Roasts coffee like what I pay $15 a pound for but priced like an old VW Beetle. HIghly recommended.
Positive Product Points
The short version: It works, it keeps smoke in reasonable check, I like the profiles and ability to see and HEAR what's going on while roasting the coffee. First and second crack are easily-audible.
Negative Product Points
The profile settings are not aggressive enough in some cases, especially with the slower ramp profiles (e.g. P5). This makes darker roasts with ramp-up impossible on full pounds; you're forced to use P1 (full power from the start) which is too aggressive in my opinion for many beans. I get around this by roasting half-pounds but lying to the machine and killing the roast manually.
Don't try for anything beyond light Vienna in this thing. It can't handle it and you'll set the smoke detectors off in the house. This IS warned about in the instructions, and I personally don't want to roast that dark anyway. If you want a "Starbucks-burned" style roast, this is not your machine.
Roastmasters ships the machine with 8lbs of assorted coffees (their choice.) Expect to use a goodly amount of this supply - like half or more of it - figuring the machine out and exactly what you like. It WILL take that long, and you SHOULD run small batches - about 1/2 to 1 cup of beans in the machine - to get comfortable before you dump a pound in there and ruin it.
I find that the "full power" P1 profile is just too aggressive. It is very difficult to control the roast when running P1 simply due to the speed, and the fact that from "roasted" to "burnt" is only about 50 degrees Fahrenheit in bean temperature. You want the beans to reach CONSISTENT internal temperatures but you also don't want the roast to stall, which can happen if you don't have enough heat. I burned the devil out of three batches sequentially, with horrible consistency on top of it (some beans were not even fully-developed while others were at Vienna stage!) before giving up on P1 and turning it down via the profiles. I find that using P5 and lying to the machine about the mass of the beans inside gives the best results - run no more than a half to 3/4 of a pound, use P5, profile "C", and pull the roast manually when it's done. This MAY be due to my line voltage - I've got 122V at the plug according to my Kill-a-Watt, and small differences matter a lot. If you're 110V at the plug you probably will curse the lower power settings instead.
There are multiple warnings in the manual about the machine not being "set it and walk away." It's good that they're in there, as it's very easy, with the set profiles and time options, to believe you might be able to get away with that. You can't. The difference between "too bright" due to being under-roasted, "done" (perfect) and "burnt" is less than 30 seconds in most cases. You CANNOT get precise enough to get good, consistent results unless you are watching the machine and choosing when it's "done." I drink my coffee as straight-shot Espressos (and own a Vetrano with Macap M4 for a grinder) and as a consequence am somewhat of a picky SOB. YMMV; if you're a drip guy you probably have more latitude and being a bit early is ok.
My typical half-pound roast goes in with the machine set to full pound, P5, setting "C". Typically I will pull that roast ~3 minutes before the timer expires by hitting the COOL button, right on the edge of second crack. The machine has an internal light which gives you an excellent view of the roasting progress; you can see, hear and smell the beans as they progress. I pull the door full-open when I hit the COOL button to minimize coasting; that blows a bit of chaff out the door but it's not a big deal.
The smoke-suppression system works very well; I can typically run this in my home WITHOUT external venting, and produce only a nice aroma of roasted coffee in the house. Be warned, however, that if you go well into second crack the smoke alarms will go off - it's a smoke suppression system, not an elimination system. For anything beyond Full City+ this is not the right roaster; I don't get why people like coffee that is roasted that dark, but some do.
The unit is quite-capable of running batches with only a few minutes between them; when the cool cycle is complete the chaff tray, beans and cylinder are all cool enough to remove with bare hands, being only very slightly above room temperature. This is good when you're trying out new things.
Consistently is good with reasonable management of the roast - but not excellent. I find myself picking out a few beans (perhaps a dozen or so) out of a half-pound batch that didn't get dark enough when the roast is complete. For a machine in this price range though that's exemplary. The heat is semi-direct via quartz tubes rather than being hot-air driven; this has both good and bad points, in that if the machine gets dirty or you get a really chaffy coffee in there you could get a pretty ugly flare-up. I haven't had trouble with that as of yet, but I keep my eyes open for the possibility.
Construction is of good quality; there is nothing that I'm annoyed with in that regard. It looks like a toaster oven but beware sticking it under a cabinet in operation as VERY HOT air comes out of the top of the unit at the rear. The manual and stickers on the device warn of an 18" clearance requirement; how real that is I don't know, but I'm not willing to find out the hard way and as such I run it on my open kitchen countertop. The cylinder mesh is fine enough to keep smaller beans from falling through or sticking and the diverters in the cylinder promote excellent mixing of the coffee while it roasts. There are a few people who have said that the weakest part of the machine is the cool cycle but I can't complain about it in any material fashion; it seems to be fine in that regard from my point of view, although I do open the door when I hit the "cool" button.
I don't know how you can beat this machine for the money. I looked at the Hottop and other similar devices but they're DRAMATICALLY more expensive. Are they better? I don't know. But at three times the price they'd have to be MUCH better as I can buy three of these for one Hottop.
If it holds up, and from what I can see of the quality I have no reason to believe it won't, it will dramatically reduce my coffee expense while enhancing the quality of what I drink. It's hard to lose with that combination.
Roastmasters: Shipped when they said they would, the unit arrived double-boxed and in perfect condition, right on time. Exactly as expected and promised.
Three Month Followup
I've found that for my favorite blend of beans for espresso I start the unit on "P1" for 1:45, hit OFF, then immediately restart on P2. This avoids one problem that I couldn't otherwise solve - the draw fan comes on at a bad place in the cycle, dropping temperatures in the chamber by just enough to stall the roast. This avoids that problem. Note that 1:45 is about as far as you can go - if you let it run too long it will not restart as it's too hot.
No problems with the unit at all; it's being run about once a week to keep me in fresh roasted beans, and I still like it. Would definitely buy it again.
One Year Followup
Still love it. It's producing on average a batch every week or so of about a pound and I'm able to get consistently repeatable results.