Roast full 1/2 lb batches, even with dry processed beans. Evenly roasts all the beans. Quiet enough to hear first and second cracks. Ability to control roasting profile (although manually only).
Negative Product Points
Must learn when to start cool down to get desired roast.
I've put over seventy pounds of coffee through this roaster so far and thought I'd share a couple of thoughts.
First off, I think it is a very unique design and does its job well. Anyone that has used a roaster that uses forced hot air to agitate the beans knows how noisy they are. This machine just has a little periodic "thump" as the chaff wiper flips over every ten seconds or so, but it is quite easy to hear when first crack starts and ends. I also use the temp display to monitor first crack; the temp will drop during this stage and then start to rise when it finishes.
I rarely roast anything more than a few snaps into second (my espresso roasts) so I can't comment on the quality of the dark roasts it produces.
To get a true city roast, you need to use the emergency stop feature. Be sure to have a couple of pot holders to handle the drum! I use an 8 inch nylon funnel (from my home brew store) with a metal mesh strainer that fits inside. To cool the beans, I use my vacuum (the manufacturer starts with D) since the funnel fits inside the vertical accessory tube after opening the little flap; the beans are completely cooled in about 3 minutes.
If you just let the machine go through its normal cool down, you'll need to hit the cool down button about half a roast before you want. If you want FC+, then start cooling at FC.
There are two places that you must keep clean. The chaff collector and the heater intake:
After every 20 lbs or so, I take the chaff collector apart with a screwdriver. A good amount of chaff dust can build up between the inside and outside metal screens. This dust can not be removed without taking the collector apart.
The heater intake screen is on the bottom of the roaster on the right hand side (as viewed from the front). I just take the brush attachment of my vacuum cleaner to it. If you don't clean this screen, the airflow to the heater will be insufficient. This will cause the thermostat to cycle the heater off too much resulting in longer roasting times and eventually insufficient roasting temperatures.
My machine reaches first crack in about ten minutes with a 1/2 lb roast.
I've had one chaff fire when roasting a really dirty dry processed Ethiopian, but since I was standing at the machine I was able to shut down the machine and get the smoking drum out of the house. The fire was completely contained in the drum (not a flame mind you, just glowing smoking chaff) and the roaster suffered no ill consequences as far as I can tell. Never leave a coffee roaster unattended and know where the hot pads are!
I managed to break the small pinion gear that turns the drum. I did this by not ensuring that the drum had latched into place before turning the power on. Thanks to Tim at Fresh Beans, Inc. Even though my warranty was expired (and it was my fault any way), he sent me a replacement part which was pretty easy to install. Always make sure the drum is latched in!
I've been a customer of Sweet Maria's for over 5 years. I have never had a problem with a single order.