I’ve been trying to write this review for two weeks, and it always ends up sounding whiny and petulant. Which is not intended because I am happy with the iRoast2 as a backup roaster when I can’t roast outdoors, but it has so much untapped potential that it feels frustrating. My recommendation is to thoroughly research this product before making a decision. There’s a lot of information and experience here and on other sites.
One thing to remember is that even though this seems like a programmable, self-contained roaster, you should never leave any roaster unattended. Not only do you run the risk of fire, you really need to be involved with your roast to know when to stop it.
Also, please keep in mind that with the iRoast2, temperature differences between machines appear to be very, very common. A profile that works on one iRoast2 can have greatly different results on another iRoast2. I don’t know if this is a manufacturing issue or if it’s because the iRoast2 temperatures can be easily affected by other factors (see below).
The roaster holds 150g of green beans (approx. 5 oz.), which is a nice increase over a popper. Bean agitation is very good, being able to attach a vent hose is an excellent option and works very well, the chaff collection is neat and really an excellent feature. The ability to save separate roasting profiles (up to 10), even when unplugged, is very nice. The ability to see the beans during the roast is great. The cooling cycle works very well. The beans come out slightly warm to the touch.
If you roast about one pound a week or less, enjoy darker roasts, and are not necessarily interested in fiddling around to find the perfect roast for a variety of beans, this roaster would work just fine for you. If, however, you prefer to have control over the roast or roast a variety of beans, you may be frustrated by this machine. While the roasts from the iRoast2 have been drinkable, they seem slightly off the mark and less complex. I may have an unconscious preference for roasts from the SC/TO setup, so that may affect perception of this roaster.
After six months of use, I figured out how to extend a roast to 12 minutes and not get dark oily beans (see: http://www.coffeegeek.com/forums/coffee/homeroast/219194). This greatly improved my satisfaction with this roaster. The preset roasting profiles roast to darker levels than I prefer.
There are some areas where there appears to be room for improvement, however.
Being able to program and save profiles is great. It would be even greater if the profiles could reliably be duplicated from one iRoast2 to another. Also, there is no way to modify a stored profile. You need to re-enter the entire thing, if you want to try changing the time or temp for even one stage.
Adding the ability to adjust temperatures and stage times on the fly would be a great improvement. Currently, you can increase the roasting time (but no temperature adjustments while roasting) exactly once during the roasting cycle (but nothing that will take it beyond 15 minutes), and you can stop the roast at any time. Those are nice, but for a CoffeeGeek, they’re not enough.
Temperature settings are “maximums” and the onboard temp readout is not necessarily reliable. (Folks using thermprobes get very different readings from what is displayed on the onboard readout.) For example, if you set stage 3 for 400°, stage 3 will not go above 400°. It may never go above 375° and the onboard readout may always show 325° or 333° or whatever. It does not necessarily mean that stage 3 will roast at a constant 400°. Also, the roasting temperature can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors: ambient temperature, amount of chaff a bean variety can produce, or how straight the vent hose is (if venting it).
If you are roasting over a pound a week, there are a couple of limitations that can be frustrating (e.g., roast limit of 150g, waiting two hours between roasts). So for someone who’s only able to roast evenings or weekends, you can end up trying to schedule things around roasting. Or if you have children around, ditto. Parts of this roaster get VERY hot.
Overall, I like this roaster as a backup for indoor use in bad weather. The ability to roast larger quantities and to have more control over the roast are frustrating. It kind of feels like “The Little Roaster That Could” – it almost gets up the roasting hill, but not quite. Maybe next time around.