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Hearthware I-Roast - Steve Patriquen's Review
Posted: May 8, 2005, 4:55pm
review rating: 5.3
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Hearthware I-Roast
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More About This Product
Arrow The Hearthware I-Roast has 29 Reviews
Arrow The Hearthware I-Roast has been rated 6.03 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since December 24, 2004.
Arrow Hearthware I-Roast reviews have been viewed 125,352 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Christopher Keene 8.67
Leland Goertz 8.50
Bob J 8.33
Mike Ferro 8.00
Alan Hurvitz 7.84

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 3.6
Manufacturer: Hearthware Quality: 3
Average Price: $170.00 Usability: 3
Price Paid: $275.00 Cost vs. Value 2
Where Bought: Pennine Coffee Aesthetics 7
Owned for: 1 month Overall 3
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: No
Similar Items Owned: Hearthware Precision
Bottom Line: This machine should not be on the market in its current form. A good idea but needs refining and attention to safety. I have gone back to the Precision. (1 yr edit - now using a Hottop and very happy)
Positive Product Points

LCD display is modern looking
Two presets! (both useless)

Negative Product Points

One preset too light, the other too dark
Very fiddly chaff-collection design
Sloppy manufacture
Manufacturer's website offers no support (does not reply to questions)
Unsafe in my opinion and should be recalled and modified

Detailed Commentary

I have been using the previous Hearthware Precision model for a couple of years with good results. I regularly roasted two batches back-to-back in it with never a problem. The new i-Roast is a step backwards, in my opinion. The LCD readout for time and the presets actually overly complicate what is essentially a simple machine. Yes, you can adjust profiles and (I suspect) kid yourself that you are doing something meaningful. Myself, I prefer the simple consistency of the older Precision with a manual timer.

The i-Roast's chaff-collection system is much more "fiddly" than the previous version. With the Precision, I took off the top and dumped the contents in a trash bin, then fished out the small filter collar and went back to work. With the i-Roast, there is a top screen that must be brushed, then the chaff collector "cap" that must be brushed out (as it has a top unlike the old style), then the inner recesses of the top must be brushed... This is at least ten times more trouble than the previous system, and works no better (perhaps worse).

The top is not well fastened on and mine regularly came off at the end of the roasting cycle (when it was hottest). Despite being "locked down" properly,  the heat makes the plastic expand and it loses its grip on the tiny metal fingers it locks onto. If you can't catch it (wear oven mitts) you end up with a lot of hot coffee beans flying around. Think this is a one off? The Hearthware website references this problem with some confusing instruction to wedge some paper in the top to hold it down. Paper? I'm thinking fire risk. Also, it seems a danger to have a 400 degree piece of metal and plastic blowing off at random. It also suggests looking at the "fingers" to make sure they are locked in place but this makes no sense as the "push down and rotate" mechanism precludes being able to see the locking action. I asked for more info via the support form on the website but did not receive the courtesy of a reply.

I have yet to figure out how to modify the presets permanently - maybe I'm not finding that part of the instruction manual? No - wait. They overlooked the idea that the user would want to SAVE THEIR OWN PRESETS. So you get to do this every time you power up! And programming in your own (fleeting) profile is like adjusting the worst/cheapest clock radio you have ever used.

First, you have to pick the whole roaster up or get on your knees, because you can't read the LCD unless it's at eye level. Then you do a push this - push that - hold this - push that again routine for each step in your profile, so about 12 pushes for a roast. Add in that the detents that signify a "push" are not very positive and you can end up doing 60 pushes to get one roast profiled. Whew!

The two factory presets are both useless for me. Others may have better experiences but the first one does not roast beans enough to use, while the second produces charcoal (and mega smoke). They are just starting points, which you can then modify quickly (compared to the complete programming process) to a usable time.

I think the basic machine is good, but the design of the top and chaff collector ruin it.  The timer is a joke. I would rather have simple mechanical controls and do away with the "faux profile" settings. C'mon - it's a tiny little home roaster. It's possible to do excellent small roasts without the complexity of profiles. Unneeded complexity, IMHO.

Buying Experience

Fine.  From the Pennine Tea & Coffee Company in Yorkshire. Expensive by US standards, but most things in the UK are the same price in pounds as in dollars in the US. In other words, twice as expensive at today's exchange rates. As a North American living in the UK, this bothers me even more than some, but what can you do? It's not the retailers' fault, but rather the importers charging what the market will bear. I did get 3 kilos of green beans free with my purchase and it was shipped promptly and well-packaged.

Three Month Followup

Nothing to add

One Year Followup

I couldn't give this machine away, so I took it to a holiday home and use it there a few times a year. I ignore the fiddly "programming" and just set it to the dark roast preset (which is a guaranteed bean burner) and then just end the roast early by watching it. It's noisy. The machine moves around because it vibrates so much the stiffness of the power cord can push it right off the counter if you don't put some heavy things around it to hold it. Of course, you have to be careful that the movement doesn't touch one of the control buttons, like "Cool". Just a horrible, horrible design.

With use, I have learned its foibles, such as pulling up on the metal locking ring after each use so the top doesn't blow off in the middle of a roast and putting a wadded-up piece of foil inside the chaff filter so it actually works a bit. Mine is a UK 240V model and whoever added the UK power plug did it poorly - the machine used to cut out at inopportune times since one wire wasn't properly secured. And a nice aesthetic touch - they used  a white plug on a black cord. I mean, how difficult would it have been to match them?

Bottom line? If someone gives you one of these, think long and hard. This model was quickly replaced by the iRoast II as the manufacturer realized it had many problems. A quality manufacturer would have offered an upgrade path to the poor suckers like me who bought the "prototype".

Main roaster now a standard Hottop. Very happy with that.

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review rating: 5.3
Posted: May 8, 2005, 4:55pm
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