Get it!!...Very Easy to Use...Fun to Use...It's satisfying to control your own roasts, save money and have fresh coffee on hand. It is well named!!
Positive Product Points
This applies to the new model, the Fresh Roast Plus 8. First, it is very easy to use. I am sensitive to noise and I think it's Quiet. It does a very nice dark roast. Easy to control. Timer goes up to 8 minutes which has been plenty for me. Inexpensive. Chaff collector works very well and is easy to clean. Doesn't smoke too much. Not too large, easy to store. Light and easy to move around. Easy to see the beans as they roast and judge color.
Negative Product Points
Very few negatives. The overall build quality is not very "finished", i.e. the aluminum base of the glass roast chamber is not well finished (but it works fine). The Fresh Roast feels a little flimsy; it doesn't feel heavy and solid. Should that matter? I don’t know. I do hope that it holds up over time and doesn’t need a lot of maintenance.
The main drawback of the Fresh Roast is that it doesn’t roast very much coffee per batch. I live alone so it is going to be okay for me but in a house with 2 or more serious coffee drinkers it would need to in use every other day or so. I think this is what the designer has in mind. They want it be used like any other kitchen appliance. Except it’s not quite that simple. It produces a lot of heat and coffee is a combustible material. You need to keep an eye on it. Also, the smoke it creates is an issue. It will probably set off the smoke alarm unless you use it on the patio, disable the alarm or create some kind of setup to deal with smoke. All of these issues work against using it as just another kitchen appliance.
I would like to see it scaled up by about 25-50 % in size just to be able to do a larger batch. The standard recommendation is 2 scoops which is about 60 grams, I am able to do about 80 grams by tipping it a little to the side at the start of the roast but I think 80 grams is about the most you could do with this roaster (3 ounces=84 grams).
The first point to make is that this thing is Fun! It's fun to use, easy to use and it feels great to be able to roast my own coffee. I have been using the Sweet Maria's sample green coffees and they have all come out very well so far...I haven’t measured voltage but I think this roaster is sensitive to ambient temperatures and voltages. I roasted 60 grams on my friends’ patio outside in Seattle and it took longer than roasting 80 grams in my kitchen in Victoria. So, where you roast and voltage level is important
I did a nice Full City Roast of 80 grams in my kitchen this morning and set the smoke alarm off without even seeing much visible smoke so I think the patio is the place to roast in the future. It will do 60 grams easily and 80 grams if you hold the base and tip it to the side a little for the first minute or so, this creates a fluid side to side motion which allows it to lift 80 grams in the beginning of the roast, after about a minute or so the beans are light enough to be lifted by the Fresh Roast for the rest of the roast.
It’s not quite a “Set and Forget” machine, you do need to keep an eye on it but it works well and I didn’t need to just sit there and watch it all the time, but it is a lot of fun to watch it work…The beans start to lose moisture and dance higher and higher, the cracks start to happen and you watch them change colors through the full roast cycle. It is easy to control, you set the timer and it starts going, you can then add or subtract time by dialing the knob in either direction at any time during the roast…I dump it out into a dish at the end of the cooling cycle. So far I have achieved some very nice even, dark roasts.
I am not really interested in getting too specific about roast profiles, as long as it’s close to a nice roast I am pretty happy. This machine doesn’t require a lot to get a nice roast; it seems to be a fairly forgiving machine. You can turn it off at any time and pop off the roast chamber and dump it into a dish to cool if you want. But I have had good luck by just tweaking the timer knob a little to adjust a roast.
I think they have designed it to fit on the kitchen counter. I would love to see them scale it up and increase the size so we could do a 4-5 ounce roast. Make it heavier and better insulated to make it more predictable and solid. I would just roast on the patio and not worry about keeping it in the kitchen. I am sure that the designer is trying to balance size and user friendliness with roast capacity.
Swet Maria's is a very good company. They shipped quickly, it was easy to track during shipment and they packed well. I recommend getting the green bean samples for an extra 10 bucks.
Three Month Followup
One Year Followup
I have since bought a Zach and Dani's. Both do a fine job but the Fresh Roast is just simpler. Easier to use and easier to clean. The Zach and Dani is great for roasting if smoke is a concern because it is virtually smokeless. The Fresh Roast has a slight edge because of simplicity and also because it does a very fast roast.
A year later it is working just fine. I would up my Quality rating a little higher after using it for a year. The simplicity of design is what makes it work so well.