Tiny-batch (50g), consistent roaster for newbies and small-quantity users
Positive Product Points
Newbie friendly; easy to get good results
Fast roasting, rapid setup and cleanup
Easy to monitor progress via cracks, visual appearance, smell
Negative Product Points
Long cool-off period between consecutive batches
Small batch size
I have the Fresh Roast +8 model, with a 0-8-minute timer (not counting a 2-minute cooldown).
I had never roasted coffee before buying this in December 2005. The first batch was good, and the second with a darker (longer) setting was great. Within a week after beginning roasting I was having the best coffee of my life and had completely eliminated the purchase of pre-roasted beans. After a month I was fluent at observing roast progress by appearance, crack sounds, and smell. After four months the roaster has paid for itself in the reduced cost of green versus roasted beans. The roaster has performed consistently for the whole time.
The roaster is straighforward and rapid to set up, run, and clean. To roast, pour two scoops of beans using the provided scoop into the vertical cylindrical roast chamber, stack up the heater/blower, roast chamber, and chaff catcher, and set the timer for the desired time. A user can watch, listen to, and smell the beans for clues about roast progress until they've figured out what duration is best for a particular type of bean. The blower goes off after the prescribed roast time plus about two minutes of unheated cooling, and this clue indicates that your beans are ready. I further cool them by swirling them in a metal colander for a few seconds, then put them into a loosely capped glass jar for degassing and storage. The chaff chamber has to be cleaned (brushed or blown out) after each caffeinated bean batch, and after a few decaf sessions.
The batch size of 50g (nominal after roasting) is good to start since if one fouls up few beans are wasted. However once one has settled down it can feel small to a frequent drinker, a family, or someone who likes to give gifts and bribes using freshly roasted beans. Sequential use requires patience. It takes 20 minutes for the roast chamber and heat unit to cool off sufficiently so that the next batch will come out consistently. At a 7 minute roast + 2 minute cooldown + 20 minute wait it takes over two hours to roast a half pound of coffee.
The chaff chamber is somewhat difficult to clean. Any brush stiffer than a feather duster seems to tangle with the screen inside the chamber, which can detach the screen from its mounts to the outer plastic. I just blow the thing out outdoors. Fortunately decaf beans produce almost no chaff.
Workarounds for the long cycle time are to have a second glass roast chamber or a even second whole unit.
Like any roaster, this puts out smoke. It needs to be used outdoors or in an area with an exhaust fan. I have a dryer exhaust fan in a utility room that provides a perfect setting.
Typical good internet experience: point, click, type, get an ack in email and a tracking number, and it shows up on the doorstep a few days later