A whole new, truly enjoyable experience to Home Roasting.
Positive Product Points
No real learning curve to use successfully.
Use right out of the box.
When assembled, everything fits very well.
Very easy cleanup.
No visible smoke while roasting.
One can manually stop the roasting process by depressing the Cool button which will start the 5 minute cool down cycle.
Negative Product Points
It would be nice if the unit could not be as noisy. Perhaps by insulation around the motor. I believe that I can now distinguish between 1st and 2nd cracks however, it's extremely difficult to do. I more readily find myself judging the roast by both time settings and bean color.
You have to take into consideration that your roasted beans will additionally darken somewhat during the built in cooldown cycle.
You have to be carefull emptying the chaff container so as not to spill collected chaff unto your roasted beans. Also, you have to tilt your roasting chamber containing the beans to 'wipe' away the collected chaff along the glass sides of the roasting chamber, so you can dump the beans. Not really a negative point, but something to be mindfull of.
The included whirly blade grinder....Nuff said.
This is my first experience home roasting. I was pretty set on getting the Fresh Roast+ but started reading on alt.coffee information on the Z&D roaster. I received the Z&D roaster as a Christmas present.
Due to kitchen real estate, and the fact of the wife wanting to minimize the amount of 'toys' on the counter, I use it in the basement.
I roasted up my first batch of Monkey espresso blend from Sweet Maria's, Christmas night. The whole process was very straight forward. Whenever you plug the roaster in, the digital timer defaults to an initial setting of 20 minutes. You can go down as low as 15 or as high as 30. For the Monkey blend I set the timer to 22 minutes. During operation I was impressed by the degree of agitation the auger moved the beans around within the roaster...Very nice. During roasting, you need to be mindful of both the glass roaster and the metal base it sits into. Both will quickly become quite hot.
Seventeen minutes into this roast, or 5 minutes from the end of whatever time you initially select, the built in 5 minute cooling cycle will start. During this cool down, the fan, motor speed (bean agitation), and noise will increase. It's something that initially startled me. Once the cool down period completes, the unit automatically shuts off. The cool down cycle does a pretty good job of cooling both the glass roasting chamber and the metal base it sits in. The directions indicate that when the roast is complete, to let the beans sit within the roasting chamber for 10 minutes prior to removing the beans.
Overall, the roast quality of the beans was very uniform in roast. 22 minutes roasted the Monkey to a Light Full City.
The unit during roasting blew some chaff out of the roaster and unto the workbench it was on. Later, through some discussion on alt.coffee, it was mentioned that you need to 'press' fit the chaff collector and gasket into the lid of the unit before you place the lid unto the unit. This was not mentioned within the instructions, and since I've now been doing this, the loose chaff problem I was having with my first few roasts have either been eliminated or negligible.
A few other observations. The instructions stipulate one needs to clean the unit prior to each use. What I've found that you need to pay particular attention to ensuring you do clean are the two gaskets. These are made of a soft rubber. After a few successive roasts, both the softness and 'stickiness' of the rubber seems to be 'hidden' by chaff. A quick rinse under water revitalizes both the softness and stickiness of the rubber, which in turn, will give a better seal. I initially made the mistake of wiping the rinsed gaskets with a kitchen towel. Ended up with lint covering the gasket. Now I just air dry the gaskets.
The other area of concern is to ensure you clean out any chaff from the recessed area of the motor shaft. This is the area where the roasting chamber sits into. The heat it transferred from this area up into the glass roasting chamber. Ensuring this area is free of chaff will ensure proper airflow which in turn, will give you a consistent roast. Normally, I just hold the base on it's side and blow the chaff from this area into a large wastebasket.
I've found it fairly easy to clean the glass roasting chamber by using one of those scotch-brite, sponge things people use in the kitchen. I use it much the same way you would to clean out a jar. Seems to do the job pretty effectively.
Overall, I've roasted about 10 batches. Four have been various espresso blends and the other six have been roasted for normal drip coffee. One of the espresso blends was roasted to a Dark Full City, filling the roasting chamber to the Dark Roast measuring line and roasting for 30 minutes. The roasts for drip have been roasted using settings ranging from 20 - 24 minutes. Every roast I've done so far has turned out surprisingly, well uniform in color. I say surprisingly, because I'm new at roasting and I'm supposed to have problems, but I'm NOT!!!
It's important to keep a journal of some sorts for your roasting experience. Doing this, will minimize the amount of trial and error you would normally have to go through by not keeping a log of your results.
Of course, Rocky has no problem providing me with the perfect grind for whatever I may be making.
Overall, I am very satisfied with this purchase. Just the 'set-and-forget' nature of this roaster makes it a pleasure to use. I watch each roast as it progresses, taking note of the color transition of each different bean varietal I use. That way I can record it into my log for future use when I'm using the same variety of bean.
In conclusion, I feel if I had to endure the smoke issue plagued by other types of roasters, that this hobby of roasting would not work in my household. Both the Rocky and Wega Mininova would stay around forever, but the whole roasting aspect would just not be a part of the process. Although I roast in my basement, I'm not standing outside roasting.
Smoke is NOT an issue with this roaster. It's really not. It's to the point, that last month I replaced a smoke detector upstairs. It wasn't until after about 6 roasts, that I moved some things on my workbench and sitting on my workbench, not 2 feet from the roaster was the old smoke detector, battery plugged in and everything and it's not gone off once. There is some 'smell' associated with roasting, but I've found it really does not linger for long and don't find it any way unpleasant.
Only time will tell for longevity of this new product, but from what I've experienced thus far, I don't feel in any way that most individuals will not regret this purchase.
I feel comfortable with the support Zach & Dani's have indicated they will provide, and forsee no problems with getting resolutions to any that may.
Three Month Followup
After using this roaster for the last 3 month's, I have no regrets about the purchase.
I find it very easy to use this roaster.
Some things I've learned is that I don't use the full 5-minute cool down cycle. I've found the coffee to smell and taste better by omitting this. When I've reached the desired degree of roast, I'll manually hit the Cool button and let the beans cool for only one minute. I'll then unplug the unit and dump the beans into a heavy cast iron pot and shake the beans around to additionally cool. Following that, I'll then dump the beans into a mesh colander and shake them around over a waste basket. I really don't find this to be inconvenient at all. Just part of the process.
I've read several post's mentioning the fact that during roasting, the cover of the roaster would vibrate off the unit. Some individuals placed pots on the top of the cover. This has not happened to me however, what I've noticed is if the unit is off balance, (uneven surface), that the roaster will vibrate some. Once I've moved the roaster unto a more level surface, the vibrating stopped so...
All along, I've washed all the 'washable' parts by hand. Once, I've placed all those items into the dishwasher and noticed that the nuts securing the handle on the roasting chamber started to rust, so it's back to washing everything by hand. Just something to be aware of.
One recommendation would be to purchase an additional roasting chamber, which I still need to do. This would make it much easier to roast back-to-back batches. Otherwise, I just place the chamber outside to cool.
I really enjoy the 'no smoke' feature of this roaster. It makes roasting in the house not an issue at all.
In all, I am very satisfied with everything this roaster does and especially the 'set and forget' part. Of course, I always watch the roast as it progresses, but I'm not spending all that time varying everything. I can concentrate on the pleasure of roasting and not trying to master the roaster as with other models.