Produced good coffee -- the new design appears to have fixed the fire hazzard.
Positive Product Points
This was my first coffee roaster, and it sold me on the idea of roasting my own coffee. The flavor was better than nearly anything I had experienced prior to roasting my own.
Negative Product Points
Given I had a replacement (8 minute timer on the new roaster vs. 5 on the old) the comments about a fire are no longer valid -- at least not with the newer roaster. The big negative with the new roaster is size -- it is small.
The safety concern seems to have been addressed, and the roaster now appears to be running much cooler -- to get an oily roast before required less than 5 minutes, now it takes a full 8 minutes, and preheating the roaster. This is a welcome change considering the result with the first machine. Right now my only complain is small size. It takes a long while to roast a couple of pots worth of coffee, and the smell from roasting is still more than what my wife will take inside the house. It doesn't smoke like the last one I had (a good thing!) but the smell is still very strong.
**** The following was from the first unit, which was replaced with an updated model **** While I like the result, that is the coffee, I am very concerned about the safety of the product. Using it the same way I had many times before (thankfully outside because of the strong odor), about 2 minutes into the roast, the beans caught fire. With the hot air blowing up through the chamber, the machine resembled a blow-torch at full throttle. I had two foot high flames coming out the top of the machine that were over a foot across.
I did not check line voltage during the incident, but I do have computers that have online UPS protection with over-voltage sensors, and they had not detected an abnormally high voltage, so I'd have to presume there was a defect in the machine (or design -- see below).
This is the main reason for the negative commentary on the machine. I'm not sure if anyone else has had such a problem, but I was very concerned that this should be known as a possible outcome. If I hadn't used it before, or if it hadn't started so soon, I would think it could have been something I had done, but neither seems to be the case.
I wonder if the new version (FreshRoast plus 8) has more than just the idea of allowing finer control over the roast, but if they lowered the temperature to prevent fires. It would seem the newer version if it uses a lower wattage heating element would help prevent what happened to me.
The product was a gift, so I don't know the price paid, but it was replaced after the incident.
Three Month Followup
After 3 months, I find that the one thing that is disappointing is the size. The new machine runs much cooler (you really need the 8 minutes to get a darker roast) so I doubt if I'd have the same problem I had with the first one catching fire. The coffee tastes wonderful, so much so that I want to make it more often, but the small size of a batch keeps my habit in check. Good product, and if you want to find out if doing your own roast is worthwhile, it makes a good starter system.