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Hearthware I-Roast - Leland Goertz's Review
Posted: May 27, 2005, 6:26am
review rating: 8.5
feedback: (6) 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 125,097 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

Previous Review Next Review
Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 9.0
Manufacturer: Hearthware Quality: 9
Average Price: $170.00 Usability: 9
Price Paid: $169.00 Cost vs. Value 9
Where Bought: Coffee Bean Corral Aesthetics 9
Owned for: 2 years Overall 9
Writer's Expertise: Professional Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: Alpenrost
Bottom Line: A well built, quality roaster, capable of producing an exceptional roast.
Positive Product Points

Produces exceptional, repeatable, roasts.
Somewhat aware of its external environment.
Strong, capable design.

Negative Product Points

Cool down too slow without protocol change.

Detailed Commentary

The following are comments on previous reviews. These are my opinions and should be taken as such.

Automatic roasting: Despite many claims, there is no such thing as “automatic roasting”. Even Diedrich Manufacturing, whose “automatic” roasters are second to none, will attest to this. The roastmaster must use all his senses to achieve the desired roast. Even with a highly controlled external environment, the differences in bean varietals input variables that can not be completely compensated for. The i-roast is an automatic roaster that can not automatically compensate for the variables involved in roasting.

Learning curve: Coffee roasting is a delicate balance between science and art, neither of which come easily. If one expects his first roast to be the height of perfection, then he is sure to be disappointed. If there were no learning curve involved in the use of any roaster, then where is the challenge and art of roasting? Is there a leaning curve to the i-Roast? Yes. Should one expect anything different? No.

Too loud: One roasts coffee for the heavenly enjoyment it produces in the mouths of its consumers. Auditory comfort of the roastmaster is not an issue. Other than masking the pyrolysis, the noise the roaster produces should not be a criterion for roaster selection. This has not been experienced. The first and second pyrolysis can always be heard when using the i-Roast.

Too much smoke: Roasting and degassing coffee produces smoke. The physics and chemistry of roasting require it. Fluid bed roasters output more smoke than drum roasters since fluid air is always moving through the roast and expelling roasting components. One should always be aware of the consequences his roasting smoke may produce. The i-Roast package includes components to vent the exhaust elsewhere.

Stinky smoke: Ah, yes, “Aroma of the gods”!

i-Roast detailed commentary

After much research for a high performance, small batch, home roaster, both the i-Roast fluid bed roaster and the Alpenrost drum roaster were selected. The i-Roast is reviewed here. It has been in regular use for 2 years.

Disassembly revealed this unit to be made of durable components. The motor is an open frame type of acceptable quality. The plastic is thick and semi hard making the unit resistant to nicks, cracks, and inadvertent drops. The internal assemblies fit together well and the electronics are placed well away from the heat source. The roasting chamber is made from a combination of tempered glass, bakelite, and mild steel. The roasting chamber components fit together well and are held in place by friction locks that show no signs of wear after 2 years of regular use. The roasting chamber components are easily cleaned and are dishwasher safe. When cleaning manually, care should be taken not to disturb the thermoflector and wind tunnel.

The internal electrical connections and components adhere to small appliance standards. The unit requires 13.5 amps @ 110 volts to operate, about the same as a blow dryer. It is recommended to use a dedicated electrical circuit to prevent inadvertent IR losses which could lead to inconsistent roast results. This is of less concern on the 220 volt models, but sill a concern.

The manufacture recommends roasting no more than 5.3 ounces per batch. Smaller batches can be roasted to achieve a desired profile. Larger roasts are not recommended due to the dynamics of the air flow through the unit. Certain beans will also require less than 5.3 ounces due to bean expansion. In an attempt to produce a repeatable roast, the unit will not start if the temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature varies from machine to machine by a few degrees. If the unit fails to start for this reason and the user has programmed a custom profile, it is lost and must be reprogrammed. The user program is always lost if power is removed from the unit.

Personal use and experience;
It would be nice to say that all one needs to do is load the roasting chamber with the proper amount of beans, enter one of two preprogrammed roast profiles, press roast, and return in twenty minutes to the perfect roast. This may be case for some. But for a truly exceptional roast, one must play. Rather than spending your time relating to you how the manufacture recommends how one roasts, I will tell you how I roast.

