Price paid: $300 direct ($270 @ SweetMarias)
Although the Alpenrost is dirt-simple to use, I rated it a 3 in "Ease of Use" for one reason: it takes a bit of trial and error to get consistent roasts.
There‘s a key to getting consistency from the Alpenrost: Use the same weight in coffee every time. This necessitates a digital scale of some kind, sensitive to within a few grams. Without this precision, a given timer setting will result in a different roast with every batch of coffee!
Very dark roasts are hard to achieve with a maximum load (225g). They‘re easy once you drop that load by, say, 25% (still a lot of coffee). However, as noted above, you will have to keep notes regarding your timer setting for that reduced weight, because they‘ll be different than when the drum is fully loaded. And here‘s where the timer‘s range can be a problem. It will roast no shorter than about 16:20. If you find that your reduced load takes 14:30 to reach the stage you like, than you must manually stop the roast. This does not preclude achieving your roast; it simply means that you can‘t leave the Alp alone to do its job - you‘ve got to come back and engage the Cool button.
The roasting drum is beautifully designed. It is solid, resistant to oil buildup, and nearly perfect in its ability to deposit every single bean into the hopper when the roast terminates. As has been noted, certain small beans may stick in the holes and burn (peaberries for sure). However, 9 of 10 roasts do not exhibit this flaw.
Chaff collection is OK. The tray below the heating element picks up about 90% of it. The basket in the vent cap gets 5% more. The remaining pinch of chaff lingers in the drum (no big deal; just dump it) and around the element (bit of a pain). A delicate brush or Dustbuster would be a nice accessory to clear the errant chaff.
Cleaning is easy. First of all, there‘s little to clean. Buildup of oils/dust on the stainless steel parts is probably insignificant for a couple of dozen roasts. After that, a clean rag will wipe it off.
Finally, the coffee! I was initially disappointed with my Kenya AA, which I loved for its tangy acidity even at a Full City to light French roast. The Alp produced a mellower cup than I was accustomed to with fluid bed roaster/poppers. After further experimentation, I found that I could retain some of that acidity AND preserve the varietal distinction of the coffee by roasting lighter. This was a revelation only because medium roasts, in a popper, were always too sour and lacking in body for me, and required much rest to be palatable. The roast curve of the Alp, however, produces a very smooth cup at American to City levels. In coffees with acidity, there is both generous body and a pleasant sharpness at these roast degrees with the Alpenrost. The resting period needed for any coffee is reduced to a maximum of 24 hours.
The price of the Alpenrost is a bit more than twice that of the highly regarded Hearthware Precision. In a perfect world, one might own both: the Alp for full bodied roasts (perfect for espresso) at light to medium-dark levels; the HW for bright acidity at medium-dark to very dark roasts. I feel that the Alpenrost is still a good value at the higher price for two reasons - its construction and its roast capacity. The latter is THE reason why I bought one. Additionally, its roast profile offers something unique (and arguably more representative of professional roasters‘ product) to the home roaster. I have come to really enjoy the full body, mellow acidity, and robust flavor I get with my Alpenrost.