Any concerns about home roasting vanished after using the FreshRoast+ the first time.
Positive Product Points
My comments pertain to the FreshRoast+
Inexpensive but not cheap! Good value and low cost helps get people into home roasting easily. This thing is absolutely easy to use! Even the neophyte can be roasting coffee beans well the first time out. It is quiet enough to hear the first and second cracks and roasts a batch quickly. The timer is good quality even though for my situation, I have to add more time for darker roasts.
Negative Product Points
The small roasting chamber means having to roast more frequently and for a one house heavy coffee drinker or multiple drinkers, it is a little small. It is fast, so several small roasts go quickly. The fast roasting time means that you really need to pay attention after the first crack. You can get into the darker roasts fairly quickly, so pay attention!
Voltages really affect this roaster. I wish it came with a power stabalizer of some sorts. Of course, this would increase the cost.
The first day I unpacked the roaster and did my first roast, I knew that any concerns I had about home roasting were eased. My first batch came out a little darker than expected but otherwise okay. I use SweetMaria's roast pictures/descriptions for comparison and as an aid for adjusting roasts. I did my first roast in the kitchen under the vent hood and while the odor was not unpleasant, it did get to be too much after a while. I then moved to roasting in the fireplace and discovered about the voltage effect. Different circuits affect this roaster quite noticably.
After my first few roasts, I took to heart the recommendations about using a timer and scale to get consistency. For my particular situation, 80 grams of beans is a good volume and I get consistent roasts using the timer and 80 grams.
I do follow the recommendations of the manufacturer and preheat the roaster. Up front, I run the roaster as if I were doing a full roast rather than the 2 minutes recommended. Even so, the first roast is a little slower than the other roasts.
I also carefully read the cupping reviews and roasting recommendations by Tom at SweetMaria's for a new bean. After that, I might play with it some. For the most part, if I am careful to follow Tom's recommendatioins, I am not disappointed with the coffee and its roast. As per their recommendations, I keep a roasting log and keep up with it. It really helps when trying new varieties or going back to an old favorite.
The one area I have to be careful about is the finishing after the first crack. Things can really get going fast after the first crack and I have to be "right on top" of things. I also recommend roasting outside or, like I do, in the fireplace. I turn the ceiling fan on low to create a little positive air pressure in the room and start the roasting. What little smoke there is goes up the chimney.
As others have reported, cleaning the chaffe collector is a breeze. I have found that some chaffe gets into the roast chamber. What I do to remove this from the roasted beans is to pour the beans into a large metal collander immediately after the cooling cycle stops. As I am swirling the beans to cool them, I gently blow on the beans to remove any chaffe that might have fallen into the beans. Having a hand vacuum available helps to get rid of any chaffe that has gotten on the floor and on me and the chaffe definitely gets on things.
I am a little lazy and roast enough for 5 - 7 days of use. I know the recommendations of using up the beans quickly but I have found that I can get away with finishing out within 7 days and things are okay.
SweetMaria.com is a pleasure to deal with. I appreciate their informative web site and follow their recommendations. I find that when I do, my roasts are usually right on target. I appreciate their cupping reviews of their green beans. Over all - a good and satisfying experience.