The roast is controllable and the machine very quiet. Pricey but worth it.
Negative Product Points
Faceplate makes the entire machine look cheap, which it isn't. Quality is good, as is ease of operation.
The filter needs to be something that can be cleaned time after time..$10 a piece and recommendation for changing after use 10 times needs some focus. How about availability of paper and foam material to replace the filter insert intead of the whole filter. The newer Hottop now has guards. I took mine off, and just careful not to touch during roast and until cooled down.
My Hottop caught on fire on 8th roast. It was repaired by the company post meltdown. Had to be returned post repair, as the technician failed to hook up the drive mechanism on the cooling tray, but it was promptly picked up, fixed and returned.
Customer service rates high especially from Sweet Maria's who supported the way I was roasting, and ultimately by the manufacturer who replaced the unit (after scolding me to not roast so dark). The machine far exceeds the capability of my Alpenröst, but now, having experienced this coffee roaster flambé, I will probably do my dark roasting in my Alpenröst and reserve my Hottop for lighter roasts.
Sweet Marias made the purchase easy and supported me when a problem arose with my fire. The overall experience with Sweet Marias was one that made me know I was dealing with a company that is professional, and focused on having the best products available, and then supporting customer after the sale.
Three Month Followup
After 3 months of use, I remain quite pleased with the performance of the Hottop. Now religious about cleaning out the chaff. The quiet operation allows one to easily hear both cracks. I have not even taken out the Alpenrost I also have, as the Hottop is superior in performance and quality. I remain a fan!
One Year Followup
I have been more than just pleased with my Hottop roaster since I originally purchase my first one in 2003. It is a superior product. Having purchased it from Sweet Maria's and like some, set it on fire, I know the positives and the negatives of the Hottop.
I guess the positives outweigh the negatives, as I have just ordered a new programmable version, and was given an excellent deal from Michael, the owner. I know, I could have upgraded it, but the deal on the new one was just too good to pass up.
When I first started using it, I got careless after my first three months of use. I thought I could neglect the careful approach, and unlike my usual process of standing by the roaster after 15 minutes of roasting, I neglected to do so. I was roasting a Yemen bean batch, and had not cleaned out the chamber. It caught on fire...operator error, not something that was the Hottop's fault.
I had it fixed, and have been diligent about cleaning post-roast ever since. To me it is the best thing short of a commercial roaster. I can hear the second crack, use my nose to determine the stage in the roast that I need to manually dump the beans, and have been quite pleased. My Hottop has been used quite often over the five years I have owned it. I roast three days a week, and it gets extra duty when I do my Christmas gifts of roasted coffee for friends and family.
It is big. The original graphics on it were pretty cheesy...the aqua color is gross. The coffee roast, on the other hand, is controllable, consistent, and works great. I have all my roasts timed to perfection, so new learning curve will start with the new programmable version. The one thing I have learned over the years with the Hottop is to obey the instructions that come with the machine. Stay alert and be there when you are roasting. Don’t be casual about that!
When you are roasting coffee, you have to be there, because there is a fire hazard when you expose the beans to extreme heat. I see it now as a relationship or a bond I establish with the machine and my desire to have the best coffee there is. The Hottop gives me that. I stay with it throughout the roast, and attend to the process religiously.
It gives me what I want…he best roast for the home coffee roaster on the market. After years of service, last week, my original roaster would not power up for me. I took it apart, after ordering the newer programmable unit I have been coveting since they came out. It was easy to diagnose. I looked at the main circuit board and the fuse holder has deteriorated. How good is the service and support? I just mentioned it to the owner, and he is sending me a replacement circuit board so I can fix it. Note, I am well beyond the warranty period.
I give this roaster, and the support of the USA representative 10 out of 10 stars. It is a pricey unit. It was a no-brainer for me to buy another. The only decision I have now, once my new unit is put into service, is whether or not to refurbish and sell my old one, or hang on to it as a back-up or pass it on to my son to replace the Swiss Mar Alpenröast unit I replaced with my original Hottop.
I highly recommend the Hottop. It is a great roaster.