However, two additional items are needed;

  1. A pair of soft cotton gloves.
  2. A vacuum device such as a ShopVac.

The user programmed mode is used with both the temperature and time at their maximum. The roast is started. The color of the beans and the aroma of the exhaust, are constantly monitored. Sporting the gloves, the chaff collector is opened slightly to lower the temperature and replaced to raise the temperature. Once the first pyrolysis is heard, the roast is observed more intently and the temperature is regulated with more accuracy. Once the roast has progressed to the desired level, the cool button is pressed, the chaff collector and screen are completely removed, and the ShopVac is used to collect the chaff as it is expelled from the unit. This stops the roast within a few seconds and speeds up the cool down.

A log is kept of the ambient temperature, the voltage the roaster is receiving under load, the green weight of the beans, the length of the roast, the time to the first pyrolysis, the time to the second pyrolysis if progressed that far, the time to the first sight of caramelized sugars if progressed that far, the roasting chamber temperature at regular intervals, the weight of the roasted beans, and the SCAA color.

The beans are placed in an opened glass quart jar for degassing for 12 hours, after which, the jar is sealed. I have found that most beans flavor peak at about 2.5 days.

If a particular bean is extremely chaffy, the roaster is started using one of the preprogrammed modes followed by immediately starting the cool cycle. This will assist in expelling any loose chaff. This is performed with the chaff collector removed to increase the amount of air flow through the unit.

To many, this may sound like a lot of work, but, it is at the most, 19 minutes. A short, partly, 19 minutes, whose end results will bring a heavenly, unparalleled, joy to those who consume the end product. I have come to believe, in my case, that the time I spend roasting coffee is subtracted from my time allotment before I die. It is time very well spent. To see the expression of joy on the faces of those who have never experienced a heavenly brew is priceless!

This unit pulls air from underneath its base, heats it, and forces it into the roasting chamber. Air is dirty. A cut-to-fit air conditioner filter placed beneath the base will assist in cleaning the air.

Even though this unit looses its custom program when power is removed, it is not a real concern because of the way I roast. It may be for you, however. Might I suggest keeping a detailed log of all your roasting parameters, including the custom program.

Final thoughts;
“Every machine is a compromise” and the i-Roast is no exception. Right out of the box the i-Roast is capable of producing very good roasts. If one, however, is willing to spend time with this roaster and learn its idiosyncrasies, it is capable of producing an exceptional roast whose brew will produce extreme pleasure in the mouths of its consumers.

The compromise is the balance between price, performance, usability, and end product. This machine performs superbly regardless of its relatively low price and should be considered when shopping for a quality home coffee roaster. It is not fair to rate an item as a 10 because that means there is no room for improvement. I rate this product as a 9 in all categories. A message to Hearthware; A job well done!

It is human nature for me, to want you, to like and enjoy, the things I like and enjoy. Fortunately for mankind, this is not representative of the real world. There are 6 billion people on earth, and that many personal tastes. The above review is my experience and representative of my tastes.

Leland Goertz
May 2005

Buying Experience

My unit was purchase from Coffee Bean Corral. They were called when I could not determine why my roaster would not start. Before I could finish my sentence I was inform of the 60 degree limitation. I also purchase green beans from them. They are first class; A+!

Three Month Followup

January 2006, 9 months after initial review.

This machine has been grossly abused by roasting up to 3 pounds per day for the last 6 months. It has not failed, or even given clues that it will fail. It is as strong and capable as it was when it was new. The machine is, however, kept extremely clean. I have herd from other users that they have had fires in their i-roasts, but I don’t see how this is possible if the unit is kept clean.

In early February this roaster will be retired to roasting just small sample roasts, and duly earned, in lieu of a Diedrich IR-3.

In the 2+ years I have owned this roaster I have put 12 years of roast time on it without a single failure. It is well built and reliable and should be considered for a home small batch roaster. If you are considering this roaster and have questions or concerns about it, please do not hesitate to contact me!

Leland Goertz
January 2006

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review rating: 8.5
Posted: May 27, 2005, 6:26am
feedback: (6) comments | read | write
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