Large Batch Size for a home roaster Not as sensitive to cold outside temperatures as Cafe Rosto and Hearthware Precision
Negative Product Points
Difficult to get dark roasts Must cool down between roasts
There are many other fine reviews of the HotTop roaster, so I'm going to post only what I hope to be unique.
Year round, I roast outside on my deck in Kansas City, Missouri. Winter temperatures falling below 60 or 50 degrees farenheit had a significant impact on my previous air roasters. In fact, I had a difficult time getting a consistent, full city roast with both Cafe Rosto and Hearthware Precision roasters due to this effect. So when I searched for a replacement roaster, my criteria included relative insensitivity to outside temperatures. The HotTop hit my radar because another consumer review theorized that since it doesn't pull air in from the outside (as part of the heating process) it would not be affected by lower ambient temperatures.
Since purchasing the HotTop in October 2006, I've roasted about 70 batches of various sized beans. I've taken detailed notes regarding the time it takes to preheat, first crack, and roast completed time. To my amazement, the roast cycle time from start to finish varies only a few minutes whether the outside temperature is 70, 40, or below freezing. A few weeks ago it was 20 degrees outside and the roaster performed the same as it always does.
The biggest complaint I have with the HotTop is that it seems difficult to achieve darker roasts. I've heard that voltage can be a problem but haven't invested in a variac yet. However, I've found that if the HopTop starts while the outside temperature is below freezing, my roast will end up full city or even darker with smaller beans. So in the end the Missouri winters have worked to my advantage so far. Later this year perhaps I'll add to this review how the HotTop performs in weather above 100 degrees.
Some of the other reviews of the HotTop have complained that it is difficult to clean. I've discovered that my wife's old hair dryer is invaluable to this end. After every roast, I take off the end cap, pull out the beans and chaff collecter, then use the hair dryer to blow all the remaining chaff out of the roast chamber. This also serves to reduce the cool time required before starting the next batch. I speculate people who have had trouble with a HotTop catching fire could have prevented it with this measure. There's a significant amount of chaff that doesn't stay in the collector.
It's always a pleasure doing business with Sweet Marias. Tom's review of the HotTop was influential in my decision to buy it. And my order was packaged well and shipped on a timely basis.