommending this as it will probably shorten the life of the roaster) - and have no problem seeing 425 and 450 temps - and that is with a starting batch size of 10.4 ounces.
The 2 little plastic protrusions that hold the cooling tray still while the arms turn have long since worn away and I have to manually hold the tray during the cooling cycle.
There can be a loud squeal as the end of the drum shaft turns in the hole of the endplate - I use some food-grade grease from Steve at Two Loons Coffee and it stays quiet for dozens of roasts.
I like to roast up several batches in an evening, but you can't just pour in the next load right after the cooling cycle ends on the previous one - the next roast will not occur properly (if I recall correctly, it stays way under temp and just bakes the beans). I'm not sure what logic (or illogic) in the chip causes this, but I found that I have to let the machine cool down completely before the next preheat cycle (weird - cool it down so you can heat it up). A quick way to do this is have a fan blowing on it at the end of the roast when you eject the beans - then remove the filter holder at the back, the fill lid (the thing with the "shark fin" on top), and the chaff tray. I have found that by letting a fan blow into the open end like this actually gets the thing down to temp by the end of the cooling cycle.
Even though Baratza didn't end up carrying the Hottop, Kyra was wonderful about supporting us beta testers and communicating regularly with us and the manufacturer. I know they must have taken a financial soaking on this venture, but I appreciate the opportunity they afforded us to get this roaster at a decent price and give our regular input on experiences. The Yahoo newsgroup I launched was a busy place for months as we shared our ups and downs and gripes and suggestions with each other - and Kyra joined in regularly. Even Shelley from Chang Yue answered questions - mostly in English.