I personally think this is a great roaster for both beginners and experienced roasters
Positive Product Points
Nice, even colored roast on almost all types of coffee. Lots of features that allow the user to either be a beginner or an expert (if wanting to learn to program roasting profiles). Easy to take apart and clean after using. Good customer service. Easy to read instruction manual. If you want to learn the art of home roasting, and do not mind the investment, this is a great machine. Furthermore, if I should ever need a replacement part, most are readily available through the U.S. distributor. He can walk you through the process over the phone, or you can read the diagram included in the instruction manual.
Negative Product Points
There are not any significant negative points about this machine. As long as a person is willing to do a reasonable amount of research into coffee roasting, there is none that I can find. Yes, the price is higher than most home roasters; but if you look at the savings of purchasing green beans over the long haul (vs. paying retail for so-called fresh roasted coffees from your favorite vendor), the machine should pay for itself within a reasonable time frame. Also, I did not initially realize the amount of chaff associated with roasting beans. Due to the way the machine is designed, you have a difficult time blowing out any remaining chaff residue that does not make it into the chaff tray. Initially, the only way I could accomplish this was by using cans of compressed air. Purchasing cans of compressed air got expensive ($4-5 each), so I spent $55 at Walmart on a Campbell Hausfield 1-gallon home air compressor and an attachment that looks like a long straw. The attachment allows you to reach those tight places where leftover chaff, and an occasional peaberry coffee bean, might get stuck. Plus, it runs on 110V and fits easily into my pantry. Problem solved. No other issues, with the exception of all my friends wanting to drink up all my coffee now.
First of all, I am new to coffee roasting. I did start out with the air popper method, as suggested by a friend. The problem was, I got tired of the smaller sized batches, as my consumption of truly fresh coffee increased dramatically. So I started looking into home roasters that could make larger batches. While looking for a new roaster, I happened to find coffeegeek on Google. There are individuals who seem to be warning others about this machine being some kind of "fire hazard." I'm sorry, but I fail to see why they choose to wreck this company's image. If you take the time to read the manual, it clearly states that you must wash 4 items after every use, and blow out the chaff. Furthermore, it outlines other cleaning procedures quite clearly, and the time frames they must occur. I am new to roasting, and not a rocket scientist; but I did read the manual, and I did do some reading about the product on sweetmarias.com (not a plug, just where I read the info). That is all I did; and I fail to see why someone caught their house on fire. If you spend a little time (1) reading the instructions, (2) clean the machine after each use (as discussed in the easy to read owners manual), (3) learn a little about roasting coffee beans, and (4) keep an eye on the machine during the roasting process; then there should not be a problem. If you are cooking a steak on the grill, you do not set a timer and expect it to be grilled to perfection when the bell rings. Coffee is no different. Furthermore, you clean your grill after every use, just like the Hottop Roaster. If you are expecting to just throw some green coffee beans into a roaster, set a timer, and come back when the bell rings; then perhaps you need to continue purchasing pre-roasted beans. I am truly sorry if someone caught their home on fire, but roasting beans does require some homework. Learn it, and you will be rewarded with a good cup of coffee; and perhaps save some money in the long run.
Excellent. The U.S. rep for the company (C.S.) is accessible either by email or phone. Good customer service.
Three Month Followup
I use my Hottop weekly for myself and one other family member, who orders coffee with me. I also gave coffee as gifts to several people at Christmas, thus making multiple batches over a 4 day period. I have experienced no problems with my machine. I wash 4 parts after each use, and put them in the drainer. Every 10 batches, I simply take out 4 screws, so I can clean the tumbler in the dish washer. Finally, I change the filter, as recommended. My batches continue to be uniform. I love this product.
One Year Followup
After one year, I still continue to enjoy my Hottop, roasting 1-2 batches weekly. I continue to do the normal recommended cleaning procedures, as outlined below. No problems at all with this unit. I especially like using the manual mode to extend the amount of time between 1st and second crack. Since I tend to try different varieties of coffees on every order, I feel the manual mode suits me best to roast the beans to C+ / FC. (Once I start to purchase bulk favorites at a later date, I will start programming). This is the level of roast I seem to enjoy the best. I generally allow all of my roasted beans to rest for about 48 - 72 hours afterwards, in an effort to allow ample time to degas. I also recently purchased a Technivorm coffee maker, and I must say that I have never experienced a better cup of coffee, anywhere. Both my wife and father complain if I forget to roast, as they now hate any other coffee...especially that overpriced stuff from BIG GREEN. If you ever get the chance to purchase one of these, do so, as IMHO the ability to control the roasting process far outweighs any savings you might realize from purchasing the less expensive competitors models.