This was the $45 special from Hearthware in the form of a Home Innovation Gourmet that included a pound of green beans. This was bought as a backup to the Precision which is sure to go south one of these days. In other words, it is just something to tide me over so that I don't have to go without home roasted coffee beans until the Precision is replaced (under warranty or a new one is bought).
The design of the machine is adequate in terms of function, but not superlative. The rounded shaped, glass coffee pot holder of the green beans makes it difficult to just pour out the roasted beans, unless one shakes it. Contrast that with the straight sides of the Precision which makes dumping the beans out very easy. The orifice of the Gourmet is a bit smaller than the Precision, that I got around by using a funnel to get the preweighed green beans into the apparatus. I have a thermometer embedded into the lid of the Gourmet and the temperature does not seem to rise as high as with the Precision. Roasts seem to be slightly quicker than the Precision to the tune of about 1 minute less. The chaff assembly has a rubber gasket that will probably have to be replaced because of the heat, while the Precision has no rubber gasket. I roast by time, sound, and/or color and that is dependent upon what I am roasting. In other words, my roasting is done manually and not in a set and forget it mode. If one observes 1st crack, it is not unusual for 1st crack to vary significantly in terms of time with the same beans (like 20-30 seconds), during a roasting session. If the dial is anything like the Precision, then it amounts to a timer which will give exactly the same amount of time, almost down to the second, for any given setting. Initially, I let the Gourmet run through its cycle and noticed that the cooling cycle was nothing like the Precision. The beans continued to crack and the amount of time devoted to cooling wasn't nearly enough. Some say that this is 2.5 minutes of cooling, while the Precision has 5 minutes in which one can definitely see an immediate drop in temperature once the cooling cycle has been activated. While roasting, the beans circulate in a counter clockwise manner which makes it difficult to see 1st oil, during 2nd crack because it can be spinning pretty fast. That contrasts with the Precision's fountain-like variable rates of spewing. I decided to standarize on 3 oz by weight in both the Gourmet and Precision. I tried 4 oz once, but the really slow circulation of the beans in the Gourmet made me worry, although the roast may have been more uniform. The poor cooling cycle is a matter to be concerned with. When activated, it really doesn't cool the beans all that well so that some will just activate the cooling cycle again or do something like take off the chaff assembly and lid (if done, be careful because the glass is hot and requires some gingerly pushing upward to dislodge it - somewhat awkward). If there is any advantage of the Gourmet versus a Precision, aside from cost at $45, it might be that one could theoretically get 6 roasts (or more) done in one hour, given an assembly line mentality with some overlap (manually cool the beans with two colanders and start the next roast). It just seems to me that the Gourmet favors getting into 2nd crack and hence darker, relatively speaking, roasts because of the inefficient cooling cycle - in other words it doesn't seem to stop on a dime. It might be very tricky to get consistent results with beans that prefer a lighter roast and not into 2nd crack. Given the melting reports on alt.coffee, this is not a unit to ever leave running by itself without the user watching it like a hawk. If only it were as reliable as the hot air popcorn machines. Given its idiosyncracies, it is difficult to recommend as a first roaster, unless one is willing to put up with an imminent failure and sees no problem in either returning the unit or fixing it yourself with the supplied part from Hearthware. At less than half the Precision's cost, it might be worth the risk, but the hassle? Compared to a hot air popcorn maker, the Gourmet is probably less messy because of the chaff collector. As a backup to the Precision, it is OK, but clearly not preferable in terms of ease of use. At $100, I could not recommend it, but $45? Maybe.