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Here's More Thoughts On the Hearthware Precision:
The roast controls on the new Home Innovations are easier to view and use. You can override the roast at any time by hitting the cool button (green light illuminates). Roasting manually will always be the most exact way to control the degree of roast. We wish the new model had numbers on the hash marks, but it is not a big deal: "6" = the vertical mark where the dial is straight up. The picture to the right shows a setting of "5". That's the initial City roast setting we recommend that you try.
The roast time control is not a spring-wound mechanical timer but a simple dial setting. Set the roast time, hit the roast button, see the red light on during roast, and when the roast cycle completes the green light above the cooling button illuminates. Want to end the roast early? Hit the cooling button at any time. Want to extend the roast? ...When the cooling cycle starts quickly dial in additional time and hit the roast button. Control is simple, automated but easy to override, and the lights indicate where you are at all times. Only missing feature of the mechanical timer is seeing the time elapse during the roast.
For you experienced roasters out there, here are my roast settings / times:
Remember, decafs roast faster. I would try roasting regular non-decaf coffee first, to acquaint yourself with the process.
I am very pleased with how distinct the cracks are, and that the first and second are clearly separated by some time, unlike some of the air popper machines. This makes ending the roast by audible cues a lot easier.
First crack is easy to hear. Second sounds a bit like the beans circulating against the glass, so its a bit trickier. But remember that this roaster is quieter on the whole.
This agitation pattern has the coffee moving slower against the glass before it is drawn back into the center. This allows an unprecedented view of the roast color in order to visually judge the roast.
The top of the machine detaches so you can easily empty the coffee, or clean the top (can be put in a diswasher). On the Home Innovations there is a new safety feature; if the top is not in the correct locked position, the roaster won't start.
There is a 2-stage chaff collector (chaff is the thin outer skin that is removed from the coffee during roasting and must be collected). It appears to be extremely effective trapping even the finest chaff particles. The exiting air stream travels directly upward from the top of the roaster, making it easier to direct into a stovetop vent than the Gourmet model, which exits more from the sides of the chaff collector. I cant explain this, but in darker roasts I did not see the volume of smoke I would expect from another air roaster. The 2-stage collector may be inhibiting some smoke, but I cant vouch to this yet.
While easy to use, you must never leave the roaster unattended while it is operating! This is true for any coffee roaster! This is the caveat of automation. All roasters claim to automated, but when you are roasting coffee you are doing something more involved than making toast. There are many more variables. To truly roast to the peak of flavor, all coffees need to be roasted slightly different. The Hearthware doesn't necessitate this, but you might want to manually hit the cool button on your roasts to get the EXACT roast you want. Then again, watching the coffee roast tends to be addictive in itself, so you may find manually ending the roast cycle by hitting the cool button is not such a chore! That said, the Hearthware is the easiest to use roaster I have tested, and I have tested them all!
Can you add a Pelouze Thermometer to the Hearthware Precision (as pictured with the Gourmet model) and roast by temperature --yes! In fact, its easier: widen one of the 8 holes found in the plastic chaff collector lid of the Precision and the thermometer probes straight down into the coffee! Is this necessary --no, and I personally use my Precision the easy way, with the roast setting dial.
So here's all the Pros --here's some Cons:
The top end of the roaster has three places where it comes apart for cleaning. You need to take a second and make sure it is put together right before you hit the roast button. If the top isn't attached correctly to the base, you can direct heat sideways in the roaster past the bottom gasket. There's a big yellow marker on the roaster to show you where to line it up.
Hearthware offers a 1 year warranty on the roaster, and they mean it! They will replace the base of the unit if it is not behaving correctly. With that in mind: There have been cases of roasters that are "confused" in their roast cycle timing. I have never experienced one personally in the 60 or so Precisions I have used, but reports are of the roaster going into cooling cycle prematurely. It is possible that this has to do with certain electrical conditions where there is line noise on the circuit, which can be caused by light dimmer switches. This is not certain. There have been cases of the roaster heating element not functioning, and that will be replaced right away by Hearthware. There have been 2 cases where the fan on the roaster stopped, but the heat was on! There are 2 internal fuses to prevent risk due to this situation, but it underscores the fact that coffee roasters of any kind should never be left unattended! Once again, Hearthware will stand behind the machine and answer any questions you may have.
Normal roaster life? I would expect 2 years if you roast a lot. Why so short? Well, I think roasters live a pretty hard life. The basic elements of a roaster are a heating element, electronic controls, and a fan --eventually the heat is going to clash with the circuitry and the fan. Hearthware fans are very nice ...they have non-lubricated bronze bushings. But eventually entropy will prevail. As of this writing I have a Precision I estimate to have over 600 roasts and running like new. Folks, that is a lot of great coffee this machine has produced!
There have been many many people who don't read the owners manual and believe that the normal Hearthware operation, with the pulsating fan speeds, is somehow faulty. There have been many who don't attach the base correctly to the top, which is not hard to do but even I periodically make the mistake and correct it quickly (the coffee in the roaster generally won't circulate in this case, so it is easy to spot the problem). There have been a few people with funky electric situations who send me the roaster back, and it works fine! So always try another plug, another circuit, or plug it in at your neighbors too see if maybe a certain outlet in your house just doesn't like coffee! And of course, call Hearthware and then email me if you have trouble.