Nice roast, but it is somewhat fragile and you will need luck and patience to get it fixed.
Positive Product Points
An easy to use roaster that provides a good roast.
Negative Product Points
- somewhat fragile - hearthware customer support is very hard / not possible to reach - small roast batch - noisy
I'm on my second iRoast. I've had both 1 and 2 and had each for about a year. I roast about 1.5 lb per week split between drip and espresso. Both machines did a good job in creating a nice roast.
While they are very noisy (think loud hair dryer) you can hear the 1st and 2nd crack if you listen carefully. It's also nice that you can see the beans as they roast and ultimately this is how I determine when to stop the roast. There is a temperature gauge on the roaster, but it seems to measure the temperature of the air going into the beans, not the beans or the air after the beans --- so for any given roast it can vary significantly and I can't use it to gauge progress. Likewise the time to roast is very dependent upon room temperature and batch size so time isn't effective to stop the roast. Ultimately I've found that watching the beans in the glass carafe is the most effective and acceptable.
Cleaning the carafe is fairly difficult. Due to the design it's hard to get into the carafe to clean it, and quickly becomes covered with coffee oils. Urnex espresso machine cleaner seems to help.
The roaster does produce a lot of smoke. This isn't particular to this roaster I'm sure, but you will need a strong outside exhaust, or to roast outside. However, below 50 degrees I find that I can't roast outside - it never gets to 2nd crack.
The batch size is 5.5oz. This is enough for about 6-7 double shots of espresso, or 9-10 6oz cups of coffee. Each batch takes about 15 minutes and requires supervision. For my wife and I a batch lasts about 2 days, so I will usually roast about 4 batches at a time to last the week.
Compared to the Z&D, I find that the iRoast: - provides a better roast. It is a richer roast especially for espresso - has a larger batch size by 1/2 to 1 oz - has faster roast time. The Z&D takes 20-25 minutes per batch - produces more smoke. This is probably due to the larger batch size, the faster roast time, and the Z&D has a smoke reduction system - is less reliable. I find that the iRoast lasts 9-12 months before it breaks. The Z&D lasted 2 years. - is more expensive by about $30
I'm on my second iRoast. The first one ultimately died after the lid broke, the carafe broke, and finally the base unit. My second iRoast has had similar problems with the lid and carafe also breaking. This wouldn't be so bad, but Sweet Maria's doesn't sell the parts and Hearthware's customer support is really horrible. If you order online a tracking number isn't provided. It doesn't seem possible to get one either. There isn't a way to check orders online. Calls to sales don't work as they don't have access to existing orders. Calls to customer support yield a computer that you can't understand and talks too fast to write down anyways (after being on hold for 10 minutes you get a computer, very odd). Email to customer support doesn't get answered.
They can be very slow to ship items (2-3 weeks) so it's all very frustrating.
The customer support is is very hard / not possible to reach. Because of this it is unlikely that I'll buy a hearthware products in the future.
Please note, Sweet Maria's is great. But they don't carry the parts so...