I have very recently purchased the I-roast - so my review consists of first impressions.
I could write most of the things (positive and negative) found in the reviews of others - but I will avoid giving you that strange feeling of deja-vu.
I could write most of the things (positive and negative) found in the reviews of others - but I will avoid giving you that strange feeling of deja-vu. (joke)
I have been home roasting for 4-5 years - first with the i-roast's predecessor, the Hearthware Precision, which died after about 2 years, and I could not buy another home roaster locally in Edmonton. (and still can't, for that matter!) Having gotten hooked on the convenience (ie keeping green beans in the cupboard indefinitely - roast when I want - no excess quantities going stale - no running out on a Sunday) i turned to alternative methods - on the bar-b-q, and the Toastess popcorn popper. The popper has been the method of choice for about 2 years. The first one failed after about 1 1/2 years. At $20 a pop(per), they are still a cheap and excellent home roasting method.
But the purchase of the i-roast was the surrender to the siren song that the coffee could be that much better with technology that costs 10 times as much. So the real point of this review, for those who are still Toastessing it is - is it worth it?
After just a few roasts, and few americanos with the i-roast, I vote a caffienated yes. In the non-logarithmic math of the coffee-obsessed, a 10% improvement in the flavour of already good coffee on a daily basis is worth the extra $200 for however long the i-roast lasts. Using the same beans and same grind as for the americanos made from Toastess-ed beans, the first roasts from the i-roast produced new flavours, and subtleties of flavours i had not had before. And with all great coffee making, extensive trial and error is necessary, so I have great expectations of coffee Valhalla and Nirvana (not necessarily in that order) from coffee from the i-roast.
Other popper versus i-roast observations: They are both noisy - the i-roast may even have a leg up in the 747-like category
- both need to be used under a range hood vented to the outdoors - though I find the i-roast produces less visible smoke and "burnt coffee" aroma than roasting with the popper. The i-roast has an attachment to hook up a dryer hose as a vent - i haven't tried it.
- the i-roast contains virtually all chaff, while the popper sprays chaff all over your stove (if that is what is under your range hood). Though chaff all over a flat surface looks unaesthetic, it can be quickly vacuumed up. The i-roast 3 piece chaff collector comparatively requires significant labour to clean it out - i think it is faster just to vacuum off the stove/counter.
- though the hard core of roastacenti say you can't "set and forget" any roaster, the i-roast is way closer to that level of convenience than a popper
- the popper does 1/2 cup of grean beans only - the i-roast claims to do 1 cup, though my initial results suggest that there is not full chaff removal for a lighter roast, if you use the full 1 cup amount. However, if it only does 3/4 cup efficiently, that still reduces the total number of roasts by 33% per week over the popper.
- I don't drink decaf anymore, but I have noted reviews that suggest the i-roast struggles with that. If you find that, buy a popper for the decaf - I always found decaf had to be roasted fairly dark to have any flavour, and the poppers are good for that.
UPDATE: There is now a "i-roast 2" which appears to have features that address the common complaints of version 1.0. On the website I saw it, it was $CDN30 more than the original.