Where home roasting is concerned, the difficulty has always been in actually achieving consistent roasts from one batch of coffee beans to another. The drawback of all of the small fluid bed style roasters (besides the obvious small batch capacity) is their sensitivity to total bean mass, moisture content, and voltage variation affecting the heater output thus air temperature near the beans. While the radiant heat drum roasters like the Alpenrost or the HotTop solve part of the problems inherent in the small fluid bed roasters, they actually introduce some new and different problems of their own. Because part of the bean heating is done by infrared radiation and another part by air convection, and because the Alpenrost and the HotTop don't actually control air temperature near the beans, not only are they sensitive to voltage variation but also to the 'starting' temperature of the roaster's metal parts, and to some degree are even affected by the 'color' of the green beans (with lighter shinier beans seeming to roast less quickly). In fact, these different problems with radiant heat drum roasters have led to aftermarket products which attempt to add accurate air temperature readouts, thermocouples, variac voltage regulators, external heating element temperature controllers etc. in the attempt to create more consistent roasts.
The Gene Cafe roaster appears to include all of the good technical features of both the fluid bed style roasters, as well as all of the good features of the drum roasters, with very few of the drawbacks. The unique off-axis design results in the same thorough mixing of the roasting beans as occurs in a fluid bed roaster, but offers the 1/2 pound capacity of the drum roasters. The off-axis bean container also allows a full view of the roasting beans like the fluid bed roasters, as opposed to the drum roasters offering a restricted view or no view at all while the roast is in progress. The forced hot air roasting approach of the Gene Cafe eliminates all of the infrared heating variables of the radiant heat drum roasters. The high temperature glass and plastic design of the Gene Cafe essentially eliminates the variable of hot or cold metal parts starting temperature. And most important of all, the Gene Cafe roaster includes two temperature sensors, one of which actually controls the temperature of the forced hot air which contacts and roasts the beans to within a few degrees of the set temperature, thus eliminating susceptibility to voltage variations which seem to plague every other type of roaster design (the second temp sensor is for safety shutdown if overheating should ever occur). The adjustable roasting temperature feature also allows for the possibility of setting a slightly lower temperature but longer roasts which can be beneficial for uniformly roasting larger bean coffees. Combined with a precise cycle timer and a temperature controlled cool-down cycle, the Gene Cafe appears to achieve a consistency from one roast to another which rivals commercial roasters which sell for many thousands of dollars.
Besides a fantastically consistent roast, the Gene Cafe's design does a much better job of collecting chaff than the drum roasters thanks to a removeable chaff collector (which is also extremely easy to clean out). While the Gene Cafe roaster creates a lot of smoke while roasting, unlike the drum roasters where smoke seems to rise from everywhere, all of the Gene Cafe's smoke exits via the vent in the top of the chaff collector - meaning that it can be easily operated on the kitchen counter as long as the vent is pointed towards a range hood or window fan. The Gene Cafe's off-axis bean container and stand also greatly reduce the possibility of making a mess while handling beans. And aesthetically speaking, the Gene Cafe looks 'high-tech' and elegant at the same time, as opposed to the 'hardware store' or 'power tool' appearance of the drum roasters, making it much more 'at home' as a permanent addition to the kitchen counter.
All in all, with the long awaited 'official release' of the Gene Cafe roaster for retail sales, it is the best performing home use coffee roaster available today, period. The fact that the retail selling price of the Gene Cafe roaster is actually competitive with radiant heat drum roasters, while the performance of the Gene Cafe roaster is far superior, makes it an outstanding value.