If you buy a Hottop you gamble on getting a real bean baker like mine.
Positive Product Points
The machine appears to be sturdily built. It looks great, I love the stainless. 250 grams is an excellent capacity--not too much for blending, not so little you have to roast for hours to get your week's fix.
Negative Product Points
This is a serious coffee bean baker! My machine runs very cool, and can barely get beans to second crack at the maximum settings. Others report the opposite. There are serious quality control issues with the heating element! It has no real control over the roast profile.
I bought the machine, getting the alt.coffee special through Randy G. When the machine arrived, I was wowed by the appearance--what a gorgeous thing. But on my very first roast, I knew something was wrong. 15 minutes into putting the beans into the roaster and no cracks. I finally hit first at around 17 1/2 minutes. Turns out that was my best ever time to first with this machine. I checked my voltage--120 without the heating element on, dropping to 116 when the element kicked in. I contacted Vesuvius, and, after some confusing emails about how dark I wanted my beans, they had me send it back. Same problem when it was returned. They didn't try and troubleshoot the problem, just had me send it back again. When it arrived the 3rd time, it was exactly the same. By now I am using a Variac to ensure voltage of 122 to 126 V , and reducing the quantity of beans. I could get a roast to 2nd crack on the first roast, using the maximum settings, and all the "pluses" which add 30 seconds to the roast, but not on subsequent roasts in a session. In either case, the coffee was horrible, and baked. Irene at Vesuvius just didn't asnwer my emails anymore, and I finally called her. She didn't want to talk to me, and hung up on me when I insisted they take the machine back.
The Hottop has not been used since the phone call to Irene. It is pretty worthless to me, just a bean baker. I hate to be so critical of a product, but in my case, it simply doesn't work.
I know that when the elements are in spec, these machine work great. Too many reports from users who know what they are talking about convince me that this is so. But I have found other reports of the too-cool Hottop problems, so I am not alone. A problem like this should be easily solved, with the replacement of the element with one known to be in spec. Unfortunately, the importer doesn't seem to know enough about the machine, or coffee roasting in general, to handle this simple issue.
Very, very bad. The vendor finally offered to refund my money, less shipping costs (this went cross country five times so far) and less "depreciation" which they would determine once they got the machine back it their shop. I won't settle for that, so it is still up in the air.
From my many emails with Vesuvius, I learned they don't seem to know a lot about coffee roasting. They never once responded to my complaint that the beans were baked. They just repeatedly asked me how dark I wanted the beans. The language barrier was one problem, but dealing with people who don't understand roasting was the central issue. But, all they ever had to do was give me my money back. Instead they ignored emails and hung up on phone calls. This was the worst customer service experience I ever had.