Consistent, easy-to-use, good-looking, large batch, excellent flavor and aroma. If you can afford it, it is a nice luxury.
Positive Product Points
Easy to use
No obvious need for a variac
Excellent cooling mechanism
Excellent Batch size
Easy to clean and disassemble
Negative Product Points
Lots of smoke. (it is a function of batch size)
Gets hot (Burn risk)
Some beans do not eject.
No ability to do smaller roasts. "Fixed" 250 grams
No adjustable roast profile
It is very easy to use right out of the box. The manual is actually very adequate and has detailed information about different roast characteristics and timing to achieve.
It does produce a lot of smoke as a function of the batch size and I have had to use it outside. It is light enough and it is not very bulky which makes is relatively simple to carry it in and out without difficulty.
The cooling mechanism is excellent. It brings the beans to room temperature in less than five minutes.
It is easy to clean. The chaff collector works well and slides out relatively easy. Some chaff does get stuck in the drum and the whole unit can be turned on its side to dump extra chaff. In addition the area under the cooling tray tends to accumulate chaff. The drum comes out quite easily and reassembles without problems.
There are plenty of warnings in the manual which state to have the unit clean to avoid a fire hazard. From other reviews I have read, I would take this seriously. Apparently chaff can easily ignite.
Ambient temperature has not been a problem so far. But I am living in Florida so I am not the one to ask about this factor. Insofar as it pre-heats itself and utilizes a thermostat, I don't know if ambient temperature should be a huge concern.
It is very, very quiet. It is easy to hear first and second crack.
I haven't had a need for a variac and I get consistent results without baking the beans. I believe that this is due to the internal thermostat. It is hard to ruin a roast so long as one is paying attention to avoid over-roasting. The computerized profile assures otherwise excellent results of taste and aroma.
It is simple to use and produces a nice batch size of 1/2 pound.
It is a nice looking product that deserves display. It is a conversation piece looking like a scaled down version of a commercial roaster. It is about the size of a counter-top mixer.
A couple of notes for improvement:
The beans that are located around the "window" do not agitate as well as the beans in the center of the drum. They can tend to burn or get stuck. This is also a good place for chaff to get stuck. In addition, the beans get ejected from the inside so I have noticed that the beans closest to the window may be delayed getting ejected and continue to roast or may not be ejected at all. It isn't really a big deal but I mention it to be complete.
It has a little more plastic than I had anticipated for an expensive machine. I don't know how well it will hold up in the long run.
First and second crack are not separated well like when I roast with the freshroast 8 + and a variac. In fact, with blends, the cracks also blend and it can be difficult to know when to stop.
With a single origin, there is usually a 30-60 sec window between cracks which make city and full city easy to achieve with experience.
The flavor and aroma rival professional results but true coffeegeeks may find the lack of an adjustable profile a downside. I personally like the simplicity and consistency. I like that the only variable is figuring out when to stop the roast.
I recommend starting with a setting of "3." This usually will get you into second crack necessitating that you manually stop the roast. A setting of "4" will definitely need stopping manually.
I haven't experimented a lot with the different roast settings other than above but I think it will be interesting to try the lighter presets.
Buying from SweetMarias is always a pleasure. The shipping is always a long time from the West Coast to Florida but their customer service is excellent and I like the five pounds of coffee they add at a very reasonable rate.
Three Month Followup
I have done approximately 2 roasts per week without a flaw. I have started using a variac for consistency in the roasts. With this addition the unit is otherwise perfect.
Haven't had any problems yet and would still recommend.
One Year Followup
This is still a good product and nothing else really comes close.
I have had to replace the mother board twice in the past year and the knobs on the cooling tray, that keep it in place, are wearing down since they are plastic. The customer service has been better than excellent and they have upgraded my unit since my problems. Now it works even better than originally.
The filters can be "washed" but it is not recommended and they are relatively expensive to replace.
All in all, I would buy it again without hesitation.