Absolutely a great value with great results and still running strong going on 5 years.
Positive Product Points
Easy to use (with the exception of custom programing). Even roasts. Quiet enough to clearly hear the beginning and end of both the first and second cracks. Can easily view the color and texture of the beans change during the roast cycle. Custom programs. Easy to clean. The chaff collector works really well with (the exception of Ethiopian beans). Durable. The batch size is just large enough, 1/4 pound roasted, to keep me in fresh coffee roasting 2 to 3 times a week. The small size takes up very little counter space or storage space.
Negative Product Points
Programming is not intuitive. You need the keep the manual handy. The cool down is way too slow and ends up baking the beans muting the brightness and fruit notes (see remedy below). Displayed Temp is not the actual bean temp it is the roast chamber temp. For heavy coffee drinkers or for households with many coffee drinkers 1/4 pound per batch might be too small. Only designed to roast 1 batch per day.
I roast my beans as light as city and as dark as a full city+ (just kissing the second crack). This results in very little smoke. My roast results are reasonably close to the beans roasted by my green bean supplier Cafe Doma. I find that being in control of bean freshness has a more beneficial impact of flavor, on average, than the advantage of Doma's superior roasting. I just do not go through enough beans per week to be able to use a full pound while still fresh. Plus, I get to play around with different roast profiles and bean combinations. I still pick up some Doma roasted beans to establish a flavor benchmark to evaluate my roasts against. Since it is the same bean means the only difference in profile is going to be the roaster --me.
I found that the cool down is way too slow and ends up baking the beans muting the brightness and fruit notes. I remedy this by immediately removing the roast chamber after hitting the cool cycle and dumping out the beans on a cookie sheet sitting on a wire rack. Make sure to use an oven mitt to remove the roast chamber lid; it is very hot. I then place the beans in front of my air conditioner to cool the beans completely cool to the touch within 3 to 4 minutes ( fan would work just fine). To really enhance the brightness and fruit notes I will squirt a fine mist of water into to breeze blowing across the beans cooling them faster, not enough to make the beans wet, and just enough that whatever water sticks to the beans evaporates off within a few seconds. I also use this time to sort out any bean defects.
Although the temperature displayed is not the actual roast temp, it is useful as a frame of reference for setting profiles.
I have read some complaints about durability and consistency. It is very important to keep up normal maintenance regularly if you want consistent roasts, to be able to clearly view the beans while roasting, and if you want the roaster to last more than a year or two. Having to clean the roast chamber is not a negative, it is an expected part of regular maintenance. Also, the darker you roast the quicker it will get dirty and the more difficult it will be to clean. Besides cleaning the roast chamber and chaff collector it is imperative that you clean the wire mesh in the lid regularly. If you don't your roasts will slowly begin to taste flat. You will notice that you enter the first and second cracks sooner and any delay between the cracks with shorten or disappear. Eventually, you will notice that your roaster will just shut off before the roast cycle ends. If you do this enough times you will permanently damage your roaster or at least shorten its life. I clean my roaster parts by soaking them in Pure Caff and scrubbing them with my group brush. Make sure that the wire mesh in the lid is shiny silver with no build up in between the wires. You may want to inspect with a magnifying glass. Both my sister and I are evidence of the fact that keeping your machine clean extends its life. My I-roast2 is still running strong after 4+ years. My sisters is still running strong after 3+ years. I know this is only a sample of two and may be statistically insignificant. My response to that is just an appeal to logic and common sense. If it gets dirty and gets plugged enough to inhibit air flow that you should expect this to cause a problem. If you keep it clean you reduce your chances of having a problem. Also, roasting more than one batch per day can shorten the roaster's life expectancy.
I have read some comments complaining about there being minutes remaining on the timer when the person roasting decides the beans are ready. This is completely normal. It would be rare to have the beans finish at the same time the timer in the roaster has counted down. Your roast time, even using the same beans, can vary from roast to roast due to changes in room temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, or even any other electrical devices being used on the same household circuit. You absolutely cannot set the timer and walk away. Always watch the bean color and texture and listen to when the first and or second cracks begin and or end and end the roast where you want it. Don't be afraid to experiment. The only right answer is weather you like the results or not.
There is also differences from roaster to roaster. I programed my sisters I-Roast2 with the same custom program I programed into mine. At the point when I end the roast by hitting cool I still have about 2 min 30 seconds left (+ or -). My sister has to add 10 seconds (+ or -). I think that she gets better results for espresso. I get better results for drip--damn.
My ratings are based on its price and not as compared to the more expensive drum roasters. So we are talking about Quality for the dollar, Usability for the dollar, etc. . . .
Quality: I am rating the Quality a 10. 4+ years and running strong Usability: I would rate usability a 10 if it were not for the difficulty of making custom programs which lowers my rating to a 8. Cost vs Value: I rate this a solid 10. Great quality roasts and durability for under $200 Aesthetics: I rate this a very subjective 9 Overall Rating: I give it a solid 9: Make it easier to program, improve the cooling cycle, and make it prettier and I will give it a perfect 10. Actually the aesthetics does not enter into my overall rating at all.
Bottom line. This is a great little roaster that just about anyone could be happy with. I am not saying that the I-Roast2 competes in roast quality with the Alpen Roast, Behmor, Gene Cafe, etc. . . What I am saying is for less than $200 you not only get an affordable roaster for a beginner, you get a roaster much better than the price would indicate that has superior results given its price. Although I could probably get a superior roast from any of those high end drum roasters, the I-Roast2 is good enough that I do not feel it a necessity to upgrade (although I would like to) nor would feel dissatisfied if I could never afford to.
I ordered my I-Roast2 from Chris's Coffee. I received it very quickly and well packaged. They have always been very helpful when needed.
Three Month Followup
Now approaching its 5th year of service a small chip has popped off of the lid at one of the fastening tabs. There is no adverse effect on the functioning of the machine however. Also, the roast cycles are taking about 30 seconds longer than just a few months ago. They take about the same amount of time as my sister's I-Roast2 (still running strong after 3 yrs) has taken since new.