The HWP makes roasting easy, fun, and almost automatic.
Positive Product Points
The HWP is extremely easy to use. It is a very consistant roaster; it makes roasting just about as easy as it can be. The glass body constructions lets you monitor the roast visually. The cooling cycle is excellent.
Negative Product Points
This is a noisy roaster; it is very difficult to hear the different stages of crack during a roast. It has a small batch size (75 - 85 grams) and, worse, it is no longer in production.
There's nothing quite like home roasting for good, fresh coffee and espresso, and the Hearthware Precision Roaster (HWP) makes roasting easy and fun. The HWP is a well-constructed and nice looking machine; it stands well next to my other coffee brewing equipment.
The HWP breaks down into three sections: the base, with the fan and heating element, the glass-bodies roasting chamber, and the chaff-collecting top.
The top is an excellent design; it does a fantastic job of collecting all of the chaff generated during a roast. It is a three piece design (top, base, and screen) that comes apart easily for cleaning. It needs to be cleaned out after each batch, but that's not a big hassle. I recommend a good, stiff brush -- a broad-bodied one works the best for me. Just dump the chaff out over a garbage can and brush the rest of it out.
The body has a little rod sticking up that really facilitates bean movement during the roast. You can watch the beans jumping around during a roast, and it is pretty easy to tell that the beans are being well mixed.
The HWP uses a computer chip with SCAA approved roasting profiles burnt into it (or so I've read.) The machine varies its intensity and temperature during the roast to match the profile. The roasting intensity is controlled by a little knob on the front of the base. The base also has two buttons; one to start the machine, and one to force the machine into its cooling cycle.
Each HWP is a little different; a setting of '6' on one machine will produce a different roast than a setting of '6' on another. Once you do a couple of test roasts to figure out the nuances of the settings on your HWP, you are good to go. (I recommend roasting a batch of beans on '6' and adjusting from there; I find most of my roasting is done between '5.5' and '7' on my HWP.)
As I mentioned above, the cooling cycle is excellent. After a roast, the machine goes into a 5 minute forced-air cooling cycle. Once that is over, I recommend pouring the beans into a metal colander or some such to further cool them to room temp before putting them in storage to rest. The beans are cool enough to handle after the roasting cycle, but not quite room temp.
The machine only roasts small batches; there's a maximum batch size of 85 grams. That's a problem if you drink a lot of coffee; you might have to do several batches back-to-back to do enough coffee for a few days.
A roast takes around 12 minutes or so, and there's not a lot of smoke with this unit. However, it is very noisy, which makes roasting by ear very tricky.
Once you get your HWP dialed it, roasting becomes a fire and forget experience. You can set it doing its thing and go off to do something else; it's been that consistent for me.
I highly recommend this machine. If it roasted bigger batches and were quieter, it would be the perfect roaster for me.
I purchased my machine through eBay, and the transaction went off without a hitch. The seller threw in five half-pounds of coffee and a few coffee bags with one-way valves for storage.
Three Month Followup
I love my HWP. I love it so much, I just bought another one when I had the chance. I am roasting coffee twice a week, more or less, doing between four and eight batches with my little machine. It is holding up very well. While I am still looking for an excellent high-capacity home roaster, I imagine I'm going to be using my HWPs for a long time.